§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsin the interests of efficiency in the Navy and a contented personnel on the Lower Beck, every facility should be afforded for the rectification of grievances, welfare committees should be encouraged and granted greater freedom of expression, and the opportunity of ultimate high promotion brought within the reach of every entrant.In common with other Members of this House present to-night, I have listened with interest and profit to the speech which has been delivered by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down, and I am quite sure I am speaking on 2554 their behalf, as well as my own, in saying that I hope we may have the pleasure of hearing him on other occasions. But I rise to-night to move the Amendment which stands in my name on the Order Paper, and, therefore, I must restrain my natural impulse to answer any of the things which he has said, or which have been said by the right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on this side of the House. In rising to move this Amendment, I make no apology for the fact that, as a civilian, and as a Member for an inland constituency, I am raising this issue. Everyone of us living in these islands is deeply interested in the sea. Not only are we, as a race, a seafaring people; not only have many of us travelled by ships over the seas to different parts of the world, but, as a matter of fact, a great part of our foodstuff is either obtained from the sea itself or is brought oversea from other countries and everything that appertains to ships and to the sea is of special interest to every one of us in these islands.
Most important, therefore, are the conditions which prevail among those who go down to the sea in ships. The peculiar position of this country brings it about that what we decide here, and the conditions that we secure on our ships, will largely set the standard for what goes on in the ships of other nations. Therefore, in putting forward the point of view I am taking to-night, I am speaking, to a certain extent, not merely for the seamen of our own ships, but for those of the world as a whole, and that makes me realise the very heavy responsibility that rests on my shoulders. I am particularly anxious that any lack of technical know ledge, which I possess, or any failure on my part to state correctly the facts which have been entrusted to me to put forward, shall not prejudice the case of those who have so much that should be said on their behalf. When we are dealing with the whole question of those who go down to the sea in ships, there is always much that might be brought forward with regard to the conditions of service in the merchant marine. That problem would be entirely out of or order in our discussion to-night. However much we may feel that there are grievances in the service which ought to he rectified, what we are concerned with this evening is solely the question of the Navy.
2555 I should like to say one word of introduction. There is, of course, considerable divergence of opinion in this House on such questions as the size and cost of the Navy. The Debate to-night, in so far as it has gone, has already given evidence to that effect, as have also Debates on previous occasions, and no doubt later on we shall have proof of that in Amendments that may be put down, and in expressions that may be put forward on this subject. The Amendment I have the honour to move cuts across these questions, because I think all of us in this House must agree, that it there is to be a Navy at all, it ought to exist under the best conditions, and that the most essential condition is that of the personnel. It is of supreme importance that the men who are serving in the Navy shall be satisfied with their conditions, and, unless that be so, it is quite impossible for the Navy to be efficient, and to be satisfactory in any way whatever.
In that very interesting speech a few-days ago, the Prime Minister pointed out the considerable changes that had taken place in industry in the course of his lifetime. I should like to emphasise that, and to point out that one of the great changes that has taken place, not only in industry, but in everything where men and women are employed, is the change in relationship of the classes. I am quite sum that everyone in this House, not confined to one party, must recognise that conditions, which may have been tolerable, or, at any rate, were tolerated, years ago, are quite intolerable, and would not be tolerated at the present day. Therefore, I hope, that not only those on this side, but those who are on all the benches in this House, will lend me their ears, and give their support to the point of view that I propose to put forward, with a view to remedying the grievances which are felt by those, particularly, of the lower deck.
The first point to which I want to draw the attention of the House is the question of accommodation. The position of affairs on a flagship is at the present time, roughly, as follows: The whole of the accommodation of the ship may be divided into three equal parts. One part is devoted to the living, sleeping, eating, and general use of the flag 2556 officer himself and staff, consisting, say, of 12 persons. Another third of the ship is for the use of the ship's officers, numbering, perhaps 80 to 85 persons. The remaining one-third of the accommodation is all that is available for the ship's company, numbering perhaps from 800 to 1,000 men. Under these conditions, the sleeping accommodation of the men is naturally exceedingly close. When it is realised that that accommodation is on the lower deck, and that it is the same accommodation where the men have to have their living room and eating room, it will be seen that the condition of affairs, particularly at 5.30 a.m., is such as cannot be adequately described. Particularly in view of the fact that being, as I say, the lower deck, there is not an unlimited amount of fresh air; the conditions, indeed, are stilling. That is what prevails at the present time.
Let us also take the question of the food that is served on these ships. The actual quality of food supplied before it is cooked is probably quite as good as could be expected. I do, however, suggest that this good food is very largely wasted, owing to the fact that the opportunity for cooking is totally inadequate for the large number of people for whom it is intended. I understand, on a ship where there arc something like 800 or 900 seamen, that it is no uncommon thing for the cooking arrangements to consist merely of a coal range measuring something like 20 ft. by 4 ft.—this on a Dreadnought. Anyone who knows a little about cooking arrangements—I am sure the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) will know about these things, and more possibly than the naval authorities in this House—will agree with me that that is totally inadequate.
I would further remind the Minister that to-day the seamen are men who have been given an education, and are accustomed to read and to write. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that the conditions under which anyone wishing to read or to do writing on these ships is exceedingly difficult. The time, I think, has come when some provision on these ships should be made for something in the nature of a special place set apart for study, for reading, and for writing purposes. We recognise quite clearly the difficulties of transform- 2557 ing the existing ships to make any very great change in this direction, though even here, I think, it is possible that arrangements might be made to do something. Even, however, if the difficulties arc greater than some of us feel at present, there is, at any rate, the question of the ships which are at present under construction. I understand that the new use of oil-fuel, in place of coal-fuel, means a very large amount of additional space at disposal. Instead, however, of anything being done to increase the accommodation available for the seamen, the space has been taken up in other ways, and the seamen are still limited as in days gone by. I suggest that in passing the plans of other new ships attention should be paid to this point, and that some means should be found of providing larger and better accommodation, and in some cases accommodation for reading, writing, and study for the seamen who have to live their live? on the ships.
I turn to a somewhat different question. It is one that has relation to the Naval Discipline Act. I should not like there to be any mistake on this point. Of course, the men for whom I am speaking realise quite clearly that they are part: of the fighting services. They realise in consequence that the discipline to which they must submit themselves is different from the discipline which is expected of the civilian forces. They fully understand that. They do not complain of it. They do not complain of the Act, at any rate in its main conditions. Nor do they complain of the administration of the Act if that administration is in the hands of reasonable commanding officers. The ships—and I understand they are in the majority—where there are such reasonable commanding officers, are known as "happy" ships, because the seamen on those ships can live a happy life, doing their duty, and doing it all the better because their happiness is assured. On the other hand, there are commanding officers of a different kind. They are of the unreasonable kind. The kind of life lived by seamen on these ships is such that in this House may be described as unbearable, though the seamen themselves use other language, which you, Mr. Speaker, would not permit me to employ. I could tell many stories as to the kind of thing which goes on which 2558 would illustrate my point, but it is not my intention to do so. They can be seen in the paper devoted to the seamen, and, therefore, it would be a waste of time to repeat them. Let me come to the essence of the thing.
There are large and serious crimes occasionally committed by seamen. These merit very considerable punishment. There are some crimes which are essentially of a very petty character. Smart ness and cleanliness are very important things on board these ships, but at the same time some minute departure from smartness or cleanliness, some small departure, which involves, it may be, some slight mark upon a man's uniform or something of the kind, is not an offence of a character which merits severe punishment. I am quite sure, Mr. Speaker, that presiding, as you do, over the fortunes and destinies of this House, you realise that there are many mistakes that some of us make. Sometimes we offend against the dignity or the rights of the House, and these offences merit rebuke from you; but you would not think of inflicting upon Members who were guilty of these slight derogations from duty any very serious castigation. I do suggest that what has happened in the case of the seamen by unreasonable commanding officers goes against that rule. We have to realise how some of these punishments for small offences may be very severely administered.
Take, for instance, the case of a ship that has been on a two and a half years' cruise away from these islands. The ship comes into port. The men are waiting to see their wives and friends, and the wives and families of the men who have looked forward during weary years to the return of the husband and father home are there. Before the ship comes into port, some trifling irregularity is committed by a seaman, and for that very trifling offence the offender may be punished by so many days' loss of shore leave. That is, I suggest, an exceedingly serious thing—a punishment of a very severe kind, which I am quite sure that any man in this House, if such a punishment were imposed upon him under similar circumstances, would realise was a very grave thing. In regard to this, I suggest, particularly for the married men with families living in the home ports, 2559 that leave should not be stopped, except for very serious and grave offences; that it should not be stopped for the kind of petty offences which I have in mind.
While on this question of leave, I would also draw attention to the fact that for a seaman only one night's leave in four is inadequate. A very large part of the men's lives are spent away from home. It is less than that granted to the Army and to the marines in barracks. The only justification given for it is that it is necessary to have a large proportion of the ship's company at hand in case of fire. I suggest that that is not an adequate explanation—perhaps not the real explanation. I ask for attention to be paid to this grievance with a view to seeing if a somewhat larger measure of leave could not be given. There is also the question of railway fares. Seamen, say, returned home to some port in the United Kingdom may have their wives and families at an exceedingly distant part of these islands. If they 7.0 P.M. are to go home the railway journey may be a very considerable, expense to the men. I think there should be some consideration in respect of this. It is not for me to suggest the precise form in which it should be given; that reels with the Minister, but for a man to have to spend £ 5 or £ 6 in order to get to his home seems to me, under the circumstances, to be outrageous. It is only fair that the country which has taken these men from their homes, placed them on ships, and then brings them back to a port in another part of the country, should make some contribution towards the expenses of the man in going back to his home while his ship is in port.
I have just one word to say about the administration of the Naval Discipline Act as it applies to naval depots. I understand that there is very considerable discontent, particularly in Devonport, and to a lesser degree in Chatham. This, of course, can be easily denied by those in authority, but a mere denial does not meet the case. Such discontent can be pushed underground, but a denial cannot remove the fact. Discontent can only be removed by adequate investigation and by seeing that the Naval Discipline Act is not administered unreasonably. It may be said that the Government 2560 itself does not administer the Act, but I suggest that it is up to the Government, who have the ultimate responsibility in the matter, to see that the Act is not administered by any officer in an unjust and unreasonable manner. The Government can do that in two ways First of all, they can indicate by regulation the kind of way in which the Act should be administered, and then, when complaints are made of bad administration they can turn a rather more sympathetic ear than they have done in the past to the grievances of the men. They can also, iii appointing a new man to take charge, take into account how far the person they propose to appoint is really a good leader of men. Good leaders of men arc not only those who have a knowledge of the work and its technicalities. Good leaders of men are those who have the power and ability to be leaders, which means to be just and reasonable and to be respected by those who have to obey their instructions.
I come to another point. We have been hearing something about the new marriage allowances for officers. I have to ask, on behalf of the men, that they shall be allowed pensions for their widows on the same lines as already given to the widows of officers. At the present time, if an officer is killed or dies, whether he is on the active or retired list, his widow and children receive pensions. In some cases, if he is a widower, his mother and sometimes his sister is entitled to a pension.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
If I am wrong, let me put it in this way. The rights of the dependants of officers to pensions are very much higher than those of the men. and a claim can be made on behalf of an officer which would not be entertained on behalf of a seaman. The seamen ask that their dependants shall be looked after by the country which enjoys their services in the same way in which officers' dependants are looked after. My next point is the question of compulsory Divine Service. No doubt the bulk of the seamen on our ships will be very anxious to avail themselves of the opportunities for Divine Service which are provided, but it is contrary to the spirit of the age that it should be made compulsory. Even in a consider- 2561 able number of our prisons compulsion to attend Divine Service has been removed. As a matter of fact, the attendance is practically the same as it was before, and I have no doubt it would be the same in the Navy, but it is felt that there is something degrading in making these services compulsory. Under mod in conditions the element of compulsion should be removed.
Then there is the question of the welfare committees. It is generally admitted that these welfare committees have been to the great advantage of the seamen in presenting their case, but I suggest there is still a good deal of ground to be covered in this matter. The men do not object to the fact that usually an officer presides at their meetings, but they do find that there are a good many subjects which are ruled out of discussion, and they claim that wider latitude should be given, and that at some stage they should be entitled to publicity, because they believe it is only through publicity that their grievances can be put right. While speaking of their "rights," let me say a word with regard to political rights. The men realise that while they are in uniform and acting directly as servants of the State they cannot take an active part in politics, but they do not see why, when they are in private clothes and dealing with matters which do not affect their own service, they should be denied the right which every other citizen of this country possesses—as they were during the last Election.
§ Sir B. FALLE
The hon. Member's own Government took away sailors' privileges during the last Election.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
This is not really a party question, and I hope Members on all sides of the House, to whatever party they belong, will support the rights of the men in the Navy. There is another small matter I should like to mention, but I hesitate to do so in the 2562 presence of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). It is the question of rum ration. It is not a question of the giving or withholding of that ration; it is simply a question as to the time at which it is given. It is now given in the middle of the day, and the wish of a large number of people is that if given it should be in the evening instead of in the middle of the day.
§ Mr. PETHICK - LAWRENCE
One word on the question of promotion. I am sure that we cannot go on under the old inefficient method of promotion, and I suggest that there should be a ladder from the lowest to the highest, and that it may take something of this form. A man of good character, who has served for five years, should become eligible for an examination, and, if he proves himself capable and efficient in that examination, he should have the right to be sent to a naval training college, and, after spending two years there if he has equipped himself with the necessary technical qualifications, it should be possible for him to receive a commission as a sub-lieutenant.
I now pass to the question of the submarines. Prior to January, 1920, service on submarines was voluntary. Subsequent to that date service on submarines was included among the duties for which a seaman signed on, and in the Service it is felt that it is not right that men who before, say, 1920, signed on to "serve afloat" should be compulsorily pushed into service on submarines. They feel that this is a serious grievance inflicted upon them since the present Government came into office, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take steps to deal with it.
Finally, I come to the question of the gratuity and retainer. In the Committee which was presided over by Admiral Sir Martyn Jerram in 1919, the Royal Fleet Reserve and the Royal Naval Reserve made application to have their retainer and gratuity increased in order to meet the increased cost of living. They suggested that the 6d. retainer should be increased to 1s. 6d. and the £ 50 gratuity increased to £ 150. That was certainly not an unreasonable demand, because in the year 1919 the cost of living had increased roughly in that proportion. The 2563 increase is not so large to-day, and the men are not asking for so large an increase to-day. The gratuity in the case of the Royal Fleet Reserve has been increased to £ 100, but the gratuity of the Royal Naval Reserve still remains at only £ 50, and what the men in both these classes are asking is that they should have a gratuity of £ 100 and a retainer of Is., and I do not think either of those demands is unreasonable.
I have come to the end of the points I wanted to bring to the attention of the Minister. They do not, of course, cover the whole of the grievances the men have, but I think they are the principal ones. If he can see his way to meet us on some, at any rate, of those proposals, I think he will have taken a very big step towards restoring content, and producing in the men who go down to the sea in ships, and who have necessarily to put up with hardships in many ways about which they do not complain, a feeling that the Navy is a service which men can enter and in which their real interests will be safeguarded and preserved.
§ Mr. GROVES
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am very pleased to have the opportunity of doing so. This is not the first time I have spoken in this House, but it is probably the most difficult occasion for me, because the brief which was handed to my hon. Friend is similar to the one handed to me, and he has said all there really is to be said on the subject. But I would like to amplify some points, and express my own honest and sincere opinion in proportion to my degree of interest in the Navy, though I represent a constituency that contains not even a dockyard, and I do not profess to know anything about the sea. As a matter of fact, I have never been to sea, and have never seen a battleship, but I am just as keenly interested in the welfare of the men, because people who live in my own constituency and have spent 10 or 12 years in the Navy have proved to me, though I am standing up for a few moments to protest against certain things which they consider to be restrictions, that for general moral lone and the development of character, the Navy is certainly not to be sneezed at.
I am concerned for the abolition of compulsory attendance at divine service 2564 I would not like to be compelled to attend service, and I think the present practice in the Navy is a relic of olden times that we ought to have shed, as we have shed it in civilian life. As a boy I remember leading of the time when it was a penal offence, in civilian life, if a citizen of this country did not attend church. Now it is not a penal offence; and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty that he ought to consider taking some steps in the Navy whereby this compulsory attendance at divine service is mitigated. I dare say there are Members of this House who have sweet memories of the old days when they had high pews in churches, and when men who were not necessarily religious were compelled to attend church they certainly did attend, but behind the high pews they used to play with packs of cards. The men in the Navy have not that privilege, because there arc no high pews, and I suggest that these seamen, who are no more irreligious than any other citizens of the country, should not be compelled to attend divine service. I want to see religious services made so attractive that they will fill the churches of the country, and I have always been concerned as to whether Britain will ever see the time when the church bell attracts as many people as the fire bell. I do not suppose we shall get that in civilian life; and I feel that religious services in the Navy should be made so attractive that the men themselves will attend voluntarily.
