§ EARL BEATTY rose to call attention to the serious effects which will ensue to this country from the proposed Naval Treaty; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this Motion I do so to call the attention of your Lordships' House to a great and deplorable blunder to which we are about to be committed by signing away the sea power by which the British Empire came into being, and became what it is to-day. When the Prime Minister, in opening the Naval Conference, said "The sea is Us," that gave us hope and we felt that our principal delegate realised fully and beyond question what sea power had been to us in the past and what it meant to us in the future. When the Conference came to an end the Prime Minister pronounced himself as being fully satisfied. That gave us comfort coming from one who had said that the sea was Us. But when we came to read and consider the report of the result of the Conference we realised that the one nation to whom sea power meant its existence was the only Power to make any disarmament or any reduction, and that to such an extent as to render us impotent and incapable of protecting that which we have and of maintaining control over the connecting links of our varied and far-flung Empire.
§ How could the Prime Minister be satisfied? The answer to that came later when in another place he said that "by 187 mere military strength you will never get security," and followed that up by saying that we should not go on "wasting public money in arming ourselves." Well, that is not true of the past and is so false as not to be worth controverting. As to the future, it is not the belief of other great Powers as proved by their actions or their words. In the United States this Disarmament Conference has had the result of increasing their armaments in cruiser tonnage by no less than 223,000 tons, and from the many reports of utterances that we have received over here, they are very far from being in agreement with the Prime Minister. Japan, that great, silent and subtle nation, is increasing her cruiser tonnage by 10 per cent., by 42,000 tons, and, as is her way, Japan says nothing. France is not restricted in any way. She is free to do exactly as she will. And what is she doings? She has built three 10,000-ton cruisers, she is building three more 10,000-ton cruisers, she has authorised another 10,000-ton cruiser and she has avowed her intention of having twelve. Italy has built two, she is building four, she has authorised one and Signor Mussolini has stated that, though words are very beautiful things, rifles, machine guns, ships, aeroplanes and guns are more beautiful things still—surely a distinct and direct contradiction of the belief of the Prime Minister! And we may be assured that Italy will not be behind in her cruiser programme in the future.
How can these facts be reconciled with the statement of the First Lord on June 2 when he gave figures which he said conclusively proved that,
although this agreement does mean a reduction in naval armaments in the world at does not mean any reduction in relative strength so far as the British Navy is con-corned.
The facts are before us, and that statement is not in accordance with the facts. Are all these Powers wrong in their estimation of the value of military strength or the necessity of providing adequate protection? Let us get down to facts. Let me say at once that in all our calculations at the Admiralty we have never taken the United States into consideration. Indeed the Admiralty were ordered not to do so in formulating our requirements for naval defence. It was recognised that if she wished to build up to our standard she could do so without causing us any anxiety what-
soever. To provide protection against naval attack on the part of the United States was not to form part of our scheme of defence; it was completely and entirely out of the question. Taking that into account, as a result of our investigations it was considered that the number of cruisers required was seventy, and this number remained the aim and object of the Admiralty up to the end of the last Administration. How or why that number was, in the short space of a few months, cut down to fifty is one of the most inexplicable things of all time. The same conditions prevailed, the same naval experts. No adequate explanation was forthcoming, and I doubt if there ever will be one.
§ The First Lord, in trying to provide a reason, stated three things: First, we have signed the Kellogg Pact; secondly, we have signed the Optional Clause; thirdly, the Treaty is for a limited period. These reasons are reasons of high policy; they are not technical reasons. They are reasons which take risks, and are the responsibility of the Government. They are not the concern of the Admiralty, which is primarily a technical board. But, in any case, the first and second reasons, that is to say the Kellogg Pact and the Optional Clause, refer to conditions which were the same in May as in September when the change came. The First Lord did add two technical reasons. One was that other Powers should reduce their programmes. Well, if you leave out of the picture the United States, who came to this Conference with a gigantic programme, ready to bargain—they had something to bargain with—that has not been done. The other programmes have been increased. The second technical reason which he gave was that we should have a reasonable programme of replacement. From the statements that have been made in the other House as to the replacement programme, I do not think that is a very satisfying or reasonable one.
§ In arriving at our naval strength, let me take your Lordships back to the Washington Conference. It was recognised there that we had a double rôleto play. We were different from any other Power. Not only were we the only Power to be dependent upon sea-borne commodities, but our commitments extended all over the world. We were an 189 oceanic Power in the widest sense, with European responsibilities. By virtue of our geographical position we were vulnerable as no other country, and for that reason our policy was to have a naval strength equal to that of the next two strongest naval Powers, leaving the United States out of the picture. We therefore agreed to a ratio in capital ships of 5 for Great Britain, 3 for Japan, and 1¾each for Italy and France. As we could not and would not agree to a similar ratio for cruisers for all purposes—and I may say that our special requirements were recognised and fully understood by the representatives of France, Italy and Japan, and, I may add, of the United States—it was agreed to leave cruisers and other smaller craft out of the Treaty.
§ Then we come down to the Geneva Conference, which dealt with the cruiser question. With many misgivings and under great pressure the Admiralty agreed to a ratio being accepted for 10,000-ton 8-inch-gun cruisers similar to that accepted at Washington for capital ships—namely, a ratio in that particular type of vessel of 5 for Great Britain, 3 for Japan, 1¾for France and Italy. This left the cruisers of less than 10,000 tons with a 6-inch armament out of the question. They were unrestricted. We were thus left with a small margin of superiority over the two next strongest Powers, still leaving the United States out of the picture. As is known, that Conference was abortive. It is true that there was some flirting with figures in attempts to get an agreement which gave a ratio of 6 for Great Britain to 4 for Japan, but this was never accepted by the Admiralty or by the Government. To-day, by the London Treaty, we are asked to accept 15 8-inch-gun cruisers to Japan's 12 (that is a ratio of 5 to 4), to France's 7, with the avowed intention of having 12: and to Italy's 7, with a certainty of their increasing that number, probably to equal France.
§ As to the 35 cruisers with 6-inch guns which we shall have in 1936, the Government have now produced a programme which does not even provide for the very small number that we are permitted by this Treaty to have. We have tied ourselves to replacing only 91,000 tons of cruiser tonnage—that is to say, 14 ships of 6,500 tons apiece. To complete those 14 ships by 1936, commencing, as we are 190 told, some time in 1931 (the orders are not going to be given until the end of the first quarter of 1931) we 5.thould have to lay down, if we did the right thing, 4 in one year and 5 in the next two succeeding years in order to reach 14 by 1936. But we are not going to do that. We are laying down but 3 in 1931, leaving 11 to be laid down in 1932 and 1933. That is allowing three years in which to build a ship, and not something over two years, as the First Lord stated in another place. I think you will find that it will be rather over three years than under. Surely the Admiralty must have a plan, spread over the very limited period of three years, which will provide the small number that they have acquiesced in accepting and will give continuity of work for the dockyards and the shipbuilding and armament firms, and surely the country is entitled to know what that plan is.
§ The very dark side of this picture remains to be seen. The remaining 21 cruisers will be 17, 18 and 19 years old in 19313—that is, with a life of only from one to three years, taking 20 years as the life of a cruiser. Other nations are permitted to replace at 16 years, but this unfortunate country is limited, and we have to make our craft, which have done a great deal of work, go to 20 years, when they will be worn out and useless. The present Government evidently anticipate that the Government of that day will be braver and more determined than they are. They will be required to build 111 cruisers in three years, or 7 cruisers a year, and these will be of less than 5,000 tons, to enable them to get the inadequate number of 50. There is a safety clause of which a great deal is made, which may or may not be utilised if France or Italy, or both, increase their numbers up to 12. It certainly will not be made use of if the strength of these Powers remains at the 7 which are building and contemplated. What of this safety clause? Is it not in itself a most dangerous if not an impossible factor, and one which might, and probably would, have a most mischievous effect? It certainly would require a display of strength, character and determination on the part of the Government of the day to bring it into effect.
§ I do not want to weary your Lordships, but I should like to quote a con- 191 orete case. Our possessions in the Far East are far greater than those of any other Power, not even excluding Japan. The value of our trade in the Far East is in excess of that of any other country. We have but one port, which is not equipped as yet and is not capable of providing a base for our Fleet; but we hope—it is a pious hope—that time will rectify this. Without it we are helpless. We are powerless to protect our Empire and trade in the Far East, and India itself will be endangered. Assuming that we have this base and a situation arises which necessitates the moving of our Fleet to the Far East, the least that we could do mould be to send an equality force, leaving an insufficiency to safeguard our vast trade through the Mediterranean and home waters. Therefore, we should be at the mercy and the good will of any Power possessing great naval strength in the Mediterranean. And not only cruiser strength, in which we should have but three 8-inch-gun cruisers left to compete with seven and possibly twelve on the parts of France and Italy, but in destroyer and flotilla leaders, in which France and Italy are not restricted, we by the Treaty are not allowed to build destroyers of anything like the power and size of those building and contemplated by France, or the numbers that we should require.
§ There is a very interesting point affecting that. At Washington we definitely refused to consider any question of restricting or coming to an agreement about destroyers unless submarines were not permitted to be built. The destroyer is the antidote of the submarine. What is the situation to-day? Not only are we restricted but -other countries are free. France will have double the number of submarines that we have got, she can build any number of destroyers and flotilla leaders, of any size that she likes, whereas we are restricted not only in numbers and in size, but in equipment, with the result that in 1933 in flotilla leaders France will possess twenty-four of from 2,200 to 2,500 tons, armed with 5.5 guns, whereas we shall have only sixteen of 1,500 tons with 4.7 guns. In destroyers there will be practically equality. Again, air power is not restricted in any way—we have not got to that—but France and Italy have far greater numbers than ourselves. All these would be available for use to raid 192 our commerce in the narrow seas, from shore bases. I ask your Lordships where will this country be? Against a preponderating cruiser strength, a vast superiority of submarines and overwhelming superiority in the air, what chance should we have of maintaining our food supplies and our vital commodities, upon which we depend, against such a force possessed by a Mediterranean Power?
§ Let me give your Lordships another picture. Take our situation vis-à-vis France. Her facilities for attack upon trade afford her the widest scope. She has bases at Cherbourg from which her heavy cruisers can raid the Channel. She has bases at Brest, Rochefort, and Dakar, from which the Atlantic trade would be at her mercy. She has bases at Toulon, Algiers and Biserta in the Mediterranean. She has the power of striking at all points of our trade routes. How are we with fifteen 8-inch-gun cruisers to provide an equality force against France with her twelve? This problem has been worked out with great. care in the past. I am not talking through my hat, because I have worked out the problem before, and it has been shown that with seventy cruisers we should have very great difficulty in maintaining a constant service of adequate escorts in the Western approaches and the Mediterranean, and this was allowing France a lower number of cruisers than is contemplated to-day.
