Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £6,280,500 (including a Supplementary sum of £71,500), be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Personnel for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc., including the cost of Establishments of Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931.
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I am rather surprised that neither my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty nor the Parliamentary Secretary have risen to justify this rather heavy Vote. I waited in case they did, and naturally you, Mr. Young, would have called the representative of the Government if he had risen. However, I am glad to have been called now rather than hon. and gallant Members opposite who have a Motion down to reduce the Vote. Their purpose is to chastise my right hon. Friend for not being more extravagant. On the 29th July, 1925, the present Prime Minister, who was then leading the Opposition, moved a reduction of £50 on a Supplementary Vote put forward by the Conservative Government. The present Lord Bridgeman was then First Lord of the Admiralty and the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a building programme extending over a number of years was put forward by the then Conservative Government. On that occasion my right hon. Friend who is now the Prime Minister moved a reduction for exactly the same reasons that I am moving this reduction to-day, but the reasons to-day are even stronger because of the events which have since happened.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when he moved that reduction, was supported by the whole Labour and Liberal parties, always excepting, of course, the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha); and I have no hope of carrying him with me into the Lobby to-day. I quite appreciate his position, and also the position of the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish), the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) and the hon. Member for Londonderry (Major Ross) and those for whom they speak, including the right hon. Member for Epping. I have no quarrel with them. They take up the attitude that we must rely for the defence of the country on armaments, on force, on the Army and the Nary and the Air Force. We on this side take up an entirely different position. We say that if we increase armaments we encourage other nations to do the same. Only this afternoon the hon. Member for Londonderry drew attention to the belated shipbuilding programme of our good friend and old ally France and used it as an argument that we should build more. Presently his contemporary in the French Chamber will be rising to point to these Estimates and will be saying, "Look what a British Socialist Government is doing. We in France must do the same." And so we shall go on increasing armaments until the inevitable result happens.
We on this side of the Committee say that there is a much better way, which is represented by the Briand-Kellogg Pact for the outlawry of war, signed by all the great nations of the world except some of the South American Republics; the outlawry of war, renouncing war and solemnly undertaking not to seek the solution of international difficulties except by peaceful means. In spite of the agnostic attitude of hon. Members opposite we put our trust still in the League of Nations. This nation through its Government, without any real opposition, has signed the Optional Clause; the whole machinery of international arbitration is continually advancing; we are going through a process of evolution, and in a few more years the rising generation will put aside war as an anachronism, as uncivilised, and as a method which never settles anything. That is our attitude. Hon. Members opposite take the other view and say that we must rely on our strong right arm. I understand that attitude. It has actuated Governments before the War. It is perfectly understandable, but hon. Members opposite must also understand our contrary attitude. We say that if you wish for peace you must prepare for peace; if you want war you will prepare for war.
What is the attitude of the Front Bench on this matter? I confess that I am completely at a loss to understand their attitude. In this House there is a majority for the reduction of armaments. If there was one question on which the people of this country voted in overwhelming strength at the last election it was for the cutting down of the extravagant expenditure on armaments. We have a total Estimate of £51,739,000, to be added to by the Supplementary Estimate to be taken presently. The Conservative Government left us in 1929 with an Estimate of £55,865,000. There is a reduction of about £4,000,000. But anyone who has studied the White Paper which has been issued in explanation of the Shipbuilding Vote will see that if the Admiralty standpoint is upheld by Liberal and Labour Members in this House—of course it will be automatically upheld by the Conservative party—we are committed to a tremendous expenditure over the next four or five years. The First Lord of the Admiralty in this White Paper speaks of a ten years' programme. There is nothing here about the World Conference on Disarmament, which is to meet next year in November, nothing about the Preparatory Commission which is to meet in the autumn at Geneva, nothing about a reduction of armaments to which every Member on these benches and on the Liberal benches was committed at the last election. They sought the suffrages of the electors on the policy of the reduction of armaments, not on the maintenance of the status quo. If hon. Members will turn to the Explanatory Statement they will see that if this policy is approved by this Committee there will be 27 cruisers built over the years 1930 to 1936. That is between three and four cruisers a year. As I have attempted to show in another place, or rather in another direction, this is a larger building pro- gramme in cruisers than that of the previous Government.
I have here a similar Paper that was issued by the First Lord's predecessor, the present Viscount Bridgeman, against which the most vehement opposition was offered by the then Labour party. Over a similar period of years, 1925–30, only some 16 cruisers were to be laid down, at the rate of three a year. According to this White Paper the present First Lord proposes to lay down three or four a year. He is laying down three for 1930. It is true that he has cut down the 1929 programme that he inherited, but if we look at the 1930 proposals contained in this White Paper we see that it is proposed to lay down three to four cruisers a year, whereas the Conservative Government before the Kellogg Pact, before the signing of the Optional Clause, before the London Naval Conference, which the Prime Minister himself, though he does not make any extravagant claims for it, has said did improve relations and the feeling between us and the United States, the second naval Power in the world—in spite of these great events in the international field the Conservative Government, wedded to the policy of great armaments and defence by force, proposed to lay down only three cruisers a year, whereas my right. hon. Friend, the present First Lord, proposes to lay down three cruisers and four cruisers alternatively.
It is a betrayal of the pledges of the Labour party, and it is worse, as I shall show presently. My right hon. Friend will say, "These are only little cruisers; they cost only £1,500,000 each." Battleships before the War, the older battleships, could be built for that amount. The B class cruisers laid down by Viscount Bridgeman cost only £300,000 more than that. The 10,000 ton A class cruisers cost just over £2,000,000. But when it comes to building a series of cruisers in greater numbers than the Conservative Government built, the fact that there is a small saving on each one does not make much difference in the aggregate. At the end of the fifth or the sixth year the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether Labour or Conservative, will be committed to this enormous expenditure. It is still worse with regard to destroyers. I grant that my right hon. Friend asks this year for only one flotilla of de- stroyers, but it will be very difficult for him, if speaking in opposition in years to come as a great expert on Admiralty matters, to oppose a Conservative Government which builds up to the programme that he has outlined in this White Paper. Eighteen destroyers a year, and they are very large destroyers, much larger than the destroyers built formerly. Whereas the late Government built only nine destroyers in a year, my right hon. Friend is proposing to build nine destroyers in 1930, and in 1931 and every year after that until 1936, 18 destroyers or two flotillas, twice as much as his Conservative predecessor.
I am asked where that is stated. It is on pages 4 and 5 of the explanatory statement, in which this passage occurs:
If the aim was to be that all destroyer tonnage on the 31st December, 1936, should consist of under-age vessels, it would be necessary to lay down 110,839 tons of new construction in the four programme years, 1930–33 inclusive, or an average of more than two flotillas a year.
If my hon. and gallant Friend will listen he will understand. I say that this year he lays down one flotilla, but he lays down a policy which makes it imperative on him or on a Conservative Government to lay down two flotillas a year. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members opposite cheer. They are in clover in this matter; the Big Navy party have all the cards given to them for the future. But my right hon. Friend the First Lord, a Socialist, has issued this White Paper. This is what is called maintaining the status quo. That is the explanation for the Estimates—three cruisers, one flotilla of nine destroyers, three submarines, sloops and netlayer. The White Paper states:
Keeping this in mind, and in order to maintain the status quo.…
This Government was not elected to maintain the status quo of the armed forces left by our predecessors. I have taken the trouble to look up the Navy Estimates of 1911, 1912 and 1913, when the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was at the Admiralty, when
he was my political chief and I was serving under him, in theory. The Estimates then were £43,000,000, £45,000,000, £47,000,000, at a time when we were threatened by the expanding power of the German Fleet—the greatest naval threat which this country has faced for a century. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) was then Civil Lord of the Admiralty. The Estimates were £43,000,000, £45,000,000, and £47,000,000 a year. That was just on the eve of the War. Will anyone say that our Fleet was not strong enough when the War broke out? We put to sea with a battle strength twice that of the Germans. Where does the threat come from to-day? Look at the Estimates. They reach a total of £51,739,000, and there is a Supplementary Estimate of over £200,000. The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt say, "Oh, money buys less now than it did then." That is true, but as my right hon. Friend, the Member for South Molton, has shown, the great German armada is now beneath the sea or is reduced to infinitesimal proportions, and we have made a Treaty with America, which we are told, has improved the relations between the two Powers. Who else is going to threaten us? Judging by the series of questions that have been put by the hon. and gallant Member for Londonderry, whose persistence in this matter I recognise and admire—as I say, I have no quarrel with him; he has his attitude and I have mine. My quarrel is with my own Front Bench in this matter—but, apparently, he is pointing to France as a potential enemy—
I understand the hon. and gallant Member's position perfectly. Before, it was America or Japan that was the potential enemy, but now, because France bas not signed Part III of the Treaty, France is pointed out as the bogy. France, during the War, made the greatest use of her manufacturing resources for her army, and she relied upon us to do the naval part of the joint campaign. We extended our Fleet enormously. France has begun to replace some of her old ships, and that is the excuse given by her for her admittedly heavy shipbuilding proposals, but I would point out that France did not build up to what she was allowed to build up to in capital ships under the Washington Treaty of 1921. If France did this during the War, may I remind the Committee what happened before the War? Before the War we were quite content to leave France to guard the Mediterranean, that vital link in our Imperial communications. We reduced our forces in the Mediterranean while the French forces in the North Sea and the Channel were reduced to torpedo craft and small cruisers, and our battle-fleet held the North Sea area.
As for the East, I am only waiting for the hon. and gallant Member for Londonderry or others, who take the standpoint of the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Lewes, to point to the Japanese cruisers that are being built. During those critical years before the War, and during the War, we were content to denude the China station, the Pacific, the Eastern waters, of our warships, and to concentrate our forces at home, where we thought the greatest danger threatened, and to allow Japan to guard the Pacific. When the Great War broke out Japan, our faithful ally, although she had no particular interest in the War, intervened on our behalf, and gave us most valuable assistance. What is there to justify us now in looking upon Japan as a potential enemy? I ask that, not because I look upon Japan as a potential enemy, for I can find no case where our national interests clash with Japan. From the standpoint of hon. Members opposite, I quite understand their pointing to Japan from time to time as a potential enemy, but what I do not understand is why the First Lord of the Admiralty listens. During some elections recently in France, posters were put up on the hoardings in which M. Tardieu, from his point of view, drew a comparison between England under a Socialist Government and France under her present Government, in which he drew attention to unemployment, expenditure and so on. I would be out of order in discussing that side of it. There is a very good answer, indeed, but this is not the place to give it.
There is, however, another side to that poster which does require an answer. He said that under the capitalist and national government of France they spend £80,000,000 a year on armaments. [Interruption.] I knew that the right hon. Member for Epping would defend the First Lord. Under a Socialist Government, he said, we in England were spending £120,000,000. Nationalist military France spends £80,000,000. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Epping will have his chance in a moment. He always objects to my interrupting him, but I may as well answer his argument straight away. It is perfectly true that the French pay their soldiers less, but the French have the largest army in the world, while we have not an Expeditionary Force. The French Air Force is two to one compared with the British Air Force, and now the French, apparently, according to answers given by the First Lord of the Admiralty to the hon. and gallant Member for Londonderry, have ordered more ships, or propose to build more ships, than we are building.
As the right hon. Member for Epping was good enough to let something fall while I was speaking—I am glad enough to have his attention—may I address myself for a moment to his main argument, which, apparently, will be adopted by the First Lord, that you cannot disarm until others also disarm, and as long as the French or the Japanese, or the Venezuelans maintain armaments—[An HON. MEMBER: "Swiss"]—Well the Swiss can have an Air force, and I am quite prepared to see some of the militarists quoting the Swiss Air Force in future to show why we must also maintain our defences very strong indeed. May I ask the right hon. Member for Epping when he replies to explain why, believing the things he does, holding the faith which we on these benches do not hold, he was so complacent when there was a French Army the greatest in Europe, with wonderful equipment? Why did he not press the Conservative Cabinet for a British Army equal to the French Army? [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] When he was in office as Chancellor. The right hon. Member for Epping has not quite followed me.
And you can rely on naval defence no longer, because we are no longer an island. The French Air Force is twice the strength of the British Air Force. I use an extreme case, but it is just as logical as those who say that because France is building destroyers and submarines, we have to build more cruisers, destroyers and submarines. It is just as logical to say that, because the French have a very large Army, we must build up to it. It is much more logical to say that, because France has an Air Force that, admittedly, is twice that of ours in striking force in Europe, we must build up to the French Air Force. We are no longer an island, and can no longer rely on naval defence for our security; in fact, if the conquest of the air had not taken place, the advent of the submarines would have shown our extreme vulnerability. I think the better advice would be to hasten forward the means of keeping the peace by our agreement through the policy of the Kellogg Pact for the outlawry of war, and through the League of Nations and friendly relations with other Powers.
We on these benches have a peculiar responsibility, because a Labour Government is in office. When a Conservative Government is in office, not only the Labour party but the Liberal party will attack and criticise any extravagance in armaments. When a Labour Government is in office, it will be supported in any extravagance in armaments by the Conservative party. I do not know what the attitude of the Liberal party is, but I am hoping that it has not changed because a Labour Government and not a Conservative Government is building these unnecessary cruisers. I hope we shall have their constructive criticism now as in the past, and some more of that burning oratory from the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) with which I was so thrilled when he spoke against a smaller programme in 1925. The only people who can protest when a Labour Government does these things are those who were returned on the Labour policy of peace and reduction of armaments. If we are silent, there is no criticism at all. The only criticism will come from the big Navy party on the other side, which means, I am afraid, for all practical purposes, the whole Conservative party.
We have another responsibility. We are a party of peace and a Socialist party. On the Continent, in America, in Japan are anti-Socialist Governments—Conservative Governments—and in Italy a Fascist Government. The Italian Government, as a matter of fact, has been more progressive and peaceful in this matter than the present Government in this country, I am sorry to say. The invitation to a naval holiday has come from the Italian Government, although I am sure my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has used all his good offices to try to solve the troubles between France and Italy. But the pacifists, who work for peace and against extravagance in armaments in the other countries, are, obviously, watching to see what we do in this country. If my right hon. Friend is allowed to have these Estimates without protest from these benches, we are making increasingly difficult the position of the Radicals and Radical-Socialists in France, the economists and the pacifists in America, the civilian politicians in Japan, who are having great difficulty with their own naval chiefs. When the House of Representatives in Washington is discussing naval appropriations—and they will be criticised by the economists in America—and proposing to build up to a parity which will cost the United States of America over one billion dollars—1,071 million dollars—£214,000,000—all that the big navy party there need do is to point to England where there is a Government committed to peace, committed to the reduction of armaments, although the Estimates of my right hon. Friend, if he carries out the policy of the White Paper, will be actually greater than those of the Government which preceded them.
The position in other countries is a matter of little concern to my right hon. Friend. He could not even wait until the Treaty was ratified in America or Japan before introducing these Esti- mates, and, as a matter of fact, the London Naval Treaty, I hope, will be revised very radically in the next three or four years. I hope that the London Naval Treaty is not the last word in disarmament, but, as my right hon. Friend has challenged me, I want to see the Treaty revised, and I want another Naval Conference as soon as possible to prevent an increase in tonnage and for a reduction of armaments and to prevent an increase in American tonnage to a tremendous extent. I would not mind at all if the Treaty were thrown out in other countries. I do not think that it is any use at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because it can only limit certain classes of armaments. I would not have attempted to develop this argument had I not been challenged by the First Lord.
Then I cannot develop it. I was dealing, until I was interrupted, with these Estimates, and they are only part of the general policy that is reprehensible, and as to which we should show our dissatisfaction. There has been recently issued a very interesting book on the armaments of the world, by Professor de Madriaga of Oxford, who was formerly a member of the secretariat of the League of Nations, in which he shows that, before the War, the principal nations of the world were spending on armaments the equivalent of 11,000 million gold francs, whereas they are now spending 18,000 million gold francs—a very startling figure. That is a terrible commentary on the policies pursued by the Governments of the principal Powers of the world. That increase can only be stopped by public opinion in those countries.
My right hon. Friend the First Lord will, no doubt, tell me presently that I have no business to say that the building programme of the Government will have a bad effect abroad because the other Governments which were represented at St. James's Palace this spring knew all about that building programme. Of course they knew about it. They were nationalist, capitalist Governments believing in armaments, but the peoples of those countries did not know about this building programme. The peoples do not know about it yet, and they will not know, until they begin to pay taxes for these increases in armaments. Now let me draw attention to the nature of the ships upon which we are here voting. In 1921, at the Washington Naval Conference, competition in battleships was stopped. The Admiralty were then prevented from building these great super-Dreadnoughts which cost £7,000,000 each. Think of the employment that that would provide. When I mention a £7,000,000 battleship I can almost fancy my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) licking his lips.
The Noble Lady says, "Peace and a reduction of armaments, but hands off the British Navy." She is a great supporter of the League of Nations, but she always votes for armaments and if, instead of bringing forward an Estimate for £50,000,000, my right hon. Friend brought forward an Estimate for £100,000,000, the Noble Lady would vote for it.
If the Noble Lady interrupts me, she must expect me to answer. We have sex equality in this House. As I was saying, in 1921 the building of the great battleships was prevented, but the Admiralty nothing daunted, started off with heavy 10,000 ton, 8-inch gun cruisers and they persuaded the former Labour Government in 1924 to lay down five.
It is always either the French or the Japanese. I am talking about our own Admiralty and not about the Japanese Admiralty, and, really, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, for once, might listen to me. Baulked in building the great Dreadnoughts, the Admiralty turned to another type—the 10,000 ton cruiser armed with 8-inch guns—and we were told that nothing else would do. I remember Captain Fanshawe when a Member of this House, making an eloquent speech and saying in effect "How dare you talk about sending out ships armed with 7.5-inch guns to meet ships armed with 8-inch guns." And the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir B. Falle) objects to our new ships being armed with 6-inch guns because some other nation has 6.1-inch guns. We were told that only the 10,000 ton 8-inch gun cruiser, a rather expensive type of heavy cruiser, would satisfy the Admiralty, and then, when the 1927 Conference was being called, when we had started a very dangerous competition with the United States of America, they discovered a new type. Then they did not want more 8-inch gun cruisers, but more 6-inch gun cruisers and plenty of them. Now we have this new 7,000 ton or under 7,000 ton vessel armed with 6-inch guns and costing about £1,500,000. It is described as being for replacement purposes, replacing the cruisers of the Ceres and Caradoc class of 3,000 tons and 4,000 tons built during the War or towards the end of the War. I suppose if we come to some agreement, when the inevitable competition has started again, to limit the construction of these 7,000 ton 6-inch gun cruisers costing £1,500,000, then the Admiralty will persuade my right hon. Friend that they must have some new type. In fact we see the beginning of it in the great destroyers and flotilla leaders armed with heavy guns or armed with guns as heavy as those of the light cruisers before the War—
They are foreshadowed in the White Paper—a new heavy type of destroyer—and if the cruiser competition is checked, the Admiralty will then start building an immense number of destroyers. First the battleship is checked and they start building heavy cruisers. Then the building of heavy cruisers is checked by agreement with America, and they start building a rather lighter cruiser though still a heavy cruiser, with 6-inch guns. And now I ask hon. Members to note this. The Americans and ourselves, with great difficulty, have reached an agreement on parity. It needed months of negotiation; it meant the Prime Minister leaving all the great problems of the country here and going to the United States, but, at last, we have agreed that America shall have 18 of these heavy cruisers with 8-inch guns of which only 15 are to be built by 1936 and that we shall have 15. In addition, we have four of the Effingham class with 7.5-inch guns. It will take the Americans four or five years to build their quota or ration of 8-inch gun cruisers and now is the time when my right hon. Friend is starting to build a new type of heavy 6-inch gun cruiser. [Interruption.] It is a new type. Since 1924 we have been building nothing but 8-inch gun cruisers. [Interruption.] I must ask my hon. Friends who are sitting around me to allow me to proceed. I have never before been surrounded by dockyard Members and I appreciate the position of some of my hon. Friends beside me. As I say, while it will take America five or six years—until 1936—to build up to her ration, we are beginning a new type, this expensive 6-inch gun type, very fast cruisers, with deck armour, protection against torpedoes and other features, completely outclassing the small old cruisers which they are to replace. We will have a fresh start in competition, and we are giving ammunition and arguments to those people in the United States who point to our armaments, just as the hon. and gallant Member for Londondery (Major Ross) and others point to American or French armaments, and once more America will see us stealing ahead in modern fast ocean-going cruisers.
America has a very large oversea trade and has oversea Colonies, and really it is hypocrisy to use that sort of argument that only we have trade routes, only we have export trade, only we have Colonies overseas. That is the sort of argument that has been used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping. I remember his speech in the City of-London during the Naval Conference. It was a most mischievous speech to be made while delicate negotiations were in progress. On naval affairs, on India, on every subject, the right hon. Gentleman always barges in like a bull in a china shop and he even insists on interfering in this purely domestic difference between myself and the First Lord of the Admiralty.
A protest must be made from these benches when proposals, such as I have described, are being made, but the worst feature of all, which I must briefly deal with, is the position between France and Italy. France and Italy could not agree at London—I need not go into the circumstances—and a shipbuilding race, comparable to that started between this country and America after the Washington Treaty, is beginning between France and Italy. The Fascist Government in Italy has proposed a naval shipbuilding holiday to France and this has rather dismayed people in France, corresponding to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping in this country. Before the French reply had been given to Italy, the French militarists attacked M. Briand in the Chamber. It may be that it is comparable to the proposal for a naval holiday made to Germany before the War by this country, but before France replies to Italy, out comes this programme presented by the First Lord of the Admiralty. Instead of making a gesture to support the Italians, my right hon. Friend, since the Treaty, has proceeded with ships which were very properly postponed during the Naval Conference representing a cost of £4,200,000 and this new programme, for part of which we are voting this Supplementary Estimate, represents another £9,000,000. Hon. Members will recall how I had to drag that figure from my right hon. Friend. The Admiralty made a cloud of ink and retired behind a smoke screen of figures and they challenged my statement, but these two figures will not be challenged because they cannot be challenged. A sum of £9,000,000 is represented by the 1930 programme, since the Treaty and since the proposal by Italy, and there is £4,000,000 residue from the Conservative programme which my right hon. Friend inherited making £13,000,000, since the Naval Conference, this year declared to the House of Commons for new shipbuilding by a Labour Government.
I am sorry that the Minister of Education has gone out of the House. He has had to fight very hard for a paltry £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 for grants, for necessitous parents whose children will be kept an extra year at school and he has had to refuse the £2,500,000 which would be the cost of removing the irritating means test. Yet my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty gets £13,000,000 for unnecessary, provocative and, in the situation between France and Italy, dangerous shipbuilding. We have now had the French reply to the Italian proposal. The new warships are postponed until the end of the year. M. Briand has had to defend himself against those people in France who as I say correspond to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping in this country. He has had to say. "We have laid the keels of all the ships and there is not much in this holiday." At any rate he has accepted part of the Italian offer. Why cannot we accept some of it. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) who has left the Chamber, asked me what my policy was. My policy is to postpone shipbuilding. It is to declare and accept a naval holiday. [HON. MEMBERS: "Until when?"] Until we get another conference. I have said that I cannot accept this conference as final, or this Naval Treaty as the last word, and I gather that the Prime Minister does not accept it as the last word either. Next year there is the world conference on disarmament, and we make it a farce by providing for this shipbuilding.
No, I propose a naval holiday lasting until the next conference, the world con- ference on disarmament in 1931. The London Naval Conference, while it certainly limited the building of certain classes of vessels, was not successful when it came to other classes, and it will mean immense extravagance and an increase of shipbuilding, so I am hoping that the League of Nations machinery will be more successful. That is no reflection on the Prime Minister, who himself admitted that he was disappointed with the results of the Conference. We cannot hope for success if we do not make some effective protest against my right ban. Friend's extravagance at the Admiralty—and extravagance there is. The whole spirit of the Admiralty is extravagant—[Interruption.] I could make a great speech to my constituents demanding that more destroyers should be built in my constituency in view of the large number of unemployed in the shipbuilding yards there. We have Earle's Yard there where very fine ships have been built for the Navy.