Then I am concerned about another point put by my right hon. Friend with regard to the social welfare committees of the Navy. I make no apology for the fact that until the very moment I was elected to this House I was a workman, earning my daily bread by manual labour. I worked for the London County Council for 17 years, and had a good deal to do with the development of the social welfare committees there. I am not an old man, but I have been through the period of industrial history when employers used to object, even in civilian life, to consulting with their workpeople. The recent speech of the Prime Minister in this House indicates that the country has got through that stage, that we have evolved from a condition of oppression and repression to the position where the men will sit down with their employers, and vice versa, and try to thrash out 2565 problems in order to arrive at an amicable settlement. I see sitting opposite an hon. Gentleman with whom I sat in conference on the London County Council, trying to thrash out things instead of fighting out things.
In the Navy the men are ordinary human beings. They are engaged under conditions of confinement and not necessarily refinement. There is the possibility, shall I say, with no disrespect to anyone, that an Admiral whose liver is bad will not be able to deal with, shall I say, an able-bodied seaman in just the spirit of decorum and propriety that we woud expect to be used in this House? I want to feel that the individual seaman should be free to express to his commanding officer, in polite terms, probably through his representative on the social welfare committee, just those claims which the men on the lower deck feel to be, and I believe would be considered by his commanding officer to be, in all respects compatible with the efficiency of His Majesty's Navy. We have had complaints from the men that sometimes even Admirals take stern and drastic action with sailors because their clothes are not quite properly adjusted, or the angle of their hats does not quite suit the commander. All these little things are irritating, and the open life, the ocean and everything connected with the Navy breeds not only moral character but develops an independent spirit in the naval man. He feels he cannot stand much oppression or repression, but must speak out, and when ho does speak out the inevitable result is what the people in my neighbourhood call "clink," by which they mean, I understand, that he is sent for some days to prison.
I suggest the time has come in the Navy when we should, shall I say, temper justice with mercy, and try to get into the Navy the spirit of amity between commander and able-bodied seaman? We have the spirit of amity gradually creeping into industry, whereby masters are coming to recognise that a strike is not to be met by starving the people. In time we will recognise that the human touch is going to conquer the greatest obstacles, and if you introduce social welfare committees into the Navy you are going to have a direct channel of intercourse between commander and "worker"—I use that word, because the 2566 men on the lower deck are workers in the sense that they do what we call the "donkey work." If you get that channel you will get harmony and good relations, and the spirit that the men on the lower deck are endeavouring to get into the Navy.
My Friend who has just left his seat hesitated to retail to the House just exactly what is contained in the men's journal called "The Fleet." I extract this from "The Fleet." for March of this year. It is a reliable and non-sensational journal. It says:While we admit there are thousands of men in the Navy to-day leading comfortable and pleasant lives, there are others who are having a fair old hell of a time, due not to the Navy but to the idiosyncracies of individuals and the queer interpretation that they place on the word ' discipline.' This also applies to the naval depots. At Devonport Barracks the men are see thing with discontent.
§ Mr. GROVES
Well, it is not a statement of my own. This is an extract from "The Fleet," and, if the Noble Lady be more, competent to speak on the Navy than naval men, I will take second place. But that is the extract, and I have my own experience to add. I am sure the First Lord will not think I am taking an undue advantage in relating an incident which happened last week. I know a man in my constituency—or, at least, his wife is in my constituency—who is a seaman stationed at Devonport. A relative of his was dying, and he applied to his commanding officer for leave to come home to visit that relative. He did not get it. I took the necessary Parliamentary steps. The First Lord said it was not a matter for him to interfere, and I myself, as a Member of Parliament, wrote to the commanding officer. Such steps had to he taken before this ordinary able-bodied seaman was permitted to come home and see his relative, who had in the meantime died. It is incidents like that, or a series of such incidents, that lead to irritation, and the removal of these little pinpricks would lead to the harmony that I would like to see prevailing in His Majesty's Navy.
My hon. Friend also referred to the question of sleeping accommodation, and I want to speak on that because it illustrates something which I consider to be a disgraceful situation. The draughtsmen 2567 and others who are responsible for designing these vessels design the accommodation in three approximately equal parts; one part for the flag officers, approximately 12 people; the second part for other officers, approximately So people; and then only a similar degree of accommodation for from 800 to 1,000 men. It is only natural that men who have given their time, their ability and their honour to a Service on behalf of the nation, when they find themselves in these surroundings—you can quite understand why many of these people are in revolt; I do not mean that in a bad way, but why many of these people are discontented.
I would like to submit to the Admiralty the idea that study and welfare rooms should be provided. I am sure there must be people at the Admiralty competent to devise ways and means whereby certain space should be set aside for Jack-Tar to be able to study on board. But I am sure we are all proud to know that in addition to all they have of valour and glory and honour, there are men in the Navy who are thoughtful and studious and we appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord to stimulate some activity in his advisers in order to provide them with opportunities.
Next I want to say a word on the rum ration. I speak as a life-abstainer, though I am not a prohibitionist, for I believe in educating the democracy to give up drink. I want to see a greater development of the inducement to do without the rum ration in the Navy. I have all my life been connected with temperance societies, and I was pleased to read that so many men in the Navy preferred to take the money rather than the drink. The First Lord need not be afraid with regard to hon. Members sitting on the Labour Benches as to anything he can do to induce those great moral-charactered men of the Navy to accept the money rather than the tot of rum, and I am sure any such proposal would receive general support from this side of the House. The point the lower-deck men have asked me to put is that, although the acceptance of the tot of rum is the common practice, I think all medical men will agree that to inflict this tot of rum upon the men immediately after they have partaken of their midday meal is a 2568 wrong thing. If these men have to take stimulants at all, they should be allowed to take them later in the evening.
I hope the First Lord will grant the request of these lower deck men that the rum shall be served out later in the day and that anything that can be done to develop the general view that the men of the Navy are allowed to draw the money in lieu of the rum ration will be encouraged, because it will tend to their general uplifting. I have spoken quite honestly and sincerely with regard to the general tone of a large aggregate of human beings. They have grievances, and it is only natural for people to have grievances. Just as we have boasted and sang about the pride, honour and glory of our sure shield we must show that we understand the problems connected with the men in the Navy, and by meeting their grievances show that we are ready to make Britain's sure shield surer.
§ Mr. GIBBINS
With regard to what the hon. Member who has just sat down has stated, I would like to say that I am not so sure that the First Lord of the Admiralty is not more at home with a plough than a periscope. Of course that does not detract in any way from his ability to make a very capable First Lord. My object in rising is to draw the attention of the First Lord to the very inadequate compensation paid to the men who are discharged from the Service through disability. To reply to a question of mine the other day I elicited the information—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I should like to point out to the hon. Member that the Debate must be confined to the terms of the Amendment which has been moved, dealing with the methods of rectifying the grievances of the personnel on the lower deck. Therefore, it would not be in order to go through a series of grievances.
§ Mr. GIBBINS
My difficulty is that the House may not appreciate my arguments if I do not give some examples as a justification for the grievances I am raising.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That may be so, but the hon. Member cannot supply a catalogue of them. He may give one illustration and show how, by this Amendment, such a grievance might be removed.
§ Mr. GIBBINS
I do not wish to give a catalogue of instances, but I wish to raise a grievance which affects about 1,200 men. I will give one example. A man was passed as Al. He suffered 225 days illness, and he gets £ 21. This man has been ruined, and he is totally incapable of doing anything for himself. This man was examined six times by Admiralty doctors and five times he was passed Al, and afterwards he was discharged as totally unfit for service or work. No private employer would do such a thing to men who have given their all for the service of their country. We are voting money to keep the ships and the guns which are necessary for naval warfare in good order, and I think the very least this House can do is to insist that the men who gave their time and their services to the country should be treated generously and not thrown on the scrapheap.
As I understand that this matter can be raised upon another occasion I will not discuss it further at this moment. I notice in regard to some of the money to be spent under this Vote the regulations allow a certain number of grants in addition to retired pay, and every opportunity is given and every case is taken advantage of by the First Lord to pay money in this way. A number of them are allowed an additional grant to their retired pay, but when it comes to the lower deck it appears to me there is only a minimum of generosity merely because they are lower deck men. There are 1,200 very serious cases of disabled men and most of them have been discharged and shamefully treated, and I hope some consideration will be paid to these cases in the future by the Admiralty.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Davidson)
I think I had better take this opportunity of replying to the speeches which have been made upon this Amendment. I will reply first to the point raised about the rum rations. It is perfectly true that in the majority of cases rum is given out at the mid-day meal, but I would like to point out that where there is a general desire expressed and arrangements can be made, and where exceptional circumstances exist there is no reason why the rum ration cannot be given out in the evening, and it is actually done in some cases. I think the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves) was suffering 2570 under an illusion, because it is a fact that if seamen do not take the rum ration they can draw threepence instead, and I think that is an inducement in the direction the hon. Member desires. I may say that it has been taken advantage of by about 35 per cent. of the ratings. No one is allowed to have the rum ration under the age of 20.
Is it not time that we got off that? I know there is a bit of the Nelson touch still left in the Navy, and although we do not ask for total prohibition in the Navy, surely it is time that the Admiralty did something to give a lead in the direction of stopping it. It is not really necessary, and it is a temptation to some of the men.
I am afraid I cannot accept that view. We all regard certain privileges as precious, and one of those privileges is to choose ourselves what we eat and drink. I do not think it ought to be made compulsory for a man in the Navy to drink water or to drink beer. I will now turn to the series of questions put to me by the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence). With regard to accommodation on the ships, I think he exaggerated when he said that the accommodation on the average battleship was divided into three equal parts, one third to the Flag Officer, one-third to the other officers, and one-third to the men. The Flag Officer has not more than one-tenth of the available space and i be men have as much of the accommodation on the ship as it is possible to give them. It must be remembered that a battleship is built for war purposes, and T can conceive that if the 615 Members of this House were always here and only had the same accommodation as the men on the ships it would be inadequate for everybody's comfort. That, however, is one of the conditions which those entering the Navy have to face, and when a man enters the Navy he knows that these conditions exist. The reason why there is not more accommodation is, first of all, the needs of the ship; and, secondly, the size of the ship, under the Washington Treaty which I am sure we do not wish to criticise, has been limited. Therefore, any increase of accommodation in regard to the men must be limited by those facts. We must remember that the cruisers cannot be more than 10.000 tons.
Every possible effort is made to provide better accommodation for the men consistent with the needs of the ship. With regard to cooking, there again there is the same trouble. Everyone, officers no less than men, would like to see far greater facilities on board ship for cooking than are possible. Unfortunately the nature of the ship makes accommodation very scarce for all these things, but improvements have been and are being made in the fitting of steam ovens for keeping hot food, which has to be cooked early because men are on duty at different times; big batches come for food which must be ready for them at one time. There are difficulties. It is no good disguising the fact—but I can assure the hon. Member the Admiralty are not only aware of them, but are doing and are going to do everything in their power to mitigate the hardship as far as possible both in the ships and on shore. With regard to reading rooms, there are already reading rooms for men in a large number of ships. Certainly in all the new ships, including the cruisers under construction, reading rooms are provided. That is the policy we are pursuing, in fact it has already been started, on shore as well, but naturally on a ship of war you cannot expect a reading room on the same scale as you have it on shore. It has been introduced so that the men can go quietly and write their letters and read their magazines and correspondence when they wish to.
As far as the Naval Discipline Act is concerned perhaps I may say this. Unlike hon. Members opposite, some of us do not think that all men are equal. Certain people are possibly more virtuous than others and some less so, but, although there may be cases in which hardship is inflicted on a man by his commanding officer, though I know of no cases and I cannot admit it, at the same time it must be remembered that there are possibly some men who may deserve it. I should dislike to think that anyone could feel that the blame was all on one side when people are punished. It is not always that the man punished is not deserving of the punishment he receives. But so far as the administration of the Naval Dis- 2572 cipline Act is concerned, I am confident that the officers of the Navy realise their responsibility and do not as a general rule inflict hardship where hardship is in fact a hardship and not a punishment. Leave-breaking is a serious thing—the hon. Member did not mention it specifically, but he hinted at it—because it may delay the sailing of a ship. It may also produce hardship on his fellow men in the ship who have to do the job of the fellow who is away, and I very much suspect, if you ask the naval rating what he thought of it, he would say it was deserving a punishment.
The hon. Member also referred to the manning of the ship in port, and said that one night in four might be given. A ship, so long as it is a ship of war, has to be in a certain state of preparedness for sea, and although the greatest possible amount of leave is given, there must be a minimum which cannot be exceeded purely from the point of view of the safety of the ship and the fact that it might in an emergency have to proceed to sea to deal with any situation, not necessarily a naval situation, which might arise. The hon. Member also dealt with the question of travelling facilities, and pointed out that it was a great hardship for a man who had returned from a foreign station to proceed home, at a cost of £ 5 or so, to see his family. I do not think there are very many cases of that kind, because, generally speaking, the naval rating lives within a reasonable distance of his home port. But, as I have already stated, he gets excursion fares—one and a third times the single fare for a full return, and, of course, boys get two-thirds of the single fare anywhere in the United Kingdom, a concession which is valued, and I do not think the State could bear an additional cost.
The next question the hon. Member dealt with was compulsory church attendance. That is a question which was considered most carefully only a very short time ago. Evidence was taken of the widest kind by the fighting services, and it was unanimously decided that in the interest of the service and the men themselves the rule must be maintained by which compulsory attendance at divine service on Sundays is still to hold the field.
The committee that sat on it. The Navy could not act except in agreement with the other Services for obvious reasons. I am afraid there is no possibility, at least at present, of a reconsideration of the question, as it has been considered so recently, and I am not very satisfied, from inquiries I have made, that it would have a very general following in the Navy itself. The desire is not nearly so general as the hon. Member imagines.
So far as the submarine voluntary service in concerned, I want to make clear what has already been made clear by question and answer. Because the submarine service was small in the old days, naval ratings and officers were allowed to volunteer. But that did not mean that the naval officer and the naval rating were not just as much liable to be drafted into submarines as into any other vessel in the Navy, and now that the submarine service has so increased that it is more or less in proportion with other branches of the service, it is only reasonable that people should be drafted to it in the same way as they may be drafted to a cruiser, a battleship, a destroyer and so forth. I think the misunderstanding arose because service in submarines was spoken of as submarine service. It ought not to be called that. It ought to be referred to as service in submarines, the same as service in a cruiser or any other vessel. There is no question of the non-liability of either an officer or a seaman. They are both liable at all times to serve in submarines.
The Government at the last Election referred to the fact that they hoped to be able to introduce a scheme of widows' pensions. I cannot say anything on that topic except that it has been under the consideration of the Government ever since they took office. Any scheme of widows' pensions will include, I presume, pensions to widows of naval ratings in the same way as everyone else. Therefore it would not be right to deal with any Service piecemeal. It must be included in the general scheme. That, I hope, may be forthcoming at no distant date. I have only been a short time in office, but so far as lies in our power the welfare of the men will be a most 2574 sincere charge upon our shoulders, and we shall do all that is possible. But I am not yet satisfied that the demand for many of these formulae which have been referred to is anything like general. Whether that is so or not, I have not been long enough in office to be able to make sufficient investigation, but, so far as the general principle is concerned. hon. Members can rely on everything that is possible being done on behalf of all ranks of the Service.
§ Mr. B. SMITH
I have listened with interest to the hon. Member in dealing with the question of pensions. While it may be a very admirable thing to embrace the widows of bluejackets in a broad-based scheme of pensions, the fact remains that the officer's widow does receive a pension. She is not to be kept waiting until such time as a broad-based scheme of pensions for widows is introduced. The note on a discharge, "D.D"—discharged dead—is good enough for a bluejacket, but there is a pension scheme for officers' widows. I am hoping very much the hon. Gentleman will reconsider his decision, because obviously these men are taking more than the ordinary risk in boarding a ship of war. It is not only the elements they have to deal with, hut these ships are charged with explosive material, and any man walking into a magazine except with magazine boots on runs the danger of putting the ship in the air instead of underneath, and there are such risks on board a ship that if an accident arose the widows and Relatives of men who have lost their lives or are maimed should certainly receive a pension or some annuity.
