I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
This morning's ceremony was a sad prelude to the Debate of this afternoon, but them is something very fitting that, after paying final honours to a great naval commander, we should turn straight away to the consideration of the Service to which he devoted his life, a Service which has in the last few months lost its two outstanding personalities. Lord Jellicoe and Lord Beatty are dead, but their record and their memory will remain for all time an inspiration to British seamen. This is not the moment to speak at length of the great services which Lord Beatty rendered to the country. There will be another occasion, and a. more fitting one, for that to be done. Suffice is to say that another of the great ones has passed on, leaving the country to mourn a devoted servant, the Navy an inspiring leader, and many of us a valued friend and a gallant sportsman. Lord Beatty's family life was particularly happy, and I am sure that the deepest sympathy of the House will go out to his son, who was until so recently one of our colleages in this House and who, but for this unhappy event, would have been helping me here this afternoon.
In introducing the Navy Estimates for the first time, I am very sensible of the high standard which has been set during the last four years. On this occasion the House has learnt to expect from the First Lord not only a very clear explanation of the Estimates, but also an interesting review of naval affairs. I am sure, therefore, that it must be a source of gratification to the House that, although translated to another place, my Noble Friend still holds the same high office, to the great advantage both of the Department and of the Service. I am sure, too, that the House will sympathise with me in my effort this afternoon. Not only have I a difficult task in following such an able man as the First Lord of the Admiralty, but this is the first speech of any defence Minister in the presence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Fareham (Sir T. Inskip), whom we all congratulate on his promotion from Attorney-General to co-ordinator-general.
The Estimates which am presenting this afternoon are unusual in one respect, and that is that they represent only part of the expenditure on the year's activities of the Navy. They leave out several large items for which financial provision will become necessary during the current year. They omit any expenditure which may arise from a continuation of the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, other than for material which has been already ordered and additional personnel which has already been approved in the Supplementary Estimates that I introduced not long ago. They also omit provision for making good deficiencies other than those which were started or approved in last year's Estimates, and of course there is no mention of the new construction programme of 1936. The last few items will certainly have to be the subject of a Supplementary Estimate later on in the year.
I now turn from what the Estimates do not contain to what they do contain. The increase as compared with the original Estimates of 1935 is £9,880,000. I will give as few figures as I can during my speech, but I think the House will be interested to see how this increase is distributed over the various Votes. The Naval Materiel Votes (4, 8 and 9), are up by £8,416,300. The Naval Personnel Votes (1, 2, 3 and 7), are up by £831,800. The Work Vote, No. 10, is up by £240,750, the Non-Effective Votes by £216,700, and the Administrative, Scientific and Educational Votes are up by £174,450. I give these figures to prove to the satisfaction of the House that a most the entire increase—to be accurate 93.6 per cent.—is required for materiel and personnel Votes and goes directly to strengthen the Navy either in men or ships.
By far the largest increase is that for new construction; that is, the advancement and completion of ships whose construction had already been approved by this House in previous Estimates. The increase there is £4,645,000. The reasons for this increase are two-fold: In the first place the programme for 1934–5 was bigger than those of previous years and therefore cost more. Last year we also had an additional flotilla of destroyers; and, generally speaking, the programmes of the two last years are more expensive in comparison with the earlier programmes which were still in hand when the Estimates were presented on the last occasion. The 1935 destroyer flotilla was ordered somewhat earlier than usual and the work on the cruisers of the 1933 and 1931 programmes went faster than was anticipated. I would repeat what I said on the last occasion, that although the various causes of extra expenditure fall in 1936, that is, of course, in relief of expenditure in subsequent years and there is no addition to the ultimate cost involved, in the money to be found from the taxpayer.
These Estimates also provide for progress with the first partially developed programme for remedying deficiencies which were alluded to in the White Paper of 1935. It was fully explained last year over which Votes the deficiencies were spread and the policy for which they were adopted. But there is no provision for the final and more fully developed programme which was superimposed upon it, as explained in the White Paper of this year. Generally speaking this progress covers the building up of our more important war reserves and strengthening the defence of the Fleet against air attacks. We also provide for those measures arising out of the Italo-Abyssinian dispute which have already been decided upon. The House will be glad to know that we are making increased provision in various directions about which in the past there have been complaints that the Admiralty has been parsimonious.
We are making provision for larger requirements of ammunition, mainly antiaircraft, for Fleet practices, and we are asking for a considerably larger sum for fuel supply, partly owing to the growth of normal requirements and partly to a more adequate allowance for special Fleet exercises. In both of these directions there has been the criticism in the past that we have been curtailing the activities of the Fleet owing to a lack of am- munition and fuel for the ships. That certainly cannot be said on the present occasion. This increased activity, of course, carries with it extra expenditure under other Votes. It means larger sums for experimental work on new types of armaments, for machinery and plant at the various establishments, for labour, for inspection and overseeing staffs, and also for an essential increase in scientific, technical and supplies staffs.
I turn for a moment from materiel to personnel. I find in Vote A an increase of 4,613 compared with Vote A of the original 1935 Estimate, lout authority was given in the Supplementary Estimate to vote an additional 3,500 officers and men on account of the emergency, and therefore the increase over last year's final figure is 1,113. I must explain to the House that in this Vote A we are asking only for the numbers actually required for the normal services of the present Fleet, built and building, and that a further number will be necessary for additional requirements under the White Paper during the course of the year. The final increase on 31st March, 1937, will be rather more than the 6,000 stated in paragraph 29 of the White Paper. The increase for which we are now asking is due to two main causes.
That is so. The White Paper says that there is going to be an increase by the end of this year of 6,000 on the Estimate at the beginning of last year, but eventually we shall find that it will be slightly more than that figure. The increase is due to two causes. First of all it follows on the refitting of old ships and the replacement of smaller old ships by larger new ones, and on the large refits of the older battleships and the earlier "county" class cruisers. Not only are we replacing out-of-date equipment, but we are also installing additional equipment and apparatus, mainly to meet aeroplanes. Of course all this additional equipment has to be met. Destroyers, and in some cases cruisers, are larger than those which are being replaced, but apart from size ton per ton the new ships require a greater complement than the old ships, owing to the increased equipment that is placed in them.
Secondly, the policy of keeping fully commissioned ships in service with less than their proper complement on board must be considerably modified in future. At a period when construction programmes were being reduced our manning problems were quite easy. Vote A was always ahead of requirements and we had plenty of men, supernumeraries, if any of the ships ran short; we had plenty of men to create a drafting pool. The necessity of that I need hardly mention here. But as the new construction programme got larger and as Vote A has got smaller, and we get down to this final low figure, we find that the position has changed. On the last two occasions we have had to come to the House and ask for men because we found that the drafting difficulties were becoming almost insuperable. Men were not getting their fair share of home service and we were not getting a proper portion of the right ranks and ratings in the various ships and establishments, all showing that our reserve of men was not large enough. Of course that position has been accentuated in the past year. We have found exactly where the shoe pinches and have found that a reduced complement is not satisfactory. Therefore we are asking to-day for these extra men to fill this gap.
The House will realise some of the difficulties which we have with regard to training. Not only are we increasing the size of Vote A, but we have come to a period where a great number of men are leaving owing to the completion of their service. We have not only to take in new entrants to make good the increase, but also to make good the ordinary natural wastage. In order to cater for the increased number of new entries provision has been made in Votes 8 and 10 for about £167,000 for extension of training establishments for boys and a depot for special service seamen. We are very anxious to maintain in these training establishments a standard of living conditions comparable to that which is to be found in civilian establishments of the same kind. We recognise the advantage that it is, not only to the boys themselves but ultimately to the service, that we should give them every opportunity for healthy development at this very important period in their lives. We are, in this year's Estimates, providing not only for a decrease in the number of boys in each dormitory—and we shall therefore require additional buildings—but we are giving better facilities in the way of drying rooms, swimming baths, cook houses, and things of that kind. As a good deal will probably be said this afternoon about personnel, it may interest the House to know that boys are entered between the ages of 15 and 16⅓ and their training lasts about a year, while special service men are in a different category. They are entered between the ages of 16½ and 25 and their training lasts from about six to 12 months according to the particular class to which they belong. As special service men, they only come in, nominally, for a short period but after two years they may engage, if they wish and if they are recommended, on long service and therefore pensionable terms.
Last year, the First Lord in introducing the Estimates dwelt at some length on the future prospects of men on the lower deck and particularly to the improved rate of advancement on the lower deck. Previously there has been a great block in the rate of promotion to the higher ratings on the lower deck. Last year the First Lord announced that there had been a considerable improvement in this rate of advance. During this year, with the further increase in numbers, I am glad to say that the rate of advancement has improved still further and that the delay in qualified men obtaining promotion, which has so often been complained of in the past, has now practically ceased to exist. An innovation which has proved a substantial convenience to the sailors is the introduction of a family welfare section with a trained woman welfare worker attached to it at each of the three naval depots. These sections are serving a very useful purpose in helping to prevent many of the small difficulties and troubles which are apt to be created in a home when a man is absent on service abroad. One other change affecting the lower deck of which the House may like to hear is the substitution of weekly payments of pensions for quarterly payments. This change, generally speaking, is optional except for new entries and men re-engaging, but we think that the majority of pensioners will find the weekly payment a convenience in arranging their home budgets.
Before leaving the question of personnel, I should like to say that one unfortunate result of the concentration of ships in the Eastern Mediterranean has been to deprive many officers and men of the advantages of what otherwise should have been home service, which had been earned by previous service abroad. These men are out of reach of their homes and it has been a long period of strain and anxiety both to them and their families. Recreational facilities, although everything possible has been done for them both by people here and by people on the spot, remain limited and, of course, a great deal of additional work has fallen upon all. I am very happy, therefore, to be able to take this opportunity of telling the House that we have received from the Commander-in-Chief ample testimony to the splendid spirit and bearing of all ranks and ratings in these very difficult circumstances.
There are two more large items of increase on the materiel side which may, conveniently, be taken at this stage. They are items of considerable interest. One is the Vote for the Fleet Air Arm, which is increased from last year by £1,193,000. That increase allows for the addition of 27 machines, three of these being allotted to carriers, 12 to battleships, and 12 to cruisers, bringing the total strength of seaborne aircraft from 190 to 217. It also allows for the replacement of 84 machines by new aircraft with full reserves. This replacement process might be compared with the periodical large refits required by serving vessels. The House may like to know that aircraft are now provided automatically for new construction, that is to say, all new ships are now fitted with catapults in exactly the same way as they are fitted with guns and other armament. The First Lord, last year, devoted a considerable part of his speech to dwelling on the importance of the Fleet Air Arm, the value of aircraft as an additional weapon to the Navy and the necessity of learning what new uses we can make of the Fleet Air Arm and taking every advantage we can of the chances of cooperation, not only between ships and carriers but between the Navy and the Royal Air Force. In one passage he said that:
The Navy and the Air were peculiarly complementary and in future they must
work ever closer and closer together."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1935; col. 597, Vol. 299.]
I am glad to think that that policy has been carried 'out during the last year. The constant presence of carriers with the main fleets and the increase in the number of aircraft now carried in ships, have given a great opportunity to the Navy, of which every advantage has been taken, for gaining experience in this vital weapon and for practice in the lessons of co-operation.
The other large item deals with Fleet repairs and refits. The cost under this head is £770,000 more than last year. That is accounted for by the number of large ships that will be in hand for these repairs during this year. We have now four battleships, "Repulse," "Royal Oak," "Malaya," and "Warspite" at present in hand and on the completion of the first two, their places will be taken by "Renown" and "Revenge." Two cruisers of the Kent class—"Cumberland" and "Suffolk" are also in hand for large repairs and when they are completed their places will be taken by "Cornwall" and "Kent." There is thus more work in hand than there was at the same period of last year. The practice of referring to these large refits—which are really nothing new and have always occurred in the lifetime of such ships—as "modernisation" may lead to some misunderstanding. The use of the word "modernisation" might lead people to think that the ships were made as good as new but that can never be the case. These large repairs can increase the fighting qualities of the ships but these ships could never take the place of new construction or be as effective as new construction. It is essential, however, in view of the fact that no battleships have been built for such a long time and that it would take a very long time before the whole battle Fleet could be replaced, that the older ships which are required to continue in service so long before replacement, should have improvements made, particularly improvements in armoured protection against air attack. That is one of the main things which we are doing now in this process which is sometimes called "modernisation."