There is, however, a far better argument than that. It is the argument which is to be found in our own policy, "Labour and the Nation." It is not to build unwanted warships in order to provide employment; our policy is to find alternative work in the dockyards, and if alternative work cannot be found, to pay the men compensation. I am as sorry for the surplus dockyard workers, and the workers at Woolwich Arsenal and other munition making centres, as for any other unemployed men, and if they cannot be given work in shipbuilding, they should be compensated or found other useful work. I should take the same position in my own constituency where some of the finest warships have been built.
A protest must come from this side of the Committee. The Conservative Opposition will not protest, and I do not know what is the position of the Liberal party, which is committed, as we are, to a reduction of armaments. I am going to divide for this reduction. It may he said, "You may defeat the Government," but even the life of a Government is not to be compared with the lives of the millions of men who will be forfeited if we are involved in another great war. It is absolutely inevitable that another great war will come if this policy is pursued. If this policy of arming for defence, of nations building against each other, is continued without check, it will inevitably lead to another great war more terrible and destructive than the last. Up to now I have never voted against the Government. When I sat on the Liberal benches, I did not once vote against the Labour Government, except when they proposed to lay down five cruisers, which I thought was precipitate, as I think this programme is. When my hon. Friends below the Gangway voted against inadequate pensions and inadequate allowances for the children of the unemployed, I not only voted against them, but protested on the Floor against their action, because I accepted the Chancellor's plea that the money was not available. For that very reason, I am bound to vote against the Government now in proposing this great expenditure of money which this country can certainly not afford.
I and my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Wellock) have tried to extract from the First Lord an estimate of the cost of his building programme to 1936 which is outlined in this White Paper. He says that he cannot give it because he does not know what types of vessels he is going to lay down. I am afraid that there is another reason, that he dare not give it. I have reckoned it up on the basis of the cost of other vessels as being between £70,000,000 and £80,000,000. My right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong; he has got his estimates of what it would cost, for he has the assistance of the Admiralty Office, which costs £1,200,000 a year. He is the political head of a service which is carrying on its work in a very extravagant way. Everything at the Admiralty is on the most palatial scale, with yachts for the First Lord and yachts for the Commanders-in-Chief, and large official residences on shore at Malta and elsewhere. The Admiralty are carrying on a continual propaganda, a subtle and clever propaganda, with their Navy weeks, and now they are starting a naval tattoo at Whale Island, copying the propaganda of the War Office. The Fleet is represented at coast towns, with everything beautifully clean and the men happy and smiling, and it is all propaganda for a great Navy. The only thing the Admiralty economise on is sea training and target practice. The office of State which is represented by my right hon. Friend has a peculiar position; it is able to appeal to sentiment, to romanticism, to old traditions among our people, and to the inherited sense of sea power that we as a people hold to-day. It is easier to bring pressure to bear on the War Office for reductions than on the Admiralty. It is easier to refuse money to the Air Ministry, which is a younger service, but which needs more, than to the Admiralty from the purely strategical point of view. The Admiralty is a powerful office of State, and I am aware of the disfavour incurred by anyone who attempts to oppose it.
My right hon. Friend has invited the Committee to vote for Estimates which I consider unnecessarily high; they are higher in money than they were before the War, and they are nearly as high as those of the extravagant Administration that preceded him. He is replacing small ships not yet worn out by far more powerful and expensive vessels. He is leading the way, for he is the first First Lord since the Naval Treaty to come out with a post-Treaty programme. The Americans and the Japanese are building on their pre-Treaty programmes, but we are the first to come out with a post-Treaty programme. That is the answer of the Admiralty to the Naval Treaty, and in the extraordinarily serious economic situation of this country I call upon my hon. Friends on this side to remember their pledges and to teach the Department a lesson. I am afraid that the First Lord's policy is the Cabinet policy, but that is no reason why we should not make our protest. It is no pleasure to me to make this protest, and I do not do it willingly. My relations with my right hon. Friend have always been most friendly, and it is no joy to me to have to make this attack on my own Government. It will be less joy to me to vote against them, but I shall do it if I am the only one, because somebody has to make this protest. The hon. Members opposite, of course, have their own point of view, but we are a pacifist party, and if we allow our Government, which has a majority for a drastic reduction in armaments, to pursue this policy without check or criticism, we can say good-bye to the whole movement for peace and disarmament.
I do not rise for the purpose of continuing the debate at this stage, but only to ask you, Mr. Young, in what way our voting to-day can be arranged so as to give effect to the true opinion of the Committee in its various aspects? The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has moved a reduction has done so because he thinks that the First Lord of the Admiralty is making too great a provision for naval expenditure. On this side of the Committee, we wish to raise the question of not only the inadequacy, but of the wrong character of the naval defence which is now being provided for. These are two separate and two diametrically opposed questions, and I would ask your guidance as to what would be the best method of taking these two quite different decisions of the Committee. I suggest that there are two methods; one is for the discussion to be general and to run on throughout the day, both points of view finding their expression, and for us then to have two Motions for reduction voted on in quick succession, the one representing the views of the hon. and gallant Member, and the other representing the views which are held on this side of the Committee. Another way would be to bring the discussion on this particular Amendment to a close at a comparatively early stage in the proceedings, and then to call on the other Amendment from this side of the Committee.
On that point of Order. May I submit to you that the Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman refers is on the Paper, and if the hon. and gallant Member lost his opportunity, surely we are not to be asked to establish a precedent by having two Votes? He has lost his opportunity.
May I make this suggestion? At present we are considering, I think, Vote 8, which deals with shipbuilding. There is Vote 9, which is for gun mountings and ordnance stores. Could not the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) move his reduction on Vote 9? Then we need have no confusion at all.
Vote 9 deals with armaments and not shipbuilding, and that would preclude the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. and gallant Mem- ber for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has moved his Amendment to reduce the Vote by £100, and before another Amendment can be moved we must have this one out of the way. Immediately a decision has been given on this Amendment, it will be quite in order for any hon. Member to move another reduction of a different amount, but it is not for me to say when this debate is to come to an end.
I rather gather that the best way of meeting the convenience of the Committee would be for us to dispose of this important aspect as quickly as possible and then to pass on to the second side of the question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why as quickly as possible?"] That is the only way in which a coherent discussion can be maintained.
That would be the best way of carrying on the discussion; but I am in the hands of the Committee, and, if the Committee do not agree to that, then I must allow a general discussion.
Have the Committee any concern with the purpose for which a reduction has been moved? A reduction having been moved, we have to vote either for it or against it.
That is perfectly true. Some hon. Members point out that this reduction has been moved to express the view that the Admiralty is asking for too much money, and they want a direct vote on that, and there are other hon. Members who want a direct vote on the question of the Admiralty not spending enough. I am suggesting that if we are to keep the debate in water-tight compartments we ought to have two discussions and two votes; but I am in the hands of the Committee, and, unless that is agreed to, I must allow a general discussion.
Having listened to the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy), I cannot understand why it is that, holding so strongly the views which he does, he still permits himself to be called "Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy." I should have thought a military title of that character would have been most distasteful to him. He appears to me to be singularly unacquainted with the history of warfare in this country or with the history of world warfare, or he would know perfectly well that a fleet is not military and is not offensive—in a country like ours, where we have not an army—legally—where we are not entitled to an army unless we pass the mutiny Acts every year. A standing army was put an end to in the time of the Stuarts. That was the foundation of our freedom. A fleet cannot be used for aggressive purposes. It can be used for defence, but you cannot invade another country with a fleet, nor conquer another country with a fleet. We have never done it, and we have never attempted it. It is true that if we also built up an army we might find our fleet a useful accommodation for convoying it to remote parts of the world, but a fleet is a purely defensive organisation; and, as a country with the widest possible areas of attack in different parts of the world, we must have a fleet to secure the defence of our people in those areas overseas.
Our Fleet is used purely for defence, and I say that one of the reasons why we have been left struggling in the slough of unemployment is the fact that there was such a sudden reduction in the strength of the Navy. Instead of being content with disarmament in the sense of getting quit of land forces, we extended disarmament to our Fleet. What has been the result? The ruin of the iron and steel trades and a tremendous curtailment of the demand for coal. In America the Bethlehem Steel Trust, when they want to keep busy, go to the President, I believe, and say, "We must build a few ships. The yards are idle, the men are idle, the steel trade is idle." And they build ships, although they do not require them, because they are not a maritime Power, but a continental Power. They have a few overseas dependencies, but a fleet is not a vital necessity to their national life, as it is to ours. Therefore, I maintain that the views of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull are entirely opposed to what our knowledge of world history has taught us. He suggested that the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has his opposite number in the French Parliament, but I can assure him that there is no equivalent of either himself or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping in any Parliament in the world; probably that may be for their benefit—or it may not be. The position with us, however, is that our Fleet is absolutely essential to our national life and it is not an instrument of offence. We ought to keep up our Fleet. This is the very time. At a time like this, when unemployment is so rife, surely it is better to have the shipyard workers on the Clyde engaged in building ships than standing in the unemployed queue? It would be infinitely better for the mining industry and the iron and steel trade. The ships would be there, though they would never be used for any offensive purpose.
For defence, in case our national life was attacked. Two or three years ago I was out in the Far East and had the satisfaction of feeling the security which the presence of a British cruiser gave when we were passing Pirates' Bay. Hon. Members opposite who object to the Fleet might as well object to policemen. We do not say that the policeman creates crime. Of course he does not—at least not in this country, though he may do in some countries on the other side of the water when he is assisting the bootlegging fraternity. He does not create crime here, however; he is maintained for the defence of the citizen, so that the latter may go in safety on his lawful occasions. In the same way the British Navy has never been anything else than a defence force against the wrong-doers of the world, and if we diminish it or, through some false economy, suppress any very large part of it, then we shall be acting contrary to the best interests of this country.
He deplored the interference of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in what he called a purely domestic controversy. This is something new in our conception of politics. A great many of us have come here to-day to witness this skirmish, shall I say, this mutiny, which has received so much public attention. The hon. and gallant Member began it by a brilliant and vivacious article in a newspaper called "The New Leader," a title selected, I suppose, because those who support it are dissatisfied with the old leader. In the course of that article he roundly abused his colleague and friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. The First Lord deemed this production to be of so much importance that he issued a Memorandum upon it. It was a closely reasoned and detailed Memorandum, prepared, I assume, by his advisers at the Admiralty, but it had only a limited circulation. Its circulation was confined to the members of the Socialist party.
I agree that the Memorandum was issued for the purpose of correcting such influence as the hon. and gallant Member possesses in the Labour party. I have read an extract of it in the "Times," but its circulation was confined, I understand, to members of the hon. and gallant Member's party. What I want to know from the First Lord of the Admiralty is whether any charge falls upon public funds for refuting the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull.
I am very glad to know that the only persons who have cause to object to the expenditure of money upon my hon. and gallant Friend are the trade unions, and I think I can safely leave it to them to inquire into the way in which their money is used. While I would willingly see my hon. and gallant Friend maintained at the public expense, I am very glad to know that he is not being sunk at the public expense, but merely at the expense of trade union funds. My hon. and gallant Friend delivered a very powerful speech, one of the most powerful and effective I have ever heard from him in this House. It was a brilliant piece of denunciation. We labour under some difficulty in that the First Lord of the Admiralty has not thought it worth while to reply, but if there was one deficiency in my hon. and gallant Friend's speech it was upon the constructive side. He pointed out all the short-comings of the First Lord, he indicated that we were building too much, he suggested that the sums involved in this Estimate might be spent upon widows and children, but he did not tell us what his own policy is. I agree that there will be a great many widows and children to be supported if my hon. and gallant Friend has his way. This Estimate will help to keep in employment 25,000 dockyard men, and probably a great many more men engaged in private shipbuilding work.
Whatever the theoretical justification of my hon. and gallant Friend's argument, surely this is not the moment, in the present industrial crisis, to advocate reducing an Estimate which keeps in employment a very large number of worthy men and helps to preserve their skill. I appreciate my hon. and gallant Friends' critical faculty, and the power and effectiveness with which he assailed the right hon. Gentleman, but it really is not good enough to come to this House and say that we ought to abandon—for that is what it virtually comes to—our dockyard establishments, and throw on to the Unemployment Exchanges a large number of men engaged in various parts of the country in the iron and steel and engineering industries. Therefore, I regret that my hon. and gallant Friend had not something more helpful to put forward, because it is not enough to say that the social services are open to these men, that their wives can draw pensions, or that they themselves can get unemployment benefit.
I am sure the hon. Member does not want to misrepresent me. I did not say they ought to go on the Unemployment Ex- changes but that, failing alternative work, they should be compensated.
In other words, my hon. and gallant Friend prefers that they should be earning nothing. If they are to be compensated, it means that money has to be found out of the public Treasury to keep in idleness men whose skill is admittedly of very great value to the country. I do not think that a very satisfactory policy, and I regret that my hon. and gallant Friend has not something better to put forward. When my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty spoke in this House on the Motion for the Adjournment which was concerned with the London Naval Conference, he justified this Treaty very largely on these grounds: He said:
We propose in the light of proper technical opinion given in the past by the Admiralty experts as to the life of cruisers and destroyers to see that the replacement programme is properly spread over the interval, to be on the safe side for the fleet and to stabilise industry and dockyard requirements."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1930; col. 2202, Vol. 238.]
That was the great virtue, according to the First Lord of the Admiralty, in this Naval Treaty. In the past there had been fluctuations. We never knew from year to year what our requirements would be, and consequently many men lost their employment in one year only to regain it in the next, and they did not know from 12 months to 12 months whether they were going to take their wages home. My right hon. Friend said, "We will do away with all that. We shall be able to tell the House that we have a stabilised programme spread over a number of years." This is the occasion upon which my right hon. Friend could have announced that programme. He does not do it. Instead, he initiates a historical precedent; and I want to call the attention of the Committee to this. These Estimates are introduced in historic circumstances. He issued them with a memorandum in which he says: "It is true that I promised the House of Commons that I would be able to tell them what the shipbuilding programme would be over a number of years, but I discover that I cannot tell the House of Commons that. I cannot create this situation of stability in the dockyards I cannot
assure men of their employment over a number of years." Why?
Before such general proposals are presented"—
says the First Lord in his Memorandum—
consultations between His Majesty's Governments will be necessary, since the tonnage figures in Part III of the London Naval Treaty relate to the total tonnage of the naval forces of the United Kingdom, the Dominions and India.
This House loses its autonomy. We are called upon to vote any programme which the First Lord may put before us, but he cannot put it before us until he has consulted someone outside. The Minister of Health once propounded in this House the interesting doctrine that a nation can afford what it wants. This is the doctrine of a nation affording what other people want. What is the meaning of what my right hon. Friend says in his Explanatory Statement? This is the British Empire Navy. The size of that Navy cannot be determined until the other Dominions are consulted. Does it mean that the Dominions are going to contribute towards it? If it does not mean that, it is no use consulting the Dominions. Why should the autonomy of this House be qualified in any single particular? Everybody is in favour of doing everything that possibly can be done with the Dominions, but, if Empire means anything, it means common obligations, and the sole virtue of associating the Dominions in this Naval Conference with us was that they realised that it was not fair that one small island, one small corner of the Empire, should bear the whole cost of the programme upon which they were consulted and upon which they themselves determined. I want to ask my right hon. Friend what steps he proposes to take at the forthcoming Imperial Conference to assure the country that they desire—
I quite agree. I was quite aware of what I was saying. This is the Imperial Navy. We are asked to vote upon an Estimate which is an instalment of the programme which suc- ceeds the Naval Conference. We want to know from the First Lord of the Admiralty what that Estimate means. It is only an instalment, and we want to know what the full programme is. He said, "I cannot tell you, because I had to consult the Dominions." It is a constitutional right of the Members of this House to know the facts of the matter before they grant Supply, and I submit that we are perfectly entitled, when voting a sum for the Imperial Navy, to know what the full programme is. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull was perfectly right when he called attention to the requirements as estimated by the First Lord of the Admiralty, in pointing out that in the next six years we shall require 27 cruisers, or an average of between three and four a year, that we shall require more than two flotillas of destroyers a year, that we shall require a certain tonnage of submarines, and so forth.
The First Lord of the Admiralty admits that. This is the first step in this programme. Why can he not tell us definitely what the programme is to be during the time that the Treaty operates. If he could tell us that, he could stabilise employment, and he could do a great deal to cure the industrial depression. He could put this work in hand, and he could average it over those years. That is what was represented to be, in his view, the great attraction of the Naval Treaty. Therefore, I think that we are entitled to have some statement from him as to what this new constitutional procedure means. Does it mean that the Dominions are to express to us their requirements and their needs and that we, as a national cash register, are simply to put our imprimatur upon them, bringing them merely formally before the House of Commons; or does it mean that the Empire is to be made into a reality? The Fleet made the Empire; it is time that the Empire made the Fleet.
Perhaps it would be well if at this stage I ventured to recall the attention of the Committee to what it is that has been put before them by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and incidentally to answer the points raised by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), who has just sat down. With regard to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) I think that, so far as he touched matters of policy, I can very well leave that to the attention of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, just pointing out that he was, shall I say, a little careless in some of his references and some of his quotations, not the least being the way in which he endeavoured to interpret pages 4 and 5 of the Explanatory Statement presented by my right hon. Friend. The last paragraph of the section which is headed "Destroyers" begins with the word "If"; and it was made quite clear by my right hon. Friend that in certain circumstances the building would have to average two flotillas a year. The hon. and gallant Member has assumed from that that my right hon. Friend has laid down that that is going to be his building programme at this stage. It is nothing of the sort; he then goes on to point out that he proposes to average over the whole period. That is the sort of statement which the hon. and gallant Member has put before the Committee this afternoon, and I think I am entitled to say that such a statement as that is careless and might mislead the Committee.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty says that he is going to average over the whole period at the rate of one flotilla a year. I do not quite see that in the Explanatory Statement. Will he make that point quite clear—that the building is to be averaged at the rate of one flotilla a year over the whole period?
The hon. and gallant Member is missing the point that the programme before the House is within the terms of the London Naval Treaty, and we are not proposing to go outside them. In order to have a stabilised programme, my right hon. Friend has suggested that there will be built one flotilla a year, not two flotillas, as has been hinted by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull.
As my hon. Friend has referred to what I said as being misleading, he will perhaps allow me to ask him this. I said that he was proposing to lay down two flotillas a year; he says "no." Can we have it quite definitely? The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) was misled too by this vague Admiralty statement. What are they intending to lay down? We have one flotilla this year, but, if English means anything, those words mean two flotillas a year thereafter.
The position is quite clear, but I will endeavour to make it clearer. If we were to build up to the limits allowed by the Treaty, it would be two flotillas a year. We are proposing to replace one flotilla a year, which is within the Treaty. I have put the position quite clearly. That is the proposal.
Over the whole period. The hon. and gallant Member also says that we dropped a certain amount of our programme before we went into the Naval Conference, and I think he said, in effect, that you would hardly expect us to do otherwise, but he made no reference to the fact that Italy and France went into the Conference without dropping anything of their programme, and have gone forward ever since with a pre-Conference programme as well as a post-Conference programme after that. Another thing to remember is that Italy and France have never agreed to the limitations under Part III of the Naval Treaty, as we have done, in the present corcumstances. I was really sorry to hear the hon. and gallant Member say that he would not be sorry if the London Naval Treaty were not ratified. That would land us back again in the old competition in armaments, which we have at any rate done something to limit and to keep within bounds. Another statement he made was with reference to the heavy destroyer class. It is not quite fair for the hon. and gallant Member to make the statement which he did to the Committee, because it is a statement which might mislead Members. He said that we gave the lead in this type of craft, whereas we have ourselves actually agreed to limit the tonnage to about 1,850 tons under the Treaty.
The large type of destroyers. The hon. and gallant Member led the Committee to think that we were initiating something in that particular direction. As a matter of fact, that type of vessel was already used by France, and we ourselves have agreed to a reduction in the tonnage of the large type of leader and have agreed to a limited tonnage of 1,850—an entirely different aspect of the matter from that which the hon. and gallant Member tried to lead the Committee to think. I need refer perhaps only to one other point in that connection. He spoke again and again as though we were the people who initiated the 10,000-ton cruiser. That is utterly misleading. The 10,000-ton cruiser arose out of the Washington Treaty, and we were certainly not the initiators of that particular type of cruiser.
Then, again and again, reference was made by the hon. and gallant Member to the disarmament conference of 1931. Let us be quite clear exactly what that means. There might or there might not be a disarmament conference. We all hope that there will be, but it depends whether we get agreement at the Preparatory Conference to be held at Geneva, whether that Conference will be held or not, and therefore it is somewhat misleading to lay down at this stage for certain that a world disarmament conference will be brought into being. Surely, it is not necessary for anyone to stand here and argue that if a world disarmament conference is agreed upon between all the nations, then that must alter the relationship of all questions and throw them into greater relief; but at the moment there is no world disarmament conference to be held in 1931, but every hope that it will arise out of the deliberations and the decision of the Preparatory Commission which will be meeting at Geneva, I think in November. The Committee is aware that we went into the Conference with the idea of obtaining a bigger outcome on the lines of disarmament. I think after what I have said hon. Members will appreciate that I have put quite a different complexion on some of the points which have been raised.
I will now refer to a point which has been raised by the hon. Member for Devonport. In a large measure the programme outlined by the First Lord of the Admiralty is spread over a number of years, and by that means we hope to ascertain what will be our actual commitments, including the number that will be employed, and so forth. For the first time we have gone into a Naval Conference dealing with our Empire as a whole, and while we are continuing to carry this part of the programme as was previously laid down, we must, of necessity, have discussions and get the Empire view of the situation that arises. It must be remembered that parts of the British Empire already contribute towards our naval defence. Australia, New Zealand and Canada do contribute something towards that end. In reply to what has been said by the hon. Member for Devonport on this point, all I can say is that if any part of the Empire desires to pay a larger share to our Imperial Naval defence, there is plenty of room for it. The hon. Member for Devonport must realise what is involved by the fact that the representatives of various parts of the Empire have been placed on equal terms with ourselves in the Naval Conference.
May I remind the House that when my right hon. Friend introduced the Navy Estimates, he made it quite clear that he might have to come to the House with a Supplementary Estimate to meet the needs of the Navy after the Naval Conference? That was perfectly understood by this House. Unfortunately, we did not meet with the great measure of success which we were anxious to obtain in regard to the Five-Power Agreement, but we did obtain a certain amount of success. My right hon. Friend has now presented to the House the Estimate which he foreshadowed might be necessary, and he is asking the Committee to agree to it. The First Lord of the Admiralty is asking for a Supplementary Vote amounting to £208,200, and this includes a sum of £183,600 in respect of the three submarines of the 1929 programme. It must be borne in mind that the Government cut out a substantial part of the Naval programme of 1929, and we are now going to build these three submarines because we are in a measure of inferiority so far as submarines are concerned compared with the other nations of the world. Hon. Members are aware that at the Naval Conference we supported the abolition of the submarine altogether. This Estimate also contains the sum of £24,600 in respect of the new construction programme for 1930.
I am sure the Committee will appreciate the position of the First Lord of the Admiralty in this matter, and will do him the justice of appreciating that he is now asking for a sum of money in this Estimate which might have been very much larger but for the deliberations at the London Naval Conference. But for the signing of the London Naval Treaty shipbuilding in this country and the United States might have gone on unchecked and the increased building programmes of other countries must have had a repercussion upon this country. We have now an agreement providing for a certain fixed programme for cruisers, destroyers, and other vessels, and this is the first time that we have been able to secure some limitation to the competition in armaments which has gone on hitherto. The programme we are suggesting can be carried out without injury to the national interest, and we are paving the way for other conferences at which further steps may be taken in the same direction.