§ Colonel Sir ARTHUR HOLBROOK
The hon. Member does not understand the system. If a man is killed by an accident at sea, his widow gets a pension automatically. It is always allowed.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SMITH
With regard to the rum ration, the hon. Gentleman says he thinks he knows of cases where a tot of rum has been given out, not at two bells but probably at eight bells. I have never known a tot of rum handed out at any other time than two bells, and then it is called a one, a two, a three or a 2575 neater, that is, it is altogether neat or there are one, two or three parts of water. I will tell the House one of the dangers of that. It is given after dinner. It is taken up and often the cook of the mess slides away with the pannikin and drinks the lot. It is quite true. That is bad for the men and it is bad for the discipline of the Navy. If it was given in the evening, when it could be treated as a social something and not as a medicine, it would be far better for the bluejacket and for the amenities of the Navy. With regard to cooking allowances. I have known aboard ship, where the officers have given a dinner aft, and the effect of giving that dinner has been that it has had to be raw food or partly cooked food for the bluejackets for that day, and on any man complaining, the officer of the watch would probably taste it and say he would report it in the proper quarter, but that was the end of it, I say that if you put these men aboard ship—and the ships of to-day are very cold ships—
§ failing which they would have to peel the potatoes for the men for punishment. I have—despite the hon. Member's doubts —seen cards played at Divine service, that is aboard ship, because men are forced to do a thing which is unpopular. Where you have a voluntary desire to attend Divine Service, the very example set by the men who want to go would attract more real men to the service than the policy of forcing men to attend. I am not an irreligious man. I do not go to church every Sunday. I go occasionally. I go when I feel that the good of my soul needs it. It would be far better if the men on board ship attended on the same terms. It is because they are compelled to attend that they go without any feeling of respect for the Church or for the service. I would press upon the hon. Gentleman to do something to bring into being a system of Divine service in the Navy that will get the respect of the men and not the ridicule that it now gets. With regard to the Royal Fleet Reserve and the Royal Naval Reserve, surely equity demands that what is good for one reserve in the way of bounty or of pay is equally good for the other form of the reserve. Here we have one section getting £ 100 as against another getting £ 50. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to consider this from the point of view of equity. We are also asking from an equitable point of view that if you pension the widow of an officer you should pension the widow of a sailor.
§ Question put, ''That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 238; Noes, 109.2579
|Division No. 52.]||AYES.||[8.5 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Campbell, E. T.|
|Albery, Irving James||Blades, Mr George Rowland||Cautley, Sir Henry S.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Blundell, F. N||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Brass, Captain W.||Chapman, Sir S.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Brassey, Sir Leonard||Christie, J. A.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer|
|Atkinson, C.||Briggs, J. Harold||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Briscoe, Richard George||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Bainlel, Lord||Brittain, Sir Harry||Clayton, G. C.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Brooke. Brigadier-General C R. I.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Buckingham, Sir H.||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Jull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Cope, Major William|
|Bennett, A. J.||Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Berry, Sir George||Burman, J. B.||Crolt, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Bethell, A.||Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Crook, C. W.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Galnsbro)|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Reiner, J. R.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Remnant, Sir James|
|Dalziel, Sir Davison||Howard, Captain Hon. Donald||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y. Ch'ts'y)|
|Davidson. Major-General Sir J. H.||Hurd, Percy A.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)||Hurst, Gerald B.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Davies, MaJ. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Mldl'n & P'bl's||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Dlxey, A. C.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Doyle, Sir N Grattan||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cumber||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Crewe, C.||Jephcott, A. R.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston).||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Savery, S. S.|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R. Sowerby)|
|Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mel. (Renfrew, W)|
|Ellis, R. G.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Elveden, viscount||Lamb, J. Q.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Looker, Herbert William||Smithers, Waldron|
|Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Fermoy, Lord||Lougher, L.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Finburgh, S.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Fleming, D. P.||MacAndrew, Charles Glen||Storry Deans, R.|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Forrest, W.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Stuart, Crichton, Lord C.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Maclntyre, Ian||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Galbraith, J, F. W.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Gault, Lieut-Col. Andrew Hamilton||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Gee, Captain R.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen. South)|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Manntngham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Vaughan, Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Goff, Sir Park||Margesson, Captain D.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Meyer, Sir Frank||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Milne. J. S. Wardlaw-||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Monseil, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Wells, S. R.|
|Hall, Lieut-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Morrison-Fell, Sir Arthur Clive||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Murchison, C. K.||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Harland, A.||Neville, R. J.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Nuttall, Ellis||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Penny, Frederick George||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Perring, William George||Womersley, W. J.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Slalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Phillpson, Mabel||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A.||Pilcher, G.||Wood, Sir S. Hill. (High Peak)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Hilton, Cecil||Preston, William||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Price, Major C. W. M.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Holt, Capt. H. P.||Radford, E. A.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Homan, C. W. J.||Ralne, W.|
|Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Ramsden, E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Colonel Gibbs and Major Hennessy.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Day, Colonel Harry||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Dennison, R.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Duncan, C.||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Dunnico, H.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Fenby, T. D.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Barnes, A.||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Barr, J.||Gibbins, Joseph||Kennedy, T,|
|Batey, Joseph||Gillett, George M.||Lansbury, George|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edln, Cent.)||Lee, F.|
|Broad, F. A.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Lowth, T.|
|Bromley, J.||Gronfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mackinder, W.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Groves, T.||MacLaren, Andrew|
|Cape, Thomas||Guest, Dr L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Maxton, James|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Murnin, H.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hardie, George D.||Oliver, George Harold|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Paling, W.|
|Compton, Joseph||Hay day, Arthur||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hayes, John Henry||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Dalton, Hugh||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Potts, John S.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Henderson, T, (Glasgow)||Richardson R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Ritson, J.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Stamford, T. W.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Stephen, Campbell||Welsh, J. C.|
|Saklatvala, Shapurji||Sutton, J. E.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Taylor, R. A.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Scrymgeour, E.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)||Williams, T. (York. Don Valley)|
|Scurr, John||Thurtle, E.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Sexton, James||Tinker, John Joseph||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Windsor, Walter|
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Varley, Frank B.||Wright, W.|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Viant, S. P.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Smillie, Robert||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)||Warne, G. H.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
|Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Charles Edwards.|
|Snell, Harry||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
§ Question put, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."2580
§ The House divided: Ayes, 198; Noes, 108.2581
|Division No. 53.]||AYES.||[8.15 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||MacIntyre, Ian|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Drewe, C.||Macmillan, Captain H.|
|Albery, Irving James||Edmondson, Major A. J,||MacRobert, Alexander M.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Makins, Brigadier-General E|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Ellis, R. G.||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Astor, Viscountess||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Atkinson, C.||Finburgh, S.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Fleming, D. P.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Forestier-Walker, L.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Forrest, W.||Murchison, C. K.|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Bellairs, Commander Cariyon W.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Neville, R. J.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Gee, Captain R.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Berry, Sir George||Goff, Sir Park||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Bethell, A.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Perring, William George|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Gretton, Colonel John||Philipson, Mabel|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Pilcher, G|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Blundell, F. N.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Preston, William|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A (Brecon & Rad.)||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hammersley, S. S.||Radford, E. A.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Harland, A.||Raine, W.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Harrison, G. J. C.||Remer, J. R.|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Hartington, Marquess of||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hawke, John Anthony||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. sir William James||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertlord, Watford)||Savery, S. S.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Hilton, Cecil||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. McI. (Renfrew, W)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Homan, C. W. J.||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hope, Capt. A O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Chapman, sir s.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hurd, Percy A.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Mldl'n & P'bl's)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Clayton, G. C.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Jephcott, A. R.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston).||Storry Deans, R.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Cope, Major William||Lamb, J. Q.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Crook, C. W.||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Looker, Herbert William||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Lougher, L.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Luce. Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)||MacAndrew, Charles Glen||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Wells, S. R.|
|Dixey, A. C.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|White, Lieut-Colonel G. Dalrymple||Wise, Sir Fredric||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Williams, Com, C. (Devon, Torquay)||Wolmer, viscount||Wragg, Herbert|
|Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)||Womersley, W. J.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Wilson, Sir C. H, (Leeds, Central)||Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W. R., Ripon)|
|Wilson, R, R. (Stafford, Lichfield)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.||Colonel Gibbs and Major Hennessy.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hardie, George D.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Ammon, Charles George||Harris, Percy A.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Smillie, Robert|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hayday, Arthur||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Barker, G, (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayes, John Henry||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Barnes, A.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Snell, Harry|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Broad, F. A.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sutton, J. E.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Taylor, R. A.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Kelly, W. T.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesboro. W.)|
|Cape, Thomas||Kennedy, T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lansbury, George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lee, F.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Clynes, Rt, Hon. John R.||Lowth, T.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Viant, S. P.|
|Compton, Joseph||Mackinder, W.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Cove, W. G.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Dalton, Hugh||Maxton, James||Warne, G. H.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Murnin, H.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Oliver, George Harold||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Dennison, R.||Paling, W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Duncan, C.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Joslah|
|Dunnico, H.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Welsh, J. C.|
|Fenby, T. D.||Potts, John S.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Williams, T (York, Don Valley)|
|Gillett, George M.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield. Attercliffe)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Rose, Frank H.||Wilson, R. J, (Jarrow)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Windsor, Walter|
|Groves, T.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wright, W.|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Scrymgeour, E.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Scurr, John|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Sexton, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles Edwards.|
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Captain FITZROY in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That 102,656 Officers, Seamen, Boys, and Royal Marines be employed for the Sea Service, together with 350 for the Marine Police, borne on the books of His Majesty's Ships, at the Royal Marine Divisions, and at Royal Air Force Establishments, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I should not have spoken to-night on the subject of the Singapore base, had it not been that I have been prepared for some days for this occasion, and I did not like to take my cooked dinner home again with me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why should we have it? "] I do not think that Hon. Gentlemen will get indigestion at all, and I think they will, possibly hear something about the Singapore base from someone who, although he cannot speak so well as many others in the House, has had nearly 21 years of service within a few days of 2582 Singapore, and who, therefore, presumes in any case to know something of the subject about which he is speaking. I have, since 1900, been a merchant and trading Vice-Consul in the Dutch East Indies, and, as a merchant, I stand here to-night to speak about the Singapore base from a trading point of view, because I have realised, during the time I have been out in the Far East, the necessity of protecting British trade, both in the Dutch East Indies and travelling to and from the Dutch East Indies.
I need not, I think, go into the history of Singapore very deeply, but possibly a few facts about that place, which was founded by that great man, Sir Stamford Baffles, some 100 years or more ago, may interest the Committee. At the time when he founded Singapore, the population was 300 souls all told. It is to-day 500,000. In 1824 the total imports and exports of Singapore amounted to about £ 2,000,000. To-day they amount to about £ 127,000,000, and nearly one fourth of 2583 that, about £ 30,000,000, is to or from the Dutch East Indies. There is about £ 3,400,000 to and from China, £ 5,000,000 to any from Japan, and £ 1,500,000 to and from Australia, In 1919 I attended the centenary celebration of Singapore. The Governor, like myself and many other Gentlemen on these benches, was a Scotsman and in his speech he said that, when he was home in 1910, he told some people in Scotland that the tonnage of the shipping that entered Singapore was double that which entered Glasgow, Leith, Aberdeen and Dundee all taken together. I looked up that reference yesterday and I find that the tonnage is now nearly double the tonnage of the shipping entering the whole of Scotland. Those of us who are Scots will realise, therefore, the amount of tonnage entering Singapore.
When speaking of the imports and exports to the Dutch East ladies, I want it to be clearly understood that, while I was there for over 20 years—and I was there during the Boer War and the recent Great War—I never had anything but courtesy and civility, and no Britisher, so far as I know, has ever suffered any incivility at the hands of the Dutch. Perhaps you will not be interested in the Dutch East Indies, if you think that I am pleading that I should defend these Colonies for the Dutch. That is not my view. I mention these facts because I want you to see how tremendous are the British interests in those islands. In the reference to the trade to and from the Dutch East Indies I will speak from figures which I received recently from the Overseas Trade Department which used to receive the figures from me until recently. When I was Vice-Consul in Java I used to send my figures home, and they were taken by the Board of Trade to the Overseas Trade Department. So I thought that I would let them return the compliment, and give me figures; and I hope that they are as correct to-day as they were in my day.
The report, dated 19th July, 1924, of the commercial agent at Batavia, which is the capital of the Dutch East Indies, states that the total imports for private account in 1922 were between £ 60,000,000 and £ 80,000,000. The figures may be, interesting. Of that amount, 23 per cent. came from Holland and 44 per cent. from the British Empire, and no less than 2584 16 per cent. came from the Straits Settlements. So nearly half of the imports are of British origin. The export?, which amounted to nearly £ 100,000,000, were not exactly in the same proportion. The exports to Singapore, to a great extent for trans-shipment, were 19 per cent., to Holland 16 per cent. and the United Kingdom 5 per cent. Of the shipping traffic in 1923 44 per cent. was under the Dutch flag and 35 per cent. under the British flag. There are in the Dutch East Indies no fewer than 500 harbours. Certainly only a few are what may be called first-class harbours. The rest are second-class or quite small harbours, but nevertheless they give an opportunity for ships of all sorts and sizes to enter these harbours and, as was shown during the War, more or less to do a certain amount of local damage.
You have trading to the Dutch East Indies from all parts of the world by various British shipping companies. I am not here to advertise the shipping companies or the insurance companies or the banks, but they are such companies as Holt's Blue Funnel Company, the British India Steam Navigation Company and the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, and such-like companies, that carry on a regular trade to and from the Dutch East Indies, and as often as not through Singapore, or they take it, as the New Zealand Shipping Company does, from New Zealand to Java and then to Calcutta or vice versa. The population of those islands is no less than 49,000,000. Of that number there are 184,000 Dutch, 3,400 Germans, 1,600 Britishers, 809,000 Chinese, and a great number of Indians and others who are, to a great extent, our own subjects. I was surprised during the War to find that one of my principal occupations was signing the passports of Indians and others who were anxious to go to Singapore and on to India, and these are all subjects of ours. The 1,600 is the actual white British population, but added to that we have another very big population of Chinese who were born and bred at Singapore. There was, indeed, a Chinese-English school, and we had a large number of Singapore-born Chinese who lived in the Dutch East Indies.
Some figures as to foreign capital may be interesting. The Dutch capital is estimated at £ 158,000,000 and the British 2585 capital at £ 50,000,000, and, according to the figures supplied to me, there are £ 16,000,000 British and £ 14,000,000 Dutch money invested in those islands in rubber and £ 3,000,000 British money is invested in tea. The Committee will admit, therefore, that the British capital invested in that country, and the British interests, are very considerable, and when one realises how near they are to the Straits Settlement, and the amount of traffic to and fro by small steamers, one must see that the Dutch East Indies depend a great deal on what is going on in the British Possession adjacent. I do not pretend to be a naval expert in any shape or form. I am not, like one of the hon. Members who spoke some time ago, a person who has never been to sea. I have been round the world from various places have travelled to the East via Suez and come home by South Africa. I have gone out by America, Japan, Hong Kong, Canton, Manila and all these places, so I know the geography of these places very well, and I may tell you that this is by no means a new proposition. I have discussed this self-same thing for years with Dutch authorities.
When as a youngster I was in the Dutch Indies, I was one of those who had to do compulsory service under the Dutch Government. I was a scutter—not a scooter—what you call in this country a compulsory volunteer. It was not until they found out, although I was in the ranks, that I knew my drill—I had been in the London Scottish—far better than my Dutch captain, that they thought they had better change me over, and they put me into the fire brigade. [HON. MEMBERS: "In kilts?] I was not in my kilts in the fire brigade, though it was certainly warm enough for them. To come back to Singapore. The Port of Singapore is getting more important daily. It is the gateway of the Far East, and it is surprising that the base has not been made long ago. When you consider the geographical importance of the position of Singapore and the amount of traffic that passes to and from and through the place, it is to me extraordinary that the base has not been constructed before to-day.
Some years ago when I was officially in the Straits Settlements. I had a talk with the highest officials of the Government, civil, military and naval. It was 2586 unofficial talk and we did not know what were the politics of each other. As a fact we had nothing to do with politics. When I came home to England I was asked what were my politics. I had been proposed for a Conservative Club and I had to say that my politics were so-and-so. I had not thought of the subject for 21 years. An hon. Member says it shows how hard up they were last year. Let me tell him that practically before I had retired from the East I was a Member of the London County Council. Very soon after arriving in England I found out which was the right side on which to be. The whole question of Singapore is discussed in England from a political point of view. Out in the far Blast it is discussed from the standpoint of what is necessary, and, having been a business man all my life, I consider that it is merely a question of insurance.