Here I must pay a tribute to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) because,
in this matter, we are following the lead which he gave when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. As soon as the London Naval Treaty postponed the replacement of battleships he adopted the policy of giving all our existing ships additional armour protection against air attack commencing with the "Barham" in 1931. That policy is still being carried on. Having paid that tribute to the right hon. Gentleman I find it rather surprising that in his speeches in the country during the General Election in. November he denied that our capital ships were either out-of-date or deficient of protection against air attack. He is reported in the "Daily Herald" of 7th November as saying:
Every one of the 12 battleships is armoured as well as any ship in the world.
That statement seems hardly consistent with the energetic action which he took as First Lord of the Admiralty to deal with this very question of inadequate protection. I must say that, in this respect, I infinitely prefer the First Lord Jekyll at the Admiralty to the ex-First Lord Hyde on the election platform. I now come to a question which is exercising everybody's mind at the present time, that is the question of whether the battleship has outlived its period of usefullness or not, and whether it is the right policy to rebuild the battle Fleet. I would preface what I have to say by asking the House not to be biased by those very powerful speeches made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) on Tuesday last.
Yes, I think my right hon. Friend did say that it was an academic question, but what I was about to remark was that the very necessary policy of accelerating what may be called the shorter term building programme, that is to say, the building of ships which could be ready fairly soon, ought not to prejudice the commencement of a long-term policy. After all, when the crisis will come is a matter of some doubt. We cannot say the exact date. Therefore, while we want to hurry on with that pro- gramme which can be constructed early, we do not want to postpone indefinitely what may be called the long-term building programme. I have purposely dealt with the questions of the Fleet Air Arm and the protection of battleships against air attack together, so that the House may realise that the board is not living in the past, but is fully alive to the rapid development of air power and its effect on naval policy.
On several occasions I have referred to the board, and I think the House may like to know who are the members of this board, who are the people from whom we get our advice, and what is the nature of their experience. We have got the First Sea Lord. During the War he was Flag Captain to Lord Beatty and since then he has commanded both the Home and Mediterranean Fleets before becoming Chief of the Naval Staff. I would like to reassure my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who was rather doubtful as to the quality of some of the men at the top of the various Services, by saying that his work as Chief of the Naval Staff has made a very deep impression upon all those with whom he has come in contact, and that he is in every way a worthy successor to the illustrious names mentioned by my Noble Friend. Another member won the Victoria Cross for work in connection with submarines and was recently Commander-in-Chief in the East Indies where there were no battleships. Still another has commanded a carrier and has been Rear-Admiral in Command of Carriers. I may say that he has won the rare distinction of having received unqualified praise by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs for initiating the organisation of the convoy system. I am only giving this history to show the House what sort of men we rely upon for advice. They are not men who have spent their whole time of service in battleships. We are able to get from them the benefit of long and varied experience in the different branches of the Service.
Every aspect of this question of battleships has been argued in countless speeches and letters, mainly, I must say, by critics who are always ready to presume that their audiences have a greater knowledge than they actually possess. But I do feel than the man-in-the-street
is anxious to be convinced upon this point. The House and the taxpayer will be quite prepared to pay the money if they think that the money is going to be spent to the best advantage. They are honestly doubtful in their own minds if the battleship is wanted. If they are convinced that it is necessary, then they will be ready to pay. Therefore I am trying to speak on this subject as a layman to laymen. The first thing we have to settle in our own minds is exactly what the battleship is to be used for. It has been laid down that
the duty of the concentrated main Fleet is to defeat in battle the strongest force that an enemy can concentrate against it or render it immobile without destroying cruisers detached for convoy and other special service.
The part the battleship has to play is to cover the operations of the smaller surface vessels, to be prepared to engage enemy battleships if they attack, and to nullify any large concentration of enemy ships.
It has been very picturesquely said that Lord Jellicoe could have lost the War in an afternoon. That is true. He would have lost the War by losing his battleships. The essential cover to our cruisers would have gone and our lines of communication would have been exposed. In trying to clear my mind on the subject of battleships I have read through a great many things written on this subject and I came across this. It is from an account of the battle of Jutland. The writer said that Lord Jellicoe's duty was to defeat the German High Sea Fleet if he could, but his work was equally effective if he kept the German Fleet bottled up in its home waters. He then went on to say:
So long as this impotency was imposed upon the German capital ship by the Allied capital ship, there was nothing further for the latter to do, but the effect on the German naval forces was far-reaching. Her cruisers could not live at sea, except by evasion, her. destroyers could only make spasmodic raids and the could not even interrupt the steady stream of reinforcements and materiel which poured forth day by day from British ports to France, although of all the maritime objectives which were open to her this was by far the most important.
That shows only too clearly the value of battleships during the Great War.
It is historical. I am coming to the point which the right hon. Gentleman made. Is the case for the abolition of the battleship based on the lessons of the last War or because of postwar developments? I think if those who oppose them do so as the result of the lessons of the last War my answer is quite an easy one. A very strong committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence was appointed in December, 1920, to take evidence on the question of the capital ships in the Royal Navy. They reported in March, 1921, that all the evidence went in favour of continuing with the policy of having battleships. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping was a Member of that Committee, and I hope he holds the same views now as he did then and will be prepared to give the same energetic support. I can only hope he will show as much enthusiasm for the battleships as for what he was good enough to call "snowdrops" the other day.
We can now limit our attention to the question of post-War criticism, and here we are on more difficult ground. If the opponents of battleships oppose because of the results of the War they are opposing because of something that has happened, because of facts. If they are opposing because of post-War developments they are opposing not because of something that has happened, but of something that may happen. The argument has been narrowed down to one of bomb versus battleship, but the issue is really a much wider one. The question is not whether a bomb can sink a battleship, but whether new methods of warfare can prevent battleships from carrying out their proper functions, and whether the place of battleships can be now taken by cruisers, by aircraft, or by a combination of the two.
So much publicity has been given to this narrower issue of whether a bomb can sink a battleship that I will deal with it first. From time immemorial there has been a race between attack and defence. New weapons are discovered which are claimed to be irresistible, but in the long run they are countered by new methods of defence, and so the race goes on. Before the last War we were told that the torpedo was invincible. It was expected to spell doom to the larger vessels. But the larger vessels still survived. Exactly the same process is going on now with regard to the dangers of air attack. The Admiralty has paid, is paying and will continue to pay the greatest attention to defence against air attacks both active and passive. Extensive large-scale experiments have been carried on to ascertain the damage which can be done both above and below water by the explosion of bombs. As a result of these experiments we shall meet the danger in new construction and as far as possible in reconstruction, and of course we shall be perfectly prepared, and indeed we are only too anxious, to carry on with these experiments and get, as much extra knowledge and experience as we possibly can. In addition, counter-attack by anti-aircraft batteries on ships has developed out of all knowledge and that development is still continuing. This leads one to believe that though damage may be done, and even though individual ships may possibly be put out of action by bombs, as they certainly can be by any other form of weapon, yet battleships will not be made impotent by air attack, and will therefore remain supreme at sea.
Another fallacious idea has got about. That is that the battleship, because of its size, is terribly vulnerable. That is an entirely wrong idea. Because of its size it is much easier to defend. Because of its size it can have greater depth of armour, can he divided into compartments by which the damage from explosions is localised, and can carry a practically unlimited number of anti-aircraft guns. That does not mean that we think the size of battleships is the "be-all and end-all," but I will deal with that point later. If you say that you must not build battleships because you are frightened of their being sunk by aircraft, you ought to continue that argument and logically apply it to every form of surface craft. There is another section of opinion that attaches safety to numbers. That section of opinion wishes to replace battleships by a large number of cruisers, partly because they do not wish to have all their eggs in one basket and partly because they think it is a cheaper form of defence. They are wrong in both those ideas. They are wrong tactically because smaller ships by themselves can never be a match for battleships, and they are wrong financially because it is far more expensive to build, man and maintain extra cruisers than to re-build and maintain the battle Fleet.
To sum up, I would tell the House with complete confidence that the unanimous view of serving naval opinion not only in this country but in all other countries where they have battleships is that the battleship is in essential part of the Fleet. Battleships need not necessarily be very large. We have always wanted them to be kept down to 25,000 tons, and in some circumstances that might be reduced, but there must be, sufficient disparity in size between battleships and cruisers to prevent the successful concentration of the latter, and as long as other fleets have battleships ours must be powerful enough to engage on equal terms. We hear a great deal about the amount of damage which aircraft may do to our ships, but we never hear the claim that they can immobilise the enemy's battle fleet. Obviously other countries take the carne view. They cannot feel that aircraft will put an end to battleships when they are all either building new battleships or modernising their existing ships.
Nor do I believe that a combination of smaller ships and aircraft can give us our necessary security. They can never guarantee the impotency of enemy battleships, nor can they drive them off the trade routes if they once establish themselves there. That was a point which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in the Debate last week. He pooh-poohed battleships, and said, "Give us a great number of destroyers; they are the ships that guaranteed the safe arrival of our foodstuffs, they are the ships that guaranteed our troops being taken over to France." I do not want to minimise the work done by destroyers, but it could never have been successfully carried out if it had not been for the work that was being done by the battleships further up in the North Sea. We believe that battleships are necessary but if there be any opinion to the contrary, the Admiralty would like, not only to hear those contrary views, but, still more important, to know the evidence on which those views are based. The Admiralty is perfectly ready to face an inquiry at any time, but we consider the onus of proof rests with those who oppose battleships and does not rest with the Board of Admiralty.
We now turn from battleships to destroyers, and I will try to meet the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping on Tuesday last with regard to the construction of destroyers from the point of view of anti-submarine work. He will know that the Noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, has stated, on several occasions during the past few years that he is quite satisfied with the present steady building programme. The reason he is satisfied is that that programme will give us sufficient modern destroyers for work with the Fleet, and it is for that particular work that we want the faster and rather more heavily armed destroyers, leaving the over-age destroyers to deal with anti-submarine operations for which they are well suited. Our destroyer position is that we have now 64 under-age destroyers, with 29 ordered or building, exclusive of this year's programme. Thirteen will be completed this year, but as three will become over-age during that period, we shall be left with 74 under-age destroyers at the end of the year, which coincides with the determination of the London Naval Treaty. The policy of the Admiralty is to increase the proportion of under-age destroyers in our total destroyer strength to approximately 75 per cent., and such steps to this end as are consistent with our other heavy commitments are being taken.
I shall be coming to that question. The board feel that the position with regard to destroyers will, before long, be better than in any other class of ship. By the London Naval Treaty we agreed to reduce our destroyer tonnage to 150,000, which would mean approximately 115 destroyers, but, as the House knows, there are appropriate provisions in the Treaty by which we may increase this tonnage either by building new destroyers or by retaining those overage which would otherwise be scrapped if we are not satisfied that there has been a reduction in the number of foreign submarines. In dealing with the general question of defence against submarines, I would like to tell the House that, owing to the modern equipment and increased size, fewer destroyers are needed now to do the same work as had to be done by many more during the War. Nor do we rely on destroyers alone. We have 40 sloops built or building, which are specially designed for this purpose and for rapid construction in case of emergency. In an emergency, also, trawlers can be taken up, and in the last Supplementary Estimate provision was made for 20 trawlers for this kind of work and they are now part of our permanent strength.
As I said in an earlier part of my speech, defence always catches up with attack. By the end of the War we had definitely got the better of the submarine menace, and the position has been further strengthened by the march of science in post-war years. The board is fully alive to the importance of maintaining this superiority and consider that the steps which have been and are being taken are adequate to meet the present situation. I had hoped to be able to give the House some account of the progress of the Naval Conference, but, unfortunately, I have nothing to add to the communiqués which have been issued. It is a source of encouragement that during the last difficult months the Conference has been able to continue its work. That says much, not only for the tact and ability of my Noble Friend, the First Lord, who is the Chairman of the First Committee, but for the helpful cooperation of the other Powers. The fact that we have been able to keep the Conference alive has been due to the self-denying ordinance of silence which has been so loyally kept by all concerned.