§ That is bad enough, but what I quarrel with still more is the ships that we cannot build should the need arise. Should a wave of virility ever again attack this country we could not build ships without making a declaration that the action of other Powers had brought about a change in the international situation. That is a very serious handicap on the naval development of this country. Part III of this Treaty is an engagement between three parties, two of which have a similar problem. They are oceanic Powers, not affected by the troubles and difficulties which beset the centre of the world, Europe. The third party—our unfortunate country—is an oceanic Power also, but with European responsibilities which she cannot avoid, and is subject to vital considerations which do not affect or form any part of the problem confronting the other two Powers. It has been said that we are 193 definitely and irrevocably committed to this Treaty. Is this so? Can a Treaty of such far-reaching and crushing effect upon the British Empire come into being without full discussion in the Houses of Parliament, and a proper understanding by them of all that it means? If this Treaty is signed, then the Government should at once give effect to Article 21 of the Treaty upon which they base so much, as the national security of the British Empire is unquestionably and definitely materially affected by the new construction of other Powers who have not signed the Treaty.
§ One of the most amazing things to me is the apathy of the Leaders of all the political Parties, with but few exceptions, and of the great Press which instructs the public on all these questions. As to the former I believe that it is due to the fact that the seriousness of the situation and the true facts have not been sufficiently forcibly put before them. The great problems of social reform and economic reform are so absorbing as to overwhelm questions of defence, which, after a great War, they are only too glad to push back into the limbo of forgetfulness, in the hope that in a world of peace defence matters can he left in abeyance and money, saved at their expense, utilised for other services. I have had some experience of dealing with Governments, and I frankly say that I never failed to impress upon successive Governments the needs of naval defence. When they were convinced they provided what. was required.
§ I recall to your Lordships that, after very prolonged and careful consideration, the late Government, in July, 1925, agreed to a construction programme of four 8-inch cruisers in that year, followed by an annual programme of three cruisers for the next four years, that is to say, up to 1929–30, which, if it had been carried out, would have placed us in an admirable position at the last Conference. Unfortunately, that same Government, as a beau geste or for some other cause, in the autumn of 1927 allowed this vital programme to be reduced to one cruiser instead of three for that year, and again reduced it in 1928–29 from three to two; but although, for their own reasons, they reduced this programme, they did not commit the crowning blunder contemplated now of tying our hands for a period 194 of years against what is necessary. In my dealings with the present Government in their former Administration I found that, once they were convinced of the absolute minimum needs of the Navy in construction, they were ready and willing to meet the demands put before them. They were then imbued with the principle that the sea was Us in the fullest sense.
§ Now, as to the Press. The great organs which enlighten and educate the people cannot be fully alive to all that this Treaty means. If they were to devote time to considering this great question fully, I am sure that they would be moved to perform a service to their country by devoting space in their publications to set before the people of this country the true meaning and the real effect of this Treaty in the British Empire. We read daily in a portion of the Press stirring and illuminating articles on the need of the economic unity of the Empire, a policy which must appeal; o all Imperialists; but I would ask the leaders and directors of this great movement of what value it would be unless the trade routes, the connecting links between the portions of the Empire which constitute the partners of this great agreement, are protected. It is a question of insurance. If any sane man erects an edifice, or has great possessions, he protects them by insurance. The Navy is the insurance company of the economic unity of the Empire. Under the Naval Treaty of London the Navy will be totally and entirely inadequate to provide that insurance.
§ From all that I hear—and I hear a great deal—and from all that I receive, there is no apathy among the British public. The mass of the people of these islands in their hearts and minds are very much alive to the necessity of retaining security on the sea. They are anxious to see the outcome of this Treaty, and this anxiety is not confined to any particular political Party, but is very general amongst all, and is a very, very real anxiety. The belief in the Navy is still existent, and it will be a real shock to the people of this country when they wake up to the fact that our naval protection is a thing of the past, and that we are at the mercy, and exist, only by the good will, of other Powers.195
§ Now, I am not alone in voicing this opinion. The noble and gallant Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in a very serious speech in your Lordships' House, warned the Empire that the Treaty was going beyond the limits of safety. Surely an opinion from such a source, from one who has occupied the highest position in the great Service, as Commander-in-Chief and as First and Principal Naval Adviser to His Majesty's Government during the War, cannot be completely ignored. I have discussed the question and talked with many of the most experienced, enlightened, and capable sea officers, who condemn absolutely and unequivocally the Treaty as being one which will render the Navy impotent and incapable of performing the service for which it exists. I am aware that it is the habit and custom of some, indeed of a great many, in these days to decry and take no account of the advice and opinions of sea officers, who are looked upon as cranks, alarmists, rattlers of the sabre, etc. But that is not so. What we do want to do is to safeguard our beloved country from coming so near to disaster as it did in the lace War owing to the cutting off of the food supplies by attacks from the sea, and I would claim that we are as alive as any other members of the community to the dire necessity of achieving economies, and Prime Ministers and responsible Ministers in the past have borne testimony to the economies which have been achieved by sea officers.
§ Is it wise to ignore the lessons of history? All great Empires built in the past were based on sea power, and when we talk about sea power we mean the power to trade, to make connection with the outside world, which is dependent upon a mercantile marine. That is more particularly so in the case of the British Empire. The existence, the prosperity of the Empire depends upon the mercantile marine. The mercantile marine depends for its existence upon the protection of the Fleet. Failure to protect the mercantile marine means loss of sea power, and there is no instance in history of sea supremacy, once yielded, ever being regained. Never in the history of the world has a great nation rendered itself impotent and incapable of defending itself by treaty. They have succumbed against other and stronger Powers, but it has 196 been left to the British Empire to surrender its place in the world because we have not the determination to fulfil our destiny. If we have not the money to provide for our national defence as in the past, if we have not the courage to make sacrifices, let us at least have the common sense to keep ourselves free and untrammeled by a treaty, like France and Italy.
§ I cannot believe it possible that there should he a body of statesmen in this country who would deliberately sign away our heritage and the power to preserve the Empire if the full effects of what they sign were fully and adequately pointed out. I had not believed it possible to find naval experts who were capable of giving advice which would have the effect of reducing the great Service to which they belong to such an extent as to render it incapable of performing its duties "of continuing to be a safeguard unto our Most Gracious Sovereign and his Kingdoms and a security for such as pass on the Seas on their lawful occasions."
§ EARL JELLICOE
My Lords, my noble and gallant friend has placed before you most clearly and completely the dangers to which this country is subjected under the Treaty of London. He has uttered a grave warning to the country and the Empire with which I am in the fullest possible agreement. In a debate which took place in your Lordships' House in May I called attention to the inadequacy of the British Navy under the Treaty, and particularly to the inadequacy of our cruiser strength upon which depends, as the noble Earl has so clearly shown, the entire protection of our sea communications. I pointed out that al, the commencement of the War our cruiser strength had come down to 114 cruisers, 720,000 tons, and that as a consequence, or at any rate under those conditions, our mercantile marine suffered very serious loss. I mentioned that at Geneva during the Geneva Conference the Government and the Admiralty of the day looked upon a minimum of 70 cruisers as absolutely essential for the protection of our sea communications. The number so far as I gather, was reduced from our pre-War standard of strength to that figure of 70 because the Government of the day considered that under the international conditions then existing war 197 was most improbable during a period of ten years. A statement to that effect was made in another place by a member of the late Government on May 15.
Naturally, those of us who took part in that Geneva Conference and those of us who held positions of responsibility during the Great War are anxious to know the reasons which have induced the Admiralty and the Government to cut down that figure of 70 to the figure of 50 allowed by the Treaty. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord President of the Council, in the debate in May gave what he said was the obvious answer—that in August, 1928, the great Powers interested in naval construction and naval equipment had signed the Pact of Paris outlawing war. In his speech he drew the conclusion that because we incurred heavy losses when we had 114 cruisers, we can never depend upon force to give safety and security. The noble and learned Lord forgot, I think, the important fact that had it not been for the 114 cruisers our losses would have been so serious that we should have been driven by starvation to submission in the early months of the War. The noble and learned Lord, too, omitted to mention the fact that treaties do not themselves always give security and safety. One has only to recollect the position of Belgium under a Treaty at the commencement of the late War. Treaties, I assert, are more likely to be observed if there is force to uphold them, in the same way that the law is more likely to be observed if there is a police force to ensure observance.
I turn to statements in the other House for reasons for this reduction from 70 to 50. The Prime Minister stated on May 15 that the position of the Admiralty was that under international conditions as they existed to-day the number of 50 cruisers could be accepted for a strictly limited period, provided that other Powers met our standard of 50 and that in our 50 there was a proper proportion suited for extended operations. I wonder how far the Admiralty's view was influenced by the very obvious fact that since the Geneva Conference of 1927 the Governments in power have laid down so few cruisers—namely, one in 1928, and none in 1929—that it is almost beyond hope that by 1936 we can obtain more +ban 50 cruisers which are efficient from 198 the point of view of age. We shall only have 24 cruisers under sixteen years of age in 1936 in addition to those about to be built.
I pass to an examination of the Government's proposals for new construction. It is as certain as anything can be that the other Powers which signed the Treaty will build up to the Treaty. It is certain, too, that France and Italy are about to increase their naval construction very largely, as has been pointed out by my noble friend. In this country, as he has stated, we are tied by this extraordinary limitation that we are only allowed to build 91,000 tons of new cruiser construction by 1936. We are allowed a total of 192,000 tons of 6-inchgun cruisers. If we have 35 vessels carrying 6-inch guns with the 15 carrying 8-inch guns we get the total of 50 which has been mentioned as what we are allowed under the Treaty. As my noble friend has said, if we built all those cruisers of the same size they would be limited to something like 5,500 tons. But it is assumed that the Government intend to build 14 6-inch-gun cruisers of 6,500 tons displacement by 1936. It is hoped, at any rate, that they will do so. If they do they are not even then building up to what the Treaty allows us. The Admiralty's view in the past has been that cruisers for extended sea operations should not displace much less than 7,000 tons. Therefore, when we have completed the 14 cruisers of 6,500 tons we shall be coming down to cruisers of 5,000 tons so as to keep below the 192,000 tons, the tonnage which we are allowed eventually by the Treaty. I am exceedingly doubtful whether cruisers of 5,000 tons will be found suitable for extended oversea operations.
I spoke of this extraordinary limitation of 91,000 tons. As the Prime Minister explained in another place, we can only keep our cruiser strength to a number of fifty by including in it vessels over sixteen years of age. My noble friend has mentioned that limit of sixteen years of age laid down by the Treaty and has told your Lordships that we alone amongst all the nations of the world are unable to make use of that sixteen years' limit and still retain our cruiser strength of fifty. I take it that the sixteen years' limit was fixed for the best of all possible reasons—namely, that it was known that cruisers built under the 199 stress of war conditions were not likely to have so long a life as cruisers built subsequently. Why of all nations in the world we should not be allowed to make use of the sixteen years' time limit is a thing which neither I nor, I consider, any other naval officer would be able to understand. It is only one more instance of the British Empire making concessions which no other nation is asked to make on the naval side, the British Empire being the one Power of all others which is absolutely dependent upon the security of its sea communications.
The Prime Minister defended this matter of the 91,000 ton limit by making a statement to the effect that if we built beyond the 91,000 tops limit we should eventually be faced with a situation of having several cruisers laid down in one year, or in successive years, and a period of time during which no cruisers would be laid down, and, therefore, the labour conditions in the dockyards and shipyards would be upset. I can fully appreciate an argument of that sort, as I have occupied the post in the past of Controller of the Navy, but the truth of the matter is that that difficulty does not arise at all. If we built, say, eighteen 6,500-ton cruisers by 1936 we should still have 75,000 tons of cruiser strength to build before we had reached the 192,000 tons of 6-inch-gun cruisers which were allowed eventually by the Treaty. Ten of our older cruisers become over age after 1935, and their reliefs should be laid down between 1934 and 1937, an average of three a year.