One hon. Member on the Liberal Benches has said that we can have such a thing as over-insurance. I suggest that you can have under-insurance just as much. I am convinced, having been out in the East and in Singapore from time to time, when T have gone into the question on the spot, that all those who are true lovers of peace, all those who stand by the League of Nations—some hon. Members may laugh, but I mean it, and I am talking on facts rather than on fancy—all those who really want to support the League of Nations should vote for the Singapore base, because the mere fact that we have a strong base at Singapore will not be regarded as intimidation or aggravation by any people, but will be considered as quite the contrary. When in the Lord Mayor's Show you place police at certain points on the route, is that a provocation? It is exactly the same if you place this base at Singapore along the route from this country to the Far East. You are then doing your best to prevent war anywhere. The mere fact that we have a strong base there, with a strong Navy to back it up, is for the good of this country and for the maintenance of peace throughout the world.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I would like to make one or two observations, although I do not intend to follow the line of the last speaker. It seems to me that he has learned nothing in recent years, and almost forgotten everything, when he pleads for the Singapore base. He tells 2587 us that we do not complain of police patrolling the beat and performing functions of that description; but he seems to forget that it is only because burglaries are likely to take place in these circumstances that the police are used at all. The only means of disposing of the fears that so many right hon. and hon. Members have is to make greater strides than have been made by the present Government towards international agreements. When territorial burglars and market burglars are on the prowl are we to look to the futile and obsolete methods of Singapore? We are always preparing for defence. No country ever admitted that it was the aggressor in any war. All countries fight defensive wars, and for the purpose of keeping themselves honest and caring for their own defence as a rule they provide themselves with a first-class set of burglar's tools. That seems to have been the chief reason why we have been spending so much money in the past on futile wars and preparations for war, but have always failed to prevent these wars coming. I think I am correct in stating that during the past 24 years this country has spent 15,000 millions of money on war and war preparation. We did not prevent war by that expenditure and we are no nearer peace to-day than we were before we began to spend that vast sum. Singapore, like the rest of the preparations, will be futile, and will probably provoke that mentality, that psychology or that atmosphere, which will lead us more quickly to war than anything else. I desire to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to Vote A, which deals with the total number of naval and marine officers and men and marine police to be borne on the Estimates during the year. One paragraph contains the wordsExcluding officers and men lent for service under Dominion and foreign Governments.I wish to know how many men were lent to foreign Governments; to which foreign Governments they were lent; what rates of pay they receive and what are the terms and conditions under which they work. Are they still on the British pay roll although lent to foreign Governments; and are we still footing the bill, though rendering service to some other nation? I also draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to Vote 1, in which an extra sum is allocated for recruiting pur- 2588 poses. I observe there is an increase of £ 5,500 for extra recruiting expenses in the forthcoming year. Are we to understand that we are now to spend more money on recruiting seamen because the terms and conditions of the Service no longer appeal to our people? Is it possible that the chances in life for the average seaman are so poor when he leaves the Service that he no longer feels this particular duty to be as glorious as some would have him believe? It seems to me the preparations which the Department made prior to 1924 have not been such as to encourage the same number of men to enter the Service as was formerly the case, and that this £ 5,500 of extra recruiting expenses is necessitated for reasons which the right hon. Gentleman should explain when he replies on the Debate. It seems to me that the Department might do something for the men in the last year of their service, such as giving them a vocational education which will fit them for the battle when they join civil life. That sounds rather like a contradiction in terms, but nevertheless any of the 1¼ million people out of work will declare that there is some truth in my statement. If during the last 12 months of service the major portion of the men could serve in home ports and undergo a vocational training, there would be some hope for them after leaving the service.
I understand that civil employés under the Admiralty are not at the moment entitled to the same rights as the average civilian. I should like to hear the right hon. Gentleman's views upon that matter. If an individual is working for the Navy, to whatever artisan class he may belong, he ought not to be compelled to sacrifice his civil rights simply because he is a Government employe. I know the right hon. Gentleman will probably suggest that the late Government did nothing in this direction, but I would remind him that the short term of office of the last Government never gave them an opportunity of making fundamental changes. The policy existing when they took office was inherited from previous Governments. It was a bad policy and a policy which ought to be changed, and men who are rendering service as civilian employés, in the Admiralty or any other Department, should not be asked to sacri- 2589 fice their civil rights. Further, I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman if anything is being done to give facilities to boys from elementary and secondary schools to have that type of training which will fit them for an officer's life. Too long has this been an exclusive department for the children of wealthy parents. While we have a Navy or an Army or an Air Force no one would deprecate the spending of money to enable boys to acquire the knowledge necessary to fit them for a useful officer career. One does feel that to make the officer class an exclusive class into which boys from elementary or secondary schools seldom enter leaves something very much to be desired. I think the last Government did something in this direction and I hope the present Government are extending the facilities which their predecessors set out to provide. While wealthy parents have to make a contribution towards the £ 700 a year, which it costs to educate a boy in one of the various naval colleges, once the necessary knowledge has been acquired by the boy and he becomes an accomplished officer his weekly or annual income is one with which that of the ordinary seaman compares very ill indeed. He receives such sums as repay his parents for the expense they have undergone, and it gives him a status in life which the ordinary elementary or secondary schoolboy seldom attains. I think these facilities should be equalised as quickly as possible consistent first with the money being available which you must spend for that purpose without; decreasing the general efficiency of the Navy. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give favourable replies to these questions and will satisfy us that a more democratic spirit is entering into the various departments of the Admiralty.
§ Captain PETER MACDONALD
I am well aware there are many Members of this House far better qualified to speak-on this subject than I am, but in common with every Britisher I am so impressed with the supreme importance of our naval strength that I am emboldened to make my first speech in this House on that subject. The Washington Treaty is now in being, and we must observe it. But the consequences of that Treaty appear to be very little realised by the people of this country. For the first time in our history as an Imperial Power we have 2590 abdicated our sea supremacy. It has been a voluntary and spontaneous abdication which might be called a magnificent gesture of goodwill. So be it, but let the magnitude of the sacrifice be realised, and the need, not now of superiority but of naval equality, be fully recognised. For a century and a half, over all the waters of the globe, the British flag has done the world's sea work—salvage, both material and human, surveying, slaver-hunting, and police work—and all this has been done silently and with rare impartiality by our ships and our men. It can no longer be so, but if we cannot look after our interests and the interests of the world, we can, at any rate—and it is our bounden duty to do so—look after ourselves.
We, in this country, flourish or we starve according as our ships sail or stop. Ships and shipbuilding go to the very root of our Imperial problem, and the dockyards of England to-day are, for the most part, idle. We were informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour the other day that over 33 per cent. of our naval dockyards trained and skilled strength is unemployed, and that large numbers are working on short time at the present time. I can hear my hon. Friends opposite say: "Why should not these men be turned to commercial construction," but can they be? There was published the other day in the "Times "a striking letter, which I have here, from the President of the Scottish Institute of Engineers and Shipbuilding, and in this letter he demonstrates clearly that the work for the Navy enabled the shipyards to have men of exceptional technical ability, and the contribution which the warships gave to establishment charges enabled these shipyard organisations to build merchant vessels or a commercial basis. If these orders are stopped, the country cannot expect that, after a long period of time, with the workmen on the streets and the shipyards left bare, those men and those yards will be ready for a national emergency. It is a wise precaution to see that the means of production, both as regards plant and technical skill, should be kept in a state of efficiency. The truth of this has been illustrated in the last few weeks. Two big shipping contracts have gone to Germany. In one case the German tender was £ 300,000 2591 lower than any British offer. We cannot build ships to compete because our shipyards are being allowed to become unused and derelict at the present time.
It is to me, and to any hon. Member representing a dockyard constituency, a matter of the gravest possible concern that in these Estimates, now before the House, there is no provision made for fresh construction. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, no doubt, if he were here, would reply that he requires the money for social reform. Social reform is all very well, but what kind of social reform? If it means mere palliatives, it is, in my view, the falsest of false economies. Prevention is better than cure. We want more than a method of doctoring. Men want work and wages, not idleness and doles. My Liberal friends, who should be below the Gangway opposite, are a mournful illustration of the danger of relying solely upon curatives. We want to stop the illness, instead of summoning the doctor. Naval construction is more than a cure. It is, of itself, a preventative, and, I think, only second in importance to new construction is the speeding up of the construction now proceeding.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ The cruiser "Frobisher" was laid down in 1916 and not completed till 1924. It took eight years to build. The cruisers "Effingham," "Enterprise" and "Emerald" were laid down in 1917-1918 and are not yet completed. The destroyer flotilla leaders "Broke" and "Keppel" were six years under construction. What an appalling waste of time this is. What can be greater folly than to turn out ships which are, if not absolutely obsolete when they are turned out, at any rate somewhat out of date? I hope we shall not hear of this being done in the future. By refusing to keep an adequate Navy, we are not only jeopardising our Imperial position, but we are undermining our commercial shipbuilding capacity, injuring our trade and throwing out of work large numbers of trained and highly skilled men. I wonder if my hon. Friends opposite really believe that this paralysis of our naval construction is saving money. The money that was once spent in paying wages on Clydebank, so ably represented by hon. Members opposite, is now paid in doles to men 2592 grown sick in spirit for the want of honest work. Is this lip service to Pacifism worth the deliberate destruction of human material? Will the little money that you save buy you flesh and blood and brains in the days when you need them? Will your dole-degraded men build you ships when their yards are closed and their hands have lost their skill? It is well to think of these things, for they are the domestic results of the neglect of an Imperial duty.
§ We were returned to power as a party pledged to a policy of Imperial defence adequate to our Imperial needs. I need not go into figures—that has already been done—but a prudent man insures his property, and we are the trustees of a great people, a great trade, and a great Empire. Our Navy is our insurance and our only insurance, and the question we must ask ourselves is: Is it adequate to its needs? Does it cover the risks involved? In proportion to the responsibilities it bears, it is weaker than the Navy of any other Power in the world to-day. Japan and America are far ahead of us in fast cruisers. I have the figures here. Japan has 16 of 33 knots to our two; America has 10 of 35 knots and we have none; America has now 295 torpedo craft and we have 203; and they have 116 submarines to our 61; and at present rates of construction, they will have, by 1929, twice as many of both. In the Mediterranean, where our strongest fleet is based, we have only six submarines while France has 21 in full commission and three in reserve. French air strength is notorious. The question we must ask is: Are we going to face this issue squarely, or are we going to shirk it? No one desires an armaments race or a provocative naval policy, but we do desire safety, and we do want to prevent our dockyards and our men from becoming derelict. When you find, as you must find, that the Singapore base and increased construction of light craft not only serve to guard your Imperial interests, but also give work to your men at home, the case, I think myself, and I am sure hon. Members must agree, is irresistible.
§ When all is said and done, a man had better build a battleship and have bread than preach Pacifism and starve. Even my hon. Friends opposite saw the truth of this argument when they were in office, 2593 because, in spite of every Pacifist principle and every platform pledge, they sanctioned the building of five new cruisers. Surely, they will help us to carry on this good work. But, if they will not, it is clearly our duty as a party to honour our pledges. In the past, we have not been unmindful of our Imperial obligations, and now to-day, fresh from our greatest victory at the polls, I strongly urge that we should, by increased construction, make our Navy adequate for its vast work. By so doing, we shall not only keep faith with the people of this country, but we shall revivify our shipyards, give work to our men, and do our duty to those great Imperial Dominions, who, albeit somewhat anxious-eyed, look to us with trust and loyalty to provide that security and to safeguard the foundations of our great Empire.
§ Mr. ROBERT YOUNG
If we are to have a Navy at all, large or small, I agree that it ought to be an efficient one. If we are to have efficiency, the sailors and the engineers must have the best conditions that it is possible to give them, and they must clearly understand the position in which they are placed, and the conditions under which they join the service. A month or two ago my right hon. Friend issued an order which rather astonished the chief engine-room artificers, and the artificers generally in the Navy. Hitherto, we have understood that men joining the Navy really join the Navy for service on the surface, and not so much for going into the air or diving into the depths of the sea. I asked my right hon. Friend a question as to that order, and he informed me that work in connection with the submarines was service which everyone who enlisted in the Navy was bound to undertake. I have no doubt that, technically, that is so, for I am quite aware of the fact that sailors have been used as soldiers very effectively, as a naval brigade on land, and therefore, I assume that, technically, they may be sent up in the air, or down in the submarines, as the right hon. Gentleman has now decided. But that Regulation, or Order, came as a great surprise to artificers in the Navy. They had understood, hitherto, that those who were to serve in submarines were to be men who volunteered for the job, and I would like 2594 to know whether the new Order has been made necessary by the fact that volunteers for the work were not coming forward in sufficiently large numbers, and, if so, what were the reasons why there were not volunteers?
In any case, I want to point out to my right hon. Friend, that even if the sailor engineers are supposed technically to serve in this capacity, it is psychologically a bad order. After all, men who have volunteered for submarines must be temperamentally men who are prepared for that sort of work. Large numbers of men who joined the Navy as engineers, not understanding that they were to be engaged in that work, are not temperamentally suited for that purpose, and those who are prepared to volunteer, and those who have volunteered in the past, are very much perturbed at the idea that they are going to have pressed men sent with them into these submarines. We can understand perfectly well the feelings of the men. I question very much if there is not a large number of members of this House who would not care very much to go in an aeroplane, far less go down in a submarine, not because they are afraid, but because temperamentally they object. May I be allowed to tell an experience of my own, by way of illustration, during the War period. It was my duty to go to Farnborough. While there I had the opportunity, of which I availed myself, of going up in an aeroplane. The man who took me up looped the loop and tried to frighten me, but altogether, it was a very pleasant experience as far as I was concerned. When I went to a large meeting of engineers that evening, I received an ovation. I said, "What is that for?" The answer was, "Because you went up in an aeroplane." I said, "Will not these men go up?" They said, "No." Although they were making aeroplanes, they were not themselves prepared to go up. They had different reasons, some not being temperamentally fitted; others would not risk going above terra firm; and a number objected that the machines were made on piece-work, and so would not go up.
There are the same feelings on the part of the men who have been utilised in these submarines. Men who are willing to offer themselves for the work are the very best men you could possibly have for that work. But if you are going to im- 2595 pose on those men other men who are not willing, are timorous, or not fitted for the work, I unhesitatingly say you are jeopardising the lives of these men and the safety of the vessel itself. I asked my right hon. Friend a question as to the matter, and he informed me that he had heard of no dissatisfaction. I was astonished when I got the answer. I am aware that there is considerable dissatisfaction arising out of the order. To make this order effective it should apply to all new enlistments, and not to those already entered on the Navy List.
I want to say another word in connection with the submarine, and I am finding fault with no officers. My hon. Friend who spoke here to-night said something about the rum ration. I would like to know when an officer is told off to take charge of a submarine, which is going out of port, how much notice he gets. I am not pleading that you should enforce temperance upon the officers, or taking the line of teetotalism, but I have heard that there have been festive occasions in various ports the night before vessels were going out, and I feel thoroughly convinced in my own mind that these festive occasions the night before are not good for those who have to go in these vessels, nor safe for them. ! would like to see some Regulation, not of a permanent character, but simply a Regulation that would keep their temperance firmly established for a night or two nights before they went in the submarine. Further, knowing, as we do that there is more oil-burning in the Navy than ever before, and that every officer in the Navy must sooner or later be an engineer, the danger is enhanced, more especially if the commander of the submarine for the time being be not an engineer in that capacity.
I would like to ask another question in relation to coastal motor boats. From the name, one would suppose it to be a boat that goes round the coast. That is no longer the case. These boats, as I understand, go out of sight of land. They are mere shells with very heavy engines, "50 horse-power, and the men employed on them are employed in very dangerous circumstances. I believe it is possible for them to get gassed by fumes, and the vessels carry gas-masks. I am told, also, that when a boat is going from 2596 30 to40 knots, men have to get off one boat, and step on to another. Is anything going to be done in connection with the coastal motor-boat service as is done in the case of the submarines? Those men have to pass a medical examination. When they go in submarines, they get an extra allowance. Those in the coastal boat service do not, and I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to take into consideration the circumstances in which these men work. That is all I have to say on these matters. I am perfectly certain that we want more consideration for those employed in the coastal motor-boat service, and also we want something done as to the regulation that has been issued by the Admiralty to which I have referred. I again urge that the order should not be applied to the present staff, but to the newly-enlisted men.
§ Mr. STORRY DEANS
I have a Motion on the Paper on Vote 1 to reduce the amount by £ 100, but as I think there is very little chance of that Vote being reached at a reasonable hour when the Committee is prepared to listen to reason—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—I am taking advantage of this present Vote to make the observations that I had in mind. I am one of those who cannot agree with the policy of the Government in postponing further naval construction. Loyal party man as I am, and as I confess myself to be, I feel that I ought to make a protest against this Government following a course which has never been followed by the Conservative party whether it has been in office, or in opposition, ever since anyone can remember. Obviously, it requires no argument at all to show that our trade routes must be insured against interruption. We are not like any other country in the world of which I know, because no other country is absolutely dependent upon its overseas trade for its daily food. When you talk about the fleets and cruisers of other countries, as hon. Members do talk, they forget, it seems to me, that the cases are in no way comparable. You cannot, for example, compare the position of America which can feed its own population for an indefinite period, with the position of this country which can only feed its own population for between a fortnight and three weeks in the year. To me it seems 2597 simply madness that we should leave ourselves without an ample margin of security.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) is not here. He talked about over-insurance. It all depends upon your anxiety as to what you wish to insure, or what you are insuring against. What we have to insure against is that very horrible thing, the prospect of starvation. In no other country does the naval problem present itself in that light. In no other country does the Navy represent an insurance against the people perishing for want of food. Our Navy represents that insurance. Therefore, I say it is perfectly idle to say that, because you do not apprehend an attack from this or that nation within, at any rate, a short period, therefore you should not keep a reasonable amount of naval construction going from year to year. It is quite true that to-day, so far as anyone can see—we all hope it will last for ever—there is no prospect of any war, or any sort of hostilities with any country. There is no prospect of it so far as I, or anybody else, can see.