I have been in this House long enough to know that there is one unforgivable sin, that is, for anybody who is introducing a Bill or an Estimate to take too long, for, if he does, all interest in the subject is killed. I fear that I have very nearly transgressed in that respect. I would only say, in conclusion, that whatever we may feel about armaments, whether we think that they can prevent war or postpone war, there is one thing we know that they can do. They can prevent defeat and unnecessary suffering and hardship falling on our country. It is the responsibility of the Navy to keep command of the seas and thus to ensure the safe arrival of supplies which are essential to the very existence of our people. It is the responsibility of Members of this House to the people who sent them here not to deny the Navy the means whereby these obligations can be carried out.
I should like at the outset to say how much we on this side, although we so widely differ from him in policy, welcome the success of the Parliamentary Secretary in the not too easy task of introducing these very large, wide and varied Estimates in a particularly important year. The Noble Lord, in his life as a debater in this House, was so long under the necessary repression of the Whips that perhaps we have not had the opportunity in the past of understanding his quality so well as we have done this afternoon. We welcome the endeavour he has made to make these very difficult and complex Estimates plain to the House. We wish he had been able at the same time to make the whole policy of the Government in the matter just as plain. We on this side join very fully in the remarks that the Noble Lord made with regard to those eminent Naval officers who have passed away since the last Debate on the Naval Estimates. To know Lord Jellicoe was to know not merely a brave and gallant officer, but a great gentleman. His life of service to the State, not merely in Naval matters, but in social work, was one of which his family and, indeed, the whole nation might be proud. It was not my personal privilege to know Lord Beatty as well as I knew Lord Jellicoe, but my hon. Friends on this side also join the Noble Lord in the tribute he paid to his great services to the State.
A point was mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary which was interesting, but was not explored. It is, therefore, rather difficult for us to explore it. That was his brief and passing reference to the appointment of the new Minister of Defence. I looked anxiously along the Government Benches to discover this new super Minister of Defence to see whether he was listening and understanding the problems of the senior of the three Services which it is now his duty to co-ordinate. Unfortunately, he has not perhaps been able to get rid quickly enough of his legal responsibilities and, therefore, I do not make any complaint of the fact that he is not here. I can only say that there are a good many in the House who were very surprised at the choice of the Prime Minister. Many of us, however, have a long acquaintance and knowledge of the late Attorney-General, and we have always appreciated him as a man and as a Parliamentary colleague. While we may differ from the Prime Minister in his political choice, we personally wish the new Minister well in the difficult task with which he is confronted.
The Estimates which the Noble Lord has introduced are very important. They are large in size, but they seem to have been introduced for debate in a condition of almost complete unreality. I felt all the time that I was listening to his exposition of the Estimates in an air of unreality in the House. Here are Estimates for approximately £70,000,000 for the provision of Naval equipment, personnel and so on, for the year. We are told by the Parliamentary Secretary in no uncertain fashion what the Estimates do not contain. They contain no provision for the continuing expenditure on special services in the Mediterranean in relation to the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. They contain no provision for the wide proposals for expansion in the Fleet which were set out in the White Paper on Defence. This means that we are having no Estimates laid before the House in toto, showing the cost to the nation of the senior fighting service. We do not know under what conditions the House will be asked to review the total expenditure to be made for the year. The Prime Minister will, I think, take a special note of this.
In the Debate on the White Paper on Defence we understood most explicitly from him and, I think, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that, although these questions were to be the subject of Supplementary Estimates, nothing would interfere with the right of the House of Commons properly to control and to check the expenditure which was to be incurred. As a matter of fact, in reply to a question in the House only a day or two ago the Financial Secretary to the Treasury intimated that the Government regarded the vote on the White Paper on Defence last week as complete authority for putting all the work in hand at once, and until most of the money in the financial year is already spent we shall have not the slightest opportunity to exercise any check whatever upon it. That is a very unsatisfactory and unworthy position for us to be in as the. custodians of the rights of the taxpayers and of public finance. It is a completely unreal position, also, because the Noble Lord has said nothing about the position at the London Naval Conference of 1935–36, except that right at the end of his speech he told us he had nothing to add to the communiqués—I think that was the word—which had been issued. What communiqués? Where are they? Does he refer to the statements in the Press?
But what about the House of Commons? Here is the House debating to-day this enormous expenditure and we are asked to be satisfied with a subsequent debate on a wide expansion programme, and with a reference to official communiqués. There is not a single paper on the subject in the Vote Office, though one or two odd papers have been issued from time to time to the Press. That is not treating the representatives of the people with respect, but with complete disrespect.
I agree, and I am much obliged to the Noble Lord for making a very pertinent observation on what is practically a constitutional point. We have no opportunity of either challenging or of checking the general structure and policy of this set of Estimates. As I said about the White Paper itself, it is an insult to the House of Commons to be asked to discuss major Estimates of this kind while so completely in the dark as the Board of Admiralty are leaving us on this occasion. The Prime Minister must not escape his personal responsibility to the House on this point. He is Leader of the House and has been asked specifically on two occasions to furnish the House with a White Paper which would show what was the actual policy the Government were pursuing at the Naval Conference. On both occasions, although there was an excellent precedent set by his predecessor at the time of the 1930 Conference, he has declined, and so we are labouring under the enormous disadvantage of not knowing exactly where the Government stand in these matters. We are discussing these Estimates in a position of complete unreality.
Let us look at the finance of the matter. We are being asked to vote to-day Estimates in connection with a total expenditure within a few pounds of £70,000,000. Those are easily the highest Naval Estimates for the last 14 years. If we are to believe rumours in the Press of what the new construction programme will cost, it would seem that we are to have a Supplementary Estimate covering the Mediterranean operation and the new construction programme which will bring the Estimates up to at least £80,000,000 or more for the year. That is an extraordinary position in present circumstances, and I want the House and the country to note what it means. If my figures are right—and if they are wrong the Noble Lord should tell us so—it means that we shall be spending on the Navy this year one-third of the whole of the yield of the Income Tax. That is a pretty high proportion of the national expenditure. This financial burden being so large it is not unreasonable that we should examine it very closely in relation to policy. Moreover, I noticed that the Noble Lord said of the sum included in the Estimates for construction and repair to ships that that had been largely caused by a speeding up of a programme which had already been announced, and that, therefore, although the cost was heavy this year it would not fall to be voted again.
It would not be unsafe to prophesy, judging by the way the Government are nursing Vote A, and gradually bringing it up, in relation to the maintenance of the Fleet, that the level of Naval Estimates this year will not the highest, by any means, for some years to come. If the plan of the White Paper for providing 70 cruisers and for replacing battleships at a cost of not less than about £6,500,000 each is proceeded with—and I can see no great economies in the cost per ton of ships, according to the details of Vote A—then it is quite on the cards that we shall be having Naval Estimates in the next few years amounting to something much nearer £100,000,000 than £70,000,000, and there will be all the extra maintenance cost to be added as that programme develops.
My hon. Friends on this side of the House are concerned about the apparent nonchalance displayed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech winding up the Debate on the White Paper dealing with Defence. He said, in reference to the cost, "£100,000,000—£200,000,000—of course we can find it," and the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) applauded. I wish we could see the same devil-may-care, happy-go-lucky attitude towards increased expenditure when we are asking for money for the social services, when we ask for the expenditure of capital not upon works of this kind but works of a reproductive character. There is an extraordinary difference in the attitude of the Government when asked for a few millions for social services, or for actual reproductive work such as would improve the capital value of the nation as a, whole; and however the present circumstances may be regarded, I think we are entitled to utter our very strongest protest at the general attitude adopted by the Government on this occasion.
In view of the complete absence of any effective statement from the Government on what happened in the negotiations about disarmament, I feel that we are entitled to say a few words, and to say them very strongly, about the Government's policy. What is the Government's naval policy? Apparently the naval policy of the White Paper is an instalment. I did not regard it last week as a final filling of the gap of deficiencies, it was an instalment. The Government are apparently dealing with this matter without any real consideration of the policy of collective security, at any rate without adequate consultation with other nations in the League as to what their share of collective security should be. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said last week that the one thing we ought to avoid in the present crisis was an atmosphere of panic, and I thoroughly agree, but I cannot help thinking, as I look at the facts, that the whole naval policy of the Government in the last few months has been based upon panic.
How else could one interpret the pathos of the Prime Minister's wireless appeal to the nation before the election last October? If in the history of electioneering anybody has ever tried to put the fear of God into the people it was the Prime Minister in that wireless broadcast. Anyone without any real knowledge of the facts who listened to that statement would have believed that we had a Fleet that was largely and rapidly reaching a state of obsolescence, putting us all into a position of grave danger, and that adequate steps had not been taken to do what the Prime Minister of the Labour Government said they would prevent, and that was the bottom falling out of the British Fleet; whereas anybody who knew the facts would know that that was an entirely erroneous impression to put before the public. [Interruption.] The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) speaks on such matters as a naval expert, representing a naval town. I have heard a good many speeches from the representatives of naval towns, and they always have a particular point of view, and I can quite understand it.
I say here to-day, and I ask the Government to deny it, if they can, that the British Fleet is the largest, the most powerful, the most efficient Fleet in the whole world. That remark applies not to this or that category of vessels but to all the categories of vessels in the British Fleet. It applies to the category of capital ships, in spite of what the Prime Minister said in his broadcast. At the moment when he was speaking there. were no other two capital ships afloat in the whole world which could match the "Nelson" and the "Rodney." If you take the actual age and the equipment of the rest of the capital ships there was nothing in the whole world really comparable with them, outside the United States of America, and the United States has of late years always been ruled out of account as a possible enemy against whom we have to make special provision. It is the same with regard to aircraft carriers and their equipment. The present First Lord of the Admiralty has done a good deal in the last hour years to develop the equipment of the Fleet with aircraft for counter-attack, and I acknowledge it at once. It was continuing the good work that we on this side initiated. Comparing that category of ships with other fleets, there was not the slightest ground for the Government telling the country that we were not properly equipped in relation to other nations.
Take the cruiser category. As a matter of fact, because of the wisdom of the Labour Government in 1930 in coming to an agreement with other Powers on limitation in that category, we have been enabled to map out and to lay down since 1929 a regular replacement programme so that, in comparison with the other cruiser fleets in the world, the Fleet of this country was not only the largest but the most efficient. I shall not for a. moment deny that some of those ships were rapidly approaching the over-age position, but there was nothing that could not have been met by the ordinary, annual replacement programme. On this side of the House we have never suggested that this replacement programme should not be proceeded with. If hon. Members would look at the official policy of the Labour party stated at the General Election, they will see that we made it plain that we are willing to maintain such defence forces as are necessary and consistent with our membership of the League of Nations. In our naval commitments, while we were in office, as well as in our attitude to them now, we are as willing as ever we were to see that what is necessary and consistent in that regard shall be kept in an efficient condition.
Let us look at destroyers, to which category the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping properly drew special attention last week. The one point in his speech with which I agreed more, perhaps, than any other, was his reference to the folly of the Anglo-German Treaty of last year, to the consequent danger of a wide expansion of submarines and the consequent larger provision for destroyers. That, at any rate, cannot be laid to our charge, because it was the responsibility of the Government who are sitting on that bench.
In regard to the destroyer category as it stands, we do not deny that some of the tonnage is bad. A destroyer of about 1,000 tons which costs about £300,000, is only supposed technically to have a life of 13 years, but if the Admiralty like to take reasonable care of such ships 13 years is not the limit of their life of useful service. That was behind the remark of the Noble Lord when he said that the Chief of the Admiralty was aiming at a dual policy, which was to have a new and up-to-date destroyer fleet for Fleet service and the other, perfectly efficient and well controlled, to carry out the other duties that would properly fall to the destroyer category. There is never the slightest reason for the Government's putting the wind up the electorate, as the Prime Minister did in his wireless broadcast to the nation before the Election. The statements to which the Noble Lord referred where those I made at the Election and there is no one of them that I would withdraw. My hon. Friends and I at the Admiralty, in the course of the Labour Government, began to improve the defensive arm in large repairs of battleships and battle cruisers. That does not alter the statement which I have made that they were the best armed ships in the world.