It seemed to be entirely forgotten by the Prime Minister, when he made that statement concerning the labour conditions in the dockyards and shipyards, that by 1936 the question of replacement of capital ships will have arisen. I know quite well that in certain quarters in this country there is a belief that the capital ship is dead, that the capital ship will never be built again. All I can say is that the decision will not rest with this country. If other nations build capital ships—and other nations do not hold the view which is held in some qurters here—we ourselves are bound to follow suit, and therefore in 1936, and subsequently, there need be no fear whatever, in my view, of there being difficulties in the way of adjustment of the labour conditions in the dockyards and in the ship- 200 yards, because there will be the question of the replacements of the capital ships facing us.
To turn from the cruiser question to that of the destroyers. We are allowed 150,000 tons of destroyers under the Treaty. That will give us a total of about 110 destroyers and flotilla leaders. Of our present destroyer strength 80 destroyers 'become over age under the sixteen years' time limit by 1936. It means that we should lay down sixteen destroyers a year in order to build up to the London Treaty. The present Government programme for this year is a total of nine. If that programme continues in subsequent years this will be the position after 1936. In 1936 we shall have 35 of our destroyers one year over the age limit; in 1937 we shall have 26 of them two years over the age limit; iii 1938 we shall have 17 of them three years over the age limit; and in 1939 we shall have 8 of them four years over the age limit.
My noble friend has spoken of the exceeding importance of the destroyer as an anti-submarine defence. Nobody knows better than myself, who had the responsibility in 1917 of dealing with the unrestricted warfare, the absolute importance of the destroyer, and I say that it is putting us in a position of extraordinary danger if we do not build up to the programme allowed us by the Treaty. I am not entering into the question of whether the Treaty allows us sufficient. My noble friend has spoken on that subject so well that I do not propose to follow him there, but at any rate it is essential that we should build up to the Treaty, and should, therefore, be laying down sixteen destroyers this year instead of only nine. I would just quote what the international position in regard to the age of destroyers will be in 1936. In 1936t the British Empire will have 31 under sixteen years of age; the United States of America will have 63; Japan will have 85, of which it is true 25 are rather smaller than is usual; France will have 51; and Italy will have 52. The position is, to my mind, such as to cause us the gravest possible anxiety. I will not touch upon the submarine question, because the number allowed us by the Treaty will, I assume, he built if we continue to build at the rate of three to four a year.
201 I have dealt with the facts of the case, and there is one other point which I would like to put before your Lordships. The minds of everybody in the country turn to the great question of the day, that of unemployment. Immense sums of money are being voted to provide what I might call relief work to deal with the serious question of unemployment. Money is being spent on roads, money is being spent on drainage, many people want to spend money on the Channel Tunnel; on many things millions of pounds are being spent. Why should not some of these millions be turned to the British Navy? Why should we not build ships to help the unemployment in our shipyards and our dockyards and the unemployment in our armament firms, and at the same time give our men experience which they will badly need in the future when we recommence our building programme? If we build ships with that money, and so give employment to the men ashore, we shall at the same time be giving employment to thousands of officers and men of the Royal Navy who would otherwise be cast ashore with nothing to do at the prime of their lives. I spoke on this subject in May, and I speak on it again. There is no more important question in this country to-day, perhaps, than that of unemployment, and here is a way by which we can in some degree meet that question and at the same time do what is so essential—build up our Navy to adequate strength.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
My Lords, I think it might be convenient if at this stage I intervened in order to state how the arguments—the very powerful arguments undoubtedly—which we have heard from the two noble and gallant Admirals are in our opinion answerable and how they can be displaced. Let me at the outset say this. It is sometimes a common topic—I think I may call it a common topic of prejudice—that the present Government has less anxiety and care for the security of this country and the Empire than any other Government which might be or has been in power. I can assure your Lordships that that is an entire fallacy. Of course, we may make faults in judgment in reference to what we do. That may happen to all Governments. But I want to say this, 202 in the strongest language that I can use, that all that we have done has been subject to our desire to maintain the security of our country and Empire. It is on the basis of that security being assured that we have acted on the advice which we have received from our naval experts at the Admiralty. Of course, it is quite obvious that different experts at the Admiralty have different views.
We have had three debates on this subject already. We had one on May 8 to which the noble and gallant Earl, Lord jellicoe, has referred. I do not think it is necessary to refer again to what was said on that occasion. Then there have been two discussions, substantially on the same points as those raised in this House this afternoon, in another place, on May 15 and June 2. It is in reference to those discussions and the advice that we have received from the source which I understand both the noble and gallant Admirals regard as satisfactory, that is, the naval experts at the Admiralty—it is in reference to what has been stated in those discussions and the advice we have received that we have adopted a policy which in our view is amply sufficient both for the security of this country and the security of the Empire.
§ LORD CARSON
Will the noble and learned Lord let the House know, and let the country know, what were the questions put to the experts?
§ LORD PARMOOR
I will try to satisfy the noble and learned Lord, but there are certain matters in regard to a question of this character which it is difficult to explain quite fully on an occasion of this kind. If they are to be explained, they can be explained more fully in another place—
§ LORD PARMOOR
—where the First Lord of the Admiralty can speak, than they can be in your Lordships' House.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not want to be led away from my point by what I may call cross-examination. It is easy 203 to ask why. Of course the persons consulting the experts are the persons who in the long run—
§ LORD CARSON
Cannot the noble and learned Lord see the experts with the First Lord? That is the ordinary way. We used to do it.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I hope the noble and learned Lord in his anxiety to interrupt—which always seems to be his chief object in this House—will restrain himself in this case and will remember that it is really impossible to give a detailed account of a difficult subject of this kind, on which there has been great difference of opinion, unless the speaker is allowed to give it in the order and under the conditions which in his view will give the most correct and the most certain account of all the conditions which it is necessary to consider. That cannot be done—if I may with great respect say this—by interjections. But when the time comes, in what I have to say I hope I shall satisfy him and other members of your Lordships' House.
There is another point to which I was just coming which was mentioned particularly by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Jellicoe. He had a suspicion of treaties. Well, I do not want to go into that. History may show treaties which have been the dominating factor and treaties which have been disregarded at the crucial time. I do not agree with the general historical conclusion at which he appears to arrive on that point. But that is the very reason why in a treaty of this kind you should insert the actual limitations and reductions which you think are essential in order that the security of the country and the Empire may be maintained in the future. I should like to ask either of the noble and gallant Admirals present—whether we have done it rightly or wrongly is a matter of opinion—whether they are not in agreement at any rate with this feature of the Naval Treaty, that we have taken care not to depend merely on words and phrases but on the actual numbers and the limitations which, whether rightly or wrongly, whether sufficient or not, after all constitute the real guarantee for the future in a Naval Treaty of this kind?? I do not want to controvert what the noble and gallant Admiral, Earl Jellicoe said. I agree with him to this extent that it is far 204 better to have put into the Treaty what we do find in this Treaty between America, Japan and ourselves, actual numbers as regards cruisers, destroyers, flotilla leaders and submarines to show exactly where the parties stand if they comply with the obligations which they have undertaken.
May I make one other observation in reference to a point which I think was raised by the noble and gallant Admiral, Earl Jellicoe, but more particularly by the noble and gallant Admiral, Earl Beatty? This is an agreement not only between this country and Japan and America, but between the British Empire and Japan and America. The Communauté de Nations Britannique are parties to this Treaty and the obligations we find in Part III—which are the crucial obligations as between Japan and the United States and ourselves—are binding not only on us but on the Commonwealth of the British Empire, and, as we have been told, they have been entered into after consideration with them. That is a very important matter for several reasons. Everyone, I think, will agree that it is right conduct on a question of this kind that you should see that your Dominions go with you in regard to the arrangements that you make concerning your naval policy in the future. In fact, as I understood it, that was part of the argument of the noble Earl, Lord Beatty. What we have done, as in my opinion every Government should do, was not to make an agreement of this kind for our country only—I mean for our home country—but also in accordance with the wishes, desires and obligations that we intend to attach, and which must he attached—I agree with the noble Earl—to the other Commonwealths out of which the British Empire as a whole is built up.
Will the noble Lord forgive me if I make just one statement on that point? I should like to remind the noble Lord that our Dominions came to the recent London Conference and it was hinted to them that it was desirable that they should not have expert advice other than that given by the Admiralty. I know this because I was invited by New Zealand to represent them at the Naval Conference and, in an interview that I had with Lord Passfield, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, he informed me that it would place the Dominion and 205 the Government in an awkward position if I consented to go there because they wanted no expert naval advice other than that of the Admiralty.
§ LORD PARMOOR
From what I have heard to-day from both noble Earls we could not have better expert advice on a matter of this kind than that of the Admiralty itself, but I should like to make one observation in answer to the noble Earl opposite. I do not know what communications of that kind he had, and I do not profess to know, but I put this to him: Does he suggest that any one of the Dominions entered into the obligations and undertakings of a Treaty of this kind without acting on expert Admiralty advice which they could trust? Does he suggest that?
§ EARL JELLICOE
The Admiralty expert advice is, of course, what was given to the Government. of the clay. It is not certain that other expert advice given to the Dominions would have followed the same lines. Indeed, when I had to refuse the post of delegate of the New Zealand Government, I was asked by that Government if I would write my views on the subject of the Naval Treaty to the Admiralty; which I did.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I think I may say that I answered the noble Earl quite fairly, because no one could suggest that any advice from his standpoint—I am not, of course, throwing any doubt on its genuineness—would not be extremely valuable. But that, if I may say so, is not the point. Let me come back to the point. Does he suggest that the Dominions acted wrongly by taking the advice of the Board of Admiralty in becoming parties to the Naval Treaty, and particularly to Part III?
§ EARL JELLICOE rose.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not want to go on with any controversy with the noble Earl unless he has anything special to say further.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Thank you. Then I [link I need not go further on that point That is the attitude that I take and which the Government took—namely, that they did not desire to criticise the attitude of the British Dominions and that it was a great source of strength to the whole position under the Naval Treaty that they all, signed the terms as well as this country. I do not want to have anything like a personal controversy, and I may leave that subject there, but I want to give one answer that arises from my reference to Otis matter. The noble Earl, Lord I3eatty, referred—and I shall have to go into more detail in regard to this matter in a moment—to the building programme in connection with the 91,000 tons replacement limit of the Treaty. it is quite clear, I think, that at. the present time, although the immediate programme has been settled, it would not be possible to settle the future programme without reference to the Dominions and without consultation with them, and that appears to me to be the underlying objection to a great deal of the criticism which the noble Earl directed against the terms of the Treaty.