But war, and the causes of war, may spring up in a year or two, and you cannot improvise cruisers; you cannot improvise ships of war. We can and we did improvise a magnificent army. The martial spirit of the British people will always improvise an army, but the martial spirit, or any other spirit, of the British people cannot improvise a Navy, cannot improvise a single ship of war. Therefore it becomes necessary for statesmen to consider in advance the problems of our country and our Empire—particularly of our country, because it is so very vulnerable—who will in advance insure us against all possible risk of ever having our food supplies effectively attacked. What I am saying are mere commonplaces that ought to be present in the minds of every Member. This is not a matter of mere party politics. The Navy never ought to be a matter of party politics.
§ Mr. DEANS
I am very glad to find that, in spite of the advice of their one time allies—who have now almost disappeared—the Labour Government did provide what it honestly considered to be 2598 adequate new construction last year. That Government was superior both to the pressure of the pacifists behind them and the party men sitting at one side of them. So it should be. The Navy ought not to become a mere matter of party politics. What is more, the provision of a strong Navy ought not to be a matter which is made secondary to any other consideration whatsoever. I am sorry that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not in the House, because I am going to say this: that when I am attacking, as well as I know how, the Government for this strange dereliction of duty—contrary to the wishes of their party, contrary, as I believe, to the opinion of most hon. Members on these Benches, contrary, as I believe, to the views of the party in the country—I am not really attacking the First Lord.
I discern in this the clammy hand of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the prodigal son of the Conservative party. He has at long last, when his father's house has once more become prosperous, returned to that house. He has put on the best robe; the fatted calf has been killed in his honour, and yet he seems to hunger after the dry husks which he used to share with the hon. and right hon. Members who sit, or ought to sit, on the benches opposite. I should advise him, if I might presume to give him humble advice, to be content with the traditional fare of his father's house; and one item in that traditional fare is a strong Navy, a Navy adequate for the needs of the country and the Empire. If a weakened Navy is the price of the right hon. Gentleman's support to this party, then I say that the price is too high The Conservative party managed to reach a very satisfactory victory at the polls without any very conspicuous support from the right hon. Gentleman, and the Conservative party can equally reach another victory at the polls, for that accession to the Opposition benches of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. R. MacDonald) spoke, will not, I think, come just yet. It will not be for a very long time. I say this, that whatever a Chancellor of the Exchequer is at the Treasury the Conservative party cannot afford a "Little Navy" programme, and quite apart from the Conservative party 2599 the country neither desires, nor ought to have, a Navy which is allowed to become subject to attrition from the perils of the sea and other causes; and the country should not be allowed to suffer under the apprehension that there is not a sufficient margin of safety in the matter of cruisers for the protection of its commerce and its essential food supply.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
We have in front of us an item of expenditure which the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty explained has to be taken by the world as the index and measure of love of this nation for peace. We have a right to know from him, and the world outside has a right to know, before he describes this nation as the most peaceful nation if he can produce in the records of the last 125 years any other nation that has waged so many wars as Great Britain. We have a right to know, the world has a right to know, from the right hon. Gentleman the name of any other nation which during the last 125 years has taken the lives of so many people of other nations in war, or for the sake of keeping law and order, as the British nation during that period. We are told that our love and friendship for everybody in the world is so great that we have very few enemies, or yet we always choose to have a Navy capable of battering down the heads of any of our friends; and that we have always successfully managed to do so. The right hon. Gentleman seriously put this to the world as if the whole world is as thoughtless as he was at the moment he was speaking—that as there is no more land to be grabbed, we want no Navy, no Singapore base, because of it.
Again I put the point, that there is no nation who during the last 10 years has grabbed half as much land as the British nation. A former Chancellor of the Exchequer used this phrase a few years ago—and incidentally the nation has acquired more land since the phrase was used—that we did not want anybody's land. I do not mind the Government asking for the Singapore base if they will honestly state the purpose for which it is meant. It is no use talking of the defence of commerce. Is there a single instance in the history of the world of a peaceful trading ship going across the ocean under the flag of Britain being suddenly attacked and seized by other nations? Where is a 2600 trading ship attacked? Why is your trading route—and God knows what it is—in danger? The world is round, and every spot of surface on the world can be described as the gate to somewhere and to somebody's country. The Straits of Gibraltar are a gateway because it is a narrow neck of water. The Cape of Good Hope is a gateway because it is at the head of a vast expanse of ocean. Colombo is a gateway because it is in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and Singapore is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and is somewhere something. You can always find an excuse for describing everything as a gateway leading to somewhere which we as a peace-loving nation can always attack because they must be in our possession.
But I think the Admiralty has overlooked one serious point, or perhaps they have pretended to overlook it so that other nations of the world may equally overlook it, and the taxpayer of this country may also overlook it. What is this Singapore base? It does not exist to-day, and therefore it is described as something which is going to be put up for the defence of the Navy in time of war in than area. But once the Singapore base is constructed, how will it be described? It will be described as one of the most valuable assets in that quarter of the globe, an asset which we must defend and preserve at all costs, and the Singapore base, instead of being an additional factor of safety to the Navy, will be something for the Navy to save and fight for. In time of war Singapore is going to be valuable to you; it will also be valuable to your enemies. Your first necessity in time of war will be that as Singapore, with its naval base and dockyard of a valuable character, will be the object of attack by your enemy so you will be equally eager to safeguard it at all costs. You are creating in that part of the world not something that is going to help your Navy, but something that your Navy will have to maintain and guard. From that point of view we shall go on increasing naval expenditure. At the present moment, we are told, there are' some battleships in that area, and that in case of repairs they will want to retire to Singapore. After two or three years we shall not be surprised if we are told that it is now necessary to post more warships in that area, because we must take care of our valuable docks at 2601 Singapore. That is the history of the military expansion of all the militarist nations, however they may pretend in words to be peace loving and peaceful, and with no intention of attacking any other nations in the world.
I will pass now to the subject of naval ratings. We have been told about the efficiency of the Navy and of the men. What is efficiency? What is discipline? There is a superimposed discipline, and there is an imparted efficiency; and there is at the same time a sort of internal discipline and a sort of internal efficiency. Efficiency and the spirit of discipline depend more on the object for which they are to be used than upon the method by which they are imparted or imposed. If these men were to understand that this was an interest which is their own interest, and not somebody else's interest, they would be inspired with a spirit of efficiency and discipline quite different from what naval officers now impose upon naval ranks. [HON. MEMBERS: "What do you know about it?"] What do I know about it? I admit that Battersea is not noted as a naval port, though half of Battersea has the honour to be represented by a very valiant naval officer. But what do I know about it? As a member of the Communist party I have greater knowledge of what the Communist system of human freedom in the Army and Navy does for the discipline of the men than any member of any other parties. I will read, Comrade FitzRoy—[Laughter]—Captain FitzRoy, an opinion expressed jointly by half-a-dozen British citizens of the highest reputation, whose experience of human life and whose daily contact with the masses of the working class of this country is far superior to that of most employers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"] That will-come by-and-by. This is the opinion expressed after a close examination of the Russian Red Army and of the Russian Red Navy, and of a particular study of the freedom that is given to the men and the great result it has produced. These British citizens express themselves like this, in print:In consequence, the difference of bearing of the Red Army or Navy man from that of his Western equivalent is most marked. One can see at a glance that pains have been taken during his training to stimulate intelligence, to develop consciousness of his rights as a human being, and to bring out individuality. All this is in sharp contrast to the practice nearer home, and for 2602 an exactly contrary reason, in order to create a force consciously ready and eager to defend the workers, its own fellows, against either outside or inside attack.That is taken from page 87 of the report of the trade union delegation from Great Britain to Russia, written by my comrade Purcell, for whose absence the House is the poorer. This is an example of the new man that we want in the Army and Navy. It has been one of my electoral pledges that I shall always do my utmost to see that the soldier and naval ranker ceases to be a mere Robot under the orders of the officer, that he should be a human being conscious of his duties to himself and others, and that he should certainly cease to fight for things that are not to his interest and are even against his interest.
We have heard of many evils and many troubles of the common people of this country in several Debates in this House, and yet we are told that this is the nation that possesses a very powerful Navy for the defence of our homes. This very powerful Navy and Army are helpless to defend the homes of the poor, who are living in slums, against the tyrannies of landlords. This is the nation which has got a very powerful Navy for the defence of the homes of the poor and for the defence of your food, and yet this is the Navy which is unable to safeguard the necessities of the down-trodden masses against wicked profiteers, who deprive the children of their food. This is a naval force which is supposed to be maintained in a state of efficiency and discipline by a tyrannically-imposed discipline by officers bullying the men. A day must come when the right view of life will be taken, and when these men will see that their Navy really defends the food of their own children, when the naval men will see that this Navy really is to protect their homes against the exactions of landlords, and when these men will be fired with a different spirit of discipline and of efficiency.
Again the question might be asked, "What do you know about the requirements of the naval rank and file?" Again I answer that I belong to a party which has taken considerable pains about this. Only a fortnight ago no less than 14 naval men—I mean it was published a fortnight ago, but it was a little before that—no less than 14 naval men, of considerable experience as bottom dogs in 2603 the Navy, put their heads together and formulated the demands as the men themselves feel and see. It is no use giving training of a sort to men from the point of view of the necessity of others. We have a wrong notion that we produce an efficient Navy by depriving the men who are really the Navy of the very elementary rights of British citizenship. After all these naval workers are primarily workers, and if they are workers why should they not have the same rights and privileges as other workers have to form themselves into a bona fide trade union and affiliate with other trade unions?
It is no use trying to convince those human beings that they are different from the others, and that they are not as British as hon. Members of this House, and have not got the same sense of responsibility. They are not such a senseless lot that if they were given the right of combination and trade union rights they would not use them for their own protection just as efficiently and wisely as other British workers do in their own trade unions for their own purposes. These men themselves have set down the political demands of the naval ranks, the first being the right to form and join a trade union of the usual type. They also want their friendly societies to be composed of the men themselves free from any intimidation.
I stand open to correction, but it has been reported recently that an Admiralty Order instructs the commanders at all ports to have an officer representative of himself present at the monthly meetings of the lower deck in connection with these societies. I do not know if this is correct, but if it is we should like to know the intention of the Admiralty. Where men are meeting together as human beings and not as members of the Navy particularly or doing any naval duty, but meeting on shore as human beings, what is the object and what is the motive to issue instructions to the commanders at all ports that they must have an officer present when the men are discussing their own affairs? If it is correct, I submit that it creates a mentality in the men opposite to what you desire in an efficient Navy of self-respecting human beings.
Among the demands and requirements of the men there is nothing new which is not known, and which is now allowable 2604 to those very men if they were in other civil occupations, and we do not see why the Admiralty should take a jealous view that these rights, if granted to these persons, would be a danger to others when similar rights are enjoyed by other British workers and are admitted to be a British institution in regard to which the country takes a pride. The men demand that in the naval service the age of 18 ought to be recognised as one at which the rights of citizenship should be available. They require that there shall be no intervention by sailors in industrial disputes, and also the right to refuse to act as blacklegs in industrial disputes. There should also be an abolition of courts-martial, and naval courts should be organised on the basis of full rights of British citizenship with a jury composed of three men's representatives, one petty officer, and another.
The position is that these men are praised at one moment and rammed down as being inferior beings at another moment. In case of a man in Great Britain being charged with having committed a crime or having done anything wrong, he has got the light to be tried by a jury of his own fellow-countrymen, and what has the man in the Navy done that he should not have the same right and protection to be tried by a jury? Why does this seem startling? It is not because the men are wrong in this demand, but because the mentality of the ruling classes is wrong, and because the privileges of the working classes have been so long abused that they are now reluctant to claim them.
I will not tire this Committee with all the details, but I will still touch upon certain important points. With regard to married sailors, I think they ought to receive the marriage allowance. We have been told that there is no distinction made between the officers and the men. Is it not a fact that at the present moment there is a Regulation which entitles sailors over 25 years of age to the marriage allowance, and it is denied to married sailors under that age. Why is this restriction placed upon these men? We have heard something about rum, beer, and water, and we have been told that the Government does not wish to compel men to drink water or to encourage them to drink rum in preference to anything else they like.
2605 Why do the Government want to compel men under 25 years of age to remain unmarried or discourage them from marrying by not granting them a marriage allowance? Something has been said about the Church service. Why should there bo a compulsory Church service for the sailors? They do not want any longer, either in the Army or the Navy, a sort of church parade, and there should be no compulsion in this respect.
As long as men attend the church parade and attend their devotions under compulsion it is degrading even to those who would have done it out of their own sincere belief. The men who put forward these demands go further. They want established genuine bona fide clubs, recreation clubs and other institutions conducted and controlled and managed by the men themselves. They want the removal of the Y.M.C.A. and other institutions which, under a religious cloak, are only retailing Conservative politics throughout the country. I would ask hon. Members of this House who are interested in the full programme of these naval demands to read the "Workers' Weekly" of 6th March. The price is 2d. Members of the Government can have it free by sending Scotland Yard to raid their offices.
May I conclude my remarks by appealing to the Committee to begin to discard their illogical conclusions when they apply them to men other than themselves? In the first place, if you talk of powerful navies and of shipbuilding do not talk of your love of peace. Do not talk of your love of friendship with other nations. It is far better, and the country would be far better, and at least more honourable in the eyes of the outside world, to plainly admit that you still choose to live as the biggest bully in the world, and for that purpose you want a big Nevy and a Singapore base. We are told we must construct many ships. If you construct many ships you must man them. You must put naval ranks on them. We have had many sneers about the dole. A soldier and a naval ranker who draws his pay without doing his job is equivalent to a man kept on the dole for unemployment, and after paying the dole to the soldier and the naval force you create a sort of psychological necessity to pitch him into a war so that he rightfully earns his living. That is the 2606 only logic of it. If you say that we are keeping a soldier and paying him with no intention of using him as a soldier, that we are keeping a large Navy with the professed object of never going to war, then you are simply maintaining a large number of men on a dole of the worst type. It is much more honest for you to admit that you have still decided upon a plan to live as the biggest bully in the world and on that account you want a powerful Navy, and if you keep a Navy for such a purpose it must be composed of Robots and not of men with equal rights of citizenship.
10.0 P.M. It would be unnatural and inhuman to expect that for the benefit of some city merchant, either in London or on the Liverpool Cotton Exchange, men are going out to Singapore to fight when their families do not get sufficient food and clothes and a house to live in which could decently be called a house. It is no use pretending that the Navy is kept for the benefit of the families of those who make up the Navy. It is no use pretending that it is serving any useful interest of life for them and their families as things go at present. I appeal to the Government to throw off the mask of pacifisim and not put themselves in the position in which our last Government placed themselves. Do not pretend to be pacifists. Do not go out and say you are building a Singapore base for the benefit of other people, to keep law and order on the waters of the sea and see that the fishes are not quarrelling. But for goodness' sake say the American money maker has beaten the British money maker hollow and now the British money maker has to seek other parts of the world to see whether he can find other people more innocent than the American. Now you want to shift over from Gibraltar to Singapore as the centre of your piracy. Why not be candid and tell the world what you are about to do? If, on the other hand, you want to tell the people of the country that the Army and the Navy are for the interest of the human beings of this country, for goodness sake be logical and admit that the first interest of these men is their own self-respect and personal liberty and not efficiency on your behalf, and the full personal liberty of action of speech, of joining any club or political 2607 movement they desire to join should be granted to them. If admirals can go to Trafalgar Square and deliver fulsome speeches to the British Fascist, why should the members of the Army and the Navy in the lower ranks not be at liberty to join the Communist party and carry on a Communist propaganda?
If these men's eyes are opened as to the mean and low purposes you are using them for they will not agree to join your Navy. If you have not the fear in your heart why are you so afraid of letting them join their trade union or any political organisation of their own choice and let them freely read the papers and pamphlets which could be made available for them? I again put it that the Government, to ask for such Votes, must now openly tell this country, as well as other countries, that the purpose of all these Totes is to be ready to fight. They must also say quite openly that those who are ready to fight must not only foresee chances of a fight but must also bring about chances of a fight in order to take advantage of the chances of personal interest for which they are prepared. The last Labour Government was chicled for giving up the Singapore project, and the First Lord of the Admiralty suggested that it was a gesture of peace which was very futile, which did not produce any better atmosphere. Why? What is the evidence? The evidence is that the shipbuilding programme as laid down at Washington is still being carried on at almost full measure. I submit, without meaning to defend the late Government as against the present Government, that the naval programme was not affected by the magnificent gesture of the late Labour Government, not because the gesture was considered to be of no value but because the outside world knew the precarious position in which the Labour Government was, and because the outside world had no guarantee that the Conservative party was not coming in in a short time to undo everything that Labour had done. That is the position which gave a signal to the outside nations of the world to carry on with their programme as laid down at Washington. It is no use saying that the action in withdrawing from Singapore of the late Labour Government was not appreciated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who by?"] That is 2608 the very question which should give you conviction of the moral value and strength of the action of the late Labour Government in regard to Singapore.