I think that in this way we are doing the best we can to meet the views which have been put forward by the hon. Member for Devonport. I do not think there should be any hesitation amongst hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the Committee in backing up loyally the First Lord of the Admiralty who has come forward with a programme which, for the first time in the history of this country, places a check on armament building, and has given a direct lead to the rest of the world with regard to disarmament, and, at the same time, provides ample security so far as our national interests and the needs of our nation are concerned. After all what does security mean? It means the number of ships we require for our safety. We have made a step in the direction of disarmament by the London Naval Treaty, and by other agreements and understandings I hope that we shall be able to assure world peace. I feel sure that when the history of this question is written, the name of the First Lord of the Admiralty will stand very high as having given a very distinct lead in that direction.
We all must, I think, congratulate the Government on the tremendous effort they have made to secure a limitation of armaments. But although we are agreed on that point, some criticism must come from us on the ground that the Government have hidden their disarmament light under a bushel to such an extent that we did not quite realise what had actually taken place. Some of the explanations which had been given would lead hon. Members to the conclusion that two destroyer flotillas were to be put down every year for four years. On pages 4 and 5 of the Explanatory Statement it states that during the next six years
it would be necessary to lay down 110,839 tons of new construction in the four programme years 1930–33 inclusive, or an average of more than two flotillas a year.
We have had a statement made to-day that only one flotilla per year will be laid down, so that the maximum tonnage will be two-thirds of what is mentioned in the Explanatory Statement.
What I have referred to is two-thirds of the tonnage mentioned in the Explanatory Statement issued by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I think the Committee ought to have been informed of the actual reduction which is proposed by the Admiralty in regard to our destroyer tonnage.
I do not think there ought to be any misunderstanding on this point, because the words in the Explanatory Statement are quite clear. It says:
If the aim was to be that all destroyer tonnage on the 31st December, 1936, should consist of under-age vessels, it would be necessary to lay down 110,839 tons of new construction in the four programme years 1930–33 inclusive, or an average of more than two flotillas a year.
The statement goes on:
It would, however, be desirable, as in the case of cruiser building, to spread destroyer construction and adopt a steady replacement programme, and His Majesty's Government propose, therefore, only one flotilla in the 1930 programme.
We propose, therefore, to lay down only one flotilla in each year.
In spite of these explanations, in order to lay down the necessary tonnage eight flotillas would have to be accounted for in this Estimate, and not five. On the statement, however, that we have to-day, the Admiralty are laying down five, which emphasises my statement that we are reducing more than every one else, and are doing more than even my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut-Commander Kenworthy), in his wildest moments, would ask. I should like now to refer to submarines and sloops. In the Explanatory Statement, at the end of the paragraph dealing with submarines, it is stated that:
This gives an average of 3,700 tons of submarine construction each year, or about three submarines. The Government propose that the 1930 programme should allow for three submarines.
We are still left in doubt as to what is to happen during the remainder of the building programme up to 1933. I would ask the First Lord of the Admiralty definitely will three submarines be built during each of the three successive years before us?
I am quite content to leave the First Lord to answer at his own sweet will; I do not press him for an answer at the moment. With regard to sloops, in the second paragraph of the main paragraph dealing with sloops it is said:
With the exception of 10 modern sloops built and building, the most to which the lives of the best of the remaining sloops can be extended is 1939.
I should like to know whether this means that no more sloops will be built until the year 1939. That statement, again, is very ambiguously worded, and I think that the Committee might well be in considerable doubt as to what the intentions of the Admiralty have been with regard to building under the programme for the next few years.
I turn to quite another subject, which has been mentioned by the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, namely, the question of stabilisation in the dockyards. I am sure that everyone in the House will agree with a humble dockyard Member when he says that it is essential to stabilise the work in the dockyards. We are all in agreement with the Financial Secretary in the message of hope that he has given to us. I think, however, that a very emphatic question is, At what point are you going to stabilise? Are you going to stabilise on the average of employment during the past five years, or on a decreasing basis allowing for wastage? That is a question that I should like to hear answered during this debate. There is one other point. It has been mentioned that there is still a large margin within which new building can be put in hand under the recent Naval Treaty. I should like very much to know what exactly that margin is, and what indications, so far, the Admiralty have that the Dominions will come in to fill up that margin.
The debate has taken an unexpected turn, and I am most anxious; Mr. Young, not to come into conflict with you in some general considerations that I desire to offer on the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). As to the speeches of the hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Markham) and the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), they have sympathetic echoes from every dockyard. The whole House is familiar with the special difficulties in which they and the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) are involved in these matters. It was an appreciation of those difficulties which led me to refuse invitations to stand for dockyard constituencies, because I know the special sort of pressure that is brought to bear on their representatives. [Interruption.]
I know exactly what the Noble Lady is, because I have seen her at work in Plymouth. The House of Commons, in its wisdom, I hope, will never undertake the building of ships merely because they will provide employment in dockyard towns. The only reason why the House will maintain, and, if necessary, extend the equipment of the Navy, is because it is required by national interests, and on no other consideration. From that point of view I desire to make two general submissions to this Committee as to why I am unable to support the Estimates which the First Lord is submitting to-day.
Can it be alleged that the British Navy in any sea is not in a preponderant position of power? Is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), when he intervenes presently, going to make that allegation? If that allegation cannot be made, can it be said that the House has failed in its duty to make adequate provision for the interests of the British Commonwealth? That provision has been directed to the maintenance of a policy at sea which has given rise to very serious controversies in other lands for more than 100 years, without going further back. The House, in voting on these Estimates, has to decide whether there are reasons for reconsidering this ancient policy in regard to the British Navy. I speak with respect to views which I do not share. I have a long familiarity with them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and I were concerned 25 years ago in advocating certain matters with regard to naval policy, and I know that the view that I am now putting forward is certainly not a view which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping shares. But, in voting on these Estimates, the House of Commons has to decide whether, in the world as it is, we are going to insist upon this claim that the British Navy must be in such strength that, if necessary, it can close the trade routes of the world in any sea.
Put in that blunt way, I know of no more important question that could be put to hon. Members in any part of the House, but, with all respect, I think it is an exact description of the policy with regard to the British Navy as it is understood in other lands, and the main thought of other naval Powers, in entering into conference with ourselves, has been to secure a revision of that policy. If it can be alleged that we are defective in any of the means for the proper support of national interests in any sea—and I invite the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping to give particulars if he so alleges—if that can be alleged and established, it is right that further provision should be made. I have, however, the return issued by the First Lord of the Admiralty in January of this year—Command Paper No. 3464—which sets out the present equipment of the various naval Powers of the world. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is going to allege that that return shows that the British Navy is deficient for its work in any of the waters of the world. If the Navy is not deficient, if that preponderance is assured, I say, first of all, that this further provision, even in the form of replacement, is unnecessary and provocative, and, secondly, I submit that it is in the highest degree impolitic.
The Civil Lord of the Admiralty mentioned quite accurately that His Majesty's Government had suspended, for the purposes of this Conference, their building programme; that is to say, this Vote means that the building programme is resumed. This is the first resumption of a building programme since the Con- ference in London. The Committee will forgive my suggesting that it is very important, in matters of national business, as well as in private affairs, to reflect how any action that is to be taken is likely to be regarded by other people. I ask the Committee to consider what view is likely to be taken of this action to-day, in view of the fact that we have just come out of a conference designed to contract armaments, and in a position, as I submit with confidence, of predominance at sea, as shown by this return. Could anything be more impolitic than to put forward Estimates which will be regarded in other lands as resuming a race in competitive naval armaments?
I know that the Committee are anxious to proceed to wider aspects which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping desires to open, and I do not desire to detain them, but I did wish to open this larger view as suggested by the observations of my hon. and gallant Friend. In my understanding of these matters—and I am not new to them—and believing that this action is unnecessary, provocative and impolitic, I cannot on my conscience bring myself to support these Estimates. If I were put to the election between supporting this Government, which contains old colleagues of many years' standing, and supporting that cause which for many years I have regarded as the principal cause outside this House, namely, the maintenance of peace and the taking of no action which may lead to further war, I should have to take my stand on the larger cause, and not on the merits and fortunes of this particular administration.
So far as this Amendment is concerned, we shall, on this side of the Committee, not give any support to the proposal which has been made by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) or those who have spoken in the same sense. Our own opinion upon the Estimates put forward by the First Lord we shall take an opportunity of expressing later on, when a reduction will be moved from this side of the Committee. The hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight) asked what was the object of the British Navy, and whether it still aimed at closing the seas to any or every other Power.
If necessary. Such objects have long passed beyond the power of the British Navy. From the moment when we abandoned the claim to supremacy of the sea which we did in the Washington Conference of 1921, all such ideas, obviously, have ceased to operate in our affairs. It is not the closing of sea routes to others, but to keep them open for the safe arrival of our own daily bread, that the British Navy exists for, and that is the only object for which it exists at the present time. Our sincere anxiety is that even this limited and vital purpose is not in fact within the compass of the British Navy upon the proposals and forecasts for which this Government have become responsible.
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull made a long speech to show how enormous and excessive our naval armaments were, but the great feature of the last 15 years, the great feature since pre-War times, has been the immense diminution of British naval power. There has never been such a voluntary contraction in the relative naval power of any great country. Look where you will. Compare the ratio of the United States and the British Navies in 1914 with the ratio that will exist when this Treaty has come into operation. Compare the position of the British Navy in relation to Japan in 1914 with what exists to-day. Japan, a Power with which we have always had excellent relations, is by treaty authorised to build within three cruisers of all that is permitted, not only to these islands, but to the British Empire as a whole, with our world-wide responsibilities and with the task confided to us of preserving the cohesion and the security of peoples spread across the whole of the globe and comprising more than a fifth of the entire human race.
Take the position of the British Navy in relation to France in the narrow seas. Here I must admit that the problem is a very difficult one. There are only three great naval Powers with battle fleets which are, as you may describe them, oceanic Powers—Great Britain, the United States and Japan. These battle fleets are already in a state of arrest, of stagnation, and, according to many highly competent persons, are passing increasingly into the sphere of obsolescence. A great many authorities hold that the day will come, at no great distance, when naval strength will not be expressed in terms of battle fleets and that air power and other causes will tend to throw these hitherto primary elements of naval power increasingly into the background. It is also to be remembered that the only three Powers that possess battle fleets live at opposite ends of the world, separated by enormous ocean distances from each other—[An HON. MEMBER: "And cannot get at one another"]—and cannot get at one another without the aggressors running the risk of moving across thousands of miles of sea, and consequently these battle fleets, which constitute so large a proportion of our permitted naval strength and of our valid naval expenditure, are increasingly passing out of the practical sphere. But meanwhile other Powers not concerned with the development of these battle fleets, not concerned to compete in that arena, are rapidly increasing all the other classes of vessels, the cruisers, the submarines and the flotillas which in the most direct manner—far more directly than in the case of battle fleets—menace that very daily bread which is the sole concern for which the British Navy exists.
I said in the course of an earlier debate this Session that we have disarmed so much more vigorously and sincerely and effectively than any other nation that we were reduced to a position more defenceless than any that we had occupied since the reign of King Charles II. The right hon. Gentleman very naturally turned the argument against me by asking who was responsible for that. I should explain that I meant, so far as the Navy is concerned, when the provisions of the proposed new Treaty had been carried out. At present the British Navy is not in that position, but when the provisions of this Treaty have been carried out, when the great increases prescribed in every other country have been made effective and our own position has been restricted by the Treaty, it will be true of the Navy that we shall not have any effectual guarantee either that we can bring in our food supplies across the ocean in the face of the cruisers of other Powers or that we can bring them through the narrow waters in the face of the flotillas of the European Powers. As far as the rest of the assertion is concerned, the Army is almost reduced to a police force and the Air Force is only half the strength of that of our nearest neighbour. Never since the reign of King Charles II has this country been so completely dependent upon the good will—which I trust will not be denied—of other Powers, not only in the distant oceans of the world, but also in the narrow seas that wash our very shores. Yet we have listened to speech after speech from the benches opposite as if this country was the aggressor, as if we were the Power which more than any other was spurring on naval competition, as if we were the Power which, above all others, was responsible for the great expenditure on naval armaments which has so unhappily characterised the beginning of the present century. So much for the accusation that we are an aggressive and expanding naval Power.
I am anxious to examine a little more closely the White Paper that the First Lord has circulated. Questions have been asked in this debate of great importance. I take first of all the question of the flotillas. I read the paragraph at the bottom of page 4 as a perfectly clear, plain admission on behalf of the Admiralty that the proper construction of flotillas under the Treaty would require 110,000 tons before 31st December, 1936. If it does not mean that, what does it mean? What is the use of drafting this paragraph in this way—every word most carefully calculated—if in fact the 110,000 tons are not to be constructed but only, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, about two-thirds of that amount? The Financial Secretary to the Admiralty declared that not two flotillas a year would be constructed but only one each year. I am sure anyone who read this White Paper would have been extremely surprised to hear that statement. Obviously this paragraph has been drafted with the intention of giving the impression of a greater naval construction than the Government intend, and thus of allaying doubts and anxieties in the country on the subject of the flotillas. The only other alternative is that the Board of Admiralty and the First Lord together have drafted this paragraph but, owing to the pressure developed even this afternoon below the Gangway on the Government side, it has been thought better to reduce the programme by a third. Perhaps the First Lord will tell us exactly what was the purpose of this paragraph and what the policy of the flotillas should, in his opinion, be.
Let me remind the Committee of a speech delivered in another place by a naval authority of the highest eminence, Lord Beatty—a most remarkable speech, a speech of great moderation, a speech of sobriety and temper, which deserves all the more attention because Lord Beatty has only once or twice in a great many years offered his opinions to the public. I am quoting from views which he has made public not only in another place but also by letters to the public newspapers. I am not solely referring to discussions which have taken place elsewhere. He said:
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 1923, in flotilla leaders, France will possess 24 of from 2,200 to 2,500 tons, armed with 5.5 inch gulls, whereas we shall have only 16 of 1,500 tons with 4.7 inch guns.
That is a very remarkable fact and, if that is true, does it not make very much more serious the statement that the Government are not only not going to built up to the limits prescribed by the Treaty in flotillas but that they are going to reduce the flotilla construction by practically a third? The right hon. Gentleman and his party have very often shown a disposition to be not unduly favourable to our French neighbours. I do not wish to press it in any direct or invidious manner but, in an earlier debate this Session, the First Lord himself spoke in the sense of the importance of reducing French land armaments and generally speaking it cannot be said that His Majesty's Government at present enjoy any special measure of good will in relationship with France. Are they really wise at this moment so to
reduce our construction of flotillas and of anti-submarine craft, as well as accepting a so much lower ratio of submarines, that unquestionably when this Treaty has been completed and its provisions carried out we shall be inferior in the narrow seas in submarines and in anti-submarine vessels to our nearest neighbour?
I turn to the question of cruisers. The right hon. Gentleman is proposing to us to build three cruisers. They are to be six-inch gun cruisers. I regret very much that this country, which has little money for naval defence and has to spend what money it has to the best possible advantage, should be prevented from building vessels equal in fighting strength to the contemporary ships that are being laid down in the dockyards of other Powers. There is no comparison whatever between an eight-inch gun cruiser and a six-inch gun cruiser. I suppose that an eight-inch gun cruiser would defeat two or three six-inch gun cruisers or destroy them one by one with the greatest ease. These cruisers are very costly. These six-inch gun cruisers cost, it is pointed out, £1,500,000, or something like that. The right hon. Gentleman admits that they are costly, but perhaps he tries to reassure his pacifist friends by telling them that although the vessels are very costly, nevertheless they are comparatively harmless.
I regret extremely that we should not be in a position to use our limited funds to the best advantage without at all prescribing what are the exact types that should be built. I am sure that this construction of a large number of six-inch gun cruisers over a period of years at a time when other Powers will be building eight-inch gun cruisers, and when France and Italy are free to make a large construction of eight-inch gun cruisers, is unthrifty, infrugal and most injudicious from the point of view of spending the money available for naval defence in the best possible way.
The fact is that we have so tied our hands by treaty engagements and obligations that we no longer have the power to study the British naval problem in its integrity and on its merits. We have to build, not the fleet we require, but conventional fleets; fleets which are prescribed by treaty conditions, and not fleets which would originate from an un- prejudiced and expert study of our actual dangers and our actual resources. A great deal of our naval funds is used for our battle fleets, which, probably, will play a very small part in any future combat. On the other hand, we are crippled by this reduction in our total tonnage and expenditure; we are crippled by this reduction in respect of all these vital routes upon which our food supply depends.
The whole policy of these naval agreements has been deeply detrimental to the interests of Great Britain. It has been more detrimental to our interest than any paper statement would show. We have fettered our freedom of construction, and we have lost our originality and initiative in design. We have condemned ourselves to very heavy continuous expenditure year after year because—let there be no delusion—these Estimates and this White Paper do not indicate the slightest relief in naval expenditure. On the contrary, I should have said, looking at the new construction programme outlined in the White Paper, that we must look forward to an increase in Naval Estimates next year and the year after. Yes, a substantial increase as Vote 8 begins to swell under these cruiser programmes. We are not getting any relief from heavy expenditure; all that we are doing is to spend this money in an artificial and conventional manner in a way in which nobody would dream of adopting if we were free to study our own problem in our own way.
Finally, we have done all this without either gaining any credit as a Power for making great concessions in disarmament. We are still held up, especially in our own country, as a State keeping the world in unrest by its naval expense. We have gained nothing there, nor have we made any gain in goodwill between the naval Powers. On the contrary, it is my belief that these negotiations out of which this Vote 8 has originated and this Vote itself are an element, a prominent feature in a process which has enormously advertised and aggravated naval strength and naval rivalries, and which at every stage, not only now but as the years pass by, will foment and refresh a continued stream of international ill-will. If you look abroad, I am certain that on the continent of Europe, but for all these discussions whose fruits are now represented in this Vote, you would have a far easier situation between France and Italy than exists at the present time. As for the United States, our friends, our most closely associated nation, whose Navy will in future be measured meticulously year after year against the British Fleet, year after year as the enormous increase of American shipbuilding becomes necessary—as prescribed by the Treaty, the greatest expansion that any Power has ever made in recent times—and as the heavy burden of Estimates rises more and more, and criticism will be directed towards this country which we shall be told is, by its armaments, the cause which provokes the United States to undertake the heavy burden and sacrifice. Look where you will, there is not one single redeeming feature in these Naval agreements.
This Vote 8 with its enormous cost, with its extraordinarily misapplied resources, with its inadequacy as far as our real problem is concerned, is a crowning proof of the errors into which we have been led. It is not yet too late. Let us regain our liberty. Let us regain the freedom, to construct the types of vessels we need, and to delay that construction or accelerate it entirely in relation to our own peculiar difficulties and dangers. Let us tell the United States frankly and freely that we are not thinking of building against them; that we proportion our Navy and design our ships in relation to European and Asiatic dangers, and that when we have fixed our programme, we cordially invite the United States to build to equality in those programmes, and to place whatever interpretation upon equality their experts advise them.
I have ventured to address the First Lord upon these matters, but I hope that he is going to clear up the question of the flotillas and the cruisers. I hope that he will address himself particularly to our relation with France in the narrow seas after this Treaty is completed, and I hope that he will, even at this hour, be able to hold out to us some hope that the Government will desist from their fatal policy of hampering British naval construction and forcing us to build a Navy adapted to the Treaty and Paper conventions, but, for all its cost, incap- able of rendering us the vital security we need.
I think that it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I reply now to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and to the discussion which preceded his speech, so that we may take a decision upon the Amendment which is before the Committee and proceed then to the other Amendment which it is proposed to move. I have listened with my usual interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He is always entertaining. His phraseology, if I may use the term, is Churchillian. No one else quite compares with his knitting together of words and phrases, but, as I said in the previous debate, he seems to have learned nothing at all from the experience of the Great War of 1914–1918, nor does he seem to have any alternative policy in his mind with regard to securing peace in the future except to hold either within his hand, if he is in office, or in the hand of some other Minister who may be in office, the power to go to an unlimited extent in the provision of armaments.
I have had an attack from the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) to-day about the programme which is suggested by the Government. But even he, I think, would admit that this Government has made a distinct contribution to world thought and world action with regard to armaments and with regard to the steps which ought to be taken to secure peace by other means than by appeal to the arbitrament of war. The speech of the right hon. Member for Epping might be summed up as follows: "I do not believe in any negotiations between nations for agreements to limit armaments." I might almost add, as a summary of his speech, "I believe that every conference you hold will mean the advertisement of, and a progressiveness in, rivalries, suspicions and jealousies between nations." I do not think that I am unfair in summarising the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman in that way. [Interruption.] Really, what the right hon. Gentleman means is that, having regard to the very bad experience we have had, do not let us have any more, or, at any rate, do not go in for a programme which will implement a conference of this kind. I am certain of this, that although I am between two fires on this Amendment, being fired at very severely from behind and being fired at from the front, because I understand that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the programme I have submitted is artificial, stereotyped and not likely to secure the purpose for which any naval programme is intended—although I am fired at from both sides, I am convinced that the country outside knows in its mind that the only course that we can take is to have conference after conference and progressive decision after decision until, by mutual agreement between all the Powers concerned, we can gradualy reduce until we get down, if you like, almost to nothing in the nature of armaments and provisions for aggression.
My trouble with my own side is that they think that the steps which His Majesty's Government, through the Board of Admiralty, are taking, are not best calculated to help in that direction. That is the only trouble that I have with my own side. My only complaint against them is that, in the presentation of their case, occasionally they are a little loose with figures. They are not sufficiently appreciative of what the Government have already done in the direction of disarmament. Not one word has been said this afternoon to apprehend to its full what the Government did with the programmes of 1928–29. When we came into office we found two 8-inch cruisers, both of the 10,000-ton type, actually commenced. They were both cancelled and are not being proceeded with. In fact, the Government have to meet a claim for compensation in respect of that cancellation. We cancelled from the same programme two large submarines, and a large submarine depot ship. We found another programme, approved by this House in March, 1929, which would have provided one additional 8-inch 10,000 ton cruiser, two 6-inch cruisers, a whole flotilla of destroyers, six sloops, six submarines and one or two other ancillary vessels.
We not merely suspended that programme, after cancelling the other before going into the Conference, but we actually cancelled one 8-inch cruiser, one 6-inch cruiser, three submarines, and two sloops. The saving effected by the Labour Government's treatment of the two programmes of 1928–29 was well over £12,000,000. Why did not some of my hon. Friends give us credit for that? We never heard a word about it to-day. What we heard from the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull was that we are proposing to build—not in one year as he seemed to indicate, but in two years, 1929 and 1930—something which will cost £13,000,000. Let me point out to my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee that this means that the total provision for 1929 and 1930 made by the Labour Government, in two years, is met by the saving already effected by this Government's cancellations. That is a very different picture from the kind of picture that was presented to the Committee this afternoon.
May I say a few words about the White Paper, because there seems to have been some misapprehension in the minds of some of my hon. Friends as well as in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman opposite? It would be very much better, in the light of the new limitation of tonnage provided in the London Naval Conference Treaty, if we could at this moment have issued completely and finally a White Paper programme covering a number of years. It would have been better for the purpose of letting both the industry and the naval dockyards know where they are. But a very important consideration arises. It is, I think true to say that this is the first occasion on which we have entered into a world agreement in regard to the Navy in which the tonnage concerned in the Agreement has been reckoned as the unit for the whole of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Our friends from the overseas Dominions attended the Conference as free and full plenipotentiaries. They had an equal position as signatories to the Agreement, and they will have a proper right of being consulted at the Imperial Conference, and I dare say from time to time at subsequent Conferences, as to what share they will have in the provision of British Commonwealth tonnage in the future. It would be wrong at this moment for us to issue for the whole period of years what our programme will be, right through every year, until we have discussed the provision with the representatives of the Dominions. We have therefore given to the House a programme which is a reasonable instalment of what our programme ought to be, and it will not prevent free and full decisions being arrived at in the subsequent discussions that we have with representatives from the Dominions.