At that moment they were not out of date. There was nothing about which to put the wind up the people. My own Government and my own colleagues had already initiated the improvement of the arm to which the Noble Lord has referred, but to use that as an attempt to frighten the whole community into giving a blank cheque to the Government to do what they liked, was sheer nonsense. I am prepared to-night to face charges on that matter which are sometimes hinted at against me. I am satisfied that, category by category, compared fleet by fleet, we had, as we have, the largest and most powerful and most efficient fleet in the world. That being so, let us look at what should be done in the matter now. Purely from the debating point of view, the Opposition are at this moment in a position of some difficulty because the mind and the view of so many people in the nation are clouded over by the feeling of impending crisis in Europe, but the more we look at it from that point of view the more we are convinced that we are right when we say that the whole question of what is required in the armaments policy depends upon the foreign policy of the Government. I agree with what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said last week that we have to remember the foreign policies of other countries, but the foreign policies of other countries must surely be largely influenced by the extent and the strength of the lead which is given by the Government as the first and most powerful nation and Empire in the world. It is from that point of view that we say that the Government have been so much to blame during the past four-and-a-half years in allowing the situation to develop as far as it has in the direction which now appears to be so very dangerous to the peace of Europe.
Allowing for that danger, we want to know whether the Government, in submitting to the House this enormous Estimate which promises further and unlimited additional Estimates for the Navy, are relying in this matter upon taking purely separate action, or whether they are basing the strength that they require upon the principle of pooled security through the collective system of the League. If they are relying upon the latter, I say say here very strongly that even at this moment there is not the slightest need for panic and for emergency building of the kind indicated today. It is no good saying what was indicated by the Noble Lord, when he referred to the rise in the cost of building and materiel. He said that contracts had cost more than was anticipated I was rather interested in the word "anticipated." If they have cost more in the particular year, it is because the Government and the Admiralty have most deliberately speeded up. I have always found in the past that, at the end of the financial year, one always showed a little less in payments on account of construction than had appeared, but on this occasion the Government have managed to speed up very well. We are spending on new construction, within a pound or two, on this Vote, £14,000,000. When I was listening to that statement this afternoon, I felt, in relation to the political situation as we know it to-day, that there was no real ground for this panic if we relied upon pooled security, and if we had regard to the other fleets of the Powers who are in the League, who are willing to support the League and can be relied upon to do so.
Let us look at that matter for a moment. If we are to have the truth from the Government, we are entitled to ask: "Against whom are you arming?" I should be very glad if the Noble Lady could answer that question from her point of view. There are four major non-League Powers and the United States of America is one of them. I wish the Noble Lady could persuade them to be a little more active in securing peace. We might do well to send her on a mission. There remain Japan, Germany and—perhaps doubtful now—Italy. Which country are we arming against? What are the naval constructions that we are arming against and what are the comparable constructions that we can put against them? I do not want to be unfair to the Noble Lord, but we ought to have an answer to that question from the Government. I should be glad to know whether the Noble Lord contemplates running a naval war in the East. Does he? Do the Government? Are they arming in that direction? I should like to know.
Let us look at the case of Germany, which is so much in the minds of the public this week. What is her naval strength in relation to ours, plus France and plus the navies, very small, I agree, of the other countries who are supporting the League and who are interested in the narrow waters of Western Europe? Would you put it higher at the present time than 250,000 tons? We are entitled to know. I am aware that by one of the grossest acts of folly to which any administration ever put their hand, the signature of the Anglo-German Treaty of last year, Germany has the legal right to build, instead of to a maximum of 100,000 tons, to a maximum of 425,000 tons. When you made that treaty you must have imagined what the result was going to be. If you extend your cruiser fleet from 50 to 70 ships and go on with the present class of ship, you will have, within the next seven or eight years, a cruiser category in the British Fleet of 70 ships, with a total tonnage of not less than 540,000 tons, instead of a maximum total tonnage of 339,000 tons, as laid down in the London Naval Treaty. That immediately postulates something else.
Germany is at once allowed under the Treaty of last year to have 35 per cent. of that 200,000 tons increase in the British cruiser fleet. Directly she begins to build that increase, France will say, as the Noble Lord knows she said in almost the first debate in the Naval Affairs Committee of the Senate after the Treaty was signed, that she must build up to the increase of Germany. As soon as she does that, Italy says: "We must build up to the strength of France." I suppose that the Board of Admiralty will then come back here and say, "We must always have a two-Power Naval standard in the Mediterranean."
No, I do not think so, and that is why I am so touched by our implicit faith that Hitler, having signed the agreement, will stop at it. We have had such a wonderful example during the last few days of how political leaders of the Hitler type keep their pledged word. How could the Government have imagined that entering into that Treaty was going to place an actual limit on the expansion of the German Navy? Against whom are you arming? You are arming against Germany. Certainly you are not arming against France. France is a League Power, and France, in common with half a dozen other League Powers, in connection with the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, had given all necessary assurances that if—
I do not say so at all. I have asked the Government to tell us whether they would contemplate a naval war in the East. It would be very interesting to have the answer to that question.
That is what your Government did—[Interruption.] From all these interruptions it looks as if I am getting under your skin. That is exactly what your Government did over Manchukuo.
If I had had the opportunity of exercising any authority, I would certainly not have taken the 17 months of muddling futility that this Government took, finally leaving it until it was too late to take any effective action in support of collective security against Japan in the case of Manchukuo.
My own view, and that of many of my colleagues, which we are quite prepared to maintain, is that, if you will give the right lead to the League, and if you will give your lead effectively, first morally and then by economic sanctions, in the great majority of instances there never will be any question of having to resort to hostilities. It is the lack of "guts" that really leads to the whole problem. I am not going to be diverted from my point by constant interruptions. I am asking, against whom are you arming? Are you arming against Germany? On the actual strength of Germany in the naval sphere to-day you are not required, and it is not necessary, widely to expand the British Fleet. There is no question about that whatsoever. Take the combined naval strength of Great Britain and France to-day. Between them they have a naval strength of very nearly 2,000,000 naval tons, as compared with an available German tonnage of about 300,000. If you are really working to the policy of pooled security and a collective peace system through the League, there is no case for this wide expansion of naval expenditure which is proposed at the present time.
I intended to say a great deal more about this side of the question, but have been delayed by interruptions, and I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House. I would like to go on to two or three more detailed points. I heard with a good deal of pleasure the Noble Lord's statement that steps are being taken still further to improve the accommodation for boys entering for training in the Fleet, and I should also like to say that we are pleased to hear, and shall watch for the signs of it, his statement that promotions in the Fleet are being speeded up. That will be good news for the lower deck. I hope, however, that a few searching questions will be put by some of my hon. Friends as to what is happening in regard to promotion from the lower deck to commissioned rank. The Noble Lord will remember that during the time of the Labour Government we so amended and extended the general educational provisions that we were able to provide further facilities, and in consequence of that there were, in, I think, the year 1931–32, as many as 17 promotions from the lower deck to commissioned rank. I am sorry to say, however, that from my examination of the records since it appears that that is very seriously declining. Perhaps the Noble Lord will have his answers ready upon that point when my hon. Friends put their questions.
Then I want to ask a question about the general position of officer entrants. I should like to hear, either from the Financial Secretary or from the Civil Lord, what has happened to the negotiations that were going on in the Admiralty after the consideration of the Bennett Committee's report. In case the Noble Lord may not be personally well acquainted with the position, I would like to point out to him that, as the Bennett Committee's report which I received did not satisfy me at all, I personally went to Dartmouth and interviewed the Captain Superintendent and the Headmaster with a view to getting an alternative to the report of the Bennett Committee, and I was able to persuade both of them that my views on the reconstruction of the curriculum and the mode of entry into Dartmouth were workable and sound. But to-day, instead of using, as I want to see used, the general expenditure of the State in the provision of higher education resulting in a steady entry into the officer class of the output of our public system of education, the figures appear to show a rapid increase in the number of cadet entries from preparatory schools, which, although the whole cost of the training of these cadets is not borne by the parents, but in a considerable proportion by the State, perpetuates a system which leads to the recruitment of officers of the Navy entirely from one class in the State. We strongly object to that. We think that it is unsound in relation to the general educational provisions which the State otherwise has to make, and that it is maintaining a class distinction which ought not to be maintained. I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary or the Civil Lord what has happened to the discussion which went on subsequently to the receipt of the Bennett Committee's report.
With reference to the Noble Lord's remarks on Vote A and personnel, I am going to leave the main question to be dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) when he speaks later, but I should be glad if the Noble Lord would in the meantime look up and see what has happened to the special economies which the Labour Government found it possible to make in regard to over-manning. I am not at all satisfied, as regards the actual ships to be manned at the present time, that the increases shown, and, according to the Noble Lord, to be shown in the current naval year, indicate reasonable economy in that matter. Again, has the Noble Lord paid anything like detailed attention to the cost of construction? If the Government are going on with their programme of expansion, I think it is vital in the interests of the taxpayer that we should have reasonable economy. Take, for example, the cost of building cruisers. I see that in the case of the new 5,220-ton class—I think it is the "Arethusa" class—on the one example that we have in which the complete expenditure on the ship is now available, the cost of building per ton is £26 or £27 more than the cost of building the 7,000-ton class. Why is that? Is there anything like a reasonable and effective check in these costs?
I was interested to hear that the Government are prepared to spend more money on experiments. Having regard to the dissertations we have had as to the wisdom or unwisdom of replacing capital ships, may I suggest that we spend a little more money on experiments in that direction? As I think the Noble Lord is aware, I should probably be very much on his side against some of the claims that are made against the Fleet by certain advocates of an entirely air policy, but I feel that people would be much happier if they knew something more from the results of actual experiment. It took a long time for the Admiralty—some years before I went there, all the time I was there, and, I think, even some time afterwards—before the present First Lord was able to see at last in the sky a wireless-controlled target which could really test out the anti-aircraft gun. That was a very great advance in actual experiment. Could not we have some experiments on the bombing of moving craft such as would give us a real answer to the claims which are being made? I hope the Noble Lord will give us some assurance that experiments are being developed in that direction.
I should like also to ask whether, before this Debate is over, he will give us at least enough gleanings from the table of the London Conference to enable us to know whether it is intended to continue building these large-sized 9,000-ton 6-inch-gun cruisers, which are costing nearly as much as the 10,000-ton 8-inchgun class. I am not sure that there is any very special advantage in building vessels of that class. Will the Noble Lord tell us whether it is the policy of the Admiralty to continue doing so, or whether they are going to revert to ships of the 7,000 and 5,000-ton class, which will give equal service at a very much less cost?
Will the Noble Lord also tell us more about the position of the oil fuel reserve, and what is the policy in relation to its replenishment? No one in the House has taken more interest in that matter than my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), who has again and again placed before the House able comments and reasoned recommendations as to the treatment of this matter. I should like to know whether the Admiralty, with the larger expenditure that is being provided this year, are going to make a bigger contribution, both to current steaming requirements and to the actual fuel reserve, from home- produced oil. I believe that, if the Admiralty gave to the low temperature carbonisation plants an order of reasonable size at the present time, we could have a sense of greater security than from building up oil fuel reserves here, there and everywhere, that it would actually improve the flash-point of expansion for wartime requirements, and that it would give very great assistance to the needy industry of coal-mining in this country. Our fuel reserve in pre-War days lay in the coal mines of this country, and there is no reason at all, if this matter is properly handled, why our fuel reserve in regard to heavy fuel oil should not still lie in the mines of this country.
On this question of the replacement of capital ships, I want the Admiralty to tell us why they propose to stick to 35,000 tons. The Board of Admiralty have very strong views on capital ships. The Noble Lord said he was going to speak on capital ships as a layman to laymen. I recognised the phraseology, with the accuracy of an Edison Bell record, of the defence that he put up for the capital ship. I could recognise it phrase by phrase and word by word.