The Dominions attached to the British Empire were disastisfied with that action. The other nations of the world on that account appreciated the action of the Labour Government all the more as of greater moral value than it would have been if the Dominions had not protested. It was a forcible picture before the world that the late Labour Government, in abandoning Singapore, were not surrendering something that was of no value to the Imperialist nations throughout the Empire, but they showed that in place of an Imperial solidarity they were ready and prepared to teach the various component members of the British family the art of living at peace with other nations instead of living at war and preparedness for war. To say that the great moral lesson is being wasted is to offer a very incomplete observation on the events of the past twelve months. The whole value of any move for peace must rest, not on the surrender which you can easily make but on the surrender and sacrifice that you are prepared to make with reluctance and against your self interest. The condemnation by the Dominions of the late Government's act in the matter of Singapore, though it startled some of the so-called patriotic British citizens, had ail the higher moral value in the eyes of the outside nations who thought that here at last rises a new spirit in Imperial Britain by which a section of that great nation is now prepared to face the risk of telling the members of their own family: "We ought to live as brothers in this world, not by bullying others or by saying that we have got big battleships and big docks out in the East, but by saying that we are sincere and mean to do no harm to others and confidently hope that no one is going to do harm to us." Unless we fall back on the international spirit of propaganda and give to the men serving in the Army and the Navy the same human rights and rights of British citizenship, unqualified and unmodified, as each Member of this House presumes to enjoy for himself and considers himself fit to enjoy, unless you do that, all the arguments of to-day are false arguments by a Government that will require, and soon will come here to ask for, a powerful Army to terrorise over the world.
§ Mr. WALDRON SMITHERS
I appeal to the sympathy of the House, for I am trying to make my first contribution to its Debates I appeal with all the more force because my father who died a few months ago sat on these benches, and I hope the House will allow me to pay this tribute to his memory. I notice, Sir, that you are allowing this Debate to take a pretty wide scope. I am not an expert, and therefore shall only deal with the Navy from a point of view of an ordinary layman. I hope, although I may not be able to put my points as forcibly as the last speaker, that I shall be able to put a quite different point of view. In view of the fact that a Cabinet Committee is sitting to discuss naval policy, in view of the fact that these Estimates include no provision for new construction, in view of the fact of the weak childhood of the League of Nations, when it is as yet unable to carry out its ideals, and of the fact, of our geographical position, I venture to ask the Government, are they absolutely satisfied, even with the slightly increased Estimates, that in consultation with their experts the policy they have laid down is adequate to keep this Empire and this country well within the limits of safety? There five some risks that the Government of this country dare not take, and one is to reduce the British Navy below the safety point. Every effort is being made, and rightly so, to bring about a better and more peaceful state of things in Europe and the world, but I do ask the Committee to remember that it takes three years at least to build a battleship, three years to train a seaman gunner, and seven years to train a responsible naval officer. What living man is there, including even the great man the Leader of the Opposition, who will dare to say what our relations with this or that Power will be six or seven years hence? This country has one line of defence only; that is, the Fleet. The British Army is for use on land and for the defence of our Empire. It can only operate so long as it has the shield of the Fleet. Whatever may be the future possibilities of the Air Force, it is a fact and is acknowledged that any attacks from the air may be very annoying, but are not necessarily vital, and that those attacks can only be met by similar attacks on enemy bases. The food of this country comes by sea, 2610 and it is the ways of the sea that must be adequately protected. There are two ways in which a country can be crushed. It can be conquered or it can be starved, and this latter condition applies more acutely to this country than to any other country in the whole world. Without a superior fleet, this country would cease to count as a power. Whatever hon. Gentlemen opposite may say, the real reason why the opinion of this country carries so much weight in the Council of the League of Nations, and in fact in the councils of the whole world, is because of her Fleet, and because of her tradition. Every foreign Power knows if we have established, as we have, and if we mean to maintain, superiority at sea, as we do, that it is in no spirit of aggression or adventure, but it is an elemental duty that we owe to our Empire, to maintain beyond reach and beyond risk, our industries, our commerce and our home.
Without going into the motives of other nations, the hard fact remains that other navies do exist in the world. Other nations know their own business best, and this is not the time to go into their motives, but no country can have the same justification that Great Britain has for a strong and efficient Navy. If the navies of all the foreign Powers were to go to the bottom to-morrow-, those foreign Powers would still be great powers, and would be comparatively safe. Not so with us. With our Navy gone, without a strong and efficient Navy, this country ceases to count as a Power, and OUT usefulness in the world will be gone. We are trustees for our world-wide Empire. It is not by any chance that His Majesty the King rules over the Empire, the greatest force for good that the world has ever seen. The reason for this greatness is that there is a something in the intiative and the character of the people of these islands which has been able to produce a commonwealth of nations where the conditions of life, on the whole, imperfect though they may be, are the highest and best the world has ever seen; where we have a Parliamentary system which is the envy of the whole world: where we have a system of justice presided over by Judges unequalled throughout the world; where we have a system of business and finance which holds the confidence of the world, 2611 whose foundation-stone is stability, and which is only made possible by the existence of a strong Navy—a system run by men of business who are prepared to take business risks and trade with the whole world, who initiate the employment of thousands of men and women, and who are the largest contributors to our bill for national expenditure. None of these things would be possible without the confidence inspired by the existence of a strong and efficient Navy. I once assisted at a scene in the City, at another House to which I have the honour to belong, when Admiral Jellico made an official visit. He was called upon for a speech, and he stood up before four thousand men. All that he said was this:I thank you for your kind reception, and I may tell you this, that without the city of London there could not be a British Navy.This was received with loud cheers, and when he got silence he said, equally simply:And without the Navy there would not be a city of London.Ours is an Empire where the citizen has more individual liberty and more individual rights than ever before. Lord Balfour has truly said that no country which is not true to its past can ever hope to succeed. We are the trustees for our Empire, and we must be in a position to move troops rapidly to any part of that Empire that is liable to attack, especially in view of the malignant propaganda against civilisation which is going on in the world, encouraged and fostered, as it is, by some people in high positions in this country; and it is quite possible that some politicians, who get their political ideas from the revolutionary element in foreign countries, who wish to see the downfall of this great, beneficent Empire, may think that one of the ways to arrive at their object is to undermine the British Navy, to try to create a public opinion that she is no longer necessary and to engender fanatical opposition and raise hopes which may even take the form of voting against these Estimates. There is a real danger that impatient and fretful men, swept off their feet by indignation and enthusiasm, may destroy more than they build.
2612 Following the advice which the Prime Minister gave us on 6th March, I think that the presentation of the Navy Estimates to Parliament is one of the occasions when this House ought to show that it has the requisite qualities of head and heart. We have to try to give the country a lead. We have to try to look at facts as they are, and not to fancy them as we should like to see them. I am one of those who believe that the British Empire, under divine Providence, would not have been allowed to attain its present greatness unless it had a divine mission to perform in the world. And, when you consider that the future of the world will be largely influenced by human ideals and passions, it is a good thing that the men in whose hands the destinies of the world rest shall have the steadying influence of the knowledge that there does exist a strong and efficient British Navy which will only be used as the implement of peace and justice. Without any boasting, I am but stating a plain truth when I say that the strongest implement for peace and justice at present is the British Navy. The League of Nations is a young and tender child, and to give it at this stage of its career work which it is, as yet, incapable of performing, would be to do the League great harm.
May I say a few words about the Navy in its relation to trade? Mainly owing to the sacrifice of life and treasure made by all classes of the community in this country, in the Great War, we are faced to-day with economic and domestic problems of the first magnitude, such as unemployment, shortage of houses, and trade depression generally. Whatever some politicians may say we have to realise that the qualities which made this country great are the qualities which are now required to restore our prosperity, those qualities being the initiative and enterprising character of our people, combined with the spirit of self-sacrifice, effort and service. We have to realise that the man of genius is the captain of human progress, and the elder brother of him who lags behind, and not, as hon. Members opposite would have us to believe, a bloodsucker and a parasite. We have to realise that the present system of doles and State aid cannot go on for ever. They are the means, and perhaps the necessary means, of tiding over a difficult time. The President of the Board 2613 of Trade told us the other night that we could never hope for better social conditions in this country unless we regained and restored our overseas trade. With the permission of the Committee I will read some lines which put concisely and much more quickly than I could do what I want to say.
Merchandise ! Merchandise ! England was made,By her men and her ships and her Overseas Trade.Widen your harbours, your docks and your quays,Hazard your wares on the seven wide seas.Sail on a Plimsoll that marks a full hold,Your Overseas Trade means a harvest of gold.Trade your inventions, your labour and sweat:Your Overseas traffic will keep you from debt.Hark to the song of shuttle and loom:'Keep up your commerce or crawl to your tomb.'Think of what Drake did, and Rayleigh and Howe:And waste not their labours by slacking it now.Work is life's currency—earn what you're worth,And send out your ships to the ends of the earth.If this be true, and I believe it is, the development of overseas trade is the only permanent solution of our present economic conditions. This can be realised only in the knowledge that His Majesty's ships are on the seas and if the merchants and traders of the country can with quietude and confidence send out their goods to the ends of the earth. What the people of this country want to-day more than anything else is the spirit of the British Navy, the spirit of facing hardship and difficulty in quietness and confidence, of facing realities and shouldering responsibilities with a determination to overcome them without squealing and without asking for help: the team spirit of a crew which acknowledges the call of duty and service and comradeship and the necessity for discipline, the spirit which seeks to overcome difficulties, as opposed to the spirit which would alleviate them or smooth them over. For all the reasons that I have tried to give, I respectfully ask the Government to be firm with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, especially when the new construction Estimates come on 2614 later in the year. No reasonable person would desire to lay out a penny more on the Navy than is absolutely necessary for safety, but below this we cannot go because peace—peace, I say again—is the first interest of the world.
The money spent on the Navy is not thrown into the sea and is not nonproductive. The money spent on the Navy is directly productive of employment and is an important factor in our overseas trade, since trade always follows the flag. I unhesitatingly say that public money was never put to better use than that expended on the recent world cruise of Admiral Field, and that to be spent on the proposed visit of the Prince of Wales to South America. Successfully to run an organisation such as the British Empire requires men of breadth of vision, of high ideals, with a courage to rise above party, with a sense of responsibility and with a statesmanlike view of the future. It requires exactly the kind of spirit that is developed by men who go down to the sea in ships. My last sentence may sound a little like tub-thumping, but it is meant from the bottom of my heart as opposed to the last speaker. I say that the British Empire is the main arch upon which civilisation rests, and on which alone a more glorious and better edifice can be built, and the keystone of the arch is a strong and efficient British Navy. With the Psalmist, I would say to our beloved countryThy way is in the sea. and thy path is in the great waters,and I would remind the House of the children's grace during the War, which is true to-day—For what I have just received, thank God and the British Navy.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by 100 men.
I am sure I will have hon. Members with me when I congratulate the hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat on a very eloquent maiden speech, which I am sure was appreciated in all parts of the Committee. In the course of his remarks he said there were two ways of crushing a country, conquest and starvation. I would remind him that there is a third way, that is, to slowly crush it by excessive taxation. At present there are many economists much more learned 2615 in these matters than I am, who look with grave apprehension on the continued level of high taxation, and who say that if it continues we shall gradually lose our commercial position and that trade and industry of which the hon. Gentleman has just spoken. It is for these reasons my friends have asked me as a protest against these increased Estimates to move a reduction of 100 men in this Vote. It is true the Estimates are up by only about £ 5,000,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "Only!"] Yes, but there is a great deal more to come. I must welcome the action of the Government in granting the marriage allowance to officers, and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who has, I can see, fought a good fight in this very noble cause. I am also glad that reference libraries can be supplied to men-of-war, though I must remind the right hon. Gentleman we have had those reference libraries for many years in the Navy. The hon. and gallant Member for Galloway (Sir A. Henniker-Hughan) will bear me out that not only have we had ships' libraries, but every ship is allowed a school allowance, out of which any books can be bought which the officer in charge of education cares to lay in. I am reminded of the story of a candidate for Parliamentary honours in a dockyard constituency, who was asked if he was in favour of hammock ladders for the men, because such ladders were not supplied by an unfeeling Government to enable the men to get into their hammocks. The candidate said that most certainly the moment he reached the House of Commons he would raise the matter. He showed about as much knowledge of that part of the internal economy of the ship as did the right hon. Gentleman on the question of libraries on board ship. However, that is the only other increase of expenditure which I, for my part, welcome.
I stated that the increase in the Estimates was only £ 5,000,000, but, as was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond), we have not yet got the shipbuilding part of the programme. The last speaker said he hoped the Government would be firm with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I believe every taxpayer in the country hopes that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be firm with the 2616 Government, and that he will get support from this House. What the shipbuilding programme is going to be no one can tell, not even the Government themselves; but, obviously, if the Government are going to carry out the declared policy of the Prime Minister in the past new construction will have to be commenced. Of the present construction I said last year I considered the five cruisers were unnecessary, and I repeat that view now.
Still more unnecessary is the present expenditure on the building of the two battleships "Rodney" and "Nelson." We are the only Power in the world today building battleships, and as soon as these two battleships are built, four magnificent Dreadnoughts will have to be scrapped, sunk, broken up, under the terms of the Washington Convention. Therefore, although we are building two new vessels at a very big cost—I suppose, with their guns, we shall not get off for much under £ 10.000,000 or £ 11,000,000 for these two—we shall immediately have to scrap four vessels which are good for many years' service. That £ 10,000,000 or £ 11,000,000 which those two battleships will cost would put us on an air equality with France to-day. While there is no visible danger at sea that I or anyone else can point out, the real danger comes from the air, and until we get a better arrangement over Europe, and a general limitation and reduction of armaments, that is the Service that should be strengthened.
With regard to Singapore, we are only at the very beginning of the expenditure. We are discussing the matter at length on Monday, and I only want to refer now to the financial aspect of the question. There are no air defences at all there, and not a single aeroplane of any sort, and obviously there would have to be great expenditure in that direction, and there are only one battalion of infantry and one battery of artillery, and it is obvious that there will have to be considerable expenditure there. Although this year we are only making preparations to send a floating dock to the new base, it is not yet decided whether or not there is to be a graving dock. It is obvious that the Admiralty policy is a graving dock. The advantage of a floating dock is that it can be moved about, and that its position cannot be accurately 2617 known, whereas a graving dock could probably be blown to pieces by hidden guns on the Malay Peninsula within a very few hours of the outbreak of war. A graving dock in Singapore will be immensely expensive, and, furthermore, we shall have to provide a great building scheme for the extra workmen, both for constructing the base and the men who will afterwards work in the repairing yards. The housing conditions in Singapore to-day are perfectly appalling. The whole island suffers from overcrowding and a great housing shortage, and it is obvious that churches, schools, hospitals, recreation clubs, and all the rest will have to be erected for the spiritual and material comfort of the workmen and others whom we send out.
The expenditure this year is only in the nature of a token Vote, and we are by this policy embarking on a tremendously greater expenditure in years to come. The reason, of course, is strategical. We consider that the real centre of strategical importance has shifted to the Pacific, and, therefore, we have to provide bases in the Pacific for the Fleet, but I can get no word from the Admiralty, except promises of investigation, as to the resultant saving that should take place in regard to the dockyards at home. We built one great dockyard as the result of the shifting of the centre of strategical importance to the North Sea, at Rosyth, and the other dockyards were built in various wars at various times. If we are going to go in for this great expenditure at Singapore, we must surely look for considerable savings in the home dockyards, and I hope the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) will realise that fully when she votes on Monday for Singapore. I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Gillingham (Sir G. Hohler) also will carefully consider that matter before he casts his vote. Supposing the floating dock is to cost £ 310,000, what it will cost by the time it is towed out and established at Singapore, with the ancillary buildings, and so on, on shore, we have no means of knowing. However, it is the lesser of two evils, though it is, nevertheless, a very grave evil in these days.
I am sorry the Prime Minister has gone out, because I was going to close my re- 2618 marks with a suggestion. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will bo so kind as to note the suggestion. Part of our expenditure is directly due to the building in France of a great many submarines. That must be taken into consideration, together with the building of submarines in other countries. At the Washington Conference, I believe I am right in saying, we, the Americans, and the Japanese would have been agreeable to the abolition of the submarine altogether. After all, it has been abolished in Germany. Germany has none; she is not allowed to build them. The same principle might be applied with great advantage all over the world. What prevented it at Washington was the attitude of the French naval representatives, there. If we are to embark on any policy of pacts or security in Europe, we have to consider our own frontiers, which happen to be the Seven Seas of the world, and I think we could well ask for a quid pro quo from France with regard to the attitude that country should adopt towards the submarine at the next Washington Conference, which is, apparently, foreshadowed by President Coolidge. I must say, from the right hon. Gentleman's remarks in the earlier part of the afternoon, I did not think he was quite so sympathetic towards the idea of a new conference at Washington for the future limitation of vessels not touched by the previous conference. I hope I have done him an injustice, and that he will correct that matter when he comes to reply.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I am glad to find one point on which I can unreservedly agree with the hon. and gallant Member, and that is that we should abolish the submarine altogether. It was France that objected when we offered, at the Washington Conference, to scrap the finest Fleet of submarines and personnel the world has ever seen, and France since then has steadily refused to ratify the Root Resolution dealing with the horrors of submarine warfare. I had intended to deal with the question of France having failed to ratify the resolution, but. at this late hour of the evening, I would prefer to postpone any observations, on the chance that I may get an opportunity of speaking on the discussion on the Protocol on Tuesday.