Now as to details. Take the question of cruisers. The right hon. Gentleman seems to regret very much that we are not continuing to build 8-inch cruisers. I hope that I am not misinterpreting him. If he will consult naval authorities to-day I think they will tell him that the one thing that this country ought to do at this moment is to limit as far as possible the number, the size, the radius and the endurance of those 8-inch cruisers that are likely to prey upon our trade routes. If that is not the position, why did the right hon. Gentleman and his Government in 1927 go to Geneva, into a Three-Power Conference, and urge that Conference to limit the 8-inch cruiser provision and to adopt, if possible, nothing but cruisers of the 6-inch gun type? His Government were quite prepared to stabilise at that time in their final proposals at twelve 8-inch ships for this country, twelve 8-inch ships for the United States, and eight for Japan. Of course, I admit that the right hon. Gentleman would have liked to have unlimited freedom to build as many 6-inch ships as he wished. Why did he not put in that claim to-day?
My argument was to show the great detriment that we suffer now when we are forced to build very costly vessels which are in no way a match for the vessels that are to be laid down and launched in the shipyards of other Powers.
That shows that the right hon. Gentleman has not studied the Treaty effectively and has not considered what its real effect will be. What is the object of the Treaty? The object of the Treaty is to limit the provision of these fearsome 8-inch, 10,000-ton ships, and as far as the Oceanic Powers are concerned we have done that. In this Treaty we have limited the 8-inch ships to 18 for the United States, 15 for ourselves, for which we get a set off in tonnage of the 6-inch type, and 12 for Japan, some of whose ships are not quite as large as ours. The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that in regard to 8-inch ships we are equipped now and completely covered in regard to the whole 15. In the face of that, why does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that we are in a difficult position because we cannot build the same type of ship that the other Powers may do? They are limited as we are. I can imagine him saying: "What about Italy and France? They are free to build." So they were free to build when the right hon. Gentleman's Government proposed at Geneva, to a Three-Power Conference, not a Five-Power Conference, that we should limit our 8-inch ships to 12. We are in this much more superior position to-day that we have had these Powers with us round the table; we have discussed the whole situation with them and we see them now approaching each other and much more likely to come to an agreement on the principles of limitation in this class of vessel than they could have been in 1927, when the right hon. Gentleman's Government were unable to persuade them to come to the Conference table.
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull says, "What about starting a new type of cruiser?" The thing that astonishes me about my hon. and gallant Friend is his apparent lack of naval knowledge. I should have thought that my hon. and gallant Friend had had enough naval experience to follow closely what has happened in this matter, and I believe that he does. This is not a new type of cruiser that we are building. It is a type, the 6-inch type of cruiser, which is well known. There are 10 at the present time in the fleet of the United States of America, all under 10 years of age—some of them were completed quite recently—of some 7,000 tons, all carrying 12 6-inch guns. My hon. and gallant Friend knows quite well that we have two in the British fleet that were built after the War, the "Emerald" and the "Enterprise," which are not of a dissimilar type. He knows, or he ought to know, that the French fleet has three of this type of vessel, laid down and completed between 1923 and 1925. Therefore, he cannot substantiate out of his naval knowledge that we are proposing a new class of cruiser.
What we are proposing to do—and this is the real dynamic of his objection—is to replace a certain number of the smaller type of cruiser, which were built hurriedly during the War, suitable only for service in the kind of action that was foreshadowed in the North Sea, by a cruiser of sufficient radius of action and endurance as will perform wider service overseas—for police work, defence of trade routes and the like. Let my hon. and gallant Friend observe this, that complaint is made against us from the other side because we have limited ourselves in the Treaty to the amount of 6-inch tonnage that we can lay down by way of replacement. If my hon. and gallant Friend will take our total tonnage under the Treaty of 339,000 tons and deduct from that the 147,000 tons which are taken up by the 8-inch cruisers, he will see that we have a balance of only 192,000 tons which we can take out in 6-inch cruisers. If we have a, total cruiser fleet of 50, we cannot go on building all our cruisers of the 6,000 to 7,000 tons type of the 6-inch gun class. We must build some of a smaller type, if we are going to have the 50 cruisers to which we have agreed. He may say, "Why build in the first year the large class as replacement?" Because in regard to the 6-inch cruisers that we have at the present time we are all out of balance. We have too large a proportion of the older smaller cruiser type for the efficiency of the fleet, having regard to the fact that we are not going to war again in the North Sea and we require ships of greater radius of endurance than can be obtained with the smaller cruisers now that we have reduced the cruiser units to carry out the service that the Empire needs.
Let me come to the question of destroyers. The right hon. Gentleman, and some of my hon. Friends, have said that they do not think the White Paper is quite clear. If so, I regret it; it is perfectly clear to me. They seem to overlook the first few words in the paragraph:
If the aim was to be that all destroyer tonnage on the 31st December, 1936, should consist of under-age vessels
"If." Our aim is not to have all the destroyers under age on 31st December, 1936. I can well imagine the hon. and gallant Member for Londonderry (Major Ross) bitterly complaining that instead of building up to the limit of destroyer tonnage, we are going to do something which, I think, is far more sensible.
It is no fault of the present Government that there was an absolute neglect of destroyer replacement from 1918 right up to 1927. We shall have the great bulk of our destroyer tonnage dropping out in a bunch, and if we were to build in order to replace them all within two or three years we should, in the first place, inflate all our dockyards with work and overtime and extra hands, and then in three or four years' time have to dismiss half of them again, and have no building going on for the next few years. What we propose to do is to build within the limits of destroyer tonnage and spread out the period of replacement so that we may stabilise the work in private and Government yards which deal with destroyer construction.
I am not dealing with that point. I am not dealing with the strength of the Fleet. I do not think there would have been any complaint from hon. Members on this side of the Committee as to the existing tonnage in any given year. It was for the hon. and gallant Member, with his enthusiasm for naval construction, to stir up his Government—
Then it was for the hon. and gallant Member's friends to stir up their own Government as to its foresight in regard to the destroyer programme to make due provision in order to avoid this sudden disturbance in the yards. We propose to lay down one flotilla a year, and we do not think the efficiency of the Fleet will be seriously affected thereby because we have a certain number of existing units being treated in such a way that the Fleet will be kept efficient, we trust, over those years in which we must carry a certain amount of tonnage over-age until we have built up to the limit.
Let me say a word or two on the general situation. It is suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull that we made a great mistake in announcing our replacement programme because of the situation between France and Italy. He asserts that we were the first to announce what he calls a post-Treaty new construction programme. Let me deal with these two points. Take the statement that we were the first to announce our replacement programme. That just is not true; and I want to remind the Committee of the facts. In November, 1929, the French programme for 1930 was announced, and hon. Members will please recollect that in July, 1929, this Government had announced the cancellation of a large part of the 1928 programme and the suspension of the whole of the 1929 programme pending the holding of the Conference. But in the following November the French construction programme for 1930 was announced at 42,500 tons.
I am coming to that point. The hon. and gallant Member knows that the programme announced in November, 1929, for 1930 had never been withdrawn nor postponed. It was not a question of announcing it after the Conference. It was there in existence, never altered, or modified.
The 1930 programme of this Government had never been formulated. Let me come to the period after the Conference. On 30th April Italy announced her 1930 programme—before ours was formulated—at 42,900 tons. What is the use of trying to mislead the public in France and in Italy, as well as in this country, into thinking that we have taken the initiative in announcing our programme? It can only have a mischievous effect. Take the question as to whether it is going to help and assist the negotiations between France and Italy. The hon. and gallant Member said that he would anticipate what I should say on this point. I wish he would anticipate some of the arguments and give them due weight. There is not a ship in the programme which the Labour Government is submitting to the Committee to-day which is an addition—not one. The whole of these ships in this programme are replacement, and, in the judgment of many hon. Members opposite, an inadequate replacement, within the new limited tonnage laid down in the Treaty.
What is the position in France and Italy? I shall be very careful in what I say on this point, because nobody desires more earnestly than I that there shall be a speedy agreement between France and Italy to adhere to the limitation principle in Part III of the Treaty—a Treaty which would, probably, never have come into being but for the action of this Labour Government. No one desires more than I do that France and Italy should adhere to the limitation principle set up in the Treaty. Our trouble at present is that neither France nor Italy has been willing to adhere to this limitation. If it is suggested that the action of this Government has in any way militated against the possible success of these negotiations, I can only refute that argument at once. We who were in the Conference and negotiated direct with the leading delegates of France and Italy know that they are fully informed of the position, that they have not a single moment's anxiety about the Labour Government's replacement programme within the limited tonnage of the Treaty; not a single moment's anxiety.
I will say this. We are quite prepared, as soon as France and Italy have agreed to the principle of limitation, to which the three oceanic Powers have already agreed, to confer again to see how much further we can go, but surely the first step now to be adopted by France and Italy is to say that as Great Britain, America and Japan, the three oceanic Powers, have put their cards on the table and have agreed to the principle of limitation, they will adhere to the same principle and then confer as to what the next step shall be. Is not that a reasonable attitude for this Government, which initiated the London Naval Conference, to adopt? I am prepared to submit that as a sound and sane policy to any impartial tribunal in this country, and I know of none which can be more impartial than the House of Common's, to whom I leave it.
Before we vote, I must make one observation on the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I am going to divide the Committee, and it is not an easy thing for an hon. Member in my position to vote against his own Government. The speech which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman might just as well have come from the other side of the Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The same arguments were adduced by Lord Bridgeman when he was First Lord of the Admiralty and occupied a seat in the House of Commons. The fact of the matter is that Italy and France have embarked on a great shipbuilding programme—at the moment they are engaged in a naval holiday—and this is the moment for a Labour Government to ask the House of Commons to vote Estimates for ships which are not going to be begun until the first quarter of next year. They should have been postponed. There is no mention of our three battle-cruisers, the only battle-cruisers in Europe, which can sweep these little cruisers of France and Italy from the ocean; no mention of our battle fleet, the only battle fleet in Europe on the great scale; and no mention of the fact that we are spending more on the Navy now than we did before the War. The only way to check it is for the Labour party to express its opinion by dividing the Committee.
I cannot speak on this question with the same amount of knowledge and assurance of hon. Members, right hon. Members, right hon. and gallant Members and hon. and learned Members who have preceded me, but I happen to be a little bit of war wreckage, and in that capacity I think I have a right to offer some observations on a proposal to build armaments; because that is what this Vote amounts to. I shall support the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). If I had my way I should move a reduction of the whole of these Estimates. I support the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member because I believe it is monstrous, after the Naval Disarmament Conference, that we should be asked to vote this enormous sum of money for naval construction, and because I believe it is right, every time Navy or Army or Air Force Estimates are brought up that there should be expressed on the Floor of this House the opinion of at least the small group who believe that none of these Estimates are desirable; in other words, that we believe in the principle of disarmament. No doubt the Admiralty can justify these Estimates in the eyes of those people who are living in the past and who have no appreciation of the events of the last few years.
Let me give one or two facts. We have a Pact which has been accepted by some 60 States. Every signatory solemnly renounces war as an instrument of national policy. Does that mean nothing to a Labour Government? The Pact makes it obligatory to refer all disputes of whatever nature to pacific methods of settlement. Is that to have no bearing on our vote this afternoon? There is an agreement between the United States of America and this country, which the Prime Minister on 5th November, 1929, said was not only a declaration of good intentions, but a positive obligation. There is also the Naval Treaty and the suggested naval holiday. I suggest that all these things ought to be reconsidered before we vote this large sum of money. The Government have to their credit some very excellent performances in the field of international policy. Let them take credit for their performances. More, let them show that they have real confidence in that work by reducing much further the expenditure of the nation upon armaments. We know the difficulties of our Front Bench. They have had to answer, not merely those of us who sit on the back benches, but of those opposite, and of the Liberal party. We feel sometimes that they take far too much notice of what is said on the other side and not enough of what is said on these benches. Perhaps they may be thinking of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who said in November last:
Until we are in a better position in reference to world armaments I think we ought to proceed very cautiously with regard to abandoning any of our rights.
They may remember that that organ of Conservatism, "The Morning Post," said that the Tory party
must oppose any reductions in armament, as such a course would place not only the British Empire but these islands in a position of much danger.
It is not to those opposite, but to their colleagues behind them and to the vast mass of peace-loving citizens in the country, and to the growing world demand for peace, that the Government ought to listen. If the Government would look and listen, they would know that the little voices of those who cry "Caution" are more than drowned by the enormous and ever-growing demand for a Government which will take its courage in both hands for the principle of peace.
I have mentioned as reasons why we should not spend this money the achievements of the Government. I am going to submit that there is an even more important factor, and that is the growing anti-war and pro-peace feeling that is growing up, not only in this country but throughout the world. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull said, one of the main issues at the last General Election was the issue of war or peace. The foremost plank in the platform of the majority of those on these benches at the last election was the issue of war or peace. We have our pledge to the people who sent us here and they are looking to us to justify the expectations which we aroused in their minds by our eulogies of what Labour had done in 1924 and what Labour was prepared to do if it came back to power. Some of us are addressing meetings every week in the country. My experience is that the most live issue in the country to-day is the issue of war or peace. It is the thing which arouses more enthusiasm, especially among the women electors, than any other issue. There is all this volume of public opinion behind the Government in any step that is taken, however drastic and courageous, in the direction of peace and disarmament.
What is true of this country is also true of the United States of America. I understand that there they have enormous leeway to make up in naval construction. I am not an expert, but that is what I understand. For the moment the peace party has got the upper hand there. But if we are going not merely to pass the Estimates, but are to have Supplementary Estimates after the Naval Conference, we are going to strengthen the hands of the big navy crowd in America, and are going to make it more difficult in America for those people who are taking the same stand for peace as we are taking here. Our job should be to help the peace party in the United States and not to encourage the big navy crowd. I am not going to bother about figures, about tonnage and gun calibres and what not, because when you get involved in these details you can shift your ground from one set of figures to another and make any kind of case, and you lose in the detail the bigger issues for which you are standing, that of real and effective disarmament.
After all it does not matter very much to the person who is killed whether it was a shell from a 6-inch or an 8-inch gun that killed him. It does not matter very much whether Tory cruisers cost £3,000,000 and Labour cruisers cost only £1,500,000. As a matter of fact you make war more attractive if you make it cheaper. The fact that we have £1,500,000 cruisers, in comparison with £3,000,000 Tory cruisers, is really nothing to the credit of the Government. The First Lord has said that even with the Supplementary Estimates we have not increased our naval power; that it is only a replacement. He then went on to insist that my hon. Friends placed too little value on the achievements of the Naval Conference. We ask him to place the fullest possible value on the achievements of the Naval Conference by discarding instead of replacing. What is the good of a Naval Disarmament Conference if after that Conference you are going to replace all your vessels? You ought to be discarding enormous numbers of vessels. I know that the First Lord has said that he discarded vessels which were provided for by his predecessors.
Can anyone truthfully say that two or three years' naval holiday on the part of this country would place us in dire peril of invasion, or leave us any nearer the inevitability of war? Where is the nation that is prepared to invade our shores—and so relieve us of the necessity of solving the problem of the 2,000,000 unemployed? Where is the nation that is going to tackle the job that hon. Members opposite are afraid to tackle? Surely foreigners will not tackle a job of which Britishers are frightened? They must know that a declaration in deeds instead of mere words, that we are bound by our pledged word to renounce war as an instrument of national policy, would give an enormous impetus to the world demand for peace. If after 1918, when we disarmed our ex-enemies in order to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of armaments of all nations—that was the preamble of the Treaty that we signed with our enemies at the end of the Great War—if after all that has happened since then, these Estimates, coupled with those of the Air Force and the Army, are the best that we can do, it shows the relative futility of disarmament by agreement and the absolute necessity of disarmament by example.
I know there is a fallacy held by many right hon. Gentlemen opposite that if you want peace you must prepare for war. I grant that these right hon. Gentlemen are as sincere in holding that belief as they seem to think I am insincere in holding my belief. But the facts are against them. In the ten years from 1898 to 1908 the great Powers increased their armament expenditure by £10,000,000 a year. In the six years from 1908 to 1914 the six great Powers of Europe alone increased their armament expenditure by £100,000,000 a year. Despite this tenfold increase in security, at the end of that period you got the war of 1914. So much for the principle of securing peace by preparing for war. If you prepare for war you get what you are preparing for, and you get it in the neck as well. Speaking of the Tory Government's war expenditure I remember that an hon. friend of mine said:
If we contemplate war the Estimates are ridiculous. If we do not contemplate war they are superfluous.
That is the thing that we want to put before the Committee to-night. If you are going to accept the principle of the majority of the party opposite you are going to run this country up to the ears, and over the ears, in debt. You will never be able to get security, because you will never be able to find in any country in the world the wealth which will enable you to get sufficient armaments to give security. We want to put the other point of view—more security in disarmament than in armaments. The time to spend money on armaments has passed. The time has
come to divert to better and more productive and more useful channels the money that we are asked to spend on naval and military armaments.
I support the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend and I make clear here to-night my disbelief in armaments, my disbelief in war, not from any theoretical knowledge or from anything that I have read in books, but because I know what war is. I think I have a right to give personal reasons for venturing to raise my voice for the principle of peace and disarmament. I want to give a Vote against the Supplementary Estimate, but more against the whole idea of armaments. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will come along later and ask for more instead of less. They are afraid that if we do not spend more money on armaments, the question will be asked, where will the country go, what will become of the Empire? They are afraid of the cost of disarmament. Have they ever considered the relative cost of war? Let me quote the words of a gallant General under whom I had the honour of serving in the late War—General Sir Ian Hamilton. He said:
Tell them of the blind people, of the shell-shocked, of the number of people who are insane because of the War. Tell them of the orphans and widows. Tell them of the 30,000 disabled British soldiers capable of doing light jobs without any employment at the present moment. And if they want to go to war after that, the Lord help them!
Those are the words, not of a wild Bolshevist like myself, but of a famous General. The cost of war cannot be computed in the mere figures of armament expenditure. It cannot even be computed by the cold, bare figures of the number of men killed and injured. Somewhere near London there is a hospital where men to-day are lying maimed and deformed, some with injuries that are repulsive to the eye. The Heir to the Throne went there, and in an impulse of sympathy implanted a kiss on the forehead of a shapeless bit of humanity before him. The maimed, the helpless, the crippled—there they are in that hospital. That is what war means. On the Roll of Honour of this House are names of young men who gave great promise of emulating their illustrious sires. They
were cut off in the morning of their lives. Who can compute what the nation has lost by the death of those young men? Do you wonder that some of us who have seen it, who have been through it, who have experienced it, take every possible opportunity we can get of expressing our horror and detestation of any preparations which are likely to lead to war? We say it is time we took for peace as many risks as we have taken for war. There are those who never came back, those who died that our sons might live. Are we going to see that their sacrifice was of some avail by trying to carry out in this House the ideals and the principles for which they laid down their lives? It has been said that the Navy is us. They were us, those who lie beneath the poppies in Flanders, those who lie on the slopes of Gallipoli, they were us—blood of our blood, flesh of our flesh. Those of us who had comradeship with them and who shared the night watches with them, those of us who have held our comrades while they have sobbed out their last breath, knowing that they gave their lives in the great principle of a warless world, can never in this House or anywhere else give a vote in favour of war.
I understand that there is a general wish on the part of the Committee that this section of this debate shall come to an end as soon as possible. The Amendment now before the Committee is moved with the object of reducing the Vote. A subsequent Amendment is to be moved with the object of inducing the Government to increase the Vote and it is essential to keep the issue clear.
I desire to support the Amendment. I wish to do so because I am strongly of opinion that this House ought to be more firmly resolved for disarmament than it seems to be by expanding its expenditure by this Supplementary Estimate. It is because I am against this Supplementary Estimate and against spending more money on the Navy that I want to make my protest public, and I also want to make it in the Division Lobby. It seems to me that we are running a mad race for armaments, we are doing the very thing that many condemned in 1918, and that many condemned before 1914. It has been the policy of the Labour party to go in for disarmament, not piecemeal but in a wholesale fashion. You may tell me that we must have an Army, a Navy and an Air Force because other nations have them. I think the finest peace propaganda this nation could indulge in would be to abolish absolutely all our war instruments. It is the soundest and safest way towards peace. As long as there are armaments encouraged and
manufactured by this nation, so long will other nations follow that example. We have led other nations in days gone by. It is because I am opposed to this Supplementary Estimate that I am bound to vote for this paltry reduction of £100, though I would rather vote for wholesale reduction, but I want to go into the Lobby so that I can say what I want to say properly.
|Division No. 442.]||AYES.||[7.8 p.m.|
|Ayles, Walter||Lindley, Fred W.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Longden, F.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Buchanan, G.||McGovern, J. (Glasgow, Shettleston)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Cove, William G.||McShane, John James||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Haycock, A. W.||Maxton, James||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Horrabin, J. F.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||West, F. R.|
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Price, M. P.||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Kinley, J.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Scrymgeour, E.||Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy and|
|Mr. Ben Turner.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Dalton, Hugh||Hayes, John Henry|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Dawson, Sir Philip||Herriotts, J.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Day, Harry||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)|
|Astor, Viscountess||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Duncan, Charles||Hollins, A.|
|Balniel, Lord||Ede, James Chuter||Hopkin, Daniel|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Edge, Sir William||Hore-Belisha, Leslie.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N. (Cardiff C.)||Edmunds, J. E.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.|
|Benson, G.||Egan, W. H.||Isaacs, George|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Elmley, Viscount||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)|
|Bowen, J. W.||Freeman, Peter||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)|
|Bracken, B.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lathan, G.|
|Bromley, J.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)|
|Brooke, W.||Gill, T. H.||Law, A. (Rossendale)|
|Brothers, M.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lawrence, Susan|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Glassey, A. E.||Lawson, John James|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Gossling, A. G.||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Leach, W.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Lees, J.|
|Butler, R. A.||Gray, Milner||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)|
|Cape, Thomas||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Llewellin, Major J. J.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Grundy, Thomas W.||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Chater, Daniel||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Lowth, Thomas|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Compton, Joseph||Harris, Percy A.||Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)|
|Cowan, D. M.||Haslam, Henry C.||McElwee, A.|
|Daggar, George||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||McEntee, V. L.|
|Dallas, George||Hayday, Arthur||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Pole, Major D. G.||Strauss, G. R.|
|March, S.||Potts, John S.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Marcus, M.||Pybus, Percy John||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Markham, S. F.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Sutton, J. E.|
|Marley, J.||Ramsbotham, H.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Marshall, Fred||Raynes, W. R.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|Mathers, George||Richards, R.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Meller, R. J.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Melville, Sir James||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Middleton, G.||Romeril, H. G.||Townend, A. E.|
|Milner, Major J.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Montague, Frederick||Rowson, Guy||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Vaughan, D. J.|
|Morley, Ralph||Sanders, W. S.||Viant, S. P.|
|Morris, Rhys Hopkins||Sawyer, G. F.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Scurr, John||Walker, J.|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Sexton, James||Wallace, H. W.|
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Mort, D. L.||Shield, George William||Watkins, F. C.|
|Moses, J. J. H.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Murnin, Hugh||Shillaker, J. F.||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Nathan, Major H. L.||Shinwell, E.||White, H. G.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Noel Baker, P. J.||Sinkinson, George||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Oldfield, J. R.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Palin, John Henry||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Paling, Wilfrid||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Palmer, E. T.||Snell, Harry|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Stamford, Thomas W.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Phillips, Dr. Marion||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||William Whiteley.|
|Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe|
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £50.
The Committee have listened with considerable interest to the debate which has just concluded, because we had the remarkable spectacle of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the late Chancellor of the Exchequer sitting at the feet of the Gamaliel from Central Hull. I wish at the outset of this discussion to say that in any building programme which we on this side may advocate, or in any criticism which we may make, there is no suggestion that the possibility or the probability of war with the United States has ever entered into our calculations. War with the United States I believe to be unthinkable; and, what is more, I believe that only in a real alliance between this country and the United States lies any hope of world peace. But when we rise to ask for what we consider to be adequate armaments hon. Gentlemen apposite accuse us of being war-minded. I am sure the Committee listened with special interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Erdington (Mr. Simmons), who spoke with such sincerity, but may I respectfully remind him that he is not the only Member of this Committee who took part in the Great War, and therefore he
is not the only Member entitled to speak on the subject of armaments by virtue of the fact that he took part in the War. Before addressing myself to the questions which arise on this Estimate, I ask the indulgence of the Committee while I read an extract from a speech made by the French Minister of Marine in 1927:
Navies in right ought to be measured not by political ambitions but by real defensive needs inscribed in history and geography, that is to say by the requirements of geographical situation, extent of coasts and colonies, bulk of industry and trade, and the moral prestige implanted over the oceans by centuries and centuries of navigation. Such a criterion gives Britain premier rank.