The Noble Lord admitted the extent to which he had read on the matter before he came to the Debate and he also seemed to be very anxious to impress us before he came to that passage on the personnel of the Board of Admiralty at present, and why we should rely upon their advice. I thought he was relying very whole-heartedly on it. I should like to know why it is necessary, even though America says "We will not budge," to stick at that figure. I do not believe it is necessary at all. We agreed to put before the consideration of the London Naval Conference in 1930, with agreement, a ship of 23,000 tons with 12-inch guns, a ship which the Board of Admiralty felt would make a workable and efficient ship properly defended and at a very great economy. The real nigger in the wood pile is America. Why should we bother about America? I am convinced that, if you were prepared to give a real and strong lead an a reduced size capital ship, all the other countries except America would follow you. At any rate we should like to have the considered views of the Admiralty upon that suggestion.
Even now I have not covered all the points which are rather full in my heart. If we are really going to get peace in the present crisis in Europe, it will only come by political means. You will not get peace, either temporary or permanent, merely by armaments. If you go to war you will still have to come to a political settlement. In order to give a lead towards a political settlement, it is necessary for a constituent member of the States of the League to be prepared to implement its obligations under the League, and we on these benches have made it perfectly plain that we will maintain efficiently such forces as are consistent with what is necessary for that purpose and no more. In regard to the naval provision, we say that from the moment we began adequately and regularly to replace wasting tonnage in 1929–30, the Fleet has been kept in a condition which can meet its obligations. No one can say that our relative security is inferior to-day to what it has been, except in so far as the Government have condoned and whitewashed the breaking of the Versailles Treaty by Herr Hitler by their signature of the Anglo-German Navy Treaty. When you look at that there is no reason at all why pooled security will not give you sufficient strength. In my view we are acting in a panicky fashion. We have misled the people by the announcement of the Government in the matter and if we would only give a real lead for political methods for peace we should secure it.
I understand that the House will be given another opportunity of expressing its grief and deep sense of loss at the death of the great sailor who was carried to-day to his last resting place. I am sure there was no part of the Noble Lord's speech in which he so fully spoke the whole mind of the House as when he paid his eloquent tribute to Lord Beatty and expressed our condolence with his family.
I should like in the first place to register, for the third time since this Parliament met, my protest at the absence from this House of the First Lord of the Admiralty, when Estimates, so large as these and so greatly increased since last year, are before us. I think that a great spending Department bringing before us these great Estimates should be represented by its chief. There is in these Estimates an increase of £10,000,000, following upon an increase last year, if you include the Supplementary Estimates, of £8,000,000, and I think the First Lord ought to be here to answer for these increases.
No; but the heads of the chief spending Departments should be in the House of Commons. My objections are not at all removed by the presence of the Noble Lord. I am not at all sure that they are not intensified by the fact that he is in charge of the Estimates. His obvious keenness and devotion to the interests of the Service, the charm and lucidity of his speeches and the grasp that they show of the business of the Admiralty and his unfailing courtesy to his fellow Members of the House, lull them into acceptance of a most objectionable arrangement. I hope the House will make its opinion felt that the heads of the chief spending Departments ought to be in the House of Commons.
I do not want to discuss broad questions of policy to-day. I come here a layman, surrounded by experts—the Noble Lord, the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last and many Service Members whom I see around me. I want to speak not as an expert but as a representative of the taxpayers, who have to pay the bill, and no small bill, for the Navy, and I want to ask whether we are getting value for our money. We are told both that the effective strength of the Navy has declined and that deficiencies have accumulated. Unlike the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, I am not going to deny that these deficiencies exist, but I want to know why they have been allowed to accumulate. I am going to dismiss one reason. It is not because this House has stinted money to the Navy. In the last 10 years we have voted £550,000,000. I do not think it would be fair to make a comparison between the last 10 years and the 10 years before the War. I would rather take five years, because it was in the five years before the War that the greatest expenditure was made to make our Fleet fit to face the danger of the increasing German Navy. Then the pace was set by the German Fleet, but powerful Fleets were also possessed by France, Italy and Austria. There was no League of Nations then and no system of collective security. Yet then we were satisfied with a proportion of eight to five against the most powerful fleet, with the exception of our own, that the world had ever seen. Now the German Fleet is at the bottom of the sea. Their strength, at any rate in capital ships, is negligible. Pooled security is the professed policy of the Government. Yet in the last five years we have spent not less than in the five years before the War, when we were building against this great German peril. We have actually spent £40,000,000 more than in the five years before the War, although the personnel of the Navy has declined by a third and the tonnage by a half.
It is true that money does not go as far now as it did then. The wholesale price level now is just about the same as it was before the War but wages are up by about 65 per cent. and the cost of living is up about 40 per cent. Also it is true that the non-effective Vote has greatly increased since before the War. It is actually about £6,000,000 higher this year than it was in 1914–15. No argument which does not allow for these factors is worth consideration. But the Estimates for this year are more than £18,000,000 higher than they were in 1914–15, although we have only 15 capital ships and none building, as against 68 and 14 building in 1914–15. We have now only 54 cruisers and 12 building against 110 and 17 building in 1914–15. We have now only 169 destroyers against 322 in 1914–15 and only 51 submarines against 74 in 1914. I was astonished to hear the Noble Lord say we must be completely satisfied with our 169 destroyers and our 40 sloops to deal with the submarine menace. When the War came, we had that great fleet of battleships of which the Noble Lord spoke ready to withstand any hostile concentration, and yet we were within an ace of defeat—of defeat by submarines, although we started the War with 322 destroyers. Not only, therefore, are we getting many fewer ships and many fewer men for 30 per cent. more money than in the year before the War—against that we should indeed be prepared to make a liberal allowance for the higher scale of expenditure on non-effective Votes and in the other directions to which I have alluded—but also, whereas in 1914 our Navy was in readiness at a moment's notice—thanks very largely to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who had been First Lord for four years—to take up its battle stations and command the seas, to-day we are told that, in spite of the colossal expenditure which we have authorised from year to year for the past five or 10 years, it is in a state of steadily declining efficiency and that deficiencies are accumulating.
I am afraid it is true that these deficiencies are accumulating. That is where I part company, to some extent, with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), who delivered such a characteristically robust and interesting speech, in which he made a strong declaration that he and his friends were determined to see that the efficiency of the British Fleet was maintained. I think that these deficiencies undoubtedly do exist. I know that they exist in such matters as ammunition, equipment and stores, and even as regards the strength of the Fleet. If the right hon. Gentleman maintained the Fleet—and to do him credit, I think he did—at an adequate strength when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, there is a clear case for an increase in that strength, having regard to the fact that increases have taken place or are taking place in the fleets of every important naval nation in the world. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman himself mentioned two or three directions in which he thought that additional expenditure was justified and necessary. For example, he mentioned scientific investigations. I entirely agree with him. He also mentioned the provision of oil, about which I entirely agree with him, but in regard to which I am going to suggest an alternative method to the Noble Lord to that which the right hon. Gentleman proposed. It is clear that these deficiencies exist, and we have to face the fact.
If it costs less, as it did before the War, to build up the mightiest armada the world has ever seen than, to quote the White Paper,
to lead the world towards disarmament by our example of unilateral disarmament,
there must have been in recent years waste and inefficiency in the expenditure of the money which Parliament has voted. It was not by lavish expenditure in every direction that Lord Fisher created the great British Fleet before the War, but by scrapping what was obsolete, by concentrating upon essentials, and by economy, rigid and ruthless. Let me take, for example, Vote 8. We are asked to vote this year £20,000,000 for material and contract work, as contrasted with £18,000,000 in 1913–14, actually £2,000,000 more for a tonnage of 1,000,000 as against 2,000,000 tons in the year which I have mentioned, although there is little building going on now as compared with the rate of building in 1913–14, when we were intensively building up the great, modern Dreadnought fleet. The Admiralty Office, too, costs two and a-half times what it cost in the year before the War. It is, therefore, our duty to ask the Admiralty to explain why, with an expenditure absolutely higher, and, relatively to the size of the Navy before the War, enormously higher than before the War, we are told that the efficiency and defence value of the Fleet have steadily declined.
There is indeed one important item of expenditure which I have not mentioned—the Fleet Air Arm. It is £3,000,000, as compared with a much smaller, though not quite negligible, amount spent before the War by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping when he was laying its foundations, as he did with such keenness and thoroughness, and building up the Royal Naval Air Service. Here again, I cannot help doubting whether we should not get greater efficiency and economy in the protection of our trade routes, particularly in the narrow seas, if the burden of defence were more evenly distributed between sea and air. The Admiralty, for example, still cling to their old demand for 70 cruisers, yet, surely, it must be apparent that a given force of cruisers, equipped with catapults and aeroplanes, must be much more efficient for the purpose of finding and destroying commerce raiders than cruisers not so equipped. Therefore, if 70 was the right number 12 years ago, the number must be smaller now, when our cruisers are equipped with aeroplanes and catapults.
Moreover, in considering the Admiralty's explanation of these huge peace-time Estimates, I studied the Annual Fleet Return. I found that our superiority over the fleets of other European naval Powers, even after so many years of what is called unilateral disarmament, was at least as great as it was before the War. More particularly is this the case with regard to battleships. The Noble Lord made a defence of battleships, and, in answer to the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough, who said that it sounded to him like something he had heard before, observed that perhaps he was an admiral in his previous life. That may be the explanation, but it means that it must have been nearly 50 years ago when he had that experience, and most of the arguments that he advanced would undoubtedly have been advanced by an admiral who lived 50 years ago.
That is true. The admirals then would have advanced these arguments, and they would have been right. But it the advent of the aeroplane during the past 50 years which has falsified those arguments which were so excellent 50 years ago. The Noble Lord said that other countries are building them. It is true that other countries in Europe are building them, but it is remarkable, according to the Annual Fleet Return, that neither Japan nor the United States of America are building them at the present time. As regards the countries of Europe we have an overwhelming superiority.
We are modernising our battleships, but was talking about new battleships, which neither Japan nor America is building. They may not build battleships under the terms of the Naval Treaty but they are not even projecting them. We are the first of the three great naval Powers who halve definitely declared to the world that we are going to build two new battleships to replace old ones. Moreover, the Government have declared their attachment to the principle of pooled security. Before the War that policy found embryonic expression in the small scale agreement with France under which we pooled security in the Mediterranean and the North Sea. Surely this is a direction in which we ought to be able now to lighten the burden on our Navy and on our taxpayers by coming to agreements with our fellow-members of the League in regard to the disposition of our naval forces, just as before the War we came to that agreement with France in regard to the Mediterranean and the North Sea. That agreement might also be extended to the protection of the trade routes.
But the Government will rightly say that we must not think only of Europe. Nowhere has it been more strongly argued than from the front Opposition Bench, that our obligations as Members of the League of Nations are worldwide, and that we must discharge them in the Far East as well as at home. The line of thought led me to look up in the Estimates the statement which is headed:
Statement showing the cash contributions from India, the Dominions and the Colonies which are credited to Navy Votes.
In the Estimates there are two pages allowed for this statement, but, unfortunately, there is only one entry, and that is "India, £100,000." Have the Dominions been consulted? No mention of consultation with the Dominions was in the White Paper. They ought to have been consulted especially about our naval commitments in the Far East, where obviously they are so directly concerned. They contributed generously to the effort which we made before the War. Now their obligations are greater. They are not only Dominions of the Empire. They are fellow-members of the League, and they have their obligations to uphold the Covenant of the League and to contribute to collective security. I want to know from the Noble Lord whether the views of the Dominions have been sought. Have they been brought into effective consultation, have they been asked to contribute and do they accept any share at all in our Imperial responsibility to contribute to pooled security under the League of Nations?
I come to the question, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough raised in the latter part of his speech, of oil fuel reserves. He joined in the pressure which is being brought upon the Government from a good many directions both here and in another place to develop and subsidise the production of oil from coal. I am not an expert in this matter—I think that the right hon. Gentleman will admit that he is not an expert on the question—and the last thing that I want to do is to attempt to dogmatise about it. But I am very doubtful about this costly policy of the production of oil from coal. My attention has been drawn to a paper read by one of the greatest experts in this country on this subject, Professor Bone, at the Institute of Fuel last month. He pointed out that although nature has not put oil under the soil of Britain, we can do it ourselves, and at a cost which will be about one-fifth of the cost of producing oil from coal. Moreover, plants for producing oil from coal would be extremely vulnerable and a fair target for hostile aircraft. I understand that these technologists are unanimous in rejecting the case for oil from coal as an economic proposition. They believe in it even less as a defence measure. I referred just now to the meeting of the Fuel Institute at which Professor Bone read his paper. I understand that the experts who took part in the discussion following the paper unanimously agreed with Professor Bone's arguments. I hope that the Admiralty in considering these conflicting views will resist the pressure from the very powerful interests—I do not say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough has the slightest connection with them—which for their own reasons are urging the Government to adopt that policy.