It is well known that in the autumn we have the Imperial Conference, and that one of the matters of discussion in that Conference will be the condition and strength of the Empire Navy, if I may so call it, of the ships built or owned not, only by our own country hut by our various Dominions. When that is all known, the time will come when the ultimate programme should he laid down, reaching as it ought to the end of the year 1936. Just let us see how this tells upon what the noble Earl said. He directed a good deal of criticism to the limitation of 91,000 tons. His criticism, I think, took two forms. In the first place he said that a similar limitation did not affect Japan and America, and he went on to say that, according to the programme which we have already formed for 1930, we should not under that limitation build up to the number of fifty effective cruisers that we were entitled to build. As to the first point, Japan is limited under the terms of the Treaty. If your Lordships will look at page 17 of the Treaty, in Annexe I to Part I, Section I (a), you will find the words:—
The effect of that limitation upon Japan is that up to the period mentioned, 1936, the maximum tonnage that they could build in replacement would be 30,000 tons. Of course, we are here dealing with replacement tonnage. In addition to that, and at their own request, they were enabled to add an amount of tonnage equivalent to the tonnage in the vessel "Tama," a vessel of 5,000 tons. So that under the terms of the Treaty the actual limitation upon building for replacement purposes of cruisers before the end of the year 1936 is 35,655 tons.
- "(i) if laid down before the lst January, 1920: 16 years;
- (ii) if laid down after the 31st December, 1919: 20 years."
It is not the fact that we accepted a limitation on tonnage for replacement and that Japan was left without any corresponding limitation. Under the terms of the Treaty itself there is a limitation which affects the building replacement for cruisers in the case of Japan up to December, 1936. As regards America, I should like to say this, to which I think the noble Earl will agree. The question of replacement, with which we are dealing here, did not really affect America at all. It was not with them a question of replacement but a question of new building, and so far as the replacement restrictions were concerned it really did not affect the conditions of shipbuilding for cruisers in America in any way at all. Therefore, this restriction which was thought right in our case and in the case of Japan, I agree does not apply to America, because the problem of America in this respect is entirely a different one from ours.
I would now like to explain, if I may, another error into which I think the noble Earl, Lord Beatty, has fallen. It is as regards the 91,000 tonnage and the programme already given out for the year 1930. The 91,000 tons limitation, as the noble Earl has said quite accurately, allows for the building of fourteen 6-inchgun cruisers of 6,500 tons. What was said by the First Lord of the Admiralty in another place was that the cruisers proposed to be built should be each of not less than 6,500 tons. I do not want to dwell upon that, as it is a mere technical question, but it shows that there is a limitation as regards the number to be built, or put quite accurately, it would be thirteen or fourteen if none of them were less than 6,500 tons. In 208 1929 one of these cruisers was started to be built, and the proposal in the 1930 programme is that you should begin three more. Also we had to bear in mind that in order to have the numbers by 1936 you must lay them down not later than 1933. What is the effect of that? You have four years, 1930, 1931, 1932, and 1933. If you lay down only three cruisers—we have to settle this afterwards with the British Dominions—that would give you twelve out of the thirteen. This is only a first beginning, and after we have had the Imperial Conference, and considered with the British Dominions how the limitation can be utilised so as to get the fifty cruisers within the time, then will be the occasion for reconsidering and readjusting the programme, so that in all the circumstances before the end of 1936 the 91,000 tons shall have been built.
I would like to say one other word about that, as I see that Lord Bridge-man, who spoke the other day, is present. Perhaps he will not mind my mentioning it at this stage. As I said on the last occasion, he is one of those who in 1927 represented the Government at Geneva, with the object and intention, if they could, of making an agreement or treaty covering the cruiser question. There were difficulties then as regards larger cruisers and as regards the numbers of cruisers generally, but what I want to emphasise is this, that there was no difference between the two Governments on the wide grounds which have been suggested. You wanted a naval treaty, of course, based on security and a sufficiency of tonnage, and when the noble Lord was at Geneva in 1927 he found the seventy cruisers then being asked for were too numerous to enable him to make a treaty with the United States. Therefore as to the difference between the two Governments—of course I do not include the naval experts, the two Admirals who have spoken in this House, in any way, because they are equally opposed either to one Government or the other upon this point—I think it is quite true to say that as between 1927 and 1930 the changed conditions are quite sufficient to explain why fifty cruisers at the later stage would give the security for which seventy cruisers were required at the earlier stage.
§ LORD PARMOOR
They have been mentioned several times in several places. It is the general growth of a spirit of friendship, and a desire for friendship between countries, and particularly—
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am quite willing to answer questions, but surely that is a mere interruption. I think it is quite sufficient, and the Government have thought it quite sufficient. I want to say another thing upon that. These fifty cruisers, the 91,000 tons replacement limitation, were discussed and considered and settled by the Admiralty's advice in this country before the Naval Conference met in London, and the question which was put to the Naval Board, if that is the right expression—that is what the noble Earl asked me about—was if they would advise the Government what would be a reasonable basis fur security if the problem were the security of this country apart from what I may call the question involved in a treaty, no doubt later, as regards other countries. The importance of their advice was this. They said that in their view the fifty cruisers which have been inserted in the Treaty with America and Japan were sufficient in order to ensure the security of the seas so far as this country and Empire are concerned. That, of course, is a different opinion from that expressed by the noble Earl, hut I am sure no one will feel more certain than he that it is the correct thing for any Government to follow the advice of the Admiralty experts. I cannot understand where the basis of his criticism there comes in. There is a difference of opinion, of course. I am not quite sure whether he would be willing to allow any concession for the sake of coming to terms of agreement with America and Japan, but he stated quite positively and in the strongest possible terms that this concession in his view goes too far.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I accept that. I know his immense experience, and I know that in a matter of this kind he 210 is only giving his real and true opinion in order to assist the country and Empire. But then other experts do not agree with him. I recollect a saying attributed to the late Lord Salisbury, the father of the noble Marquess who leads the House, who is reported to have said that if you were to be guided wholly by the opinion of Service experts—of what he called the extremists—they would not be satisfied unless you gave them instructions to fortify the moon in order to protect it against the attack of Mars. All through our history in this matter it is a difficulty. If all experts agreed on a matter of this kind life would be comparatively easy for statesmen, but they do not agree, and, so far as security is concerned, we are acting on the advice of the experts of the, Board of Admiralty, and it is on their advice that we took the number of 50 cruisers instead of 70. That advice was on the basis that the agreement we were going to make only lasted till the end of 1936. It had a definite limit, and I think there is a point there which both the noble Earls have overlooked. There is a provision in the agreement itself that in 1935 the arrangements can be reopened, and you can have a new conference in order that at the end of 1936 a new arrangement can come into force. I presume that whatever Government is in power, that would be done in order to get the best advice then available. I do not think any Government would neglect the opportunity of reconsidering what it really wanted for the security of our people and Empire.
Before coming to matters of detail, I want to deal with one other point which, again, the noble and gallant Admiral appears to have overlooked. On page 27 of the Treaty, Part III, you have the limitations of cruiser tonnage up to the end of December, 1936. Our limitation is 339,000 tons; the American limitation is 323,500 tons; and the Japanese limitation is 209,000 tons. Those figures can all be worked out on the details given on page 27. Of course, those limitations must be taken into consideration as well as the other factors to which the attention of the House has been called; and taking all those matters together into consideration it seems to me that, so far as cruisers are concerned, the advice was well given by the present advisers of the Admiralty that, subject to the limitations mentioned, 211 the 50 cruisers would be adequate for our security. I think—but I am not quite certain of this, and therefore I do not want to be criticised afterwards if I am wrong—that the words were that they were asked to advise what was necessary for the reasonable security of this country on the sea. I think the word "reasonable" was introduced.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
Would the noble Lord tell us whether they said that 50 cruisers of any age were sufficient? Or were they all to be up-to-date cruisers?
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am glad the noble Viscount has asked me that question, because we discussed the matter last time. The question is what do you mean by an over-age cruiser? According to the Admiralty test, an over-age cruiser is a cruiser over 20 years old. Now, there were certain cruisers built during the War, and particularly so in the case of Japan, which only had 16 years limit of efficiency, and which, therefore, became over-age cruisers after 16 years. But the basis we have taken is 20 years; and, taking that basis, you get the number of cruisers within the time and under the conditions which are provided for in the Treaty.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I do not think the noble Lord quite understood the point of my question. He said that the experts had given the advice that 50 cruisers would be quite sufficient under the circumstances. Was that advice given with the idea that our 50 cruisers should include a number considerably older than those of either of the other countries concerned?
§ LORD PARMOOR
I think the advice was given with all those conditions present before those who gave the advice.
§ Loan PARMOOR
I have not got that at the moment. The noble and learned Lord must for the present keep his curiosity unsatisfied. I am trying to answer the noble Viscount, Lord Bridge-man. What I understand is that the advice was given on the basis of twenty years' life—that all the cruisers would be under twenty years of age, and nearly all of them would be even under sixteen years of age. That is the best informa- 212 tion I can give. I asked very carefully about it, and that was the information which I was given. There is one other point upon this matter to which the noble and gallant Admiral, Earl Beatty, referred and he referred to it, I am afraid, not with satisfaction. But we have to remember that in Part III. to which I have referred and which only binds the three great naval Powers, as they may be called, Japan, the United States and England, a provision is made that if another country not under the obligation of the limitations should build, it is open to us or any of the three countries to give notice to the other two who are parties to this tripartite agreement that they must make further provision for the security of their country. That, I think, is perfectly right and perfectly reasonable.
Before leaving this point, let me emphasise one other matter and emphasise it as strongly as I can. It seems to me that one of the greatest steps ever made in the security of this country on the sea, in the true sense of the term, was the understanding come to between us and the United States of America. That is the basis of course of the whole of this Treaty. Apart from the terms of the Treaty, I would emphasise to your Lordships in the strongest possible way that the fact that the United States and ourselves have been able in a friendly spirit to come to terms so far as this Treaty is concerned, is one of the great factors both in the progress of general disarmament and in organising the whole international policy of the world on a new peace footing.
There is one other matter that perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Beatty, has overlooked. He was very anxious about public opinion. Public opinion in this country is expressed, of course, in the representative Chamber, the House of Commons, and this Treaty will have to be ratified by the House of Commons. I do not know what his experience is—I dare say the experience of all of us may be different, and it is very difficult to lay down any general rule—but I believe that the great mass of the people of this country desire this Treaty, desire a peace policy and desire a full understanding between the United States of America and ourselves. On the other hand, they are prepared now as they 213 have been in the past, to feel secure and safe so long as they know that any step taken is taken under the advice of the expert advisers for the time being at the Board of Admiralty.