Can any Member of the Committee deny the justice or truth of that statement or the principle which it sets forth? The construction programme which we are now discussing is the measure of the Government's adherence to this principle. I admit freely that the excellent speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty has made extremely difficult the task of those on this side who wish to plead for a larger programme. With great adroitness and skill he has expounded the case for the Government, and he has made it more difficult to put forward the arguments which we had intended to put forward. To some extent he would appear to have cut the ground from
under us, but having paid him that tribute, I will do my best to state our case and to meet his points.
The British Empire demands a flexible cruiser programme of its own choosing—a programme which has no relation to anybody else's programme because it is based entirely on the needs of the British Empire, a programme which is inferior to none, either in the up-to-dateness of the units of which it is composed or in the total number of ships. The needs of the Empire also demand an adequate destroyer programme which takes into consideration the submarine strengths of those nations which lie on either side of our trade routes. Let us take the cruiser programme first. What has been the history of our cruiser programmes? In order to discuss the programme which is now before us it is essential to go back a little and to see what has happened in connection with cruiser building during the last few years. In July, 1925, a five year programme was adopted which represented 16 cruisers and about 45 destroyers or an average of about three cruisers and nine destroyers per year. After the Geneva Conference two cruisers were dropped from the 1927 programme and one from the 1928 programme. I freely say that in my opinion those cruisers ought not to have been dropped from the programme. I admit that they were dropped by Conservative Ministers. Those Ministers probably acted as they thought best, taking into consideration the circumstances all the time, but looking back over the intervening years to my mind it was obviously a mistake to drop those cruisers.
The First Lord made use of that fact as an argument against us but the right hon. Gentleman in this matter cannot have it both ways. If the Conservative Government neglected their duty in this respect it was his business when he came into office to make up for the deficiency. If on the other hand the Conservative Government were only doing what the right hon. Gentleman himself wanted them to do, in the reduction of armaments, then he can hardly throw it in our teeth now and suggest that he is in the difficult position of a man who has come into office and has found a programme reduced by the action of his Conservative predecessors. In 1929 what did
the Government do? In spite of the reduction which had taken place the Labour Government postponed the two remaining cruisers of the 1928 programme and subsequently cancelled them. In January, 1930, they cancelled two more cruisers from the 1929 programme. Why did the First Lord consent to those reductions if he believed that the fact that those ships were going out of the programme would lead to a larger programme in the future? On top of this the Government reduced our cruiser requirements from 70 to 50. I still hold that the possession of 70 cruisers by the British Empire is necessary to meet our Trade route requirements adequately, and I do not believe that the Government has ever justified the reduction to the figure of 50. I believe that the figure of 50 which was agreed upon at the Conference is going to hang over the heads not only of this Government but of future Governments. Unfortunately we cannot discuss this programme in the light of things as we would like them to be. We have to deal with it in the light of things as they are at the present moment. The First Lord's Explanatory Statement contains this passage:
The situation to-day is such that replacement of cruisers, destroyers and sloops cannot be further delayed.
Having read that passage let us turn to the second paragraph and there we find the following:
His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have now carefully reviewed the situation consequent upon the provisions of Part III of the London Naval Treaty, if that Treaty is ratified by the High Contracting Parties concerned. As a result they do not consider that in the present international situation it is desirable at this moment to formulate general proposals covering the whole period of the Treaty or, in fact, to go beyond the present financial year.
I call special attention to the last sentence. Why is it
undesirable at the moment to formulate general proposals covering the whole period of the Treaty or in fact to go beyond the present financial year.
It is in regard to cruisers that, I suggest, the Government have let down the British Empire. The Treaty gives an age limit for the United States and Japan in regard to cruisers of 16 years, and in the case of the British Empire, by reason of the limitation and other circumstances, the age limit is 20 years. We have to
consider the cruiser programme up to 1936 and what do we find? We have 59 cruisers built or authorised and 28 will become over age before December 31st, 1934. In that year, therefore, our effective strength will be 31 cruisers. Eight more will become over age between January, 1935, and December, 1936, and, at the end of 1936, we should therefore only have 23 effective cruisers. Under the Treaty we can only replace 91,000 tons, that is, 15 ships of 5,000 to 6,000 tons, and if we build those 15 ships, at the end of 1936 the maximum of effective cruisers which we can possess will be 38. Therefore, to get 50 cruisers by 1936 we shall be compelled to have in the Navy 12 ships which will be over age. It seems a curious thing that we should have to send our seamen to sea in ships which are 20 years of age whereas the age limit for the ships of other countries is to be 16 years. Having given those figures, I turn to Page 4 of the Explanatory Statement where the Government say that it is undesirable to go beyond the present financial year or to cover the whole period of the Treaty. In plain English, they are in a hole about cruisers, so now what do they say:
In considering the cruiser replacement programme, it is necessary to look beyond the actual period covered by the London Naval Treaty.
Why this particular exception? At the beginning of the Explanatory Statement, they say they are not going beyond the period of the Treaty or even further than the one financial year, but when they talk about cruisers—and as I have said that is where the Government have let the British Empire down—and have to get out of the hole about cruisers, they say, that "in considering the cruiser replacement programme, it is necessary to look beyond the actual period covered by the Treaty." A comparison between the figures which I have given and the figures given by the First Lord in that Statement will supply the answer. The First Lord calculates up to 1940, not to 1936, in order to show that up to 1940 we are to have 23 cruisers under 20 years of age, not 16 years of age like other nations signatory to the Treaty. Why calculate for a period of 10 years, instead of the Treaty period of six? Hon. Gentleman opposite are very pleased with the Treaty; they have said that it is a good Treaty, and they are delighted with it; they have patted
themselves on the back over it, and they have made speeches in the country saying that it is the finest thing that yeas ever been done; but, when it comes to putting the Treaty into operation and calculating the number of ships we want in order to carry out the provisions of the Treaty, they find that they have to go four years beyond the period of the Treaty, if they are to make their figures fit in.
It is perfectly obvious that if you are going to take the Treaty period—and nobody knows this better than the First Lord, for after all, he has the whole of the expert knowledge of the Admiralty to tell him about it, and I expect that they have told him—if you are to go up to the Treaty period, to 1936, you cannot possibly get 50 completed cruisers for this country; and, in order to make the figures fit in, they go on to 1940 and say, "We are going to spread our construction over a period of years, and we shall get 50 efficient ships by 1940." But the Treaty is designed to give us 50 ships by 1936, and not 1940 at all. If we are to reach 1936 with 50 efficient cruisers, we shall have to build, not 15 cruisers, but 27, or at least five cruisers a year. The Committee are aware that it takes three years to build a cruiser; therefore the majority of these cruisers would have to be laid down before 1935.
I am not concerned with the question of the 10,000-ton 8-in. gun cruisers, and I do not wish to go into their merits or demerits; I wish that they had never been thought of. They do not come into this picture at all, because, as has been pointed out in the debate to-day, we have already got the 15 cruisers which we are allowed under the Treaty. The United States can build 15 more 8-inch cruisers than they have at the present time, every one of which will be more up to date, more efficient, more modern than ours, and with all the latest improvements, and they will come to 1936 with a magnificent up-todate fleet—and I do not grudge them it—of 8-inch cruisers, whereas we must come to 1936 with our fleet of 15 cruisers vastly inferior to what is possessed on the other side of the Atlantic.
The Government now find it quite impossible to achieve the figure of 50 unless they bring forward a programme so heavy that it would not be stomached by the occupants who generally sit on the back benches, and who are now conspicuous by their absence. The 91,000-ton limitation is what has put the First Lord and the British Empire in this hole. It was settled before the Conference even met in London—
I would remind the First Lord of the specific statement made in another place by the Lord President of the Council. I asked the Prime Minister a question on this point, and the answer which he gave made it clear that he differed somewhat from the Lord President of the Council, but that, although the figures may not have been technically decided and confirmed until the Conference, they were in fact fixed and settled, and the bargain was practically signed, sealed and delivered before the Conference began its deliberations. Whether this figure of 91,000 tons was settled at that secret conference at Rapidan or not I do not know, but I suggest that it was then that the arrangement was made, and that, although the right hon. Gentleman is within his rights and quite correct no doubt in taking the technical stand that it was not fixed finally until the London Conference, he knows as well as I do that before our delegates went into that Conference, before the Japanese, French or Italians were told about it, it had been settled and decided, and finally sealed between the Prime Minister and the Americans that we were to have a limitation of 91,000 tons. I recommend to the First Lord a study of what was said by the Lord President of the Council and of the answers which were given to my questions by the Prime Minister. Under the 91,000-ton limit, we cannot get 50 ships unless they are too small.
What is the tonnage of these three ships to be? Does the right hon. Gentleman know what the tonnage of the three projected cruisers, to start which he is asking the money, is going to be? The minimum of 6,000 tons is the very lowest that they ought to be. Experts, and particularly naval experts, are railed at very often by hon. Members, but, in judging the size and the equipment of a cruiser or any other ship, the expert must give his view, for after all, he has got to fight the ship and to sail it. The experts tell us that 6,500 tons is about the proper size for these ships if they are to be capable of the extensive cruising that they will have to carry out in pursuance of their duty, and if they are to have proper and adequate accommodation and comfort for the men in hot climates, and if they are to have the sea-keeping capacity which is so essential. The whole of these troubles have been forced upon us by a Clause in the Treaty which should never have been agreed to by any Government. The First Lord talked about three or four ships a year. That means that under a 91,000-ton limitation they cannot be bigger than 6,000 tons if we are to have 15. May I remind the Committee of what the Lord President of the Council said. He made a statement in which he said that the 91,000-ton limitation allowed for the building of 14 6-inch cruisers of 6,500 tons, and he said that the First Lord of the Admiralty had said that it was proposed to build cruisers of not less that 6,500 tons. If this be the case, as the Lord President of the Council quite rightly said, there would be a limitation as regards the number, and the number would be 13 or 14. So we are whittling down our already scanty number of 15 to 13 or 14. In fact, the whole of this programme and the limitation figure which affects it are wrapped in mystery.
The Lord President of the Council, who gave away a great deal of information, said that the 12 cruisers proposed to be laid down in the next four years were only the beginning. He went on to say that it was intended to discuss at the imperial Conference how the tonnage limitation can be utilised in order to get the 50 cruisers within the time. But how can he get the 50 cruisers within the time, if the tonnage limitation is to be preserved, and if he is only to have 12 cruisers of 6,500 tons? He envisages a reconsideration and readjustment of the programme after the discussions at the Imperial Conference. But what is there to discuss? The Treaty has been settled, and the tonnage limitation has been settled. What are they going to discuss with the Dominions? The fact remains that if you are building 14 ships you cannot build them any bigger than 6,500 tons, and if you are going to build 15 ships, you can build them of only 6,000 tons. So the fact emerges that either you can build your total number of ships, in which case they will be of ridiculously low tonnage in order to come within the limitation, or else you can build ships of an adequate tonnage, in which case you cannot possibly bring the cruiser strength up to the figure of 50, which the Government keeps on reiterating is the proper figure required for the British Empire.
I suggest that the situation is a very bad one. Two valuable years have been lost. The 1928 programme was cancelled entirely. The "Leander" was to be laid down this year, but I do not think that she has actually been laid down. Unless you can build five cruisers a year, you are bound to put an unfair liability on any future Budget. If we accept the figure—I do not accept it as the right figure for the Empire—but, if for the sake of argument, you accept the figure of 50 as being the goal to which you are striving, how can you reach that goal in the time of the Treaty unless you build at least five ships a year? I would like to call the attention of the Committee to another fact. The Explanatory Statement mentions the scrapping of two ships, the "Frobisher" and the "Effingham." They are good ships scrapped before their time simply and solely—and it is no use being mealy-mouthed about it—to please the United States. I have the greatest affection for the United States, but these two ships are being scrapped simply as a gesture to the United States, simply as a sop to them at the expense of the British taxpayer. Why could not these ships have been kept in service If it is argued that they have 7.5-inch guns, what could have been easier than to re-arm them with 6-inch guns? These are comfortable ships for use in hot climates, and efficient ships for the work they are wanted to perform, namely, trade route protection; and yet, although they are nothing like at the end of their usefulness, they are to be scrapped simply because the United States said to the Prime Minister, "We do not like you to have four Hawkins class vessels." It takes three years to build a cruiser. If we build only 15 cruisers up to 1936, five a year must be laid down in the years 1931, 1932 and 1933, if they are to come into service by 1934, 1935 and 1936, or four can be laid down if construction starts this year. But the right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that it is too late to start construction this year.
I should not like a wrong impression to be made. The construction of the 1930 programme will not be started any later than if we had announced the programme in March.
It will be with great difficulty that we shall be able to start them this year. Upon the Government's own showing it is obvious from the Treaty, of which they are so proud, that the requirement of this country, if the cruiser strength is to be maintained at the figure which the First Lord said is the proper figure, is five cruisers a year and not three. There is another problem in connection with this. The hull, machinery and gun mountings of a cruiser give about 206,252 man weeks' work. If you put two more cruisers in the year's programme, it will make a difference of 412,504 additional man weeks' work at a time when unemployment is rife, and when you are looking round for useful work which can be given to employ men. The Government, therefore, have the opportunity of killing two birds with one stone, for not only can they give work to skilled men in order that their skill does not suffer through lack of use, but they can maintain the security of the country at the same time. Eighty-five per cent. of the cost of a cruiser goes in wages, as I would like to remind not only this House but the working men of the country, and there are about 20 different trades employed. I wonder whether the Prime Minister has forgotten the statement he made in 1924, when he professed great scorn for those who advocated pacifist principles but were ready "to allow our ships to fall to pieces." Yet the British Empire is to reach 1936 with quite a reasonable proportion of the ships of His Majesty's Navy in the state of falling to pieces.
I wish to pass to the destroyer flotilla and destroyer leader programme. Here the position is very serious. The First Lord complained of the inadequacy of his inherited provisions, but in that case why did he cancel four ships of the 1929 programme? He cannot have it both ways. If, as he says, the Conservative programme was inadequate, and therefore he had not got the ships when he came into office, what he ought to have done was manfully to have resisted the blandishments of his friends, and particularly, it is to be presumed, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and said, "No, I will have none of that. The provision I have got is inadequate, and whatever else you scrap you cannot scrap the four destroyers." Instead of subtracting from the programme he should have added to it. We have in the Navy at the present time 134 destroyers, about half the number the United States possesses. Only two have been laid down since 1918. The remainder were begun in the years 1916 to 1918. Everyone who has any knowledge of the work of a destroyer in wartime will know that many of those ships must have been nearly racked to pieces by their War service. I remember a destroyer captain saying that being in a destroyer in wartime was like being a taxi driver and never being allowed to go on the rank and put up the flag. France has 58 destroyers, 20 of which have been laid down in or since 1923. Our new construction already provided for allows for eight destroyers in the 1927 programme, eight in the 1928 programme and four—reduced from eight—in the 1929 programme, and two are building for Canada.
To meet our requirements we should build 70 destroyers during the next four years, or 17 a year. If we are going to retain over-age craft, the figure would come down to about 12 a year. Even then, in 1936 our destroyer flotillas will barely equal in strength the flotillas possessed by France or Italy. The Government's sole contribution has been one leader and eight destroyers. We have heard a good deal this afternoon about the reference to flotillas in the Explanatory Statement. I accept the explanation of the First Lord of the Admiralty, but what would that statement mean to anybody who read it in the ordinary way? The Government say that to meet requirements we should have to build two flotillas a year, and then go on to say that it would be desirable to spread construction for a period, and that therefore there is to be only one flotilla in the 1930 programme. Now we are told by the right hon. Gentleman that it means not only one flotilla in the 1930 programme but only one flotilla a year during the period. Now we know! Now the cat is out of the bag! But that is not what this Explanatory Statement would convey to anybody reading it. They would gather that the Government anticipated building two flotillas a year, and that only in 1930 were they going to build only one flotilla. I cannot help thinking that the Government are hardly keeping up our destroyer strength. At any rate, the First Lord made a good defence—I felt almost persuaded to agree with him—saying that it was better to build a flotilla a year for eight years than two flotillas a year for five years, because at the end we should have better destroyers.
The hon. Member says that is the reason. What has become of the Treaty period now? The hon. Gentleman has told us that the reason we are spreading them over is to get better flotillas at the end of—what? Not the Treaty period, but the eight years. The whole Treaty period has gone to the winds in these Supplementary Estimates. We were told we were going to have our destroyer tonnage completed by the end of 1936, but when we come down here it boils down to 1940. Does not that prove that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House were perfectly right when they said they saw "the nigger in the woodpile" in the Treaty? Where does the British Empire come in? Everybody else is to have an up-to-date Navy by 1936 except the British Empire. First we are told we are going to be up-to-date in 1936, and then down to the House comes the right hon. Gentleman and says, "Oh, no, it is not 1936 at all, it is 1940." If by any calamity this Government should be in office next year I suppose we shall be told that it is 1950.
I will now turn to the question of flotilla leaders. By 1933 France will have completed 24 since 1926. We shall have 16, 13 of which were laid down during 1916–1918, some of them ships which were racked to pieces by War service. The French ships are of 2,126 tons or more, and mounting 5.5 guns. None of our ships are of more than 1,530 tons, and mount 4.7 guns. The latest French flotilla leader is a ship of 2,440 tons. We cannot construct a similar vessel. Why? Owing to the Treaty of which the right hon. Gentleman is so proud. On our flank lies our friend and late ally—and I hope always our friend and ally—France. The big menace to trade, after the submarine, lies in the destroyer and the destroyer leader. Here we have the French able and ready to build, because they are not restricted by the three-Power part of the Treaty, a ship of 2,440 tons as a destroyer leader, but when we want to build a ship of similar size the right hon. Gentleman says, "Oh no, we cannot build that because for the British Empire that is a light cruiser." It is a light cruiser in the case of three of the Powers, but in the case of France and Italy it is only a flotilla leader.
We heard from the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull many criticisms of the First Lord of the Admiralty. I am rather sorry for the First Lord. He sat in a sort of cross-fire. From one side he has been told that he has done too much, and from the other side that he has done too little.
The hon. Member thinks he is right, but it may be that one or other of his critics is right. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull even poured scorn upon Navy weeks and upon tattoos at Whale Island, but he did not tell the Committee that the Navy weeks and the tattoos were not for the purpose of popularising the Navy but to raise money for naval charities. That was never mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member. When people talk about the Aldershot tattoo and the Naval tattoo and the visits of the Fleet round the coast, and some pacifist Members declare that this display of armed force is to teach our people and our children militaristic ideas, it ought to be remembered that the object is to raise money for naval charities. It does not add to the burden of the taxpayer, because almost all the work—I think I am right in saying all of it—is done voluntarily, and not one penny piece of the charge for Navy week or the tattoos comes out of any public funds voted by this House. I am sorry the hon. and gallant Member is not now in his place, but it ought to be made clear to the Committee that this is the proper and
correct aspect from which to view these things and not the aspect which he put forward. In conclusion, I would say that the First Lord is reported as having made a speech the other day in a much-favoured place, Plymouth, in which he said:
If we are menaced, peace man as I am, I would not see my country let down.
I suggest to the Committee that it is his job to make such menace impossible, and this inadequate new construction programme is, in fact, letting the country down before there is any question of its being menaced.
As usual, when we come to discuss the Navy we find practically an empty House. Here is one of the Services which has done nothing but good, not only for this country but for the world, and yet when it comes up for discussion we always find, as I have protested every year for 12 years, a dull and uninterested House. That only shows how difficult a problem a decision on naval defence presents for any Government which is in power. I regret that the whole House did not hear the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby). It was a wise and constructive speech, and I absolutely agree with most of it, but I do hope that what he said about the Government not living up to the Treaty and putting off the programme from 1936 to 1940 is not true. If it were, the Government would be deceiving many of us who honestly want to support them. I myself cannot believe that the Admiralty would allow it. I think there would have been some protest from the Admiralty if what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said were true. The Government could not go back on their promises in that way.
I am in a peculiar position. I am for peace above all things; I think every man and woman ought to fight for peace—and it looks very much as though we might have to fight if we got it; and I absolutely disagree with the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) when he said there was not one redeeming feature in this Naval Treaty. His view appeared to be that we should have no agreement, and that each country should go on building according to its needs. That is a most curious view for the right hon. Member to take. In domestic life he is a dove, but in public life he is a man of war. I do not believe he wants war any more than does any Member of this House, but sub consciously he thinks in terms of war. I am sorry he is not here, because I do not like to criticise him in his absence, but I take my policy from the late Lord Balfour, who was more responsible than anybody else for the Washington Conference, and I also deeply regret the failure of the Geneva Conference. I do not think that we can blame any one country for the failure of the Geneva Conference, but I do say that there were people there who did not mean that it should succeed. I am sorry it was a failure, and I congratulate the Government on doing as well as they did at the London Conference; because you cannot tell me that, if you get the three great naval Powers of the world to agree not to build competitive armaments, you have not got a step forward. I do not say that you have got very far, but you have moved forward. I quite understand that the result must have been disappointing to many members, of the Government, because they had such high hopes that, when the Labour party came into power, there would be peace on earth and good will toward men. There is less peace on earth, and I do not believe there is much more good will toward men. They can see now that, although they can pass resolutions, it is quite a different thing to get things done. The Government know, and the House know now, how difficult it was to get agreement at the London Conference, but at least they got agreement. I do not agree with hon. Members who say, "It does not make any difference; let any country build what she wants." It seems to me that that is a mad programme, because it inevitably leads to war. We want to do just what we are doing: To agree as much as possible, and to get together as often as we can.
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom who has just spoken: I do not believe there is in any section of the House any desire to have war between the great British Empire and the United States of America. It is very wrong for anyone to make out, because hon. Members may not go as far as I do, that that is what they have at the backs of their minds. People who put that forward are really playing into the hands of the war-mongers. There are plenty of them in the United States, and no doubt there are some here, but certainly no hon. Member that I know of on this side of the House would for one minute visualise that possibility.
I want to get back to this point: I feel that we really ought always to strengthen the hands of the men at the Admiralty who have to fight as hard as this Government have got to fight for peace. We ought to do everything we can to help them, and pat them on the back when we can, but watch them, as the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom is doing, and see that they do not give in to their extremists; because there is no getting round it, as anybody knows who has fought the Labour party, as I have done for, I am ashamed to say how many years, that they have in the party a section of extremists who go round telling the people that Liberals and Conservatives and all the rest of the people of the country are out for a big Navy and war; and it really shocks them that we should have even an adequate defence—what I call a police force.
You can take their attitude from the speech of the hon. Member for Erdington (Mr. Simmons). Just think what he said! He said that the whole world was moving towards peace. I think that we are moving towards peace, but look at India, look at Egypt, look at Russia, and look at China! Only last year there was a very considerable war in China between the Russians and Chinese, [An HON. MEMBER: "There is now!"] No, I say between the Russians and Chinese. I still know there is one among the Chinese themselves, but we cannot do anything about that. There was a perfect war last year, and the rest of the world had to shut their eyes. I was recently speaking to someone from China, and he said that the conditions in Manchuria were perfectly appalling. You only had to go to Harbin and see the wrecks from the war to realise that. How any hon. Member can get up in this House and urge that we should throw aside our police force and pretend that the world is ready for complete disarmaments I cannot understand.
I think it is very wrong and very misleading to the people of this country, and very wrong to the rest of the world; and, also, it is wrong to try to pretend, because you have a particular bee in your bonnet, that you are the only person who has been through war and suffered from war and feels the horror of war. I deplore that, because I believe that there are probably more Members upon this side of the House who fought and suffered and lost in the war than there are on the other side of the House. But we do not want to go into the personal side. We are here on the principle, and our principle is that as long as the world is as it is, we have to have a sufficient force to police the trade routes of the world.