The Noble Lord in the concluding passage of his speech said that whatever armaments can or cannot do they can prevent defeat. That sounded a little like an echo from the past. Our fathers, and perhaps the same may be true of some of our present elder statesmen, when they discussed these grave questions of foreign policy and national defence before the War, had two objectives in mind. Their first objective was the preservation of peace and their second objective was, in case peace was broken, to make sure of victory in war. Now we of the War and post-War generations know that victory in war is an illusion, and that the destruction of life and property if we have another war would be on such a scale, that it would wreck civilisation as we know it. The First Lord of the Admiralty in introducing the Estimates last year used the words: "Victory would be dust and ashes." Consequently, we are no longer dazzled by the hope of victory. The gap between the professional, naval or military view and the political or civilian view has widened. We are concerned only to avert what must be the hideous, and what may be as far as our generation is concerned, the complete and final, catastrophe of war, and therefore to base our policy on the Covenant of the League of Nations and measure our armaments by the requirements of collective security.
I was glad to hear my Noble Friend preface his remarks with a reference to the loss which the Navy and the country have sustained by the death of Lord Beatty. That great warrior and sea captain, whom I knew so well and admired so profoundly, has passed away. Long will his memory and his characteristic figure he cherished by the Royal Navy, and long will the deeds of Beatty and his battle cruiser "Lion" stir the blood of the British race in every quarter of the globe.
I am not in general disagreement, in principle at any rate, with the main points of the speech of my right hon. Friend opposite. It is very puzzling that the expense of the Navy should be so high and that there is apparently a much smaller return in ships, men and new construction compared with what existed before the Great War. I do not think my right hon. Friend laid sufficient emphasis upon the increase in the pay, and the non-effective Votes, or attributed full value to that most important factor, the decline in the purchasing power of money. Nevertheless, when all has been said and done, I do say that there is a case to which the House of Commons should, in the interests of the highest economy of the Service, pay attention. In this connection it is odd, and it certainly would have been thought odd in any previous Parliament, that the two Ministers responsible for the Navy and the Royal Air Force, both in the prime of life and blessed with safe constituencies, should have withdrawn them selves from the House of Commons, w rich has to vote the money, and betaken themselves to those more august and ceremonious spheres in which they now reside.
This afternoon I should like to touch upon a few of the larger and more general aspects of our naval policy, some of which have been mentioned by my Noble Friend and others to which he was not able to refer. The foundation of British naval policy is the acceptance of the principle of parity with the United States of America, not only in battleships but over the whole range of the Fleet. We are all agreed upon that, and that decision once taken ought to exclude the idea of naval rivalry between the two countries. It certainly ought not to be followed by a meticulous measuring of swords, as it were, at recurring conference tables. The British view is, and has long been, that the, United States Navy, whatever it rely become, is no cause of anxiety to us. On the contrary, many people will feel, and it is no exaggeration to say so, that the stronger the United States Navy becomes, the surer are the foundations of. peace throughout the world. I trust, therefore, that the principle of parity which is really the principle of non-competition, will be interpreted in the most liberal and flexible manner on both sides of the Atlantic, and that the two great branches of the English-speaking peoples will not seek to hamper one another in making whatever may be the best possible arrangements for their respective naval defence.
For instance, it might well happen that for a period of years the circumstances of the United States require her to have temporarily a Fleet stronger than we should consider necessary for our quite different requirements. In that case we should accept that fact with good will and without concern, and we should feel under no obligation to build up to the exceptional strength which the United States might require to have. Similarly, periods might occur when we should be involved in difficulties and pre-occupations which would lead us to require a larger Fleet than it was convenient for the United States to maintain. In that case we should have not the slightest objection if they built up to our exceptional construction or even if they just went beyond it. This is a matter which the two countries must settle from the point of view of their own special needs and danger. I believe that in effect that is pretty well where we stand to-day, and I congratulate the Admiralty upon the excellent understanding and accord which has been reached between the British and American Admiralties and which has been manifested in the closest and most cordial co-operation throughout the present Naval Conference.
Never again, I hope, shall we revert to that most illogical and absurd mood of the Naval Conference of 1929 when the then Prime Minister plumed himself upon having prevented the United States from building a new battleship which they desired to build. I wish they had that battleship to-day. I should feel safer for it. I wish still more that we had not been hampered by the Treaty of London in providing ourselves with the cruisers which are necessary to bring our food supplies across the ocean and with the flotillas which are needed for that identical purpose in the narrow seas. I hope there will some day be a Naval Conference where representatives of the United States and Great Britain will be complaining of each other that they are not doing their respective duties in keeping their navies up to their proper level.
The last six years since the Treaty of London, upon which the right hon. Gentleman opposite looks back with so much pride—
Impenitence may not be a virtue, but it must be regarded as a fact. The last six years have been very unfortunate for us. We are in a far worse position for dealing with our food supplies and with protection of the narrow seas than we should have been if the ideas which are generally accepted now had generally prevailed before. It is said that although we do not mind the United States building whatever she may require, it may start Japan upon large increases in her Navy, and this would react upon us. There may be something in that argument, but not much. More than half the revenues of Japan are spent upon military purposes, and although for sentimental reasons they may not relish the ratio of 5.5.3, I do not believe that they have much margin for greatly increased naval construction. Therefore, it seems to me that if the United States wish to increase the size of their Fleet in any particular class of vessel, even if beyond what we find necessary, we should not be led by the possible Japanese reaction to object to the course which they think fit to take.
There are only three Powers in the world, Great Britain, Japan, and the United States, which continue to maintain regular battle fleets. They are, happily, situated at the opposite corners of the globe, divided from each other by immense expanses of ocean. If any one of those three Fleets were to traverse these ocean spaces in order to attack another without having some enormously strong fortified harbour close at hand, that attacking fleet would find itself at an almost immeasurable disadvantage, and without a base at hand it could certainly not maintain itself against a fleet defending its homeland for any length of time. The vast wastes of the Pacific Ocean give a considerable measure of security to the main interests of the United States and Japan. Singapore, our most easterly Fleet base, is about as far from Japan as Portsmouth is from New York. Therefore, I have never been able to feel that either here or in the two other leading naval countries there ought to be any great anxiety about the strength of their battle fleets. They do not want to get at each other, and if they did they could not without at least a decade of preparation.
This, I trust, disproves of the suggestion which we so often hear made, that Singapore is an aggressive or provocative feature in our strategic position. Singapore never is, and never can be, an offensive base against Japan. It is a defensive protection for the British Empire, and as such it rightly takes a high place in our thoughts. I was closely concerned with Lord Beatty after the Great War in the decision which brought Singapore into existence. It seemed to me then, and it is none the less now, that Singapore is a guard for the Indian ocean and an indispensable means of our discharging our duty of protecting the Indian Empire. But, in addition, it is a link or a steppingstone with Australia and New Zealand, which will enable us to cover them and, if necessary, proceed to their aid in an emergency. Considering what Australia and New Zealand did for us in the Great War it is the sacred duty of the Mother country to place herself in a position to offer them this protection. And this protection can be discharged in no other way. I hope, therefore, there will be no misconception or misrepresentation about the purpose for which the fleet base at Singapore is being constructed, and that the Admiralty will persevere with it with all possible speed.
Now I come to the question which formed the staple part of the speech of my Noble Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. He spoke of the value of the battle fleet and of the battleship as an instrument of war. We had a speech the other day, to which most of us listened with the greatest pleasure from the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and although I agreed with much that he said—especially the kindly references to myself—I was surprised that he did not seem to understand what the battle fleet did in the Great War. If we had not been able to place in good time a superior battle fleet at Scapa Flow, or if that battle fleet had been defeated in a great action, the German Navy could have sallied forth into the oceans of the world and immediately cut us off from our food supplies and trade, and starved us into submission. If they had thought it worth while they could have invaded this country, or have taken bases on the Western side for the convenience of their operations in intercepting our vital trade. I was surprised that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs did not sufficiently realise the supreme service rendered during the War by the British battle fleet. Without it the War could not have continued for a month; we should have been reduced by famine to subjugation.
It was an extraordinary sensation to see how the placing of a superior battle fleet at Scapa Flow instantaneously and automatically dominated all the waters of the globe. German commerce vanished from the seas, while our merchant ships sailed to and fro in a security so great that an additional insurance rate of 1 per cent. covered the war risks for a long period of time. The very powerful German fleet, one of the finest features of naval discipline and efficiency ever seen, remained in its harbours, content with the command of the Baltic, and never dared to do more than make occasional darts and raids of no major strategic significance. Unless the German fleet had been willing to challenge a fleet action and fight it out to the end and were successful in that action, they had no other choice. They never were willing, and I think rigs t]y, for all their valour and military qualities, to make a main trial of strength, and in consequence they were forced to submit year after year to the slow and remorseless pressure of the blockade which ultimately played a predominant part in the final result of the War. Therefore, it seems to me absurd that people should ask whether a superior battle fleet has any utility in naval strategy merely because they found that for m my months in the War it remained stationary in harbour. Great preparations have to be taken before the most powerful and Valuable engines of war can be launched on the open seas.
But the question arises whether the new conditions which have arisen since the War have not rendered the large battleship so vulnerable that it can no longer serve as the foundation of naval power. The Noble Lord asked, what is a battleship? I would answer that a battleship is an inexpugnable floating battery which used to be built of oak and now is built of steel. Its effectiveness depends not on avoiding being hit but on being capable of withstanding severe battering. The first requisite of a battleship, or indeed of any ship of war, is that it should keep afloat, and the second that it should carry the most powerful battery at sea. The qualities of a battleship might well be considered in the following order: first, armour and internal subdivision; second, guns; and, third, speed. I do not suppose that everyone will agree on these priorities, but I believe they will be found to have some sense behind them. Up to the present it has been found possible to construct battleships which will stand an enormous amount of pounding from modern armour-piercing shells and also sustain two or three under-water explosions by torpedoes without ceasing to be able to steam and fight. We saw what tremendous pressure the German battle cruisers, much more stiffly built than our own battle cruisers which Lord Fisher designed, took at the Battle of Jutland, and we also saw the "Queen Elizabeth" battleship, which we built, resist the heaviest fire that could be directed upon her by four or five of the largest German battleships without sustaining any damage which affected her fighting efficiency.
I have not in my mind at the moment exactly the fate of every one of the ships engaged at the battle of Jutland, but my recollection is that the "Marlborough," which was the only ship that was struck by a. torpedo, remained in action and kept on steaming. I do not however see the relevance of that to the point I was making. Altogether, I say that in the sphere of gunfire nothing seems to have happened since the War which invalidates the battleship, but the size of the torpedoes—and here perhaps I am getting into somewhat more happy relations with my hon. and gallant Friend, with whom I worked for so many years and with whom I should never like to lose touch—the size of torpedoes and their bursting charge have been greatly increased, and, above all, there is a new danger—and here I believe I am in close touch with my hon. and gallant Friend—heavy bombs from the air. It is admittedly difficult to decide the resisting powers of existing battleships to this new form of attack, though I am of opinion that it should be possible to give them a very great measure of defence, without seriously affecting their efficiency, against bombs from the air.