Another point which I think the noble Earl made was this. He asked, I think, what would happen after 1936. The limitations and so on to which he referred, of course, only apply to that date. On that date, if my calculation is right, the 91,000 tons will have been used for the purposes of replacement and there will be the full 50 cruisers for which we have agreed. As the noble Earl, Lord Beatty, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, are aware, the 50 cruisers are made up of 15 8-inch cruisers and 35 6-inch cruisers. I do not know whether that is the technical way of explaining the two, but that practically shows at any rate for the ordinary man what is meant by the two categories. The 15 8-inch cruisers, the whole of the 8-inch cruisers indeed, apart from replacement—there is no question of replacement there—are settled under the terms of the Treaty itself and I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, from his ex perience at Geneva will understand the advantage of an agreement of that kind
As a matter of criticism, rather I think, on a question of detail, the noble Earl criticised the proportion between Japan and ourselves and said that the proportion had been altered to our disadvantage. I do not think that is so for this reason, that with the 8-inch cruisers which we are now considering, come in a number of smaller vessels I believe of as low as 4,000 tons, whereas the old comparison was between the 10,000 ton vessels in the two cases. If you make that allowance I think you will find—it is a technical point that I do not wish to dwell on for the moment—that allowing for that difference on this question that the proportion of 8-inch cruisers between Japan and ourselves has really not been altered. I will not go into the question of France and 'Italy for the reason, and I think the sufficient reason, that it is a matter which must depend on future arrangements and future adjustments. That is provided for, whether rightly or wrongly we think adequately, by Article 21. I think I have dealt with all of what I may call the special criticisms and questions addressed to me. I have endeavoured to do so and I hope I have 214 covered the ground; at any rate, I have endeavoured to cover the ground as well as I can.
On what I may call the assets side of an agreement of this kind, on the non-replacement of the capital snips we save £50,000,000 in they time, and as regards the cruiser adjustment I cannot say exactly what, we save but about £13,000,000. How often have I stood here, the target of questions addressed by noble Lords opposite: "Why cannot you find some form of economy which would relieve us from the terrible charge of taxation which is now overwhelming the industrial prospects of this country?" Here we do it. We make the economy where I think we ought to make it as an industrial people. Why are we criticised for that? I say there is the greatest advantage in Treaties of this kind that not only do we educate and bring out the kindly spirit, but in actual money we make a proper and very large saving. Of course no such saving ought to be made unless security is assured. But the whole basis of my argument is that that has been secured under the advice of naval experts to whom this country has so often entrusted its future prosperity.
I do not think there is any other matter upon which I need detain your Lordships. I hope that I have explained our perfect bona fides, our full sense of honour, the acceptance of advice where we ought to accept it and from the source from which it ought to have been given. I regard the result as of the utmost importance for the whole future of the peace of the world and, in addition to that, as an enormous advantage to us, a great industrial country, weighted down as I have said by the weight of what is now huge taxation.
§ LORD CARSON
Might I ask the noble and learned Lord before he concludes whether legislation will be necessary to carry out this Treaty?
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am not aware that legislation will be necessary. Of course, if legislation were necessary it would have to come before this House.
§ Loan PARMOOR
I know. That is an old joke now. What. I want to say is 215 that I do not think anything is necessary We have except ratification, and ratification would not come before this House.
May I ask the noble and learned Lord one question about a matter on which I was not clear on the last occasion? The noble and learned Lord, as I understand, said that when the Dominion delegates came to this Conference they agreed or were persuaded not to consult expert naval advice. Then the noble and learned Lord went on to say that they received instead the advice of the Board of Admiralty. I may be wrong, but I understand the Board of Admiralty is a very different body from the Sea Lords. The Sea Lords are the expert advisers; the Board of Admiralty, I believe I am correct in saying, is in its majority a political body. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord will correct me if I am wrong. The question is: Did the Dominion delegates receive expert advice—that is to say, the advice of the Sea Lords—or did they receive the advice of the Board of Admiralty, which, as I understand it, is very different?
§ LORD PARMOOR
I hoped I had made that quite clear. I must apologise to the noble Viscount for not having made it clear. I think I made it clear that they had the advice of the Sea Lords, and they acted apparently on, or at any rate they were content with, the expert opinion which they derived in that way, and I suppose that was the reason why they did not trouble further the noble and gallant Admiral, Lord Jellicoe.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, I venture to think that your Lordships will be very far from satisfied with the speech to which you have just listened. The noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House made a great point of the fact that the Dominions had agreed with this country in regard to this Treaty. Of course the Dominions did; they could do nothing else. They were brought into contact with the Cabinet of this country, they were given the same advice as Ministers opposite, they were told that if ships had to be provided it would be this country that would provide them, and they were really not in a position to say anything else except that they agreed with the Government of this country. I want to go a point further than that. 216 We have been told that the experts gave advice to the Government that fifty cruisers are enough for the defence of the Empire.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I want to know a great deal more than that. I want to know the premisses on which that expert advice was asked. I want to know, in the first instance, whether the United States were ruled out of any consideration in regard to this matter, and I am forced to have to ask this question by a very remarkable statement which was made by the noble Lord opposite. The Government, of which I was an Under-Secretary, always took it as a point that never could be argued that war between us and the United States was unthinkable. Then the noble and learned Lord opposite gets up and says the greatest step forward we have ever made in the defence of this country was when we made an agreement with the United States of America. I never heard anything more surprising in my life. We never dreamt of having war with the United States, and, therefore, when we came to have an agreement with them it was no step forward, but left us exactly where we were before.
Apart from the question of the United States, were the naval members of the Board of Admiralty asked to advise in regard to the ships necessary, ruling out any great war within a given period of time? Were they told—and I ask this in relation to the remarks made on the last occasion when a debate on this question occurred in your Lordships' House—that they had to take into consideration the signing of the Optional Clause, and that the Optional Clause might mean that the whole question of blockade would come before a Court composed, as to a majority, of foreign Judges who would take the continental view of the rules of blockade? Was that one of the considerations put before the Sea Lords? I venture to think we want to know a great deal more before we can say we are satisfied that the conclusions reached by the Sea Lords covered all the points that the Government should have put before them before they came to that opinion.
The noble and learned Lord made a further point in regard to the replacement of Japanese tonnage. He pointed 217 out that under an Article of the Treaty they were unable to replace more than a given tonnage of their cruisers. That applies to all three Powers in regard to every kind of ship. It really means that, having accepted an age-limit for a ship, they may not replace till that age-limit has elapsed. Japan, so far from having been limited and not allowed to replace her ships within that age limit, got a further concussion that she could replace some of them before that age-limit had actually elapsed. Therefore, so far from being limited by anything like the 91,000 tons imposed on this country, Japan gets the advantage of being able to replace her ships before they become sixteen years of age. I challenge the noble and learned Lord to refute that statement. I see he shakes his head, but I think, if lie asks his expert advisers, he will find I am quite correct.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I want to refer to another point. In the other House the First Lord stated that this Treaty left us in a stronger position relatively than it would have done if the Treaty had not been signed. That statement is untrue. In the first place—as the noble and learned Lord opposite also did—he only referred to two other Powers, the United States and Japan. He omitted from that statement the consideration of any other Power which had a Navy and which is not bound by this Treaty in any kind of way. I think the three Powers who have signed Part III are so bound.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not like interrupting. I was only dealing with Part III, and those were the other two Powers.
§ EARL STANHOPE
Quite so, but the noble and learned Lord has got to deal with the whole world, and not merely with Part III, when he comes to the security of this country.
§ EARL STANHOPE
In addition to that the First Lord assumes that but for the Treaty the United States would have completed the whole of her programme for building 18-inch-gun cruisers. That is a very large assumption. I think anybody who has studied the news coming 218 from the other side of the water will agree that it is just as likely as not they would never have completed that programme if the Treaty had not been signed. He included in the United States cruisers some so old that they did not even appear in the Official Return of Fleets which was published this year, and which included, I may say, one cruiser which is no less than thirty-seven years of age. As regards destroyers, he included some small destroyers of from seventeen to nineteen years of age, and apparently some sixty vessels which are already shown in this Return as being listed for disposal. As regards Japan, the information which he gave was somewhat more up-to-date, and, therefore, less telling, but even there also he included some very old vessels—vessels older than we include in the Return of our Fleet.
I am not concerned to argue whether the British Fleet is stronger, or less strong, relatively, in comparison with those of other Powers than it would have been without this Treaty. I only draw attention to what was said in the other place in order to show to what lengths it is necessary to go to produce arguments in favour of this Treaty. What I am concerned to show is whether, under the limitations imposed by the Treaty, the British Fleet can be sufficiently strong to carry out its duties, and I need not remind your Lordships that those duties are different from those imposed on any other Fleet in any other part of the world. That has been already referred to by both the noble and gallant Admirals who have addressed your Lordships. Therefore I do not want to touch on it again.
If you come to examine the Fleets of other nations—either those who have signed Part III, or those who never attended the Conference, or those who did attend but did not sign Part III—you will find that the only Fleet which is going to be reduced in numbers and limited materially in size is the Fleet which belongs to a Power whose very existence depends upon the freedom of passage across the waters. We alone of all the nations of the world are so dependent upon our supplies of food from overseas that those lines of communication have only to be cut for a very few weeks and we shall be starved into sub- 219 mission by any Power that chooses to attack us. I may be told—I have no doubt that the noble and learned Lord at any rate thinks it—that I have entirely a pre-War mentality in thinking it is necessary to have a Fleet at all or that it is necessary that a Fleet should be adequate for purposes of defence. If that is the case, I err at any rate in good company because both the authors of the Kellogg Pact—France and the United States—have increased their Fleets since the signing of that Pact and are increasing them either because of the Treaty or in spite of the Treaty, whereas we alone are going to be limited and cut down.
Now I want to deal with a further point. An American Admiral said that the Treaty, in his opinion, was a very good thing because it enabled the United States Navy to hang its hat upon it. I have not the smallest objection to the United States having a peg on which to hang its Navy, but the point is that it is a peg for every other nation to hang its Navy upon. It gives them a standard which they realise the biggest naval Powers cannot exceed and it encourages them to get nearer to that standard than perhaps they would otherwise do. It enables them further to do a thing which is really one of considerable importance and one that is serious. I referred to it when I ventured to talk to your Lordships six months ago on thin same subject. Under the Treaty of Washington, we were limited and those who signed that Treaty were limited in regard to the size and the armaments of various kinds of ships down to cruisers, and including cruisers, to the extent that cruisers could not carry guns above 8 inches. As I ventured to point out in December last, Germany has built a ship which carries a gun of 11 inches, and, therefore, is not in accordance with what other Powers agreed to at the Washington Conference. Of course, she is entirely entitled to do it, because she was not a party to that Conference.
Now the situation is very much worse, because there is a limitation on other kinds of ships. We have agreed with the United States and Japan that everything above 1,850 tons shall be classed as a cruiser and come within the cruiser category, and we have further agreed that no ship below the cruiser category 220 should carry any gun bigger than 5.1 inches. France already has eight vessels exceeding 2,000 tons and most of them carry 5.5 inch guns. They are classed as flotilla leaders, not as cruisers, and we are prevented by the terms of the Treaty from building any ships comparable to them either in tonnage or gun power. But any other nation except America, Japan and ourselves, can follow France's example and do exactly the same thing. That makes the limitation of 50 cruisers all the more serious. It may surprise some of your Lordships to know that the figure of 50 cruisers is not mentioned in the Treaty at all. All that is given is a total tonnage within which those cruisers, whatever their number, must fall. I venture to assert that under the tonnage put into the Treaty it is impossible for this country to get 50 cruisers at all, with the radius of action such as was referred to by the Prime Minister in speaking on this subject in another place. We are limited by the Treaty to fifteen 8-inch-gun cruisers. In order to obtain 50 we, therefore, require, as was pointed out by the noble and learned Lord opposite, thirty-five 6-inch-gun cruisers.