I do not know whether I ought to congratulate the Liberal party on being 2619 united almost for the first time in this or the last Parliament, but that they should be united on a question of common hostility to the Navy and to naval expenditure is hardly a matter upon which to be congratulated. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) attacked the Singapore expenditure. I think he forgot that he was a Member of the Coalition Government which first adumbrated the idea of the Singapore dockyard, and under which the Imperial Defence Committee approved of that dockyard. Had the Coalition Government continued in office the expenditure would have been proposed to this House by his Government. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the present time as being a time, when employers and employed were coming together, but added that it was impossible for them to come together with this crushing naval expenditure and naval taxation. But he knows perfectly well that the naval expenditure is merely an insurance, and that but for that naval expenditure in the past there would be nothing for employers and employed to come together to consider.
We were told by the right hon. Gentleman that Singapore could at: present dock cruisers, that these cruisers could defend our commerce, and that, therefore, there was no necessity for docks to take bulky ships such as our big capital ships. I should recommend him to read one or other of the text books, such as those of Mahan, and he would then know that cruisers and destroyers cannot function unless they have the protection of a great fleet to fall back upon, and that our cruisers and destroyers in the absence of a base in the Pacific would necessarily have to abandon it and be hunted, just like the Germans were hunted by our Fleet, and they could not possibly function without a fleet to fall back upon, nor could any of our trade in the Pacific function unless there was a great fleet in the Pacific if there should be a war.
We were asked by the Leader of the Opposition to deal with Singapore on Monday. The right hon. Gentleman said he would deal with Singapore on Monday, yet he gave us a great deal about Singapore in his speech, thereby getting an advantage such as accrued last year 2620 when he spoke two or three days in advance of the general discussion on Singapore. He said that to proceed with Singapore was going to upset the whole equanimity of the East. He said he had high authority for that. He said it was being so said in the bazaars. I do not attach much importance to talk in bazaars. I wonder if the high authority to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was the hon. Member for Harrow in the last Parliament, who subsequently contested a Birmingham seat and lost it? At any rate, the answer is quite clear. Why did the Japanese leave Singapore out at the Washington Conference? They objected to Hong Kong. They were told we were going to extend our dockyard at Singapore. They made no objection whatever to that. Therefore, I contend the Japanese have no real objection to the dockyard at Singapore, which is over 3,000 miles from Yokohama.
In the most oracular manner we were told by the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition that we had to deal with probabilities and not with possibilities. I agree that is true of a battle or campaign; but it is not possible for any statesman to forecast the future 10 years from now. The right hon. Gentleman assumed the role of the prophet. If he looked back on former statesmen who have endeavoured to foretell the course of foreign politics, and peace and war, he will find they have made ludicrous mistakes in reference to these subjects. I could give a good many instances, and since there are rumours, even from our own side and our own Government, that we are going to base ourselves on forecasts instead of a one-Power standard, I venture to recall the fact that the Conservative party unanimously, in years that are gone, made a forecast in regard to Heligoland. They said, "We have always been in alliance with Germany, we have never fought Germany, and she will never have a great Navy," and they gave up Heligoland, with the acquiescence of all the other parties, and no protest was made. We are told that because we have been in alliance with Japan and never at war with Japan, that, therefore, war with Japan is inconceivable.
I say that we have no right to base the safety of our Empire and our trade on such a doctrine. It does not cost anything to prophesy, but it may cost the 2621 country a great deal if statesmen and leaders of the Opposition venture on such forecasts. We are told by some members of the Liberal party that there was an obligation of honour that we should not fortify Singapore. The real obligation of honour at Washington was the agreement with our Dominions. We said we would build the capital ships and take care of the Dominions. They are precluded, under the Washington Agreement, from building capital ships until the year 1933, and they depend on us for their defence. If we do not go to their defence, we practically say to these Colonies, who have a common policy with the United States of America in regard to the immigration of Asiatics, that we abandon them—as we do abandon them if we do not build the Singapore Dockyards and have a fleet in the Far East—and that they must rely on the United States, as Senator Lodge suggested they should.
I invite the Government to say straight out: are they going to build on the idea of the standard adumbrated at Washington, that we should be tied to the five-to-three standard in capital ships as against Japan? It was well understood that our position was peculiar, dependent as we are on seaborne food supplies, and we are entitled to a much greater proportion than five to three in all other classes of ships. I am much disturbed in mind by a paragraph which appeared in the "Times" less than three weeks ago. It laid down three propositions, authoritatively as the facts. The Government were going to have an inquiry; and we have been told that to-day. We have to wait for that inquiry. Secondly, the Government were going to make a gesture, and in the third place, that the Government wished to see what takes place at the Armaments Conference before they laid down any ships, or proposed any ships. I submit that we in this House should have a programme submitted to us before any conference on disarmament takes place; that we should then pass the necessary Appropriations, found by the Cabinet Committee to be necessary, and that we should not lay down any of the ships until that conference has taken place. You are in a far stronger position if you can go to the conference and say, "We are prepared to abandon these ships," than if you use the threat of 2622 saying, "If you do not agree with us, we shall start a programme of building ships." The gesture has never yet succeeded when it is put forward as an example. It failed in 1906, it failed in 1907, and it failed in 1908, and I would remind the Prime Minister of what he himself wrote to the Singapore demonstration in the City of London. He said:What is true is that any neglect to provide for ordinary security is interpreted as a sign of weakness by other nations, damages our prestige, causes the gravest anxiety to our kinsman overseas, and encourages those countries which are not favourably disposed towards us. The Prime Minister has stated "—he is referring to the late Prime Minister—that the abandonment of this project is a moral gesture to the world. We know what effect moral gestures by the Liberal Government had in the years immediately preceding the outbreak of the great War.The same argument applies to any moral gesture by which we refuse to lay down ships when those ships are found to be necessary by the experts of the Admiralty, and the Cabinet agree with the experts. The real success of the Washington Conference was caused by the fact that America had 14 battleships in hand, in various stages of construction. Mr. Hughes announced that they were ready to abandon those 14 battleships if the other nations out down their programmes, and the result was a success.
We had an investigation, as various speakers have pointed out, on which the Government came to the conclusion, in October, 1923, that we should lay down eight cruisers and a large number of other ships of various kinds—depot ships, submarines and destroyers. If that investigation was a full investigation, there is no necessity for a prolonged investigation now, seeing that we have exactly the same Cabinet, with the exception of three members. All the facts are before us. The Labour Government announced in March of last year that they were going to have an investigation. They must have had the facts before them, and those facts are now before the Government of the day, and I cannot see why the Prime Minister should say there will be a long delay in arriving at a conclusion.
After all, the Budget depends upon this naval programme, which will commit the 2623 country to a large expenditure both in personnel and material next year. If you once take off taxes, there is the greatest possible difficulty in putting them on again, and it puts the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a parlous position if he has got the taxes off before we have the naval programme. I think it is reasonable for any Cabinet to say to all the fighting services, "Is your expenditure vital, or is it merely useful'? If it is merely useful, the country cannot afford it; but if it is vital, and you can prove to our satisfaction that it is vital, then we must afford it." The second point is we have got to avoid peaks of expenditure in particular years. Therefore, the Departments are entitled to look well ahead for several years in succession, but let them remember this point, for there is a point at which the unemployed come into the question, though we should never build ships for the sake of relieving unemployment. The unemployed come into the case in this respect, that if a number of ships are going to be built we should avoid those years of good employment and high costs, and we should endeavour to order the ships when costs are low and unemployment is rife. Another point where it comes in is this. But for the ordering of the two battleships last year we should have lost the art of building turrets in this country, because we were losing our skilled men. The Admiralty is wise in distributing the employment so that we shall not lose all the skilled men we have.
There are two five to three standards, one of the relative strength of Japan, and the other is one of expenditure. We have to spend £5 to every £ 3 we spent before the War because of the different values of money, and when we talk now of cruisers we have to build a much bigger standard than five to three, and applying this test, it is ludicrous to accuse the Government of excessive expenditure. I would like to take a short series of tests, and first of all I will take personnel. The Japanese have 73,000 men in the Navy. If you apply a five to three standard to our Navy, we should have 121,000 men, but we actually are providing a little over 102,000. The late First Lord of the Admiralty in the last Conservative Government and the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, told the House on the 21st January, 1924, 2624 that all our cruisers would be worn out by 1935, and that we must have a programme for replacing them.
If you consider them from the point of view of speed, the Japanese outnumber us in cruisers of over 33 knots, built, building and projected by 16 cruisers. The Committee is probably aware that the Washington Conference produced a new Dreadnought type of cruiser, because it sanctioned 10,000 ton ships with 8-inch guns. If you compare Japanese cruisers with twelve 8-inch guns with any of those with 6-inch guns which we possess, you will find if you compare the bursting effects of the shells that the Japanese cruisers have 30 times the total bursting effect of the shells of any one of the 6-inch gun cruisers which we possess. If one of our cruisers met one of these Japanese cruisers, the disparity would be much greater than was the case of the "Revenge" against the Spanish fleet which could not get into action with our ships, and it would be sheer murder to send those cruisers against Japanese 8-inch gun cruisers. We are to have five of such ships to the Japanese eight, and it is obvious without requiring any Cabinet Committee that we should have a considerable margin over the Japanese. If you have a fleet you have to have three cruisers with every two capital ships. Japan can detach cruisers from her fleet at any given moment, whereas we have to keep them with the fleet always, as we had to do with the Grand Fleet.
Another test you can apply is to take the number of ships in full commission, leaving out the capital ships and dealing only with cruisers, destroyers and submarines which can attack commerce. We have 145 ships in full commission, as compared with 155 of the Japanese. That is to say, the Japanese have, of cruisers, destroyers and submarines, 10 more in commission than we have, and yet hon. Members opposite accuse the Government of extravagance. Of cruisers, destroyers and submarines which can attack commerce, which have been laid down since the Washington Treaty, or projected, we have laid down or sanctioned only eight. The Japaness have laid down or sanctioned 81, or 10 times as many. Hon. Members will say I am taking a Pacific outlook. The basic facts which have forced on us a 2625 Pacific outlook are the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, the great Japanese programme, and the adoption during the War of the aggressive policy by Japan towards China. I do not believe any more aggressive demands have ever been made in the world's history. The Japanese question never came up formerly, because in 190V we possessed nine times as many capital ships as Japan, therefore, there was no question of any possibility of hostility between the two countries. People say our naval manoeuvres are provocative when we have small manoeuvres in the Mediterranean. The Japanese last year had manoeuvres in which 194 vessels took part, manoeuvres on a bigger scale than any tactical exercises we have held since the War. An argument was advanced by some speakers on the Liberal Benches that there was an honourable understanding at Washington that strength would not be added to. The honourable understanding was that we limited the number of battleships. It was always an understood thing that the number of cruisers and destroyers bore a definite proportion to the number of battleships. It is Japan and France who have broken that honourable understanding. Japan has doubled the strength of her cruisers and submarines, and added no fewer than 32 to the strength of her destroyers. I very much regret that I should have to refer to Japan, but it is inevitable. Just as we had to make increasing reference to Germany from 1906 onwards, so as these armaments go on we shall have to make increasing reference to Japan.
I do, with all my heart, support a disarmament conference. I was the first to draw attention to the resolution of the American Parliament by which they struck out in 1922-23 no fewer than 16 cruisers and substituted an invitation to the President to call a conference on disarmament. They repeated that resolution in their Navy Appropriation Bill in 1923-24. The Government always met it with the answer that things were not ripe and that France would never agree. It does not matter to me two pins whether France agrees so far as the holding of the Conference is concerned. We should go into that conference and if any nation shows herself to be responsible for preventing the world from reducing armaments, that 2626 nation should be pilloried before the whole world. I hope that when that conference is held it will be held in the most public manner so that we may know who is responsible for the increase of armaments in the world.
§ Mr. AMMON
I do not propose to detain the Committee for more than a few minutes, having regard to the fact that it has been decided that the position of the Government on Singapore can be challenged on Monday. There are only one or two points that I want to put to the First Lord of the Admiralty. He gently reproved us for the fact that he found that he had got to call for a larger number of men this year, and he alleged that sufficient provision was not made last year for the ships now building. That is not quite accurate, because the provision was made, as he rightly said, that a certain number of fresh men should be taken on, and that the personnel of the other ships should be made up by withdrawals from elsewhere, but it was also taken into consideration that before the ships were built there would have gone out of commission quite a large number of others which would have released men in order to take up the positions that would be then vacant. I want, if I may very respectfully, to congratulate the Government, on pursuing a policy which he rightly attributed to the last Government of providing vocational training for the men. We are glad to know that it is being taken up. May we. also press, in regard to what we endeavoured to put into operation in the last year, that as far as possible men should be allowed to work in borne ports so that they could take the maximum advantage of the institutions, technical and otherwise, to complete their education. We can also feel some satisfaction that the present Government are pursuing a policy with regard to marriage allowances for naval officers which the last Government took. They appointed the Goodenough Committee, which, I understand, has reported favourably to the Admiralty, and from the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman to-night the Admiralty have decided to press it upon the Treasury, and in so far as this is concerned, ho has the support of this party, which initiated it and will be glad to see it carried through. I just want to differ 2627 slightly as to one remark the right hon. Gentleman made with reference to the shipbuilding programme of other countries. He endeavoured in that to point out that we were pursuing a very much different policy from what other countries were with regard to naval armaments.
As I have said, other countries and this country are bound by the terms of the Washington Treaty. If other nations are building largely, it is simply because we have the larger complement of ships of war, and it is not aggressive building by those other nations. The other two points I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman are in regard to the large staff at the Admiralty—the large staff compared with the diminishing size of the Navy. The last Government set up a small Committee to inquire into the whole question and to see what reduction could be made in some quarters. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether these inquiries are being pursued and carried out by the present Government?
Inquiries were set on foot to see whether it was possible to provide for children from humbler homes having the opportunity to enter as cadets with a view to becoming officers in the Navy, and certain proposals were adumbrated, but there was not sufficient time to carry them through. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could give us some information with regard to that. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond), whom we are glad to see has returned so vigorous from his journey to the East, made some reference to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who, he said, had no right to criticise the Estimates now before the House, those Estimates being up because of my right hon. Friend's agreement with regard to the cruisers last year. The only comment I would make on that is that, if the right hon. Gentleman is preaching consistency, consistency will become a virtue that is practised by very few, for one must bear in mind that the right hon. Gentleman himself was a member of the Government which first initiated the Singapore programme which he himself condemned a little while ago.
Sir A. MONO
I beg the hon. Member's pardon, but I remember perfectly 2628 well that, at the time when I was in the Government, the Singapore question was often discussed, but no decision on it was ever taken.
§ Mr. AMMON
I repeat that the Coalition Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman was so distinguished a Member, were the first to initiate proposals with regard to Singapore. With regard to the cruisers, the position is quite plain. The Government of that day had been in office but six weeks, and they came down to the House and made it clear that they brought forward this reduced programme, as compared with what had been expected from the preceding Government, and were then prepared to make inquiries as to the naval position. Surely it is much more logical and sensible to inquire into the facts and circumstances before one makes decisions, than to make one's decisions on narrow doctrinaire lines without any consideration with regard to the circumstances. I am bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman has no ground upon which he can criticise my right hon. Friend the leader of the Opposition. On other matters, and with regard to Singapore, we are hoping to challenge the position of the Government on Monday next, and I would now simply ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can see his way to answer some of the points that have been put before him, and then perhaps we shall be allowed to go home at a reasonable hour.
I shall not keep the Committee long, though the House has kept me long, for I have been waiting eight hours to say a few words in reference to local matters. I had been hoping that the First Lord had got complete agreement about marriage allowances for officers, but apparently this matter is still being considered. I must say that the Admiralty is the most considerate place in the world—it is always considering things. I quite agree that it is not their fault; it is the Treasury, and my advice to the Admiralty is that they should take the Treasury officials for a cruise. I do not think they know anything about the Navy, and it would be a splendid thing at the Manoeuvres, to take the whole of the Treasury officials and let them see, because that is where the real trouble lies. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has the advantage that ho can choose his point 2629 of view from many parties—Coalition. Liberal, or Conservative. I hope that when he chooses in regard to the Navy he will choose the Conservative point of view. When it conies to beer, he might choose from his Liberal past, but I hope very much that he will consider the Navy a a Conservative. I hope very much that the First Lord will not be robbed this time of what he knows are the just clues of the wives of men of the Navy. One hon. Member said a little while ago that they ought not to marry. The trouble is not so much with the naval officers or the lower deck; it is that the men in the Navy are more attractive than other men, and it is very difficult for them to keep single. So I do not think it is quite right to claim that they should not marry.