What we now have to consider when we are asked in principle to agree to the construction of two new battleships, is whether they can be built in such a way as to withstand the new perils of air bombing and, secondly, whether their harbours and resting places can be furnished with defences of one kind or another which will deter and defeat any attack. These questions are far too complicated to be argued out here. A great deal can be said on both sides. There is a keen dispute, a fierce dispute, between sailors and airmen on the subject, in which civilians have intervened on both sides with asperity and technicalities. I have seen it stated that the anti-aircraft guns of a battleship would fire away all their ammunition in one and a-half hours. Has anyone calculated how many aeroplanes would have to fly over that ship at the rate of 200 miles an hour in such a way as to offer a continuous stream of targets for an hour and a-half? Such a calculation would have to be worked -out before we can accept the argument as conclusive. The whole question of the usefulness of battleships turns on whether ships can be built whose structure will withstand modern cannon, air bombs and modern torpedoes, and whose paravanes and sweeping vessels can keep them clear of mines.
There is also a controversy about large and small battleships, which should certainly be thrashed out, and about which I will only say that I believe it is generally admitted that the problem of making a comparatively unsinkable ship is much more likely to be solved in a large vessel than in a small vessel. I have stated these matters to the House not in any way to lead them to a conclusion. I am not at all opposed to the idea of a battleship being constructed as the Noble Lord seems to think, nor am I committed to such a principle at the present time, but it seems to be quite clear that there ought to be a thorough inquiry into these matters before we commit ourselves to the construction of new battleships or new large battleships. After the War, in 1919, we had a Parliamentary inquiry into this very question. I was a member of it, with Mr. Bonar Law and other Ministers. We sat for some months, and the conclusion which I reached—if my memory serves me aright there were several reports—was that the Admiralty had made out their case at that date. We therefore continued to build battleships, the idea at that time being to build four battleships of 45,000 tons. Owing to our agreement at Washington with the United States, that was converted into the two battleships of 35,000 tons now represented by the "Nelson" and the "Rodney," which, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite truly said, are incomparably the strongest war vessels in the world. The view which was taken by that committee has also apparently been confirmed by the naval science of every other important naval Power, and there is a great deal, though not everything, to be said for the consensus of opinion.
But my point is that this is not a matter which the Admiralty ought to settle for itself, especially when there are very great differences of naval opinion both upon the size of battleships—the main principle—and still more when there is this clear difference between officers of the sea arm and officers of the new arm of the air. I was surprised to hear that the First Lord, speaking in another place, seemed to take it for granted that the whole of this principle was settled. I am sure there should be a re-examination of the whole problem. That is something on which Parliament ought to insist, not at all for the purpose of obstructing anything that it is necessary should be done, but with a view to satisfying itself and the public.
I see no reason why this inquiry should not contain one or two independent persons, although naturally it must be a matter of secrecy. Moreover, although I will not say there is plenty of time, there is time, because, as I pointed out, the Government do not propose that these ships shall actually be built—although no doubt some preliminary work will be done—until 1937. Therefore, my first suggestion to the Government and to the Noble Lord is that there should be a fresh secret inquiry into the technical and tactical issues involved in sanctioning new battleships.
I come now to cruisers. My right hon. Friend opposite has spoken a great deal about the little value we seem to be getting for our money. We certainly have spent a great deal of money on cruisers since the War, but I think the explanation of that resides very largely in the trammels of treaties in which we have, for good or ill, been bound. The Washington Treaty prescribed 10,000 tons and 8-inch guns as the absolute top limit for cruisers. So of course everybody, the Japanese in the van, at once took up that limit and endeavoured to build the most powerful vessel they could within those limits. The result has been—I hope I do not speak with disrespect—a monstrosity of naval architecture. The 8-inch gun cruisers violate almost every principle of naval construction. They are very expensive, for they cost almost as much as the "Lion" or the "Tiger"; they are very weak ships, with little or no armour; they carry many hundreds of men for whom no proper protection is provided; they each present an enormous silhouette; their great speed can be shorn away by a single shot in the forehand on or below the water-line—in fact they violate every principle.
There is a very sound rule, although I admit it is only a rough-and-ready one, which I learned years ago from those masters of naval design. Lord Fisher and Sir Philip Watts, that a warship ought to be able to withstand the battery of as big a gun as she carries herself. I think that on reflection it will be found that that is a very rough-and-ready guide to the symmetry and proportion of naval design. These 8-inch gun cruisers could not stand up to each other's fire, once it became effective, for even a few minutes. In fact, they are really not built for war purposes, but are built to conform to the artificial conditions of a treaty. I am sure that if we had had freedom of design such as we used to enjoy, the Admiralty would have been able to create far more serviceable vessels, and the strictures of my right hon. Friend would not need to be so severe. That which I have been saying about these 8-inch gun cruisers does not apply so much to the later class of United States 8-inch gun cruisers, which were built after the bulk of ours were completed—so that the United States were able to profit from the mistakes which we had made—and are very much stronger internally. Altogether this chapter is a very melancholy one in the history of the British Navy. There is, however, one thing for which the 8-inch gun cruiser is admirably adapted, and it is the destruction of commerce. She is the most powerful destroyer of commerce that can be imagined, but that is not much consolation to the Power which, above all others, has commerce to be destroyed.
Even worse is the chapter since the London Treaty. I hope to rally the right hon. Gentleman opposite to some repentance, however tardy. Let me at least not be daunted by his signs of refusal. In the last six British programmes that have been presented to Parliament, we have not added to the Fleet a gun over G-inches in calibre, that is to say, a gun which fires a 100 lb. shot, a very small gun as naval ordnance goes. In the last six programmes we have not added to the Fleet a gun larger than that. Relatively to other Powers, we have thus been steadily falling back in our naval. position, and as these Six latest programmes govern the future—govern certainly the next three or four years—we are in an unfortunate position whatever we now do. For instance, in these last six programmes we have added in the aggregate 17,600 lbs. to the weight of our broadside in new ships. France has added nearly 49,000 lbs.; Italy nearly 40,000 lbs.; and Germany nearly 30,000 lbs. to their broadsides in the period of the last six British programmes. It is worth noting, however, although it is not strictly relevant to my point, that the Japanese broadside during these six British programmes has increased only by 9,000 lbs. I am not contending that the broadside is the only test of naval power, but it is a very good test, a very searching and important test of the relative strengths of fleets.
Those figures which I have had collected for me with all the care I can give to such matters, give an idea as to how much weaker our fleet will be in three or four years' time relatively to the Fleets of European nations than it is now. We would not have to go on very long like that to be decidedly outclassed. I am not suggesting for a moment that there is need for panic in respect of the Navy. Never have I done that—not at the election—but it is quite clear that the present strength—I am not speaking of cruisers only, but of the whole Fleet—will undergo a marked diminution relatively to other Powers in the next three or four years whatever we do, and those three or four years will certainly be among the most critical in the history of Europe.
It is for this reason that I specially urged the other day that we should have the largest possible increase in our destroyer flotillas, because these certainly can be obtained in a comparatively short period of time, whereas decay in our cruiser strength can only be repaired gradually. I was not entirely satisfied with the answer of my Noble Friend on that subject, but perhaps he is not entirely prepared to give at this time the answer which he will give later on in the session, and I am prepared not to press the matter any further at the moment. But I suggest that under the Anglo-German Naval Treaty, Germany may be in possession of a very large submarine force in the near future and certainly by the end of 1937, for it is absolutely within their capacity to execute that. I suggest that we are entitled for the most precise assurance that the destroyer and flotilla force at our disposal will be sufficient to cope with such an attack whether there is any reason to expect it in policy or not. I hope that this is not the last word we shall hear on this subject.
There is another point which, I think, is to be regretted so far as this Anglo-German Treaty is concerned. There is no doubt that if we were engaged in war with any Power which had a considerable number of powerful cruisers in the oceans no matter how many cruisers we had—even if we had 100—we should have to rely, at any rate in part, upon convoys to bring our food cargoes in from South America and from Australasia. The kind of ships which are invaluable for convoy work would have been vessels like the "Lion" and "Tiger," which we have had to throw away, and all those older classes of dreadnoughts which we have had to discard, or may be compelled to discard, under our treaty engagements. There are also, as the Noble Lord suggested, a large number of old destroyers which it might be very convenient to keep in being in spite of new ones being built. There is general determination I gather, or there was last year, not to scrap any more old ships but to keep them on what was called the "Mother Bank" near Portsmouth, where they could be kept for a case of emergency.
There is a great value to our country in having a materiel reserve, because probably we who live in this island are capable of expanding our supply of seamen much more rapidly than any other country. Therefore, I say that this decision to keep old ships—for instance, there is the case of the "Effingham" and the "Frobisher" which the Admiralty decided not to scrap—is a very wise one, and I am glad it has been reached and sorry it was not reached before. But now see how the Anglo-German Treaty cuts across that policy. Under that treaty Germany is entitled to build one-third of the tonnage of our total fleet. So far as I am aware there is no distinction between the obsolete tonnage which is retained and the new tonnage. By what I can only regard as a lamentable oversight no provision was made in regard to obsolete tonnage. Therefore, if we keep these old vessels—and the question is one that is bound to arise—by that very act we authorise German construction of new vessels of one-third of those vessels' weight, and that brand new German tonnage is probably equal not to one-third but to more than one-half of the value of the old ships we keep. I thought this treaty deplorable in its diplomatic aspect, but here is this very unfortunate technical feature to which I have had to refer.
I have only one other point to make to the House, and it is in connection with the Fleet Air Arm. On the question of commerce protection, my right hon. Friend opposite spoke of the greatly improved power of cruisers caused by their having aeroplanes which they catapult from the deck. I am sorry that my Noble Friend was not able to tell us that there would be some aircraft carriers constructed for trade protection. The difficulty in protecting trade and ridding the seas of hostile cruisers is to find them. Once they can be found it should be easy to direct a more powerful vessel upon them. I remember well how we had to concentrate 30 ships to catch the "Emden." Once she was located one vessel was enough to sink her in an hour. With these new vessels and aircraft an enormous range of vision and search is open, and consequently great relief may be given to our commerce protection cruisers and a great measure of security to our trade as it traverses the wastes of the sea. I hope we shall hear something further from the Government on this point, which may well be productive of saving in expenditure as well as greater efficiency and security. I am not going to attempt to pronounce—especially with my hon. and gallant Friend the Admiral sitting so close behind me and my other hon. and gallant Friend in a tactical position on the other side—upon the vexed controversy of the Fleet Air Arm, but this I will say. If aeroplanes can be used, whether from cruisers or from trade protection aircraft carriers, in the protection of commerce, an important argument will have come into being for the unification of the whole work of commerce protection and for its control by the Royal Navy.
I have thought it may duty to make this contribution, to which the House has listened so kindly, and I hope it will not be taken in ill part by the Government or the Admiralty. It is difficult for laymen without access to official facts and figures to state a case on these matters without the risk of making mistakes. I shall certainly be glad to be corrected if I have made a mistake, and as long as I am corrected in the kindly and courteous manner of which I am sure my Noble Friend will be capable, nothing will give me greater pleasure than to learn that the Government have satisfactory answers.
The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and I are so fully in agreement about matters of naval defence that I will not touch upon the survey that he has given to the House. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) enjoyed himself thoroughly, blew off a lot of steam, and heartily attacked the Government for winning the election on defence, but I would like to remind him of a speech that he made in Hull on 8th April, 1931, in which he said:
The people must not hide from themselves the fact that no nation in the world has yet made the relatively large contribution to actual disarmament that this country has made. I do not hesitate to say, therefore, that we have gone so far in disarmament that we must now say, that while we are abundantly willing to co-operate in further disarmament, it will depend to a very large extent upon how far the nations of the world are willing to go with us.
That was said when war was remote, when the ten-year plan was in force, before Germany had a navy, and when our relations with Italy were excellent. But our armaments have been allowed to go so low that if the Government had not warned the country that it was time our defences were put in order they would have been unworthy to be called a Government. The right hon. Member took great pride in the London Treaty. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping has disposed of that point satisfactorily. The right hon. Gentleman took great credit for the cruiser programme which, he said, the London Treaty made possible. What about the 14 cruisers which we are not allowed to
replace, but which are over age; what about the 40 destroyers which are over age but which we cannot replace under the London Treaty?