I do feel that the Government, having got into office, realise that and are making a real fight for it; but they must remember that if it does come to a tight they cannot depend upon a certain section of pacifists. I can give them an instance. It will be remembered that when war broke out in China we wanted to send troops there. I do not want to rake up the past, because I know that it is unprofitable and disagreeable, but I only want to tell the Committee this: When we wanted to send our troops to China to protect British interests there, we had from hon. Members on the other side of the House opposition on the ground that we were sending British troops and battleships to protect the British capitalists in China. As a matter of fact, the effect of our sending our troops and ships to China was that we really prevented a war. If we had done as hon. Members opposite advocated and sent no one there, there would certainly have been a war there. I want to point out to the more extreme pacifists that sometimes it is better to take what may seem like aggressive steps to prevent war, rather than to sit still and perhaps thereby cause war.
The First Lord of the Admiralty said something to the effect that he was going to stabilise work in public and private yards. I want to ask him something on behalf of those of us who have never tried to make a political question of the dockyards. I certainly have never done that, because I thought it was unfair to do so; and I think the right hon. Gentleman would admit that I have never in this House asked embarrassing questions. At any rate I hope I have not, because I realise the difficulties, and I do not want to increase them. But it is a little hard when we who represent dockyard constituencies find hon. Members belonging to the opposite party coming down and saying that the Labour Government are going to have the whole of the national work put into the national dockyards. We know that it is not possible, and I do feel that they owe some duty to come down to our constituencies and say that they regret that they have to go back upon all those foolish things which they said in the past, because it puts us in a very difficult position. We are told to ask here in the House why the Government do not give us all the work. We know that they cannot give us all the work.
I appeal to the Government to realise our difficulty. I am not going into the Lobby against them to-night, because I think they have made as good a stand as they could in the circumstances, and I think the result of the London Conference was as good as they could get. I quite agree that it was in many way disappointing, but still it was a step forward; so I do ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite, as some of us are trying to be a little helpful, to be a little fairer to us. You are in a difficult position in a dockyard town. If you do not go with some of the more bellicose people, you ars supposed to be a pacifist, but, on the other hand, if you do you are supposed to be a great warrior. I am a warrior, it is perfectly true. I am a warrior against humbugs, because it is my opinion that humbugs and hypocrites do far more harm in the world than all the warriors in the world. Will not some of the Labour representatives say tonight, "We have said a great many things that we did not mean"? Right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been saying for years what the Labour party would do when they got into the dockyards, and what work they would give to the dockyards.
If the hon. Member were honest he would go back to his constituents and say that what they had been told was not true. I want honesty; and I want honesty in public life as far as it is possible. People are always saying, "Tell us the truth." Very few people can stand the truth, and I should think that politicians as a rule tell them as much as they can stand. I am out to defend politicians. Everybody says, "We want the truth," but very few of us ever want the truth. If I attempted to tell the truth to the people I love, they probably would not speak to me the next day. So it is in public life. A man has to fight against humbugs and hypocrites, and we have had to fight against them for years, when they said that before the War all Governments wanted war, and that is why they were building battleships, and they ought not to be spending money upon them.
The hon. Member for Erdington has made a speech here which has been made all over the country by Labour people for the last 12 years, but he is the only one who has had the courage to get up and make it in the House of Commons. And what a ridiculous speech it is, when you think of it! What a heartbreaking speech it is! I am sorry for him; I know exactly how he feels. But I do back the Government in this matter. In this world in which we live, you have to have common sense as well as common humanity, and I do think that they are adopting the best course by taking the steps which they are taking and going forward slowly but surely, not assuming that the world is moving towards peace as fast as the hon. Member for Erdington and I want it to move; because I think that to act on such an assumption as that would be really moving towards war. After all, may I ask him one question: If he cannot get co-operation in his own party, how on earth does he think he is going to get it in the world? I ask him that, because I want him to go home and think about it.
The hon. Member has been thinking about it and now he knows. I am sorry when I hear a good honest man make speeches like that. I admire him, but I really admire the Government more, because, in spite of being backed by the hon. Member for Erdington and the hon. Member for the Drake Division, they are doing the only wise and sensible thing, and I myself would not dare to go into the Lobby against them. I congratulate them, but I will watch them to see that they keep up their efforts.
After the very lucid and interesting speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) it is very difficult to avoid touching upon a good many subjects which he has already touched on. I think the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) rather doubts the accuracy of some of his figures, because she thinks they are too bad to be true. If I do tresspass and say a few things which have been said before, I am sure I shall be forgiven for that reason. As one who has always believed that a strong navy is essential not only for the security of this country, but also for the peace of the world, and as a Member who sits for a dockyard town, I am of course deeply interested to see that adequate provision is made as regards the Navy of this country. I rather regret that the First Lord of the Admiralty is not here. Naturally, he has to leave the House at times, but I should like to say to him that, although we on this side of the House are not at all satisfied with the Naval Treaty, I believe that the position would have been worse, and I believe that the provisions for the building programme of this year would have been worse, had it not been for the First Lord. I think his ideas have come to fruition, but that is as far as I can go. Whatever the First Lord may think himself, he has now got into bad company and he must be judged by the company he keeps.
With regard to the London Naval Treaty I think the right hon. Gentleman looks upon it from a different point of view to what we do on this side of the Committee. The First Lord thinks that the Treaty provides all the security and tonnage that this country requires, whereas our opinion is that it does not give sufficient tonnage for our requirement. Consequently the First Lord is willing to adopt a policy of delaying and under-building, less than is allowed under the Naval Treaty; whereas on this side of the House we think it is necessary to make the best of a bad job, and build to the extreme limit which the Treaty allows. In this view I am confirmed by two of our greatest naval experts, Lord Beatty and Lord Jellicoe.
As regards the London Naval Treaty, Lord Beatty says:
A great and deplorable blunder had been committed.
Lord Beatty went on to say:
If we had the money 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 untrammelled by a Treaty of this kind.
Lord Jellicoe said that he was in the fullest agreement with what Lord Beatty had said, and as regards provision for the limitation of cruisers, Lord Jellicoe said:
This 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 nation above all others which is absolutely dependent upon the security of its sea communications.
Both those great naval experts have no use whatever for the London Naval Treaty.
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Chairman, and I will not discuss the Naval Treaty. I want to refer to the programme which is the result of the Naval Treaty. It is proposed to lay down in the present financial year three 6-inch type cruisers. In this type the Treaty allows us a tonnage of 192,200 or 35 ships and if we apply the 16 year age limit, in 1936 we shall only have 46,680 tans or nine ships effective. We require to build 26 ships representing 143,520 tons. The extraordinary thing is that we are not allowed by the Treaty replacements of more than 91,000 tons. What does that mean? It means that over 52,000 tons of 6-inch gun ships will become obsolete being over the 16 year age limit, and we shall be forced to keep a number in commission over 16 years of age. The result would be that British seamen would be sent to sea, if war broke out, in vessels which are admittedly inefficient.
I presume that the Government are prepared to take the full responsibility, should war break out, for sending out our men in these very old boats which are admittedly inefficient, and if a great loss of life takes place in consequence, I presume the Government are prepared to take this responsibility. I believe that the 16 years' limit does not err on the generous side. As a shipowner I was called upon to build and acquire a great many boats. We controlled some 50 or 60 ships built during the War, and our experience was that the ratio is not 16 to 20 years of War built to Peace built vessels as laid down but the depreciation is very much greater in the case of War-built boats. The Government's argument now is that it is not necessary to hold up our cruiser replacement because otherwise there will not be work for the dockyards or the private yards. But in 1936 we shall require to build more battleships. In America and Japan the opinion is that capital ships are essential as part of the naval strength of any country. When those countries build their new battleships it will be essential for us to follow suit, if we want to maintain ourselves as one of the great naval powers of the world. In this way work will be provided for the dockyards after the programme laid down by the Naval Treaty is completed.
Our complaint is that the Government is not building up to what is allowed this country under the Naval Treaty. As regards cruisers, if you take it that 91,000 tons is the limit, one cruiser of the last year's programme has not been started, and the three authorised this year will not be started until early next year. If you allow those four cruisers, that leaves 10 to be completed by 1936, and in the years 1931, 1932 and 1933 we shall have to lay down three each year, and four in one of these years. The delay in laying down the 1930 programme will swell the Estimates for succeeding years, and it means that the Government are throwing the onus on their successors. It looks to me that they are rather shirking their obligations in regard to what is allowed under the Naval Treaty. Owing to the delay in carrying out the 1930 programme, we shall have to provide in later years for all this shortage of ships which we are allowed to build under the Naval Treaty. It looks to me as though the Government were banking on the probability that next year they will not be in office, and that their unfortunate successors will have to undertake this double obligation which they should have fulfilled when they had the opportunity. I think it would have been much wiser if, instead of spending money on further doles, they had spent it on putting this country in a safe position from a naval point of view.
I should like to say one word with regard to flotilla leaders. These have to be looked upon from the point of view of the Navy as a whole, and they have also to be compared with those of foreign countries, owing to the very large size of the flotilla leaders which are being built by France. The First Lord states that the latest type of flotilla leader building in France is of 2,440 tons, and he also states that, under Part III of the London Treaty, any vessels that we might construct of equal power to this would come within the definition of cruisers. Again, he states that in 1933 France will have 24 flotilla leaders, and Great Britain will have 16. The deficiency in the British figures is even much worse than 24 to 16, because the 24 French boats are all large vessels of over 2,126 tons, and armed with 5-inch and 5.5-inch guns, whereas the 16 British vessels are comparatively small vessels of not more than 1,530 tons, and are armed with 5-inch and 4.7-inch guns. Further, the French vessels are all practically new, having been completed since 1926, whereas the British include 13 War-built craft laid down in 1916–18, so that in 1933, in reality, we shall only have three of what may be called more or less modern boats, and they will be of moderate size, as against France's 24, which are all new and are all very large vessels—so large that we are prohibited from building them unless we count them as cruisers. This again shows that we must be particularly careful to build to the full complement that we can of cruisers under the Treaty.
The question of destroyers has been gone into by my hon. Friend already. Taking the figures that he has given, and taking destroyers and flotilla leaders together, we see that we shall have 80 over the age limit in 1936, and, as they take two years to build, that means that it will be necessary for us to lay down 16 a year during the five years 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933 and 1934. I can confirm that again by an eminent naval authority, Lord Jellicoe, who said:
The absolute importance of the destroyer is not realised by many people, but it is essential that we should build up to the Treaty, and we should, therefore, be laying down 16 destroyers this year instead of nine.
Instead of building 16, we are only building nine, which means that the 1930 programme is being deferred till 1931, so that we are only left four years in which to make up the difference. The same remark applies here as in the case of the cruisers; the Government are shirking and putting off the evil day, and are leaving a great expenditure of money to the people who will have to succeed them. I give the First Lord all credit for having done his very best to get the maximum possible of building in line with the Treaty, but I appeal to him to see if he cannot enlarge the present figures. I not only think that that is essential for the peace and security of this country, but, as a dockyard Member, I realise that it is very much more important that the dockyards should have steady and regular work over a series of years than that there should be a year or two when there is no work and men are thrown out of employment, after which a big lot of work suddenly is thrown on to them. I appeal to the First Lord, from the dockyard point of view, to try to give us a steady building programme, not only of cruisers but of destroyers and submarines, up to the fullest limit that the Naval Treaty allows this country.
I desire to support the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Commander Southby), and I consider that it is perhaps a further privilege that I have the opportunity of conferring, through you, Mr. Young, with so large a portion of the Board of Admiralty in the comparative privacy of this House at the present time on the interesting problems which are occasioned by Vote 8 of the Navy Estimates and the Supplementary Estimate which are being introduced.
In the first place, I desire to allude to the curious attitude of certain hon. Members opposite, who consider that any Member of the House who desires to see this country in a position to defend itself against attack, from whatever direction, who desires to see this country dependent not wholly upon the good will of other countries, but capable, if the unfortunate occasion should make it neces- sary, of defending itself, is to be accused of a desire to produce war. That is the furthest thing possible from our wish. I can assure the Committee that all who have had some slight experience of seeing the recent War are quite convinced that it was an occurrence the like of which we never wish to see again. I would urge hon. Members opposite who have done their part in serving their country in the War to believe that there are others on this side who also have had some experience of that shocking series of occurrences, and are equally keen to avoid any repetition of them. We feel, however, that for an Empire such as this, with possessions such as we have all over the world, to be utterly defenceless against any other Power, would not only be conducive to war, but would actualy lead to war. Again, we are accused every now and again of not being able to suggest a possible enemy, but I think the most unfortunate thing that one could do would be to suggest that any particular Power was a potential enemy, and I, for one, have been scrupulous in avoiding the use of that term in connection with any of the Powers of the world, all of whom, as far as I know, are friendly countries at the present time. I would deprecate in the strongest possible manner the use by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) of such a term.
On the Vote and the Supplementary Estimate which we are discussing several questions arise for consideration. Perhaps the most cogent is: Why have we here an isolated programme dealing with one year only, and not a reasoned programme dealing with all the years until the next Disarmament Conference in 1935? I listened with attention to the explanation of the First Lord on that point, but I think he would agree with me, and I think that the Prime Minister, as far as one can judge his views from his speeches on the Naval Treaty, would also agree, that the best system of providing replacement tonnage is by a reasoned programme extending over a period of years, and providing that approximately the same number of people should be employed in each year, so as to avoid those distressing fluctuations which are the curse of naval shipbuilding, and are, perhaps, the greatest difficulty with which the dockyards have to contend.
The reason we have been given is that it is impossible to formulate a long building programme until we have had the Imperial Conference, because for the first time we have the British Empire considered as a naval unit, that, although we consist of a number of communities coequal in importance in the Empire, this is the first occasion on which from the naval point of view we have been considered as one, and that at the Imperial Conference it may be that some of the Dominions will feel that they can to some extent take the burden from our shoulders and that they can undertake to build a certain proportion of the essential programme which the Naval Treaty would suggest to this country. Why is it necessary to make that reservation, because it would be perfectly easy and natural now to formulate the programme which would be the appropriate one for this country—
I am afraid I have not made myself clear, otherwise I cannot suppose I should have drawn your eye, Sir, upon me in any censorious way such as that, because I was merely criticising the programme as being an isolated programme instead of being part of a larger scheme. I was alluding to the remarks that the First Lord had already made, without calling for any comment from the Chair, as to the reasons why it was an isolated programme. I was about to suggest that it would be possible for the Dominions to undertake to build ships in a definite specified programme for a period of years.
If in my ignorance I have transgressed, unwittingly, the rules of Order, by discussing the precise matter which the First Lord has already discussed, upon an absolutely similar Motion, I regret it and I will proceed no further in any course which will call for censure. I will go on to a further point, and this to my mind is the most vital objection to the Government's building policy as I see it. That is the definite statement that we have had from the Financial Secretary, and also from the First Lord, and certainly in perfectly definite terms from the First Lord on 2nd July, that the Government does not propose to build up to the limits which they are entitled to build up to under the Treaty. It is for that reason that I for one shall certainly hope to have an opportunity of voting for this reduction on the ground that the programme is insufficient. Surely it is A wonderful thing to have seen the Prime Minister and the First Lord and the other Delegates to the naval Conference fighting hard like men and Britons for our interests under that Conference and for us to be permitted to build a certain number—I think au inadequate number—of ships and, having to some slight extent gained their point, they now say, "We do not propose to build up to the standard which we have by our efforts managed to obtain in conference with the other Powers." If they had this intention of not building the ships they are entitled to build under the Treaty, I do not know why they should have made even the fight they did to achieve it.
Taking the various classes of ships that we have, first of all there are the cruisers. As the battle fleet does not come into the Estimate, the cruiser is the most important class of ships that we have to consider on that basis. In the explanatory memorandum the matter is put forward very lucidly but on an entirely false basis, because in the point of view of the Admiralty the fundamental basis on which they are considering the replacement of cruisers is the basis of 20 years age. That is an entirely out of date and inappropriate standard to apply to cruiser replacement. In the first place, it is a unique standard. No other country has a 20 years standard. Our ships were certainly more used than those of any other country that are at present afloat, and Japan and America can replace at 16 years, and Japan can even replace one ship, under Article 20 of the Treaty, at 15 years. Why should we alone consider this on the basis of 20 years? The proper attitude for the Government and the Admiralty would be to see what is the best they could possibly do subject to the provisions of the Treaty—I am assuming they are building with their eye on that instrument—and not look at it simply from the point of view of a 20 years basis, which is a sort of standard they have set themselves which bears no real relation to reality. Do not let us suppose that we are in a fortunate position as regards six-inch gun cruisers—because we are only considering the building of six-inch gun cruisers. Let us look at the situation vis-a-vis other countries. There are Members behind the right hon. Gentleman who will always object to any standard of strength being measured against anyone. No doubt, if the British Navy were reduced to one dinghy, with the First Lord seated therein in a duck suit, they would still say it was a menace and a most formidable thing to be afloat. Of course, one should not consider the naval forces of any other country! I am sufficiently old-fashioned to suggest that we must consider the fleets of other countries—not, I hope, as enemies—when we are formulating our own. Still, the standard of world naval strength must necessarily be the standard by which the Fleet is judged.
Cruisers carrying guns not exceeding six inches in calibre have not been built by this country for a long time, and we are in a very critical position as regards that particular type of ship. Although we built them during the War, war-built ships are not suitable for our present requirements, and, in addition, they are getting rapidly worn out. But how have other countries got on? While we have not, as far as I know, laid the keel of any cruiser carrying a six-inch gun since 1918, the keels of 31 such cruisers have been laid down by other Powers which were parties to the Treaty, that is 31 cruisers carrying guns not exceeding six inches. Therefore it is a very burning and necessary question to see what we can do, at all events, to bring our position into better relation with the world situation as regards that type of ship.
I turn again to the question of destroyers. The term "destroyer" is rather a deceptive one. Hon. Members and people generally may well ask, What is a destroyer intended to destroy? It has, as a type, rather a curious history in that when destroyers were originally introduced in the 'nineties they were definitely a defensive type of vessel intended to destroy the torpedo-boat. When the torpedo-boat became eliminated from the period 1900–14, destroyers were considered almost solely as an offensive type, that is they were expected to attack the capital ships of other countries. From 1914 onwards their function has primarily been a defensive one, because the submarine, having become a real factor in naval warfare, the antidote thereto is clearly the destroyer, and in any naval war in which there are a number of submarines engaged, it is essential, from the defensive point of view, to have a very powerful destroyer force. At present, we have a maximum tonnage of 150,000 which is allowed to us by the Naval Treaty. I would remind the Committee as to the assumption on which that figure was arrived at. The 150,000 tons for our total destroyer force was originally suggested as being an appropriate tonnage if there were no submarines, but we well know that the submarine is appearing in ever-increasing numbers, and surely, therefore, we must see that our destroyer force is well up to that figure, is efficient, and that the boats are up to date. There is a passage in the Explanatory Statement which has been the subject of some criticism, and I should like to read it again:
If the aim was to be that all destroyer tonnage on the 31st December, 1936, should consist of under-age vessels, it would be necessary to lay down 110,839 tons of new construction in the four programme years 1930–33 inclusive, or an average of more than two flotillas a year.
To my simple mind, that sentence was perfectly clear and lucid, and to me it bore this meaning, that if we are to build the destroyers which the Treaty allows us, if we are to keep our flotillas up to date according to the standard of age which is recognised by every other naval Power, we must lay down two flotillas a year, but the Government do not intend to do so; they intend to lay down one flotilla only a year, a number of destroyers which is inadequate on their own showing if our flotillas are to be kept efficient and able to do their work. The right hon. Gentleman has complained before now that the flotilla situation was not dealt with adequately by the Conservative Government, and that his predecessor in office should have had more destroyers laid down before the obligation became his. Yet, as far as I know, not one word of protest ever came from the Opposition during that period forecasting the situation as the First Lord finds it now. I viewed the destroyer situation with a certain disquiet and had intended to allude to it on the Naval Estimates last year, although as a very junior Member I was unfortunate enough not to have the opportunity which I desired of trying to urge that view upon the Government.
Let us see what has happened. Admittedly the position as regards our flotillas is a very doubtful one, and may give many of us ground for misgiving, but how is the First Lord going to meet it? He reduces the 1929 programme by four destroyers. That is his first step towards restoring the destroyer situation. In due course, after the Treaty, he brings in a Supplementary Estimate which provides for the building of a complete flotilla, one leader and eight destroyers, so that, taken together, the 1929 and 1930 programmes consist of two leaders and 12 destroyers. Therefore his programme—he has had control of the programme of 1929 and the programme of the present year—is very much less than the programme of his predecessor of whom he complains, although we are nearer to the critical period, and when the need has become more urgent year after year. Let us compare that with what would be required according to his own Memorandum if our flotillas were to be kept up to the proper strength according to the Treaty. It would mean two flotillas every year, that is four leaders and 32 boats—36 in all. Therefore, we have a deficiency of 22 on the requirements of the destroyer flotillas if they are to be kept in an efficient condition according to the document which the Government have themselves produced. Do not let it be supposed that the need for these destroyers is becoming any less, because in whatever way we look at it, whether from the point of view of increased submarine building or increased building of corresponding types of ships by those Powers which are nearest to us, and those Powers who through their geographical situation would have the greatest power of command over our essential trade routes, we find that the need for our building is very serious.
I received to-day an answer from the First Lord of the Admiralty as to the position vis-à-vis France. Since the War, and it is the modern flotilla that counts, the tonnage of flotilla leaders and destroyers laid down by France, a Power which, according to the Washington proportions, should only bear a ratio of one and a half to five to us, amounts to 91,770 tons of destroyers, while we have laid down 29,000 tons. Therefore France is building this particular type of ship at the rate of more than three to one against us. It is quite clear that if this goes on much longer we shall have our commerce going through the narrow seas owing to the good will, which I hope we shall long enjoy, of that great country across the Channel. The tonnage comprises 53 boats, made up of 24 leaders and 29 destroyers. We find that Italy, since the War, has built, or has in building 12 leaders and 41 destroyers, again making a total, by coincidence, of 53. In that time we have built less than half that number. We have built or building a total of 26, and that total includes four destroyers built for Canada, which would, of course, be in Canadian waters unless the Canadian Government were good enough to allow them to come over to this country. I suggest that we cannot ignore the posi- tion as regards light craft, as we appear to be ignoring it now. I have not alluded to Japan. They have a provision under the Treaty to anticipate their replacements, which would suggest that they are going to continue their programme of heavy destroyer building, as in the past.
As regards the position of destroyers and submarines, I do not want to dwell too long on this rather technical question of the numbers and particular types of ships, although I think it is of great importance. The submarine situation, according to the First Lord's own figures for the year 1923, is that France will have 73 submarines, effective submarines, and we shall have only 32. I think we are getting very near the danger line to allow a European country to have more than two to one superiority against us in this respect. Rightly or wrongly, our national policy has always been founded on sea power, or, at all events, on the power to protect our own commerce, on which our very life's blood depends. Five submarines have been cancelled by the right hon. Gentleman from the programme of the previous Government. The tonnage which is suggested in the memorandum as being appropriate for laying down annually is, I suggest, too low. I suggest that it will be necessary for us to lay down another 5,000 tons annually, and that we can do it under the Treaty. Of course, this is a very technical matter and I am at a disadvantage as against the right hon. Gentleman, who has the assistance of expert advisers, but I would suggest that it would be possible and appropriate to lay down a rather larger tonnage than is suggested.
I would like to turn to an entirely different aspect of the naval and shipbuilding situation, and that is the labour situation in the dockyards and in the shipbuilding trade. In the first debate on the Naval Treaty the Prime Minister, in a very cogent and sound passage, pointed out the difficulties of spasmodic shipbuilding and the necessity in building ships of spreading the programme evenly over a period of years, and not to have periods of complete slackness, with hands turned off, and then periods of rush work, with overtime and people being taken into the industry, whom the industry must in the course of time disgorge and throw on the labour market again. At the present time the Government by having practically stopped all shipbuilding for a period have produced a slump and a dip in the figures of employment which was quite avoidable, which are intensified by their policy as regards Supplementary Estimates, because we are told in the Estimates, and it is quite clear from the small sum which is to be voted, that no substantial work can be done on these ships until very late in the year, if indeed it is possible to lay the keels this year.