For these ships the aggregate tonnage must not exceed 192,200. If you divide 35 into 192,200 you will find you must not average more than 5,490 tons. The First Lord, speaking in another place, announced that the three cruisers going to be built would average, as the noble and learned Lord has told us, something more than 6,500 tons each. In other words, they will be 1,000 tons above the average weight the cruisers must be in order to come within the total tonnage allowed to 6-inch-gun cruisers. Therefore, three cruisers will have to be 1,000 tons below that average tonnage, or in other words, 4,490 tons or less. They cannot be more. But that is not the whole of the story. We have four large cruisers, the "Effingham," the "Frobisher," the "Hawkins" and the "Vindictive," which have a tonnage between 9,770 and 9,996 tons. In other words, they are very nearly 10,000 ton cruisers. They are all armed with 7.5 inch guns and they fall outside the number of fifteen cruisers which are allowed to us under the terms of the Treaty.
Two of those are due to be scrapped in the years 1934 and 1935, but two of 221 them are not due to be scrapped until 1940 and 1941. Does the Government propose to re-arm those ships with 6-inch guns in place of the 7.5-inch guns they now carry in order to bring them within the terms of this Treaty? I should like to have an answer to that question. I may point out further that there is a provision in this Treaty—it comes at the beginning of Article 20—which says that the "Frobisher" and "Effingham" may be disposed of during the year 1936. What is the reason for that? The reason is that if you keep these two ships of over 9,700 tons it puts the total tonnage of our cruisers outside the limits of 192,200 tons. Therefore if you are going to keep these two cruisers it means that we cannot have four cruisers of the average worked out in the way I have tried to show your Lordships. It is quite obvious that the Government has already found that 192,200 tons for 6-inch-gun cruisers are inadequate to provide 50 of them with sufficient radius of action and tonnage to keep the seas.
I ask the Government: Did they arrive at this figure of 192,200 tons with the United States before the Conference opened, and did they then try to apply it to the number of cruisers, or did they work out the size of these ships beforehand? If they worked it out beforehand, what is the minimum size of cruisers which will be built under the terms of the Treaty? The noble and gallant Earl, Lord Jellicoe, thinks that cruisers should be somewhere around 7,000 tons. The First Lord talked about 6,500, but if you are going to have 50 they have got to be under 5,500 tons, whereas, as I have tried to show your Lordships, some of them will have to be a very long way below that. That means that in rough seas these ships cannot keep up with the Battle Fleet. It may mean that they will be unable to carry out their duties. It is essential that these ships should be of sufficient size and give a sufficiently stable gun platform to be able to work in rough waters. I venture to think it is right that the country should be told of the conclusions at which the Government and the experts have arrived in regard to that figure.
I turn for one moment to the replacement programme. The Prime Minister and the Leader of this House both clearly envisaged in previous debates that they 222 would replace cruisers and other ships to the limit allowed by the Treaty and that they would replace all cruisers before they became 20 years old. It has already been pointed out that other Powers have the right of replacing their cruisers at 16 years instead of 20, but even accepting the figure 20 you have to lay down 27 new cruisers by December, 1936, or 4 every year, even if you lay down 4 before December next. The noble and learned Lord opposite said that if we laid down three cruisers each year we should at any rate come up to the 91,000 tons allowed under the Treaty within the next four years.
He knows perfectly well that the question of the replacement of cruisers is above all things a question of money. The First Lord, in presenting the Estimates this year in the House of Commons, pointed out that by scrapping 2 cruisers of the 1928 programme and 2 of the 1929 programme—5 vessels in all of 1928 and 12 of 1929—we had been able to save £4,000,000 on the Estimates, and the noble and learned Lord referred to that saving in his speech to-night. What are they putting in its place? A programme which apparently is to cost the country in this financial year something less than £100,000. He thinks it is quite all right that this Government should save £3,900,000 because it is doing no building except laying down 2 cruisers some time next year, instead of this year, and that a future Government, possibly his own, may be faced with the building of 9 cruisers at a time—3 beginning, 3 in the middle of their building and 3 finishing. The noble and learned Lord knows quite well what that is going to cost. He knows quite well that to obtain stability of building and stability in the financial arrangements of the country we ought to have laid down a good many more than 3 this year, in view of the fact that we had already cancelled so many ships of 1928 and 1929 which ought to be building at this moment and, in fact, are not.
The First Lord of the Admiralty, speaking on June 2, said:—I would much rather that the Navy should be kept efficient by a continuous and steady replacement programme under which both manufacturers and employees would know where they are to be.Where is the steady and continuous programme? We had a programme given to 223 us two days ago covering one year, and we are told by the noble and learned Lord opposite that we are not to have any further programme because there is to be an Imperial Conference this year. What in the world has that to do with it? Surely this country is entitled to say to the Dominions: "We consider that the Navy must have so many modern ships, and we propose to lay them down on such and such dates." Of course we can turn to the Dominions and say: "If you will build some of them for us, we shall be more grateful than words can say." Every Government has said so. Nobody dreams for one moment of stopping the Dominions building ships. Every taxpayer in this country would welcome it with open arms. But why we should have to wait until the Dominion representatives arrive in this country in order to say that we shall lay down ships, I fail to understand.
How in the world are the Royal Dockyards, private building firms, steel works or armament firms going to make up their programmes, to know how many men they can employ, possibly to replace machinery and so on, when they have the programme of one year, and one year only, put before them by the Government? Surely the right thing for the Government to do would have been to produce a programme covering the whole period of the Treaty, and to put an end once for all to such questions as: "Can you replace these ships within a given time? Can you replace ships before they reach such and such an age? Will you have ships equally efficient with those of other Powers?" There is only one way to do it, and that is by putting forward a programme covering the whole period of the Treaty.
The noble and learned Lord said that we often attacked him in regard to economy. We often do, and we often shall, but although all of us dislike paying taxes we would rather pay taxes to keep skilled men in their skilled jobs than pay them a "dole" or make them work on roads and unskilled labour of other kinds. Surely that is worth while. The Government have done very little for the working man in having saved no less than 80 per cent. or 85 per cent. of £4,000,000 this year by stopping building. They are hitting particularly hard those very industries which are in the greatest diffi- 224 culties—shipbuilding works, steel works, engineering works and the collieries. You cannot make a ton of steel without spending three tons of coal.
There is a further point that I want to bring out. As I have said, the Prime Minister and the noble and learned Lord opposite showed quite clearly in their speeches that their intention was to build up the British Fleet within the terms of the Treaty, restrictive as they are; but the First Lord, by his programme, shows that he intends to do nothing of the kind, but to spread the programme over a long period of years. Which voice is to prevail? Are they going to build up to the terms of the Treaty, or are the Government even going to lag behind them? Are they going to produce further excuses, such as the coming Imperial Conference, to prevent their producing a programme now which, after all, they ought to have in their desks? That programme should have been drawn up before they signed the Treaty, and before they agreed to the total tonnage which appears in that Treaty and which imposes so severe a limitation on every category of vessel.
Surely the country is entitled to know whether we are going to build up to this Treaty or not, whether the voice of the First Lord is going to prevail or that of the Prime Minister. We are not yet in a position to know whether the effects of this Treaty will be even worse than has been suggested by noble and gallant Lords to-day, and whether, in point of fact, the Government intend to have any adequate Fleet to carry out the requirements of this country in this and other seas throughout the Empire. I do venture to suggest, I hope for the last time, that they should produce a programme covering all classes of ships for the period of the Treaty and should not limit themselves to one year, as they have done in the statement that has been put before us.
§ LORD LLOYD
My Lords, I think one slight advantage, at any rate, has been derived from this debate, and that is that, if the country, as has been suggested, was apathetic before as regards the condition of our Fleet and our naval strength, after hearing the noble and learned Lord's speech it certainly will not be apathetic in the future. Just as the country will, I believe, be pro 225 foundly moved by the speeches of my noble friends Lord Beatty and Lord Jellicoe, so I think it will he profoundly disquieted by the shifts and evasions which we have had once again from His Majesty's Government on this question. The noble and learned Lord who spoke from the Government Bench said that the Government acted on the advice of their experts, and then he went on to say that the experts differed. What does that mean? Are we not entitled to know which experts' advice he took, and on what questions?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD THOMSON)
I must correct the noble Lord at once. I think this is a most serious accusation to make against my noble friend and Leader. Lord Parmoor did not say anything of the kind about the Admiralty experts having differed. He said that experts differed, and by that he meant that experts like the noble and gallant Earls differed from the present experts at the Admiralty. I must remove that misapprehension. It is most misleading.
§ LORD LLOYD
In the context in which the noble Lord puts his remark it might very easily have been taken, and was taken by many noble Lords on this side, as meaning that the Admiralty experts differed. As it is I accept at once the correction which has been made. The facts are surely these. The Government put a certain hypothesis before the naval experts of the Admiralty and before the Dominions, who we now understand are not allowed to have expert advice, and we want to know clearly what that hypothesis was. For weeks and months we have been trying to get a reply to that question and, whether we are particularly obtuse or noble Lords opposite are not sufficiently explanatory, we have not been able to understand what it means. We have been told by the noble Lord whom I regret to see is not at this moment in his place that a question of this kind should not be put in this House but in another place.
I do not know why he says that. The noble Lord is a distinguished leader, an ornament of this House, and I think he is not being quite fair to us because I have enquired what happened in another place and I found that on June 2 Commander Southby did ask for this informa- 226 tion. He asked the First Lord of the Admiralty as regards the reduction of cruisers, whether the Sea Lords' agreement was unanimous or conditional and so on, and he received exactly the same evasive reply as we are receiving here. The First Lord of the Admiralty replied very much as the, noble Lord opposite replied to Lord Carson, who he complained only got up to interrupt. He said:—As regards the last question, that must he discussed when we debate the Supplementary Estimates.He also complained that gentlemen in the other place were very irritable when they asked, and lie answered, questions of this kind.
Commander Southby asked a very precise question in another place. He asked:—Are the Sea Lords of the Admiralty in unanimous agreement with the provisions of the Treaty, and if they are not in unanimous agreement with the provisions of the Treaty, have they made any protest at any time as regards the provisions of the Treaty, and, if so, what protest did they make?Although that question was asked in what we understand was the appropriate place no answer was given, and I think therefore we are not being treated fairly in this matter. I therefore make this appeal to noble Lords opposite. This is a very proper question and one on which the country is profoundly moved, and I ask that they should give us a clear answer to a clear and proper question.
The time is late and I do not want to speak for more than a few moments. I suppose one reply of the Government as regards the cruiser question would be that the number was being reduced because of the Kellogg Pact. But it is the fact that no single signatory except ourselves, with the modified exception to which the noble Lord referred of America, has reduced its naval programme because of the Kellogg Pact. Moreover, it has not prevented a single other nation except ourselves from building. We all know what the French Government said about the Kellogg Pact—namely, that no security could be derived from it. I will not weary your Lordships by proving what can be easily proved—namely, that the reduction from seventy to fifty is in fact a reduction to forty-one because we are not able to build more than forty-one under the 227 terms of the Agreement. But ships are not the only things. Since 1914 we have reduced our naval personnel from 146,000 to 99,000 men. Italy, however, has increased hers from 40,000 to 46,000, and Japan has increased hers from 50,000 to 85,000, while America, about whom we are not so concerned, has increased her naval personnel from 66,000 to 114,000 We do not mind how much the United States of America increases her personnel or Navy—we are not competing against her—but do not let us call disparity parity or armament disarmament. Let us talk in plain terms.