We are all pleased at Plymouth to see the widening of the mouth of the Prince of Wales Basin, and also the graving dock, but there is also a good deal to be done in the Dockyard, such as the roads and many improvements. I hope that the First Lord will not forget that. When it does come to a question of building the cruisers, I hope that he will compare the cost of cruisers built at Plymouth to those built at Chatham.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
On a point of Order. Would it not be right to make a moral gesture to the Noble Lady?
It would be immoral. The Plymouth Dockyard has built at a much cheaper rate than the other two dockyards. I do not mean anything against Chatham or Portsmouth by that, but I hope that the House will remember that point. The last time I had to draw the attention to the rates and allowances paid in the East Indies and China, which are exactly the same as those paid in England, the First Lord said that the matter was under consideration, but it is very important for the men living out there because their requirements are much more expensive than at home. Vocational training is a subject to which we have drawn attention in Plymouth. The army have six months in which they are trained at Hounslow and Catterick could not the Navy men go there too? They only have two months, and it is difficult to get proper training in that time.
2630 I was amused at the way in which some hon. Members put forward the grievances of the lower deck. They got them from a little dossier without looking into it. In reference to the question of accommodation I may refer to the tragedy of tuberculosis among writers in the Navy, not only in our Navy but also in the United States Navy. Of course it is very difficult to get over, but it is very tragic, and I hope that the Government will leave nothing undone to deal with that matter. Another important question is that of promotion from the lower deck. It is very slow, and I know that there are many reasons for it; but I hope that the First Lord will consider the matter and do what he can about it. In reference to the welfare committees I know that the present First Lord will know that they are in no way connected with anything that the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) has been talking about. They are the most loyal men in the Navy. These committees were set up in 1919, and they are a means of making known the genuine grievances of the men, and have done a lot of good. They are evidence of a progressive spirit, but that does not mean that these men wish to join the hon. Member for North Battersea. On the question of Divine service I believe that compulsory religion makes hypocrites. From what I have known of the men of the lower deck I believe that most of them would go voluntarily. Sometimes it is very irritating, to say the least, to have to go to church and listen to people with whom one is not in sympathy. I speak from the point of view of religion itself and not from the point of view of the men only. It is better to have five men at a service with their hearts there than to have fifty who are thinking of something else.
I have been amazed at some of the arguments put forward to-day. In regard to Singapore, the leader of the Opposition said that last year the Labour Government had postponed their decision. I am convinced that if the Labour Government had been in office now they could not have turned down the scheme, and I hope that on Monday they will search their consciences, for it is a very great responsibility for anyone who believes in the British Empire to reject the Singapore scheme. The right hon. Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) spoke about economy. I think the Government have 2631 taken a course between the two extremes; they have not turned down Singapore, nor are they going forward with the shipbuilding programme until they investigate things a little more. We can trust them not to let down the Navy. Civilisation itself depends on either the United States or the British Empire. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to laugh. They have not been East. They know that the creation of the Singapore base was understood at Washington. What they say now is having a bad effect on the world, because they are putting wrong notions into the heads of people. It is a. disservice for them continually to refer to Singapore as a menace to peace, whereas it is really an insurance for peace. If they do not want an Army or a Navy let them say so. If they do want a Navy let them see that it is sufficiently strong to keep the peace. It is a little hard to understand them. I know that some of them do not want an Army, and the most pugnacious of them are the ones who do not want an Army. That is what is so extraordinary. The holy Member in the corner opposite does not want an Army.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Is it in order for any hon. Member to cast the reflection of holiness on a Member who is not holy?
Is it in order to apply the remark to my right hon. Friend below me who is also sitting in a corner seat?
I wish hon. Members would not be so sensitive about their holiness. I do not mean to cause dissension among them as to which is holy and which is not. Let us look at this Navy question from a world point of view. It is not that this Government is less pacific than the last Government, but it is that we who believe in peace have to insure, and the best way we can insure is to keep an efficient police patrol throughout the world. [Interruption.] People who will not keep order in this House, want peace in the world. They do not give us a very peaceful example of a world governed by good will and understanding, and they refuse even to try to understand our point of view. Some of us believe in the League of Nations and all 2632 that goes with it, but we also believe it would be unfair to put the burden of keeping world peace on the League unless countries were prepared to defend themselves up to a certain point. Hon. Members must be consistent.
Many of us are perfectly consistent. If you want the perfect character you do not get it all at once; it is a long process, and it is a long process getting peace. We are on the way to peace, but it is not the way to peace to suggest that we should do away with the Navy. If hon. Members opposite want the Navy only to defend the Mediterranean and the Atlantic let them have the courage to say so and to advocate cutting it in half. If they really want it to defend the whole Empire they must have the Singapore base and keep it up to proper strength. The Leader of the Opposition knows he would not have dared to take the responsibility, with the East as it is now and the whole world as it is now—particularly the friends of members opposite in Russia—of leaving the British Empire undefended. I hope hon. Members will forgive me for detaining them so long, but I, like our Prime Minister, am keen on peace and I resent the manner in which some hon. Members opposite regard our efforts to get it. A moral gesture becomes a joke if you are not consistent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] You have made the joke; we have not done it.
We have been absolutely consistent. We want peace, and the Prime Minister is doing all he can to bring about peace, but you will not gets by opposing the Empire in this House and by leading the world to believe that because we are trying to keep up our Navy—which is not up to the Washington agreement strength—we are really arming for a future war. We are doing nothing of the kind, and hon. Members who take that view are doing no service to this country or to the cause of peace.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir ALAN BURGOYNE
The Noble Lady appealed to the Committee for indulgence because of the late 2633 hour and I have an even greater right to make that appeal. I have listened to all the speeches delivered in this Debate, with perhaps one exception and there is only one exception and there is only one speech upon which I would say a word. That is a word of mild protest from this side against the speech of the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala). If there is one great privilege we have in this country, of which we are proud, it is freedom of speech and one can only regret—I say it with all sincerity—that the hon. Member for Battersea does not use his great talents to support the country which protects him, instead of condemning it. There was one note sounded through nearly all the speeches to-night, and that was that, while there must be differences of opinion between parties and even among members of the same party as to details of naval policy and of the Estimates before us, everyone, generally speaking, is desirous of seeing this country protected by a sufficient and efficient Navy. Where we differ is as to what a sufficient and efficient Navy should be. We know that the recent Conservative administration wanted eight cruisers and incidentally, most of the discussion has centred round the fact that there is no sign of the naval construction programme. Dealing with those cruisers, we, as a party, two years ago wanted eight. In come the Labour party, and they reduce them to five. The Liberal party, with all their desire to see this country remaining efficient at sea, have the audacity on two occasions to vote that no cruisers whatever should be laid down.
§ Sir A. BURGOYNE
Surely the first thing that we have to consider is what is the policy in regard to our naval defence. Before the war, the matter was quite simple. The centre of possible conflict and of international explosion was in Europe. Today there are only three nations in the world that have a Navy worthy the name: America, Japan, and ourselves, and they are spread evenly round the globe. That being so, and the Washington Conference having practically wiped the battleship off the slate, we can regard the matter from an entirely different standpoint. Who is it that sets policy? It is the Executive of the day, and I recall reading the case 2634 of Sir Geoffrey Hornby, a well known Admiral who was First Lord of the Admiralty, and who said this before a Committee: "It is for the politicians to say, ' We want to defend the Channel.' That is their business. It is for me to say, ' You want so many ships, you want so many men, and you want so much money.' That is my business. They can then say, ' That is too much.' That again is their business. But what they cannot say is, ' You shall not have the money, but you shall defend the channel.' That is not their business, for they do not understand it." I should like the Leader of the Opposition to have been here to tell us the policy upon which he based their reduction of the eight cruisers down to five, and I would like to know from any Member of the Shadow Cabinet, if there be one, of the party below the gangway opposite on what policy they base their desire to have no cruisers whatever.
This cruiser question has much more in it than meets the eye. The cruiser to-day of 10,000 tons is costing £ 2,250,000, or rather more than a dreadnought before the war, and we must remember that, if the battleship, as we understood it in the past, goes, the cruiser we are now constructing is what is going to take its place, for the battleship is always the vessel which is the final arbiter of wars at sea. I want to make two suggestions, one of which I know will meet with the approval of hon. Members opposite. We are going, if we build these cruisers—and they must be built if we are going to maintain our position at sea—to enter upon the very great expense of £ 2,250,000 apiece, and probably a little more, and I would remind the Committee that the present Colonial Secretary said that we should require to have another 62 cruisers in the next ten years to make up the deficiency of vessels now becoming obsolete. In these circumstances, eight were to be laid down last year and eight this year, owing to the larger proportion of the vessels that are becoming obsolete doing so in the next five or six years.
But cannot we get that cut down in some way? We may build eight cruisers of 10,000 tons with 8-inch guns up to the limit set by the Washington Conference. Surely an opportunity occurs now; and I would ask hon. Members opposite to believe that we do not want to spend money on cruisers just for the sake of seeing them at sea. We know it is unproductive ex- 2635 penditure, and we want to get our defences, our national insurance, at the cheapest possible cost, but it is no good going only half way. Let us see whether we cannot do something with this proposal: Could we not come to an arrangement whereby, instead of the limit remaining at 10,000 tons, we could reduce it to 8,000 tons, and reduce the calibre of the guns from 8-inch to 6-inch' To do that would immediately reduce the cost of those cruisers by half, particularly if, at the same time, we could arrive at a basis of an arrangement so that the speed of those cruisers should not exceed 30 knots. I wonder whether it is appreciated that to get an extra 2½ knots in a vessel like the "Enterprise" of 7,000 tons, you have to have 15,000 more horse-power than you have in a vessel of 10,000 tons doing 30 knots. The extra 2½ knots cost £ 300,000 more. If we could take up an attitude like that, where all remain exactly as we stand to-day, we protect ourselves and go ahead with our cruiser programme in the knowledge that we are going to do it economically.
I am going to close with a remark on a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition, and one which, I think, must be revised. He referred to the view that we must not lay down dockyards anywhere for fear we should make people think we were doing something detrimental to friendly relation between thorn and ourselves. I ask this question: 1s our Naval policy in the future to be dictated by the susceptibilities of other nations? It is for us to state absolutely what we require, and those requirements are based on the needs of the Fleet, and the Fleet is based on the needs of the Empire.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I think, perhaps, the Committee will not wish me to reply in very great detail to all the very interesting points that have been raised. If I may be allowed to say so, I shall consider all the points, and that will enable hon. Members to get home rather sooner. There are one or two things to which I must refer. One or two Members have complained because there is no new construction in the present Estimates, on the ground that there is a danger that there may be no reconstruction programme at all. I think that they must rely, as I do, upon what the Prime Minister said in answer to a question this afternoon, that the whole problem of 2636 replacement of cruisers and warships is under the consideration of a Cabinet Committee, and that the decision will be taken by the Cabinet in time to allow of a Supplementary Estimate before the end of this Session. If I had not that to rely upon, I should be inclined to agree with the critics who have spoken to-day, but I do rely upon that undertaking, and I would ask them to rely upon it, too. The hon. Member who has just spoken complained of the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) for having told us that the Communist attitude is exactly the opposite of the policy of His Majesty's Government both with regard to Singapore and all the other points on which we are basing our Estimates. He has not attempted to pose as a friend of England, and, therefore, may I thank him for talking about "Your country," and "You"?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I should like to express my proper need of gratitude of the hon. Gentleman the Member of North Battersea for the help he has given me in this matter. There are two or three points involved in the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member of Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) who moved the reduction of this Vote. In this he was, I understand, supported previously by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) who spoke before the resolution was moved. His main objection was that this was heavy taxation. That is perfectly true. Before, however, I come to that I should like to deal with one or two of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's observations. He is, I think, making a mistake as to the ships' libraries. Reference libraries have been installed in the ships of the Navy for many years.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
As to ships' libraries, naval officers will bear me out that there was a grant of money for the purchase of school books, reference books, etc., and I am glad, as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, that there has been an improvement.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that I did not show any sympathy with the idea of disarmament. I beg to contradict that 2637 most emphatically. At no moment have I ever expressed anything but the greatest desire to assist in any conference, or in any other way, by which armaments could be reduced in this or any other country. All I have said was that I would go to such conference, or approve of it, with this consideration in my mind: that of all countries in the world, we are the one that depends entirely upon naval strength. I shall be guided by that one consideration—that as compared with other countries our interest in the Navy is far more important than that of any other country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen suggested that it would be easy to reduce taxation. I quite agree that money should not be spent without a proper return for it. Ineffective economy is something which might cost you more in the future, There are many proverbs on the point. There is the proverb about a stitch in time, spoiling the ship for a halfpenny worth of tar, but I do not think there is any better example of that fallacy than the saying of Cicero
Non intelligunt hominess quam magnum sit vectigal parsimonia.
Translated it means "People do not understand what a heavy tax parsimony may be; "and when you are talking about economy in the naval services, or any other service, you must be careful to see that you are not saving something now which will cost you more at some future time—that you are not piling up taxes for the future even if you are saving a tax now. I hope that we shall be able to
§ take the vote now. I should like to thank hon. Members who have taken part in the Debate for the way in which they have dealt with the subject and to congratulate several hon. Members for very interesting maiden speeches. I hope that with the promise I have given to consider the points raised hon. Members will be satisfied; I will carry out that undertaking.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
The right hon. Gentleman has said that an undertaking was given by the Prime Minister that Supplementary Estimates would be submitted to Parliament, if it was considered necessary, before the summer holidays. That answer was given to me to-day, and was to the effect that if the result of the inquiry showed a need for Supplementary Estimates,they will be presented, I hope, before Parliament rises for the summer holidays.May we take it that the Supplementary Estimates will be submitted to Parliament before the summer holidays if the Cabinet consider them necessary?
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
There is no doubt about that. I inserted the words "I hope" as a precaution.
That 102,575 Officers, Seamen, Boys, and Royal Marines, together with 350 Royal Marine Police, be maintained for the said Service.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 77; Noes, 221.2639
|Division No. 54.]||AYES.||[11.55 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hayday, Arthur||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hayes, John Henry||Saklatvala, Shapuri|
|Batey, Joseph||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Bowerman, fit. Hon. Charles W.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scurr, John|
|Broad, F. A.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Charleton, H. C.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Compton, Joseph||Kelly, W. T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Kennedy, T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Mackinder, W.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Day, Colonel Harry||March, S.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Duncan, C.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Murnin, H.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Fenby, T. D.||Naylor, T. E.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Forrest, W.||Palin, John Henry||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Paling, W.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Parkinson, John Alien (Wigan)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Gillett, George M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F W.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Potts, John S.||Windsor, Walter|
|Groves, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Riley, Ben|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ritson, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Sir Godfrey Collins and Sir Robert|
|Harris, Percy A.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks. W. R., Elland)||Hutchison.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Elveden, Viscount||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Albery, Irving James||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Fielden, E. B.||Neville, R. J.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool. W. Derby)||Finburgh, S.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Alien, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Fleming, D. P.||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Forestier-Walker, L.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Oakley, T.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Astor, Maj. Hon. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Gee, Captain R.||Perring, William George|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Atkinson, C.||Goff, Sir Park||Pitcher, G.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Grace, John||Preston, William|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Balniel, Lord||Grotrian, H. Brent||Radford, E. A.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Ramsden, E.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Remer, J. R.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Bellairs, Commander Cariyon W.||Hammersley, S. S.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hanbury, C.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Bennett, A. J.||Harland, A.||Rye, F. G.|
|Bethell, A.||Harrison, G. J. C.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hartington, Marquess of||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Hawke, John Anthony||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Blundell, F. N.||Henderson. Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustava D.|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm, Sir A.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hilton, Cecil||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Burgoyne, Lieut-Colonel Sir Alan||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Stanley, Col. Hon, G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Burman, J. B.||Holland, Sir Arthur||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Holt, Capt. H. P.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Homan, C. W. J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Howard, Captain Hon. Donald||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Sugden. Sir Wilfrid|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Huntingfield, Lord||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hurd, Percy A.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell. (Croydon, S.)|
|Christie, J. A.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Jacob, A. E.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-|
|Clayton, G. C.||Jephcott, A. R.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Kennedy. A. R. (Preston)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otis)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Knox, Sir Alfred||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Cope, Major William||Lamb, J. Q.||Wells, S. R.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R.||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||White Lieut.-Colonel G. Dalrymple|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn. N.)||Little. Dr. E. Graham||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Crookshank, Col C. de W. (Berwick)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Loder, J. de V.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Looker, Herbert William||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Lougher, L.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Womersley, W. J.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lumley. L. R.||Wood, E. (Chest'r. Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Dixey, A. C.||MacAndrew, Charles Glen||Wood, Sir S. Hill (High Peak)|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Drewe, C.||Macmillan Captain H.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Makins, Brigadier-General E,|
|Ellis, R. G.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Colonel Gibbs and Captain Douglas Hacking.|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw|
Original Question put, and agreed to.