In the Navy Estimates, Vote 8, page 143, we see a decrease in dockyard wages, a very significant fact. This year, the year covered by the present Estimates, as against the previous year, there is a drop of more than £500,000 in wages paid in the dockyards. We can all imagine what that means. That means hands turned off. Abroad, there is a smaller drop of £30,000. The Supplementary Estimate make some slight improvement, by putting on another £70,000. The decrease in wages paid in the dockyards is, however, something just under £500,000. Surely, that is wholly avoidable, because it is perfectly clear that we have to get through a big replacement programme, in whatever way one looks at the question by any intelligible standard. I do not imply by that, the standard of those who do not wish to have a Navy. There must be a figure of replacement. The doldrums into which we have got, with all building practically stopped, and with the wages in the dockyards down by £500,000, must have a serious effect upon the dockyards which must be a great hardship on the men who make their livelihood there.
That is not all. A very large amount of money which is expended on ships is expended in contract work. In that direction, under Vote 8, there is a drop of £2,340,000 and even taking into account the Supplementary Estimate there is a net decrease of £2,000,000. That means a very large sum lost in wages all over the country, not only on the Clyde and the Tyne but in those centres where the various appliances used in shipbuilding are manufactured. They are all losing wages and have to turn men off. You have this violent drop owing to the Government putting a stop on their shipbuilding programme and making this gap, owing ostensibly to the Naval Treaty, and not, now that the Naval Treaty has been disposed of, pushing on with their replacement programme at a greater rate. I urge that aspect strongly on the Government. I suggest that it would be much better from the point of view of these men, who after all are public servants and who are building ships upon which the safety of this country depends, that they should be given a much squarer deal and that an attempt might be made to expedite the work in order to level up the considerable quantity of shipbuilding that we shall have to do.
At the back of my mind there is a feeling that this delay has a definite purpose. The Government are anxious not to provide money for replacement at the present time for this reason, that they are by no means confident that next year it will be their duty to provide the money, that another Government from this side of the House will have to provide the money. In that case the position of the present Government will be a very happy one. Having neglected to carry out any adequate shipbuilding programme hon. Members opposite will be able to say, with all the force I expect to hear from them, "Here you have a Tory Government spending more money on armaments," although that money will be occasioned by the programme of this Government which is produced in such a way that the money will have to be voted to a great extent next year. It will be a party advantage, and I deplore that the Navy should be made the sport of party advantage as it seems to be by this process of holding up the programme, cancelling destroyers, and a belated 1930 programme, which is produced in such a way that no money will be spent on it this year and that the cost of these ships must fall upon the Government which is in office next year. As to what that Government will be I look forward with some little confidence. The First Lord of the Admiralty on the 15th May resented the insinuation that Members of the Labour party are less anxious about the security of the country than the party on these benches. It is more than an insinuation in my case because I say definitely that as far as I can judge, not only from the utterances of hon. Members on the back benches opposite but also from the policy of those who sit on the Front Bench, the Labour party is quite prepared to jeopardise the naval security of this country for a party advantage.
I do not propose to detain the Committee for more than a moment. It is not necessary for me to repeat the very cogent detailed arguments which have been brought forward by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Major Ross) and the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) which prove that we are fully justified in moving this Amendment. Nor need I go into the general merits or demerits of the Naval Treaty. I touched upon that subject in a previous debate, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping has raised the whole question of the value of such Treaties this afternoon. I wish to focus the attention of the Committee on what seems to me to be the main point we are now raising. We were told in the debate on the Treaty itself that the reduction from a strength of 70 cruisers to 50 cruisers—in fact, all the figures which were agreed to not only at the Conference but apparently agreed with the United States before the Conference opened, were figures which had the assent of the expert advisers of the Government at the Admiralty. If a certain Motion which we introduced had commended itself to the House we should have been able to cross-examine these advisers and assure ourselves as to their real view on these matters.
I know the constitutional difficulties of such a change in our procedure, but our failure to do that throws us back on the Government's assurance that their advisers accepted these figures. In giving us that assurance the Government made it quite clear that they accepted them on one basis. The First Lord more than once has made it clear that they accepted them on the basis that 50 cruisers and the other figures in proportion were sufficient for the period during which the London Treaty remains in force and before it comes to be reconsidered in 1936. That is to say, that it is a purely interim acceptance for the immediately future situation, and I can quite realise that there are technical and practical reasons why the Board of Admiralty may have thought that it was not really feasible to go much ahead of these figures during the period immediately in front
of us. In this White Paper the same reservation is clearly made:
Under existing international conditions and for the strictly limited period covered by the London Naval Treaty, 50 cruisers have been accepted as meeting the requirements of all members of the British Commonwealth.
That, therefore, is the condition; that the Board of Admiralty accepted these figures for a very limited period of six years, conditionally, in the first instance, on the acceptance of all the Powers entering these negotiations, and, I assume, that they accepted them even with France and Italy standing out, subject to the safeguard which enables us to reconsider our position if anything in the building programme of those two Powers substantially alters the naval situation. That is one side of the story; that is the basis on which we were told that the Government's expert advisers accepted the London Treaty. The other side of the picture is the one which the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom and others have made perfectly clear—namely, that the programme which the Government is now putting before the Committee is not a programme under which these figures are to be attained within the period of the London Treaty i.e., by the year 1936, but a programme under which neither the cruiser figure nor the figure for destroyers is to be reached until 1939 or 1940.
In other words, there is a serious gap of a number of years between the period of the Treaty, under which in accordance with the views of the Government's naval advisers these figures were to be attained, and their actual attainment. We can only attain them, according to this programme, at a substantially later date, during which time risks, of which we do not know to-day, may arise. We are, therefore, not fulfilling the conditions under which the expert advisers of the Government were willing to give consideration and give acceptance to the figures of the Treaty. That is, I think, the sum and substance and proof, without detailed figures, of the criticism which we have brought forward. Certainly there is nothing in the speech which the First Lord delivered earlier in the day which has in the least allayed our anxieties and disquietude on this point.
I understand it is the general desire that I should reply at this stage before passing on to other business. I have listened with very great interest to most of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby), who moved the Amendment. I have listened to all the speeches made since, and it seems to me that we have not anything very new to consider in this latest attack from the opposite side of the Committee upon the Government's construction programme in carrying out the purpose of Part III of the London Naval Treaty. The objections can be summarised in two or three separate items, and very shortly. It is said, "Whilst we think that you never ought to have assented, even for the limited period of the Treaty, to so small a number of cruisers as 50, even having done that you are not now laying down a sufficient programme to secure the 50 under-age cruisers by 31st December, 1936." That is the short case on the cruisers. Hon. Members can reach that conclusion only by taking strictly in the letter the inclusion in the Treaty of the reference to a 16 years' life for cruisers. I have made it perfectly plain in previous debates on the matter that we do not intend to adhere to the principle of replacing our cruisers on a 16 years' life basis. We are going to regard the whole of our cruiser programme as one for replacement at the end of 20 years' life.
The inclusion in Part III of the Treaty of the 16 years' principle was, as I have explained before, put in specially to meet the point raised by Japan with regard to her building programme for the next few years, because of the condition of her fleet. If we had not made the concession to her that she might regard certain ships laid down before January, 1920, as efficient only for a 16 years' life, she would have had so little chance of building during the next few years that she could not possibly have kept a reasonable nucleus of skilled men in her dockyards. Therefore, the 16 years was a special concession to Japan. It does not arise in the case of the United States, who have admittedly to build practically a new fleet to come up to parity. Nor do I think that hon. Members opposite really want to consider the American fleet from that point of view. What is the fact about this? When Japan has taken full advantage of the 16 years' principle of replacement of cruisers you will have just this result: That in the period of the Treaty she will be permitted to lay down between 35,000 and 36,000 tons of cruisers. But this country will be able to lay down, in the same period, 91,000 tons of cruisers. Can anyone tell me that this country is seriously endangered by the fact that we have limited ourselves to 91,000 tons of replacement, whereas Japan will be able to build only 36,000 tons? I am sure that, even with his naval experience, the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment would not be able to show to me that we were seriously endangered by the fact that we were building not quite three times as much as Japan in that period.
I have already explained, and the hon. Member could not have been listening. I am dealing with Part III of the Treaty. I have referred to the fact that the 16 years' basis does not affect America, because she will have to build a practically new fleet for parity. Hon. Members opposite are not concerned with America; they have said so many times, and I am taking their word for it. I, therefore, go back to the other parties to Part III of the Treaty. Let me go on to the other countries which were represented at the Conference. Take the case of France and Italy. They are at present going on to build, subject to such conversations as they are having, the programme that they had laid down. The two countries say they want parity. We are hopeful that as a result of a new approach by one or the other, through conversations, they will be led to adhere to the principles of limitation that we have secured among the oceanic Powers under Part III. If so, well and good.
But we have also made it perfectly plain, by the insertion of our escape clause in the Treaty, that if any other Power at all should become what is considered to be a menace to us in the magnitude of her Fleet, then we are free to reconsider the position and to take the necessary building steps. We are often complained about because we have that clause. I have often heard it said that it is very serious that we might have to operate that Clause. I would remind hon. Members opposite that it is a much better position to-day than that adopted by their Government in 1927. In 1927 the Conservative Government went to Geneva to a Three-Power Conference. Neither France nor Italy was present. The intention was to secure agreements of limitation in all these categories. If you had secured agreement, what would you have done? I know quite certainly what was in the programme of the last Government, and it was that if they only secured a Three-Power Treaty they must have an escape clause in the Treaty. That is exactly what we have now. Our aim will be to see that every facility is given for conversation and conciliation with a view to avoiding, if possible, the use of the Clause, and rather to lead up to another conference which will enable us by another stage of agreement to go for further reductions.
Let me say a word or two about the destroyer position. The hon. and gallant Member for Londonderry (Major Ross) has been very severe in his criticism of that. At the end of his speech he spoke about being very anxious because of the position in the dockyards. It seemed to me, all the time he was speaking, that he did not know which horse he was going to ride. He wanted to condemn us very severely for some small cuts in 1928 and 1929 in destroyers, saying we had caused a serious dip in employment. At another moment he was trying to ride exactly the opposite horse. We found two programmes, one for 1928 and one for 1929. We did not disturb one destroyer in the 1928 programme, and with regard to 1929, none of which had been commenced, we suspended the whole of the programme for the time, and I believe that the whole country was behind us in making that reasonable gesture before entering the Conference. We were willing to suspend our final judgment on the 1929 programme until we had an opportunity of seeing how the Conference would go. Finally, we cancelled four destroyers out of the nine. We went on to build five destroyers, and we are building nine in the present year.
What is going to be the position? We are aiming at having finally 150,000 tons of efficient destroyers as compared with a programme of 200,000 towards which the Admiralty were aiming when the Labour Government came into office. It is perfectly true to say, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Londonderry said, that we fixed upon that figure pretty early and in relation to what the programmes of other Powers would be, especially in regard to submarines, but he is wrong in assuming that we fixed on 150,000 tons only on condition that submarines were abolished. The hon. and gallant Member would be right if he said that we fixed it at that low figure subject to the submarine figures of other Powers being reduced. We were hoping to abolish, but we only agreed on the figure in the hope that they would reduce their figures. What is the position there? We found submarine tonnage in existence in the case of Japan of over 77,000 tons. The tonnage of the United States was over 60,000 tons, and we had a tonnage of less than we shall be allowed under the Treaty. We have got an agreement for reduction in the case of Japan from 77,000 tons to 52,000 tons. The United States agreed also to come down to 52,000 tons, and we agreed to take parity in that particular class of vessel with those other two oceanic Powers. Therefore, you can take the same position with regard to submarines and other categories. There is an escape Clause in case other parties do not come to the same spirit of mutual agreement and reduction that we have been able to come to with the United States and in Japan. In those circumstances, and in view of the conversations going on between France and Italy, I think that the hon. and gallant Member for Londonderry should suspend judgment a little, and consider the spirit of international amity—[Interruption]—which is working with so much encouragement. The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Sir B. Falle) may think otherwise, but there are representative people in this country who do want to see a spirit of international amity.
In those circumstances, I think that the hon. and gallant Member should suspend judgment and see what is going to happen as the result of the French and Italian conversations. In the meantime, much to the concern of some of my hon. Friends, as we have seen in the previous debate to-night, we are building a reasonable replacement programme within the limited tonnage agreed under Part III of the Treaty. If we go on building a flotilla of destroyers a year, in a reasonable number of years there will be an efficient destroyer fleet of 150,000 tons, and if there should be need for increasing that because of the action of other Powers, there is not the slightest need for us to be restricted by the terms of the London Naval Treaty subject to proper notice.
One further point upon submarines that was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Londonderry. He said that under the terms of the Treaty we ought to be able to lay down about 5,000 tons a year in order to secure adequate replacement. I would assure him—and I know he will accept the technical figures—we have been into that most carefully and what is required, plus our existing tonnage, is a replacement tonnage, on the average, of 3,700 tons a year. There, again, we are working rather inside the Treaty tonnage in this year, since the tonnage for the three submarines we shall be laying down together will probably not exceed 3,200 tons. There will thus be a margin left in case you want to change from year to year the size of a particular unit of submarines laid down in particular years. I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that we are working on a reasonable tonnage replacement in that direction. One other point and I will close.
The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) referred to the decision to scrap prematurely two ships of the Hawkins Class, the "Effingham" and the "Frobisher." He asked why, if there was any difficulty, could we not have replaced the 7.5-inch guns in those ships with 6-inch guns? For one thing there would have been a great difficulty inside the limited tonnage upon which we wanted to secure a reasonable measure of parity agreement with America, in regard to the number of units, because You would have added two more, practically, 10,000 tons ships armed with 6-inch guns, whereas if we were to come to an agreed figure of 8-inch guns, we wanted to be able to get a larger number of units to do our police work out of the balance of the Treaty tonnage given to us of 329,000 tons. In any case, when the hon. and gallant Member speaks of these particular ships having a long life of usefulness, he must not forget that there is a great difference between ships built normally and straight on from the time of laying down, and ships which, owing to the War, were laid down and not completed until 9 or 10 years afterwards. That has happened in the case of these two ships, and the hulls were deteriorating all the time. We are not concerned at all in dealing with these ships in this way, having regard to the fact that the scrapping of them has enabled us to come to a treaty limitation of 8-inch heavy cruisers with the United States and Japan. I hope that this explanation will be to the satisfaction of the Committee, and that we may now proceed to the next business.
I would not have risen but for the charge made against me by the right hon. Gentleman that I was against the spirit of amity, which did not reside in me. I have no hesitation in saying that is cant, and the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well it is cant. We have been giving away everything, and we call that a spirit of amity. The other Nations have given nothing, but have only taken. It reminds me of an old Latin tag which will be familiar to hon. Members:
Ubi tu pulsas ego vapulo tantum.
The translation is very simple. It is a fight "in which you lay on, and I stand still and bleed." The right hon. Gentleman refers to Japan. Why does he choose Japan? Of all the countries in the world which we are not likely to fight, I suppose Japan is pre-eminent. We have no quarrel with Japan or likelihood of having any quarrel. I say this in words—"perfectly certain"—which have become familiar since we have had the Socialist party in this House. I am perfectly certain that if we have a war, we shall have Japan on our side. There is only one war which looms in front of this country and I need not tell the Committee what the nation is. We hear it stated that a war with one nation is unbelievable and impossible, but there is only one nation with which war is at all likely—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which nation is that?"]—and, in the event of such a war, we will most certainly have Japan on our side and we may realise the value of Singa-
pore. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which nation?"] It is easy to say that things are unbelievable, but it is always the unbelievable which occurs. If we followed the arguments of the First Lord of the Admiralty to their logical conclusion we would do away entirely with the Navy—and then his right hon. leader would not be in a position to send two battleships to Alexandria. We are doing away with the personnel of the Navy—a personnel which receives an enormous amount of training and the finest personnel in the world. At present we are getting rid of it at the rate of thousands of men every year and we are not replacing those men. I succeeded in finding out, by means of question and answer, that we are cutting down the entrants so that in a very few years the personnel will be greatly reduced. The men of the Navy are now finding that, as soon as they come home from foreign service, they are drafted to new services. There are so few of their own rank and rating available that they have to be drafted to these other services at unreasonable periods and in an unreasonable time.
Can any hon. Member opposite give me an instance of a war which broke out because people were prepared? Dozens of instances occur to the mind, of cases where war broke out because people were unprepared for war. [An HON. MEMBER: "Was not Germany prepared?"] From the time of Ethelred the Unready to William the Conqueror and to the present, it has always been the same thing, but hon. Members opposite will not learn from experience or history. Experience is nothing to them and history is nothing to them. The Romans who were the greatest colonisers in the world and who built up the greatest empire in the world said it was necessary for those who wanted peace to be ready for war but hon. Members opposite look upon the Romans as fools. They would rather go to Isaiah who wanted to do away with fighting altogether but that is not the way in which this nation has to face its adversaries. It must be remembered that this is an island not—notwithstanding the opinion of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). This is an island and we are dependent on a food supply which would only last for a very few weeks if the sources of supply were cut off. It is not necessary for this country to be invaded. If our trade routes were interrupted, if the ships bringing food to us were stopped that is all that would be necessary and the last War showed that that could be done by a vastly inferior force. How much easier would it be to a force which is going to have 18 big cruisers to our 15.
For the first time in our history we are willing to sacrifice superiority in the class of cruisers which are the only ones to keep open our trade routes and our food supplies. It does not affect the United States of America. She has her food supply in her own country but we have not. Our food supply comes from every part of the world. To sacrifice deliberately the right and the ability to protect our food supply seems to me to be the height of insanity. It has taken a Socialist Government to do this—to take away the chance of securing the food supply of the people of this country. When the people once understand that fact they will deal very shortly and quickly with the party which has induced the country to listen to such a scheme. Remember that we have everything in the world which other nations not only want but need. We have practically the whole of the temperate zone, outside the United States, under the British flag. Thanks to the foresight of our fathers, and the fact that the other people were not able to take possession of these lands before we did so, all this belongs to us and it is only natural that it should be desired by other peoples of the world who have an overspill of population far greater than ours. We are a small people numerically compared with some of the great nations, like Germany, which has half as many again as us, and the United States, which has three time as many, and Russia, with the largest Army in the world. Other peoples will naturally say, "Why should these people have all this which we need. Let us take it from them." That has been the history of the world. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite refuse to accept the teachings of history. Let them go back to Tacitus and find out—but I suppose some of them never heard of that great Roman historian.
We have too much to lose to gamble with what we have got. Gambling is engrained in the people of this country, but I do not believe that the people of this country are willing that we should gamble with the country's food supply. Worse than taxing foreign food, hon. Members opposite would rob the people of all food. Then I suppose we might have an era of cannibalism. The Cyclops promised Ulysses that he of his companions would be the last to be devoured, but I trust that the Socialist party, or the fat ones at any rate, will in that case be the first to become food. [Laughter.] It is no laughing matter. We were, to a certain extent, prepared for the Great War, and by the grace of Heaven were not caught at a disadvantage, thanks to the wisdom of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, and Prince Henry. By that great chance we were able to meet the German Fleet with a certain amount of preparedness, but we had to increase our Fleet four times before the War was ended. Now we have turned right round and decreased it to a quarter of what it was. We have allowed other nations to reach a stage which they call parity, but which means that we are in every way inferior to them. We will have to answer for these things to the people of this country should trouble arise. If we were in the position of the United States and the United States were in our position here, what should we do? I am certain what would happen. There would be a big war first, and then peace, because there would be nobody left to fight! That is history all through the world. You cannot go back on history, and the value of history is to teach us what has happened, and to judge from what has happened, what may happen. To decrease our Navy as we are doing, and particularly to cut our personnel—because we can build as quickly as any nation, but we cannot remake our personnel—
I bow at once to your Ruling. The only way that personnel comes in is that, if we decrease the Navy, we must decrease the personnel, for the whole basis of the Navy, the whole strength, the whole raison d'etre and power of the Navy, lies in its wonderful personnel. Without the personnel we could have ten times the number of ships and they would not be much good, We are gambling with our present and with out future. It is gross folly on our part.
Nobody who, like myself, is a layman in naval matters, can approach this Estimate without first clearing his mind of one or two general questions. The First Lord of the Admiralty said that he hoped that the explanation which he gave would satisfy the Committee, but I do not think anybody in the Committee, certainly on this side, could be satisfied with it. As an untechnical person, I am certain that all will agree that his explanation was extraordinarily clear, but we cannot be satisfied with it without first being satisfied as to the soundness of the basis on which he builds his whole argument. One hears freely in these debates about the spirit of war and the spirit of peace. Some people approach this question from the outlook of war, and some approach it from the outlook of peace. I find it impossible to approach a question like a service Estimate without having a front of me the whole time the possibility of war—not the desirability, or the probability, or the likeability of war, but the possibility. People say that it is a crime to think about war, but to discuss this service Estimate without having in view the possibility of war is not only a crime but a folly. We must have it in mind first and foremost, and I make no apology for raising this question from the standpoint of the possibility of war.
It is said, and it is most forcibly expressed on this side of the Committee by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), that we do not contemplate war with the United States. I do not know whether the First Lord of the Admiralty agrees with that or not, but the mere fact that we have in any shape or form measured our naval forces with those of the United States, and sat round a table discussing their relative strengths and values, must imply the possibility of war, however remote, between us and the United States. Otherwise, the round table Conference is nothing more nor less than a bit of humbug. In considering any question of war and the equipment, strength and nature of the armed forces, it does not matter whether they are on land, sea or in the air, two problems at once arise as to the tasks which these forces have to fulfil. First of all, there is their duty as first line troops—I use the word troops in a wide sense—to take the first shot and to fulfil the first functions. Then there is that other consideration, equally important though somewhat more remote in time, the question of the expansion of those armed forces to come up to a bigger strength and to fight a war which may extend over a given period of time. That is present in the case of every one of the armed forces of this nation.
In the case of the Army, there is a tremendous gap between these two functions; we saw that in the case of the late War. It is possible to have a comparatively small armed force as a land force, and at the same time, owing to the fact that their first line duties are not so vital to the security of the nation, and to the fact that it is quicker to construct their armaments, it is possible to have a much wider gap between these two functions. In the case of the Navy that is not so. The first line functions which the Navy has to fulfil are to this country vitally more important than the functions which the Army has to perform. The naval functions are absolutely vital. The same cannot be said to the same degree of the land forces of this country.
With regard to expansion and the question of matériel alone, it is obviously quicker and easier to construct matériel for the land forces than to construct and expand matériel for the forces of the sea. In the particular case we have to consider, these two functions of the Navy have to come very much closer together than in the case of the land forces. It is rather commonly said in public that the Treaty is not too bad on the whole. That is a kind of colloquial expression. I dare say that the same will be said in public of this Estimate. It is a remark that is made by people who have not taken the trouble to study the details, but who are aware that a lot of people have apparently made a great effort to arrive at a conclusion, and that a conclusion has been arrived at, and therefore they dismiss the thing by saying, "It is not perhaps so good as it might be, but it is all right as a whole." That in the case of our naval security is a very dangerous phrase.
Coming again to the question of the defence of this country, you can perhaps say that certain strengths, certain establishments, and certain equipments of our land forces are "all right on the whole," that they might be better and stronger, but that weighing one with the other, the resulting balance is not too bad. I suggest that is impossible in the case of the Navy. With the Navy it is essentially a case of the chain being as strong as its weakest link. With the land forces it is as with a piece of elastic. As we saw in the late War, you can stretch that elastic until each part of it is very thin and apparently very near the breaking point, but let it go again and the elastic comes together. Our naval strength is comparable to a chain; if it snaps for a moment we are done, there is no mending it. Our food supply and everything that we need for the security of the country depends on it. Once it is broken, say for a month, it cannot be mended. Therefore, one cannot airily dismiss the question of our naval strength by saying that perhaps it is not too bad on the whole. If there is one weak link—say, in our cruiser strength—that will not only imperil but absolutely nullify the whole of our naval strength.