Nothing has been said to-night about capital ships. I would like to ask the noble Lord one question about the "Ersatz Preussen" and her class—the pocket battleship. By the terms by which we are bound we cannot build to compete with the "Ersatz Preussen" and her type. I make the statement that at present we have no battleship which is fast enough to catch a vessel of the type of the "Ersatz Preussen," and no cruiser powerful enough to fight her. I hope that the noble Lord opposite will correct me if I am wrong, because I am making the statement to obtain information. If I am right, it is an important point that has been put by many experts. At present we have four battle cruisers which could tackle ships of the "Ersatz Preussen" class, but under the Versailles Treaty ships of the "Ersatz Preussen" type can be built up to the number of seven (five in commission and two in reserve). It seems improbable that more than three could be built before our period of limitation, 1935, and so I think we may fairly assume that until 1935 we are all right in that matter.
After that year, however, if Germany should continue to build these "pocket battleships," we should not have any new ships to counter them. It seems to me it would be an appalling position if we did not have them, but by the terms of the Treaty we cannot lay down any at all until the Treaty expires in 1936. We therefore run the risk of being in a position of grave inferiority with regard to capital ships. There is every probability that at that time German ships will be the heaviest ships afloat, and we shall not have anything to correspond with that particular class. There were various other things about which I would have liked to ask the noble Lord if he 228 had been in the House, but the time is late and I will conclude by once more earnestly appealing to the noble and gallant Lord opposite to give us a clear and unevasive answer to the particular question that we on this side have addressed to the Government.
§ LORD THOMSON
My Lords, there are one or two points which I think I might be able to clarify somewhat. When I was listening to the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Beatty, I felt more than ever impressed with the necessity of concluding political arrangements, so far as security can be achieved by them; because, really, after contemplating the very black picture he drew of the condition of the world and our relations with foreign Powers and their desire for armaments, I felt that not 70 cruisers, nor 170 cruisers, would make us safe; and I tremble to think of what the bill might be which any Government which followed such advice would have to present to Parliament. When one thinks of the hostility in every part of the world which we might have to meet, it is absurd to suppose that 70 cruisers would be enough to make ourselves secure.
§ EARL BEATTY
I did say that we had carefully gone into this question of the number of the cruisers required for the defence of the Empire and its sea routes, and we were satisfied with the number of 70—not 170, but 70.
§ LORD THOMSON
It is all the more surprising, therefore, that the noble and gallant Earl, who was so long the principal naval adviser of the late Government, was satisfied with a number of cruisers never exceeding 54, and only today equalling 58, 4 of which are building. That is one of those figures that I have never been able to understand. Ever since this Government have been in office we have had dinned into our ears the necessity for 70 cruisers. I gather from what the noble Earl has just said that he has always been of opinion that 70 cruisers are an absolute minimum, that at no time in his great career has he considered that 50 would do. That is a very interesting admission. But if 70 is die absolute minimum, why is it that, when we took office last year, we only found 54, and 4 building? What is the explanation of the late Government? What is the explanation of the attitude of the Sea 229 Lords at the Admiralty? Have they tolerated a state of affairs which, in their mature opinion, constituted a menace to the British Empire? That question has never yet been answered.
I next come to the question of the advice of experts. I am now addressing several noble Lords who are ex-Cabinet Ministers. I would put it to the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, for example. Supposing the noble Viscount had said to him during the time he held office: "My Board of Admiralty and my Sea Lords are of such an opinion," would the noble Marquess have demanded to cross-examine the Sea Lords? Would the noble Marquess have tolerated a request from us, who now sit on this side of the House, to know exactly what questions the noble Viscount put to his expert advisers? I am in the fortunate position myself of getting expert advice from some very eminent officers. I do not tell the Prime Minister exactly what questions I put to my experts: nor do I ask my right hon. friend the First Lord exactly what questions he put to the Admiralty. But when the First Lord says to me as a Cabinet colleague that he is assured that the naval experts, the Sea Lords, are satisfied with a certain figure for cruiser tonnage, I accept it.
Noble Lords opposite, and notably the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, have said that they have never had an answer to this question. May I read to your Lordships a reply given in another place by no less a person than the Prime Minister? He said:—The Admiralty's position was that, under international conditions such as they exist to-day, the number of 50 cruisers could be accepted for a strictly limited period, provided always that other Powers met our standard of fifty, and provided that in our number, that is, in our fifty, there is a proper proportion of new construction suitable for extended operations.
§ EARL STANHOPE
May I point out that "the Admiralty" does not necessarily mean the naval experts, or naval advisers.
§ LORD THOMSON
Does the noble Earl expect me, as a colleague of the First Lord of the Admiralty at the present moment, to find out exactly from him what detailed questions he put to members of the Admiralty who are Sea Lords?
§ EARL STANHOPE
I said that no answer has ever been given as to the advice about the 50 cruisers. The noble and gallant Lord then proceeds to quote a statement made by the Prime Minister. That statement says that the Admiralty said this, that and the other. That is not sufficient, unless I am told that the Admiralty means the whole Board of Admiralty, and not merely the First Lord over-riding the other members of the Board—as, of course, he is entitled to do.
§ LORD THOMSON
Really, I do think that most noble Lords will agree with me that this is a most unreasonable proposition. Here in a debating assembly I am asked across the floor of the House whether I have cross-examined my right hon. colleague the First Lord of the Admiralty as to the differences of opinion that may or may not exist between the Sea Lords. Is that a subject for debate?
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
Might I ask a question? Why does the noble and gallant Lord show such great indignation? He has been asked, and his colleagues in another place have been asked over and over again, what was the advice given by the Sea Lords. Every time that there has been an answer given the Sea Lords have been put out of the picture, and it has always been said: "Oh the Board of Admiralty thought this, that, or the other." That particular form of answering the question has been reiterated again and again, and naturally has caused very considerable suspicion, especially to those who know that by the decision of the Board of Admiralty may be meant the decision of the First Lord himself against the whole of the rest of the Board. Why, if it is so simple, and if the advice was really unanimous among the Sea. Lords, are we always given the same answer, to which my noble friend, Lord Mersey, called attention, when we ask what the Sea Lords said?
§ LORD THOMSON
I hope the noble Viscount will allow me to say, with all respect—and no or e respects him more than I do—that he really is imputing to the Sea Lords a morality which is some 231 what below that which they possess. The implication in the statement made by the noble Viscount and by the noble Earl is that one of the Sea Lords over-rules the others—
§ LORD THOMSON
—and that if we make a statement such as that made by the Prime Minister, or that made by the First Lord of the Admiralty in the House of Commons—namely, that the Admiralty were agreed that 50 cruisers would be sufficient in the conditions that they stipulated—that then we are avoiding the question, we are shirking the issue, and that we are not stating to the House that this opinion may have been expressed by one Sea Lord.
§ LORD THOMSON
That is the point I am trying to make to the noble Viscount. Is the morality of the Sea Lords such that, supposing their advice was over-ruled in that fashion, they would not resign? Of course they would resign. I have had the privilege of meeting a great many Sea Lords, and I say without hesitation that if a civilian Minister over-ruled their opinion and expressed an opinion which was not theirs on a vital matter of naval policy in a public place, they would resign at once. I think that we have had several threats in the past history of this country of resignations of that kind. That is no new story. And is it to be supposed that, in order to elucidate this matter, one would have to find out an answer in a public debating assembly as to the questionnaire that was put, we presume by the First Lord, to his expert advisers, and that noble Lords would be satisfied with nothing less than that? If that is the case with all respect and with the utmost regret, I am afraid I cannot give you the information, and even if I could I would not.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
Does not the noble Lord remember that the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House only a few minutes ago quoted the experts as being on his side? Now the noble Lord says that he cannot do that or will not.
§ LORD THOMSON
I have quoted the Prime Minister's own words in another place in which he stated the position of the Admiralty, and my noble friend and Leader quoted to your Lordships from the statement made by the First Lord in another place, also quoting the opinion of the Admiralty. That is all. I cannot go further than that, and I submit with all respect that it is unreasonable that one should be expected so to do. I am almost certain that the noble Viscount would not have given that information if we had pressed him for it in his days of office.
§ LORD LLOYD
Would the noble Lord explain to us what his objection is to giving us the information? I do not quite understand what his objection is to telling us what the hypothesis in the question was.
§ LORD THOMSON
I think it is highly objectionable that these opinions expressed by experts to their political chiefs should be bandied about in a public debating assembly—highly objectionable. If that was done, experts would never give an opinion again. It would be almost on a par with quoting the Despatches of an Ambassador. It is perfectly true that many Despatches of Ambassador's are harmless and innocent documents and might very easily be quoted. But an Ambassador would never give information again if his Despatches were made public. It is precisely the same in regard to these experts.
I was put certain questions by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Stanhope. I cannot answer them all now. But if he will put them in the form in which they are put in another place so that I have due notice of them, as there is a lot of very technical points in them, I will do my best to give him an answer. He asked me about the re-armament of certain cruisers of a particular type and questions of that sort. With the best will in the world, I cannot give him such information in the course of this debate.
233 I would like to make some remarks with regard to the real purpose of this Motion in which the noble and gallant Earl expresses grave misgiving as to the result of the Naval Treaty on the future of this country. I would like, first of all, to ask your Lordships to remember what the position was when this Treaty was about to be concluded. I am not now making any Party political point. I submit that after our failure at Geneva in 1927 there was a very marked tendency throughout the world to naval competition. That is the position we were faced with. It was not so much the size of the American Fleet, the Japanese Fleet or any other Fleet. It was the intentions of the countries concerned. There was a prospect, and a very alarming prospect, of serious competition in naval programmes. This state of affairs was going on before 1914. The purpose of the Treaty was first and foremost to arrest that process and to bring down to actual figures the requirements over a period of years of the principal Naval Powers. Those Powers, of course, were the Powers with which we are associated on the high seas and those with which we might conceivably come into conflict in home waters.
I know that the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, has already contradicted my figures. I have these figures from official sources. T. do not deny his industry in these matters, but I shall stand by the figures that I am going to give. The figures of battleships have already been dealt with; but I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, still wishes to keep battleships. He asked me a question about the "Ersatz Preussen," and what is going to happen between now and 1936 if the Germans go on building a number of such ships, as they could build by that time three, I think he said. I would remind him that even under this, in his eyes, iniquitous Treaty, we shall have 15 capital ships left, and I am told that any one of those capital ships could take on the "Ersatz Preussen" quite easily.
§ LORD THOMSON
I do not know whether they can catch her. We have not yet seen the "Ersatz Preussen" at work. I do not know whether the noble 234 and gallant Earl wishes to add to the nation's bill by building "Preussens" also.
§ LORD THOMSON
I have no doubt that an arrangement could be made to root them out. They cannot go on steaming for ever. There is a limit to their fuel supply.
