rose, "To ask the Government if they do not deem it advisable to make a statement of their intentions in connection with the building of men-of-war, and to produce Supplementary Estimates for that purpose before Christmas instead of waiting until next Easter; and also to ask them if they do not think that it would be expedient to construct large docks at Chatham and other eastern ports by means of a loan which should be paid off in about twenty years time, as such docks, if constructed, would be of considerable value at the end of that period, as is the case with many of our existing docks of far greater antiquity." The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall confine my remarks to the desirability of constructing large docks on the East Coast by means of loans. I admit it would be difficult for any Chancellor of the Exchequer to raise next year by taxation the money that we shall require for ships as well as docks. I therefore consider it justifiable finance to borrow the money necessary for the purpose of building docks and to arrange for a sinking fund so as to pay off that loan in twenty years time. When the twenty years are out, 66 we should still have valuable docks fully suitable for what will be the second-class ships of 1928, even if they are not suitable for the first-class ships of that date, whereas if there is a loan for shipbuilding, the ships themselves would be of little value after twenty years. For instance, if you look at our present dockyards, a large part of the masonry forming the older parts of the dockyard built previous to 1850 when sailing went out and steam came in, is all there in use at the present day, and is probably still worth 5s. in the £ of what was spent on it, and it remains to us as a valuable legacy from our ancestors.
With regard to Chatham, my remarks on that head are rather dependent upon the Port of London Bill deepening the access to that yard sufficient to allow a wounded "Dreadnought" 3 feet down by the bow, and with a heel of several degrees being able to get up to Chatham. If that cannot be arranged for, there are other docks on the East Coast which should be deepened in order to be able to receive a water-logged vessel with a heavy list.
There are two docks at Chatham that were already in existence at the time when Mr. Secretary Pepys was writing his Diaries at the Admiralty, Docks No. 2 and No. 4. Dock No. 2 was built in the time of James I. Its length at that time was about 200 feet and its depth 14 feet 6 inches. Fifty years ago the wood in that dock was replaced by granite, and its length was increase 1 to 345 feet 6 inches, and its depth to 23 feet 7 inches, In 1860 and in 1866 I see that its length was again increased, so that it is now 404 feet long. The work done in excavating in the time of James I. is still of use, and posterity is still benefiting by it.
To take Lock No. 4, that dock was built before the year 1688, and was then apparently about the same size as No. 2. It has been repeatedly lengthened and improved, work is going on upon it now, and it is to be 331 feet long. So that much of the work done in the reigns of Charles II., George III., William IV. and in the first half of Queen Victoria's reign is still of use and of value to the country.
67 Between 1871 and 1873 Docks Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8 were built at Chatham, all of which, though at least thirty-five years old, are still of use. About five years ago there was a scheme before the Admiralty for building a basin with additional large docks at St. Mary's Island, Chatham, which was at one time, I understand, said to be approved of by the Admiralty, but it has not yet been carried out. I think it is high time that that particular scheme should be reconsidered. Under the Port of London Bill, the Thames is to be deepened. And, you do deepen the Thames, Chatham becomes easy of access, and one of the chief objections to large docks at Chatham will have disappeared. Furthermore, it is a very difficult place for an enemy to get up to. which is an avadntage that some of the other docks we are thinking of building do not possess.
I do not wish to weary the House by giving you the history of Plymouth or Portsmouth Dockyards. I think that I have said enough to show the desirability of building fresh docks on the East Coast where our largest ships can be docked and promptly repaired, and I think I have proved that if the country were to borrow the money and docks were constructed by means of a loan with twenty years to run, the country would still have good value left in those docks at the end of the twenty years.
After the victory of Camperdown the relative importance of our eastern dockyards declined, and our expenditure on docks was concentrated on those in our Channel ports. But of late years our supremacy on the North Sea has been threatened by another Power infinitely greater than that of Holland, inasmuch as she disposes of large armies as well as an increasing Fleet, so that our eastern yards have resumed their importance, and they should be improved and put on a war footing without delay and made capable of docking large ships. I gather that the Admiralty are expediting work at Rosyth. If so, I am glad of it, and I hope they will continue to do so, and if possible that they will reduce the seven years to five years. But a dock at Chatham large enough to take a damaged 68 "St. Vincent" ought also to be commenced at once.
The Globe of August 24th says that—Kiel has two, docks, and Wilhelmshaven has one dock capable of taking in. the latest battleships, while the Kaiser Dock of the North German Lloyd at Bremen, and the floating dock of Blohm and Voss at Hamburg can receive the new battle-ships in case of need. Two huge dry docks are now nearing completion in the shipbuilding yard of Wilhelmshaven. Near Brunsbuttel, the North Sea opening of the Kiel Canal, two more large dry docks are to be built, while Blohm and Voss and the Vulcan Shipbuilding Yard are building: on the Elbe two floating docks, each of 30,000 tons capacity. As there are rumours of a large floating dock to be built at Kiel, the German Navy will have sufficient dock accommodation for its biggest vessels in the near future.The country that has the command of the seas, must have docks as well as battleships, and the fewer days a ship is, away from her station for repairs the better. Further, she runs the risk of being attacked while she is in a crippled state, and the nearer she is to some safe place, some rabbit-hole as it were, into which she can run, the better. We require a double dock standard as well as a double ship standard in the North Sea.
I now put the Question that stands, in my name.
§ THE EARL OF GRANARD
My Lords, the question raised by my noble friend Lord Ellenborough, with regard to docks, has been very carefully considered by the Government on many occasions, and I may say that the special dock to which he drew our attention and the suggestion he made that Chatham should be deepened and made into a suitable dock has been before the Admiralty quite recently, and it is, in fact, under the consideration of the Admiralty at the present moment. I understand, however, that there are some very great difficulties—I believe nearly insuperable difficulties—in the case of Chatham with regard to the channel, and it is very doubtful whether the Admiralty will be able to see their way to recommend the deepening of the channel, and the expense that would involve in order to make it a dock that would take a "Dreadnought."
69 The noble Lord also mentioned that there were very few docks on the south coast—
No, on the east coast. We have quite enough docks on the south coast. We are well provided there, except that you ought to finish the new dock at Portsmouth on which the work is going forward now, I believe.
§ THE EARL OF GRANARD
Yes, the noble Lord is perfectly correct. Work is going on at the dock at Portsmouth and that dock will shortly be completed. Then the noble Lord suggested that money should be borrowed on the system that was in vogue some years ago under the Naval Loans Act, by which these docks could be paid for, and he very justly stated that money borrowed in this way would be liable in the case of docks where the material and the docks remained for a great length of time to be of value to the country still in twenty years time, whereas the life of a battleship is only twenty years, and it is not of very great value at the end of that time. I will place the points which have been raised by my noble friend before the Admiralty, and I am sure they will give them due consideration.