Next I come to that oft-quoted and entirely misleading term "parity." Parity implies a sense of equality, a sense of fairness. I do not think it can be emphasised too often that a mere paper parity in tonnage of cruisers or of battleships or whatever it may be is not in any common-sense form a proper estimate of parity. It may be a difficult thing to determine it exactly, but you can only get parity by relating cruiser tonnage or battleship tonnage to the tasks which that particular tonnage is called upon to perform—the magnitude, the size, the importance and the nature of those tasks. When one compares the size the nature and the importance of the tasks which the cruisers forces of this country have to fulfil with the nature, size and importance of the tasks which the cruiser tonnage of the United States has to fulfil, one knows quite well that an equal cruiser tonnage does not constitute parity, equality or fairness.
On those grounds we ought, in common fairness, to be allowed a stronger cruiser force than the next nearest nation in cruiser strength to ourselves, but there are other reasons. It may be difficult for the representatives of this country to convey those reasons to the representatives of other countries across a conference table, but nevertheless they should be made very plain to everybody in this country and in the world. It is safer to trust the British Empire with a stronger fleet than any other country in the world. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh. When you have a country which is confined within one geographical area with its people obeying one closely centralised form of Government, and there is an armed force in the hands of that country, it is always possible to stampede it into an improper use of that armed force. We had an extraordinary good instance of that in the case of Germany. There was a highly centralised, highly organised and compact nation. A strong armed force was put into the hands of Germany, and she misused it. Take the British Empire. The very reasons which, in common fairness, necessitate this country having a stronger fleet, certainly a stronger cruiser fleet, than other countries are the very reasons why it is safer to entrust the British Empire with such a fleet from the point of view of world peace. The wideness of our interests, and the difference in the desires, ambitions, needs and outlook of the various peoples in the British Empire, means that it is a hundred times, a thousand times—[HON. MEMBERS: "Make it a million!"]—a million times more difficult to stampede the British Empire into war than would be the case with a centralised country.
I would illustrate this with the example of the lock of a door. With an ordinary lock you put in the key and with one turn you can open the door, but there are particular locks with which you have to get a set of numbers to correspond before the lock will open, and there are thousands, millions if you like, of chances against those numbers corresponding. That represents the difference between the British Empire and another nation as regards the use of armed force. The occasions which will bring the varied countries and interests of the British Empire into line to agree to enter on a war are infinitely fewer than the occasions which will bring one centralised country into a war and make it use its armed forces. It cannot be emphasised too much in the counsels of the world that the British Empire is not merely entitled to a bigger force to protect her wider interests, but that the very existence of those wider interests makes our possession of a stronger fleet a safer proposition than in the case of more centralised Powers.
One phrase which fell from the Prime Minister in a previous Debate really went to the root of this Naval Treaty. He was talking about the United States of America, and he said, and it was an argument which perhaps was likely to appeal to the sympathy of the House, that, after all, we were faced in the case of the United States with a programme which would have been carried out, Treaty or no Treaty. That is exactly it! The Naval Treaty, of which this Estimate is the outcome, was nothing more, to put it in simple language, than a piece of international blackmail.
Reference has been made to the Treaty in the course of the debate, but I cannot allow a discussion of the Treaty. Criticism of the Naval Treaty is not in order.
Heartened by the kind words of my own Front Bench, I would like to touch on one specific point with regard to the tonnage allowed under the Treaty. Our replacement tonnage in cruisers was limited to 91,000 tons, and it was argued that it was quite safe to have that limitation inserted in the Treaty, because by some means it was going to insure the levelling up of our replacements instead of having a sudden replacement in one year and a smaller replacement in another year. Surely it might have been left to our own discretion as to how we planned out our replacements. Was it necessary that there should be inserted in the Treaty, signed by all the signatories, that definite limitation of replacement for us, which, apparently, was done for our convenience, and might quite easily have been left to our discretion? I do submit that that was put in simply and solely because the Treaty was based on what, for want of a better expression, I will call nothing more nor less than international blackmail. We had to pay, and we paid, on that threat of blackmail, in the most precious coin that we possess, the coin of our basic naval security.
The hon. and gallant Member has made a statement the implications of which are very grave. I ought to tell the Committee that the limitation of 91,000 tons was inserted in the Treaty specifically at the request of the technical advisers of the British delegation. That can hardly be described as blackmail by the other Powers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"]
I most readily accept the explanation of the First Lord of the Admiralty, but I still cannot understand why it should not have been left to our discretion to spread out our replacement programme, as we felt inclined to do. Accepting, as I do perfectly readily, the explanation of the First Lord of the Admiralty, I cannot see the necessity for having that figure inserted in the Treaty, over the signature not only of ourselves but of other Powers, when it was apparently a matter of purely domestic concern to ourselves. I have tried to indicate the basis upon which I view the Treaty. I do not wish to pursue the point if I am in any degree likely to get out of order. But we are going on still further. As has already been pointed out by the hon. Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) and other hon. Members who have spoken, we are going to be weakened still further, because we are not going to be pulled up, as was originally promised in the year 1935. It is not going to be a programme for five years; it is going to be a programme for 10 years. When that Treaty was signed, to my mind we gave away a lot of our case as it was. We were quieted down; a sort of opiate was spread over us by the argument that, at all events, when 1935 came, the whole thing could be reviewed, and we need not worry because we could then come to some different settlement. But now that opiate is being spread still further, for another five years, and when 1935 comes, if we look for a fulfillment of the promise which was held out to us we shall be told, "No, we are committed by the Treaty which we are discussing to-day, as appears from the Explanatory Statement, to a continuance of that sort of thing another five years."
The First Lord of the Admiralty said, quite rightly, that there were two objections: The first was an objection to the whole Treaty, as to basis and everything, and the second was that the Estimate now before us is even an insufficient instalment. I think that is perfectly right. I feel perfectly certain that we on these benches take objection to-day on both those grounds. I have tried to indicate the broad basis of the ground upon which I take exception to it, and, to my mind, what is offered us to-day is an insufficient effort to implement what, in itself, is perfectly inadequate to the just naval needs of this Empire.
I have listened to the interruptions and interjections of hon. Members opposite while my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir B. Falle) was speaking. [Interruption.] I listened to the whole of his speech, and I think hon. Members who were not in the Committee when he spoke should refrain from interruption. There does seem to be a great deal of complaint on the part of hon. Members opposite that my hon. Friend quoted from history. I do not know why the fact that he quoted from those authorities should give such a great deal of annoyance; I venture to think that unless we are going to be guided by the lessons of history, and especially the recent lessons of history, already forgotten in so many sections of this House, we are not likely to form a really accurate judgment of what is necessary with regard to naval policy. I particularly want to mention only this fact, because it is so clear: that, after all, the great world convulsions of the last 100 years, on practically every occasion statesmen have said in this House, no doubt sincerely believing it, that there was going to be no more war; and that was the case after all the great European wars. I will not go through the whole list, but on each occasion it will be found that a representative of His Majesty's Government has stood up at the Box and said, "Never has the position of the world been so clear; never have we been so free from the possibility of war"; and in each case within a year this country has been plunged into a great war in which we have been forced to take part. [Interruption.]
I know that hon. Members opposite disregard all the lessons of history, but, perhaps, I may remind them of the latest evidence on this subject, namely, what occurred in the spring of 1914. Some of us were not in the House during that period, but some of us remember the position taken up by a man of great position in this country, the present Leader of the Liberal party. It was in the spring of 1914 that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) told us that this was the time when we could safely reduce our naval armaments; and following that advice, many Members of his party took the same line. Fortunately, there were some Members of the Liberal party who had great knowledge—and I venture to think that this country owes the very deepest debt of gratitude to those Ministers—who were not prepared at that time to run the risk of exposing this country to a very great peril, but who stood up against that absurd demand for the reduction of the Fleet.
That is a very recent lesson, and it is really a tragedy that memories are so short that we have forgotten that on several occasions during the War we were, as Mr. Hoover, the present President of the United States of America, has himself placed on record, within a few weeks of starvation. We were then saved from starvation by our cruiser protection—[Interruption]—and that is what we are so light-heartedly dealing with to-day. When I hear the laughter of hon. Members opposite I do not want to wrangle with them, but I do say, on behalf of our country, that we must surely realise that this is the supreme question for the people of these islands. No other question really counts; because, after all, prosperity is nothing if your country is destroyed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] The hon. Member says "hear, hear"; I do not know whether he is sneering at me, but I say this as a humble citizen of this country, that having known the facts, I would sooner pay an increased amount of taxation than see this country plunged into the tragedy which is so likely to occur if we disregard the results of this present so-called naval agreement. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where is your enemy?"] That is exactly what was said in 1914 by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. I believe I am right in saying that Lord Haldane, who was at that time Secretary of State for War, came back from Germany absolutely convinced, and told the public so, that there was no real fear of anything of that kind. [Interruption.]
I hope that hon. Members will not interrupt me, because I do not want to detain the Committee; but I want to point out that we have taken part in this agreement for the reduction of armaments, and there is, I think, no one who now disputes that we, after our previous great reductions immediately following the War—we who are absolutely dependent on our Fleet—alone of all the world have reduced our naval armaments. Each of the other countries concerned is making a considerable increase apart altogether from the Powers intimately connected. We cannot ignore the fact that our policy must be directed to protecting our commerce in the narrow seas. I have had figures placed before me showing the actual amount of tonnage and construction in France and in this country up to a day or two ago, and they are rather alarming not for to-day but for the future, in spite of the safety valve which has been referred to. I know the difficulties which have faced the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to him for the clarity with which he has spoken on this and other occasions with regard to naval matters.
I hope hon. Members opposite will not allow themselves to say, "Let us cease insuring because there is no more fear of war and no more danger." I have said before that the people who least of all wish to enter into another war are those who have taken part in war. The theorists and the professors and the pundits are not the only people who care about the loss of life. The people who really care are those who saw the War at its worst, and I hope all who took part in the War, and who want to see the chances removed of such a horrible thing occurring again, will support us in our protest against allowing the reduction of our construction to such a point that we are imperilling our future. I hope hon. Members will forgive me for intervening, but when such levity is shown as was shown during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Major Muirhead) I think someone ought to protest.
I should like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the Government considered the abolition of the battleship during the Treaty negotiations, and how far they went in that direction. I understand that under the London Naval Treaty we are saving something like £4,000,000 by scrapping four battleships and one battle cruiser. If we scrapped all our battleships by agreement with the naval Powers we should save £12,000,000 per annum. That is a large sum of money. It means, if extended over six years, that we are going to spend £72,000,000 on keeping in commission battleships that have only a very slight potential value. I have spoken on this subject in the House of Commons for many years. The battleship now, when she moves, has her field very much restricted. At one time she had the freedom of the seas, she could go anywhere and do anything. Now, since the development of the Whitehead torpedo in 1872, the development of the submarine in 1901, the development of the mine-laying ship, the development of mine-laying by submarines, and the development of torpedo-dropping and bomb-dropping aeroplanes and seaplanes; the poor battleship, if she gets within a short distance of an enemy's coast, would have all these craft at her, and she could not live.
Some people say, and I daresay my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) might say, that the battleship will not sink; but, if you hit a battleship, as the "Marlborough" was hit at the Battle of Jutland, she is turned into a lame duck, and a lame duck is of no use. She cannot keep up with the Fleet, and, therefore, is perfectly useless. I submit to the Committee that the time has come when hon. Gentlemen opposite, who go to their constituencies pledged to economy, should attack their Front Bench and say to them, "Why do you not scrap these battleships?" [Interruption.] I am asking the First Lord to tell us why we are going to spend something like £60,000,000 in the next five or six years on the upkeep of battleships that have no value at all, or only a slight potential value. Fancy being in command of a ship or a fleet that is gradually becoming obsolete. Think of the admiral or captain who has to train these crews, knowing that every manoeuvre they carry out is practically useless.
I see the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) at the Bar of the House. I was very sorry that he did not raise that question this afternoon. [HON. MEMBERS: "He did!"] He did not raise the question of battleships, and he could have made a much better case if he had suggested the scrapping of these battleships which now have only a slight potential value. [HON. MEMBERS: "Scrap the lot!"] I do not agree. You have only to look at the question of Egypt, where we sent two battleships. They are of some value in keeping the peace, but I maintain that it is not necessary to build £7,000,000 battleships and keep them in commission at a cost of £250,000 a year, when you can do the job so much better with smaller ships like the Washington cruiser of 10,000 tons. On the ground of economy, I ask every Member in the House to press whatever Government is in power to do away with these obsolete ships, and devote the money to bringing ur Navy more up to date with modern cruisers. I would ask the First Lord how many of our cruisers are fitted with catapults for launching aircraft, and how the number compares with the number so fitted in the United States. I believe that we are falling behind, and that we ought to spend some of this money on making our cruisers more efficient, instead of on obsolete battleships.
There has been a good deal of criticism of the Admiralty, even from Members on this side for having agreed to have 50 cruisers instead of 70. I am rather surprised at old naval officers criticising, and I noticed that in the other place some Noble Lords criticised too. I think we can trust the Board of Admiralty to go into the whole question and, if the Sea Lords advise the Government that 50 cruisers are sufficient, that is quite enough for us. The Noble Admirals in another place when they were at the Admiralty would not have liked people criticising the Admiralty. When I was there, I had great differences of opinion over air matters. I had great fights with the Admiralty, and I do not think I came out quite the worse. Anyhow we have a separate air service, because the Admiralty could not look after the little air service they had when it was attached to them. We can trust the Admiralty to go into the whole question of the number of cruisers and their replacement.
I have never, I hope, criticised the Admiralty on purely naval matters. The Sea Lords are masters of stategy and naval tactics, and the country can well place confidence in their judgment. I know the late First Sea Lord was a very sound man, and so is the present First Sea Lord, and they are not likely to let the country in—[Interruption]. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull says they stick to battleships all right. That is not a question for the Board of Admiralty. It is for the statesmen of the naval Powers to come to an agreement to abolish battleships. Naturally naval officers are not likely to agree to scrap them, but the whole question is for the statesmen and not the Admiralty and they ought to go into it and, if we had a Minister of Defence to study all these things, he would advise, before he had been 24 hours in office, the scrapping of battleships.
I want to ask the First Lord another question. This estimate deals with submarines. I am an old pioneer of the submarine and am naturally interested in submarine warfare. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how a submarine can be used as a surface vessel in wartime. It is in the Treaty. I do not think any submarine officer could hays been consulted in drawing up the wording of the Treaty to have issued that extraordinary statement that a submarine in wartime should carry on like a surface vessel. The whole idea of submarine warfare is to make a surprise attack, exactly like a masked battery. How can she come up and fire a shot across the enemy's bows? It is impossible. The whole idea is to move her under water with her periscope showing. You can get a good example in this House. The ceiling is the surface of the sea. You put your periscope up and you see the enemy ship and you manœuvre for position and try to get within the danger angle. How can you come up and fire across her bows and stop her? She may be carrying contraband, or munitions of war, or almost anything, according to your orders. It is the duty of the submarine captain to sink the ship. I ask the First Lord to tell me how a submarine can carry on like a surface vessel. The only way to go into the whole question of submarine warfare is to appoint a panel of international jurists at Geneva where they can examine every phase of submarine warfare and bring out rules for governing submarine warfare, particularly the misuse of submarines in wartime. That is the only thing you can do, but to put that Clause in the Treaty about submarines is the greatest tosh I have ever read.
I refrained, out of courtesy, from interrupting the First Lord when he spoke. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] I do not think that the First Lord would deny me the courtesy of asking him a question. [Interruption.] It almost passes my comprehension why some hon. Members of this House who sit opposite are so prolific in interruption, and so barren in debate. The First Lord of the Admiralty gave a very ingenious explanation in regard to the cruisers. I want to ask why a concession should have been given to the Japanese on account of work in their dockyards, instead of consideration being given to our dockyard workmen, and to work in our yards. When the First Lord mentioned the fact that we should have a tonnage superior to Japan, he was not quite fair to the Committee, because although the tonnage may be there, the complaint on this side is that the ships themselves will not be as good in up-to-dateness or efficiency as those which will be built by other nations, and we are to have ships vis-à-vis the French and Italian, which are restricted owing to the fact that we gave concessions to the Japanese over the dockyards. I wish to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what is to be the tonnage of the three new cruisers. Can he tell us that? The last point is the question of the 91,000 limitation. I challenge the First Lord to deny that that figure was fixed by arrangement before the Conference and behind the backs of the Japanese, Italians and French, although it might have been finally technically confirmed when the Conference sat in London; but it was fixed in the United States of America behind the backs of the others.
It is quite beside the point now to say what happened behind the backs of the parties to the Five-Power Conference. The parties came to the Five-Power Conference, every possible fact was laid before them, they were there to discuss the whole position, and they came to a free decision. With regard to the figure of tonnage, as I said earlier in the debate, that figure was inserted at the request of advisers at the Admiralty as to what was necessary for them to lay down as replacements if they agreed for the period of the Treaty to reduce the number of cruiser units. It was not done in any way by the politicians, as seemed to be hinted by the hon. Member opposite, before the Conference opened.
Obviously, the whole country knows from information which appeared in the Press in September, 1929, that if we had not at least a tentative agreement with the United States, there would have been small chance of a Five-Power Conference. The figures tentatively agreed with the United States were actually published in the Press of September of last year, so that really the hon. and gallant Member has not discovered something new, but something which was known to the general public at large. He only need turn to the London "Times" for confirmation. The hon. and gallant Member asked me if I would say what will be the tonnage of the three new cruisers. I cannot commit myself to actual units, but I should say between 6,500 and 7,000 tons. In regard to the question of replacement by Japan, we had fixed the number of tons that we desired for replacement in order to get the reduced number of 50 units. Japan would have been most seriously handicapped in regard to her skilled labour in her yards and she asked that she might be permitted to replace certain ships, but the allowance is not more than four vessels during the whole period of the Treaty on the basis of 16 years life of the cruisers. I have already indicated that in the terms of the Treaty her total allotment during the period would be from 35,000 to 36,000 tons replacements in cruisers while ours is 91,000 tons. Therefore it cannot be said that we are in a position of danger because of that concession.
The point about the age of the cruisers compared with that of other countries is not a good one, because they will be in the same position a few years afterwards when they come to replace. If you like to take the advantage of laying down your heavy cruisers before they lay down theirs you get the advantage for the time being. They might get a little advantage in regard to design and equipment of ships now to be built but so shall we when we come to replace our ships if the Navy continues on this basis. Unless you lay down ship by ship year by year, month by month you can never get an exact uniformity of categories. We must be a little reasonable in these matters.
The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) wanted to know whether we considered the complete abolition of the battleship, if the Navy continues.
Certainly. If the Navy continues through to the length of the life of these ships. Whether the Navy continues or not depends very largely upon what the world thinks in the future as to securing peace by means other than armaments. It may well be that the hon. Members and many others in the House think that the Navy will not come to an end, and certainly we have more likelihood of maintaining a Navy in this country than some other countries, because the Navy is the principal means of maintaining our trade routes. I was using the phrase to safeguard the hon. and gallant Member on the lines on which he was talking. He asked me whether we agreed to discuss the abolition of the battleship. Certainly, a delegation did discuss among other things the question of the abolition of the battleship but we failed to secure agreement on the principle of the abolition of the capital ship.
The right hon. Gentleman says that they could not get agreement. Did we as a nation say that we would abolish battleships if Japan and the United States or the principal naval Powers would do so. If so which nation stood out for their retention?
The hon. and gallant Member no doubt knows treat there are such things as diplomatic conversations to find out where other Powers stand, and it was quite evident at the outset that there could be no agreement upon this matter, but this country by its reference in the programme which it submitted to the Conference provided that it would close down earlier some ships that had to be scrapped by 1936, thereby effecting a saving. It initiated the lengthening of the life of existing battleships in order, as there was not at the moment any question of abolishing the battleship altogether, that we should not incur for the present new expenditure on capital ships until the nations had had further opportunities of looking at the point of view which the hon. and gallant Member has submitted to the Committee.
May I ask one question? Did not the Italian delegation put forward a definite proposal, or at any rate a tentative proposal, that the battleship should be abandoned as well as the submarine?
I have aready explained my position on that question. The hon. and gallant Member opposite asked whether we had developed the use and practice of the catapult for launching aircraft. Two ships are already equipped and orders have been placed for others, but I should be misleading the Committee if I did not say that in this matter the United States air arm of the Fleet is much more advanced than our own. One of our greatest difficulties in developing that technical side is the comparative lack of aircraft available for the Fleet. The hon. and gallant Member is proud of his part in securing a separate air service. One of our difficulties is in getting sufficient aircraft under the present arrangements in order to develop that type of technical training, but we are doing our best and I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member will not be dissatisfied with the progress made.
|Division No. 443].||AYES.||[10.44 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Brass, Captain Sir William||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Briscoe, Richard George||Davies, Dr. Vernon|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l d'., Hexham)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Astor, Maj. Hon. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Duckworth, G. A. V.|
|Atkinson, C.||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Elliot, Major Walter E.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s. M.)|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Colfox, Major William Philip||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Colman, N. C. D.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Ferguson, Sir John|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Fielden, E. B.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Fison, F. G. Clavering|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Marjoribanks, E. C.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst.)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Mond, Hon. Henry||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Muirhead, A. J.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Sueter Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||O'Neill, Sir H.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement.|
|Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Peake, Capt. Osbert||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Ramsbotham, H.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Remer, John R.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch't'sy)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Withers, Sir John James|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ross, Major Ronald D.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Long, Major Eric||Salmon, Major I.|
|Lymington, Viscount||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Sir Frederick Thomson and Sir|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Edge, Sir William||Lawson, John James|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Edmunds, J. E.||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Leach, W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Egan, W. H.||Lees, J.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Elmley, Viscount||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Arnott, John||Freeman, Peter||Lindley, Fred W.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Ayles, Walter||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Glassey, A. E.||Longden, F.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Gossling, A. G.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lowth, Thomas|
|Barr, James||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Batey, Joseph||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||McElwee, A.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N. (Cardiff C.)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||McEntee, V. L.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||McShane, John James|
|Benson, G.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Mansfield, W.|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||March, S.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Marcus, M.|
|Blindell, James||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Markham, S. F.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Harris, Percy A.||Marley, J.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Marshall, Fred|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mathers, George|
|Brooke, W.||Haycock, A. W.||Melville, Sir James|
|Brothers, M.||Hayday, Arthur||Mills, J. E.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Hayes, John Henry||Milner, Major J.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Montague, Frederick|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Herriotts, J.||Morley, Ralph|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Morris, Rhys Hopkins|
|Cape, Thomas||Hoffman, P. C.||Mort, D. L.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Hollins, A.||Moses, J. J. H.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hopkin, Daniel||Muff, G.|
|Chater, Daniel||Horrabin, J. F.||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Murnin, Hugh|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Naylor, T. E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Isaacs, George||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Compton, Joseph||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)|
|Cowan, D. M.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Oldfield, J. R.|
|Daggar, George||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Dallas, George||Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kelly, W. T.||Owen, H. F. (Hereford)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kennedy, Thomas||Palin, John Henry|
|Day, Harry||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Dukes, C.||Law, A. (Rosendale)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Duncan, Charles||Lawrence, Susan||Potts, John S.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Price, M. P.|
|Pybus, Percy John||Shinwell, E.||Townend, A. E.|
|Quibell, D. F. K.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Simmons, C. J.||Vaughan, D. J.|
|Rathbone, Eleanor||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Viant, S. P.|
|Raynes, W. R.||Sinkinson, George||Walkden, A. G.|
|Richards, R.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Walker, J.|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Ritson, J.||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline).|
|Romeril, H. G.||Smith, Rennle (Penistone)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Rowson, Guy||Snell, Harry||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||West, F. R.|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Sanders, W. S.||Sorensen, R.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Sandham, E.||Stamford, Thomas W.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Sawyer, G. F.||Strauss, G. R.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Scurr, John||Sutton, J. E.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Sexton, James||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Sherwood, G. H.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Shield, George William||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Tillett, Ben||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Shillaker, J. F.||Tinker, John Joseph||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
Lords Amendments considered, and agreed to.