§ LORD THOMSON
It is very large, but there is a limit to it. That, I hope, meets the question regarding the battleships. We have 15, the Americans have 15, and the Japanese have 9. We have a building holiday until 1936. We are scrapping the number of battleships which we were allowed to keep under the Washington Agreement over 15, and the total saving, as my noble Leader has explained, is £54,000,000. No one will deny that in these hard times that is a very desirable feat ire of any Treaty, and I think your Lordships will also admit that there has been no sacrifice of security. Every noble Lord opposite who has spoken on this subject has proclaimed his delight in a large American Fleet. "The more they build the better" was practically what the noble Viscount. Lord Bridgeman, said—
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
When did I say that? Would the noble Lord say when I said, "The more they build the better"?
§ LORD THOMSON
I do not say that the noble Viscount used exactly those terms. But I have the noble Viscount's remarks here in the debate that took place in your Lordship's House on May 8, in the course of which he said this:—So far as I am aware, no war plan has ever been made which contemplated a war with the United States of America, and all our plans have been based on the totally different consideration of our trade. I would 235 far prefer to see America not only having parity, but having everything she wants above it, provided that we get the minimum that we think is necessary for our security.
§ LORD THOMSON
But America might build six times the Fleet that we have got, and then I do not know what the noble Viscount's conception of security might be; but does he think that eternal peace is going to reign between ourselves and the United States? If that is so, I am inclined to agree with him and I am delighted that he shares my views.
Now let me come to the cruisers. I will curtail my remarks as the hour is very late and your Lordships have been patient with me in my somewhat contentious utterances. But the Treaty has not had justice done to it by noble Lords opposite. Let me deal with cruisers. Before the Treaty the U.S.A. programme for 8-inch cruisers was 23 and our programme was 18. We had had an 8-inch cruiser programme of 23 also, but I understand that the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer cut out five, presumably with the agreement of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. Therefore, before this Treaty was signed the proportion in 8-inch cruisers was 23 to 18. What is the proportion that we have reached to-day? 18 to 15–18 American and 15 British. If you compare those two proportions with each other you will find that in point of relative security we are stronger to-day with the new figure than we were in 1929. With regard to the total strength of cruisers we have, so far from parity with United States, a tonnage in excess of that allowed to the United States under the Treaty, and a very large excess in regard to that allowed to Japan under the Treaty. Be 236 fore the Treaty Japan had 75 per cent. of our cruiser tonnage. After the Treaty Japan will have rather more than 70 per cent. of our cruiser tonnage in 8-inch cruisers, but her total tonnage will be a lower percentage than it was in 1929—again relative security increased by the tonnage figures.
Take destroyers. In 1929 the United States of America had 290,304 tons. In 1936 America will only have 150,000 tons. In 1929 Japan had 107,275 tons of destroyers. Under the Treaty she will only have 105,500 tons. In 1929 Great Britain had 157,000 tons of destroyers. Under the Treaty we are reduced only to 150,000 tons. If we are short of destroyers, and if they are out of date, if a great many of them have got to be replaced, with whom does the blame lie? Not with the Government that has been in office just twelve months, but with the Government which, with a large majority in the House of Commons, failed to keep the destroyer position up to date. We have not had a regular and steady building programme in destroyers. I notice there are present two noble Lords most directly responsible for this lamentable state of affairs—I should say extremely lamentable in the eyes of the noble and gallant Earl and the noble and gallant Viscount. I wonder how they stood it during those five years when the British Navy was being let down. The noble and gallant Earl had quite an eloquent passage about destroyers; I paid particular attention to it; and yet the great Party to which I imagine he belongs politically—he may be non-political—has let that destroyer position down more definitely than any Government since the War. I hope he will note that.
§ LORD THOMSON
I do not deny that. I was hoping for this Treaty. The point I am making is that owing to the absence of a regular and steady building programme in destroyers we have found ourselves in a position which has not been exaggerated by the noble and gallant Lord, Earl Beatty, and the blame for that is where I say it is. As regard submarines what does this much maligned Treaty do? In 1921 Japan had 33⅓ per cent. of our strength in submarines. In 237 1929, after eight years of Coalition and Conservative Government, with one period of eight months of Labour Government, Japan's strength as compared with ours in submarines was 125 per cent. During those eight years Japan's strength in submarines had increased from 33⅓ per cent. of our total to 125 per cent. Both noble and gallant Lords who have spoken on the subject of the Navy paid some attention to this submarine question. It remains for a Labour Government to do what it can to repair the havoc wrought by those neglectful years.
§ LORD THOMSON
I thought the noble Viscount did not mind how much America had in the way of submarines. I have stated the attitude of the Conservative Party in regard to America as being—I will not say the more the merrier, because the noble Viscount did not like that, but as being that anything above parity does not matter.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME
I understand that America is ahead of us in submarines by something like 34 to 19.
§ LORD THOMSON
I think, under this Treaty—I am speaking from memory, but I think I am correct, and if not I will communicate with the noble Viscount—we establish parity with America in submarines. The last few remarks I wish to make are in connection with the replacement programme, and I will be very brief. A great deal has been said about the 91,000 tons limitation. I am sure the noble and gallant Lords who have spoken will probably understand me when I say that quite apart from considerations of other countries, the Admiralty felt that 91,000 tons would bring up the strength of the British Navy in cruisers to the desired amount. If we take sixteen years as the age of a cruiser we should have to build 150,000 odd tons by 1936, whereas if we stick rigidly to twenty years for the age of a cruiser we shall not be required to build more than 80,000 tons between now and 1936. The figure of 91,000 is, in fact, a kind of compromise between the two-age limits of sixteen and twenty years. Under the sixteen years' limit we should have had to build a great deal more. Under the twenty years' limit we should have bad to build about 11,000 tons less.
238 I am sure the noble and gallant Lords who are present will agree with me when I say—and here I stray into the realms of technical matters for a moment—that twenty years has always, or nearly always, been accepted as the life of a cruiser. The only reason why Japan is getting sixteen years is because the naval dockyards in Japan would be completely empty if they were not allowed to replace after sixteen years, and within the terms of the Treaty Japan cannot build more than 35,000 tons or thereabouts between now and 1936. But I doubt if either of the noble and gallant Lords will deny that twenty years is the normal life for a well-cared-for cruiser. In fact I have heard it said—I am not at all certain I did not hear it in the old days of 1924 from the noble and gallant Earl himself—that an 8-inch cruiser, if well looked after, will be efficient for twenty-four years. We have not gone as far as that. Twenty years is not an unreasonable age for a cruiser. I do not think it is fair to put it that the Treaty allows everybody except ourselves to replace their cruisers after sixteen years. That is not the way to look at it. I do not believe any country will replace their cruisers after sixteen years. They will probably all go on for twenty years, for the simple reason that the financial task would be too great to replace after sixteen years.
§ EARL JELLICOE
May I interrupt the noble Lord The sixteen-year limit only applies to cruisers built during the War. Before January 1, 1920, the other nations of which the noble Lord is speaking did not build them; the United States, for instance.
§ LORD THOMSON
I quite agree. It is the War-built cruiser that is in point. But the important matter is that the United States are merely building up to parity; they are not going to build above it I hope; because I have some regard to other countries when the United States takes unlimited sea-power into her hands. The United States is not affected by this 91,000 tons. That has never been disputed by a single Admiralty expert so far as I know. I have made that statement without authority, but in that 91,000 tons there is none of this lurking danger that so many noble Lords opposite seem to apprehend. The replacement programme for this year is for one year 239 only, and a more comprehensive programme should be worked out. I have no doubt it might be desirable for the shipyards to know ahead but it is perfectly certain, and I think the whole conduct of the present Government has revealed that fact, that so far as labour is concerned we have spared no effort to prevent discharges of men from our dockyards, and the high-class workmen to whom the noble and gallant Earl referred have been particularly carefully looked after.
No, I think it is reasonable to say that it will be convenient to settle our four-year or five-year programme up to 1936 after me have had a chance of consulting with the Prime Ministers of the Dominions. After all it is an Imperial Fleet to this extent, that the Dominions contribute, and surely it is only a matter of common sense to wait and take this opportunity of their presence in London within two months. There is no mystery about this one year business I can assure you. I have discussed it frequently in my capacity as a member of a Cabinet Sub-committee. We do not want any concealment about it. It seems the logical and reasonable course to pursue. Here we have the Dominion Prime Ministers coming to London, and we will discuss the whole matter with them. Certainly long before the danger point of undue discharges in dockyards is reached, that matter will be settled.
I must draw my remarks to a conclusion. I should have liked to elaborate one or two points, but that has been impossible. I would like to say, in conclusion, that this Naval Treaty does provide an arrangement of what I believe to be a highly reasonable character. It is far from perfect and there is no one more dissatisfied in a sense than my right hon. friend the Prime Minister, but it is a big effort in the right direction and it goes some way to solve our high seas problem. I myself divide the naval problem into the problem of the high seas and the problem of the narrow waters. The high seas problem, to my mind, consists of the problem of the Atlantic and the Pacific where we meet the United States and Japan. This agreement, however imperfect, does set a limit to that competition in naval armaments which threatened before the Treaty was concluded. No one will deny that. There has been a danger 240 of rivalry in naval armaments. I do not say that the danger is entirely removed, but I say it is largely limited. As regards other countries, such as our neighbours in Europe, that is largely a question of the Mediterranean and of waters which with new developments have become very like narrow waters. There tremendous problems arise.
I do not suppose anyone living to-day can really foresee quite what is going to be the outcome of war in such places as the Mediterranean, say twenty years or thirty years hence. We must wait and see. Of one thing I can assure you, my Lords, in conclusion, and that is that this Treaty does represent a gigantic effort to solve one of our major problems. It goes some way in that direction and I believe that so far from being a peril or a menace to the British Empire, the noble and gallant Earl himself will come in time to recognise that it has certain virtues. Papers have been asked for. My noble and learned Leader tells me he does not know what Papers the noble and gallant Earl would like to have, but I need hardly say if he will state what Papers he would like to see I will do my best to secure them for him or let him know why he cannot have them.
§ EARL BEATTY
My Lords, I hope that you are not, and I do not think that you are, in any way satisfied with what we have heard in reply to this debate. The noble and gallant Lord has made many remarks with reference to the satisfaction with which he is overcome at the result of the Treaty. I can assure him that what he has said has not removed one single fear which I had in mind when I came into this House. The situation in so far as the result of the Treaty is concerned, or the interpretation of it, has not been altered. Facts are facts, and no matter what eloquence is used, you cannot get away from the fact that the British Empire to-day is, from the naval protection point of view, in a parlous state. He referred to those who were responsible and he looked at me. I am prepared to justify any action that I have taken in this matter, and I can assure the noble and gallant Lord that those who have studied this question and considered it from all points of view are not in the least satisfied with his statement that we shall come to believe in the 241 Treaty as the beginning of an era of peace, because, as the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has said, unless we have treaties supported by strength as we have civil law supported by the police, they are of no value. We have not strength. It is taken away from us. I pointed out in my original remarks that in so far as our concern with two other countries, the strongest Powers, goes, we have not lived up to the standard laid 242 down by the Admiralty as far back as the Washington Conference. I do not want to weary your Lordships any further with this matter. It is no use pressing my Motion for Papers because they are not there. Therefore I will ask the leave of the House to withdraw that Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at half-past seven o'clock.