But it does affect our security. It forced us to scrap the "Tiger" and four "Iron Dukes" which as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping said were admirably adapted to cover convoys across the sea. He asked the Noble Lady if she wanted to fight Japan. If we did, his Government made it impossible for us to do so by shutting down the base at Singapore. For three years I commanded the Fleet which was destined to go to the East in the event of trouble. The House may take it from me that it is impossible to operate a Fleet East of the Red Sea without a base at Singapore. Most of the money that was spent prior to the shutting down of the Singapore base was provided by New Zealand. Large sums came from Malaya and from Hong Kong—they realised the great need for that base.
The Noble Lord covered a great deal of water in presenting these Estimates. I thoroughly agree with the Admiralty view which he expressed so clearly about battleships. I am aware that there are a few sailors, some having the rank of Admiral, who express a contrary view, in the Press as well as in the House. I would recommend hon. Members who are troubled by what they presumably regard as a controversy between experts to examine the credentials of the present Board of Admiralty, who are trusted by the Navy as well as by the Government, and to compare them with the credentials of their critics. There are certain tests which those seeking for guidance should put, such as practical knowledge of weapons, their employment and development, and, above all, the crucial test of responsibility in high command and in high administrative appointments. The present First Sea Lord was selected by Lord Beatty 25 years ago to be his Flag Captain and Chief of Staff. He stood alongside his inspired chief on the bridge of the "Lion" in all three major engagements in the North Sea. Apart from the test of ordeal by battle, he was always beside him at the council table, and when Lord Beatty succeeded to the command of the Grand Fleet he, too, succeeded to a similar post and was present when the Grand Fleet kept the ring while measures were taken by other craft to destroy the unrestricted submarine warfare which was such a menace to this country. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) seemed to have forgotten that it was the presence of a fleet of battleships in the North Sea that made it possible to carry on and defeat the submarine menace.
I have heard questions of submarine warfare and the value of submarines discussed very dogmatically by people who have never been in a submarine, or whose connection with submarines is perhaps 25 or 30 years old. There are, however, officers in the Service now occupying high positions who went through real submarine warfare in the North Sea, officers who were subjected to the anti-submarine devices of those days, hideous enough at that time, and who have since undertaken submarine work in the face of the anti-submarine devices to-day, which are far more formidable. They are fully alive to the value of a submarine in expert hands, but are in no doubt as to the limitations of the submarine. Among the submarine officers who, by their technical skill and daring built up that submarine service which had perforce to seek their targets in enemy waters in the Great War, there are several in high positions in the Navy now. There is one outstanding officer, who, incidentally, won the Victoria Cross for conspicuous gallantry in a submarine, in the Marmora, who is now Second Sea Lord. As my Noble Friend reminded the House, the Third Sea Lord commanded the aircraft carrier squadron. He has not only had experience in operating aircraft in sea operations, but also has great experience in practical flying. A Junior Sea Lord has recently commanded an aircraft carrier. I mention all this to call the attention of the House to the varied experience of the present board, and I strongly recommend them to trust these sea officers, highly experienced men who have sailed over and under the sea and have flown in the air above the sea and thoroughly know its ever-changing moods. I suggest that hon. Members ought to turn a blind eye, and a deaf ear, to some of the theoretical experts whose propaganda adds so greatly to the difficulties of those who have to bear the responsibility.
I wish my Noble Friend could have given the House a little more information with regard to the experiments relating to the effect of bombing upon battleships. I realise that the experiments were secret, but I know that they have conclusively proved the fact that modern battleships have less to fear from the heaviest bombs dropped from the air than from the plunging fire of armour-piercing projectiles discharged with immense velocity or large torpedoes which can be fired from submarines and destroyers—far larger than those which could be dropped from any seaborne aircraft. One thing to be remembered is the fact that the velocity with which a bomb from the air hits a ship is dependent entirely on gravity, whereas the velocity of the shell is immense and there is no comparison between the effects of the two on armour. If we are wrong about this question of battleships, then, I ask, why should Germany and France be building great and powerful capital ships. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) did not deal with those countries. He merely referred to Japan and America, but I suggest that, whatever is being done at the moment in the matter of battleships by Japan and America, we ought to take account of the fact that battleships and battle cruisers are being built, so to speak, on our thresholds. I am immensely relieved to know that the Admiralty approves of laying down two next year, and my only complaint is that as most of our ships of this class are 22 years old and, as we are only allowed 15, the replacement of two seems a very small contribution. The modern ships which are being built by other nations are bound to be far more efficient and far better able to withstand modern methods of attack than the old renovated ships which we shall have.
A Noble Lord in another place recently expressed a hope that the new coordinating Minister would invite the critics of the Admiralty to come forward and state their case. Incidentally I am sorry that the new Minister is not in his place. I would like to tell him how greatly I admire his courage in under- taking this stupendous task which the Prime Minister has confided to him and to express very sincere hopes for his great success in it. But I can well imagine what would have been said by the War Office or the Air Ministry if an admiral had suggested that the critics of those Departments should be invited to come forward and state their case. However, I welcome the suggestion and I believe that the Admiralty welcomes it. I hope that those critics will be invited to justify, if thy can, their views and theories in the presence of the officers of the Admiralty, who, I would repeat, not only have a wealth of practical experience but have an abundance of practical experiments to guide the. I hope that the invitation to which I have referred will include my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) and that they will show him, confidentially, all the details of the more recent experiments, so that he will no longer have to depend on the 15-year old American experiments which he has somewhat inaccurately described in this House and in the Press.
Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend would allow me to go into that matter with him elsewhere. It really is not a subject on which we ought to enter into controversy in the House. I want to enlist his help and services in putting our defence in order. I am sure he could help. We are all grateful to him for the use which he made of his good fortune in the ballot which contributed to the success of the Defence Debate, and will be of value to the Debates that are taking place on the Service Estimates. It is 20 years since he was associated with the Royal Naval Air Force, in the building up of which he took a great part under the incentive of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, but I can assure him and the House that the Navy is longing for the opportunity to spread its wings. It is maddening to the Navy to have to watch America and Japan, for instance, soaring away ahead in naval aviation. I had meant to raise several questions with regard to this subject, but I feel that the matter is now sub judice. I hope that the new Minister will lose no time
in getting together the people who are chiefly concerned and carrying out a thorough investigation. I am so certain of the justice of the Navy's case that I feel sure their requirements will be met. Therefore, I will not do anything more at present than call the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend and the House to a letter written by Lord Beatty only a month ago on the subject of the Navy and the Air Force. After regretting that this controversy should still be raging, and remarking that it was inevitable as long as the present situation existed, he wrote:
The important thing to remember is that the decisions given many years ago were considered by the Government of the day to be the best compromise that could be made, pending experience. It is in my recollection that Lord Salisbury, who arbitrated on the question of the relations of the Navy and the Air Force, made it clear that, in his view, ultimately the Fleet Air Arm may become a special branch of the Fleet in all respects like any other. The situation to-day is that we have more than 10 years' experience, and the present system has failed. I am sure that, neither through the Press, nor Parliament, nor by political committees, will this question ever he satisfactorily settled. A proper judicial inquiry seems to be the only solution, in order that facts and not personalities shall be the deciding factor in making such a vital decision.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir T. Inskip) is fully qualified to carry out such a judicial inquiry. I would support the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping that a thorough inquiry should also be made into the question of battleship building. As we were reminded an exhaustive inquiry was held in 1922. I was examined for hours at that inquiry the result of which was that the Admiralty's wish to build battleships was considered justified. I am confident that the present board would make out an equally good case. References have been made to the great services of Lord Beatty. He, and the other great sailor to whom the country owed so much the last time its sea communications were in jeopardy, now lie in the crypt of St. Paul's in the heart of the Empire. Is it too much to ask all parties and all people in this great Empire to unite in demanding that those serving tailors who now carry the torch should be supplied with the weapons and the means by which they can carry out their great charge—the Navy's heritage?
I wish to say at the outset how much I appreciate the reception given this afternoon to these Estimates. Even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) softened the blow of his criticism. When he informed me that on three occasions he had called attention, with indignation, to the fact that the First Lord of the Admiralty was no longer in this House, I thought that as he himself had so recently been elevated to the command of his own platoon, he might have had a little more fellow feeling for a second in command like myself. I feel, however, that we have every reason to be satisfied with the Debate which these Estimates have produced. There has been no attempt in it to score party or petty points. All the speeches have been either instructive or constructive and all have been extremely useful and I shall try, in the few remarks with which I propose to wind up the main Debate, to keep the same spirit.
If I have any complaint to make it is against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) who talked a good deal about our actions having been governed by panic. I cannot see any trace of panic in what has been said or done to deal with the situation. He cannot point to any speech which gives any indication of panic. To have said that the deficiencies in the Navy were only small and could be made up by small general increases in the ordinary Estimates would have been deceiving the country. We had to tell the people of the country that those deficiencies were appreciable and that certain measures were required in order to deal with them. We had to tell them that the time had come when we must set about building battleships.
That is over the whole defence Estimates. I have no objection to telling the right hon. Gentleman what is the estimated cost of making good the Navy deficiencies, but that is not the question which he put to me. I do not think he can say that there is any sign of panic in the programme which we have put forward or in the introductory statement by my Noble Friend the First Lord. There was a point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness with which I should like to deal now. I regret that he is not in his place, but he will be able to read my remarks. He complained that the cost of what we are getting now was enormous compared with pre-war days. He put his complaint in an extremely fair and friendly way. He called attention to one or two directions in which obviously there could be no comparison between present and pre-war prices. He talked of the non-effective Vote and about pay and about wages and their effect on contracts, but he left out two very important items—the advent of the Fleet air arm arid the large sums of money which are being spent on anti-aircraft defence.
Before coming here to-day I got some figures which I thought might be of some general interest to the House. They cannot be taken as accurate. They are only approximate. Taking the effective Services only, the provision proposed this year is £60,250,000. If pre-war rates and prices still obtained it is estimated that the cost would have been £39,832,500 while the original Estimates for 1914–15 were about £48,000,000. Taking the total Navy Estimates, ours are nearly £70,000,000. On the basis of pre-war prices they would have been £45,000,000 and the original Estimates for 1914–15 were £51,000,000. I do assure the right hon. Gentleman that we do everything we can to ensure due economy. In the days immediately after the financial crisis in 1931 we had to scrape together every penny we could and we got money from every nook and cranny. Now that, with an expanding programme, money is not quite such an impeding factor as it was then, we are still doing everything we can to see that the money is carefully and economically spent.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough asked several questions about the conference. I am afraid that at the risk of discourtesy I can only repeat what has been said before in answer to questions, and on the Supplementary Estimates on the Naval Conference, that it really is inadvisable to say anything more at the present time. We have given all the information we can. We have already told him why we thought it inadvisable to publish a White Paper before the conference started, and there has been this self-imposed pledge of silence on all Members which is, I think the only reason why the conference is still sitting. The right hon. Gentleman should have a little fellow-feeling because I notice that in a previous Debate—I presume it must have been on the Naval Treaty—he himself deprecated a discussion in public session on the ground that it would not be of assistance in bringing the conference to a successful issue.
If we had published a White Paper it would probably have led to the conference ending already without coming to a decision at all. The only thing arising out of the conference about which I would say a few words is the Anglo-German Treaty. I do not want to go into that in any great detail. It has been debated in the House before, and everybody has made up his mind whether the Treaty is right or wrong, but really there is a misapprehension that it limits us. It does not limit us in any way. We are entirely free to build whatever programme we like. All it does is to limit the Germans to a percentage of that programme, and I cannot see that we are any worse off by signing that Treaty than if it had never been made.
Does not the Noble Lord see that from the very fact of a breach of the Versailles Treaty being whitewashed by the Government there can be no complaint about German hasty action? You are whitewashing a breach of the Versailles Treaty when you might have taken different action.
When we saw that in no other part of the defence Forces was there going to be any limitation, and that they had in fact broken the Versailles Treaty both in regard to the Army and the Air Force, we thought we might make some attempt to get some sort of limitation as regards the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman also asks who we were going to build against. I think I should get into a good deal of trouble with the Foreign Secretary if I gave him in order of priority these people whom we were most likely to fight. It would hardly be helpful either to the conference or to the very difficult time through which we are passing. We are not building against anybody; we are not building against any individual country. We are building in conformity to our own requirements and to our own responsibilities. I am very happy to be able to tell my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) that there is no spirit of competition whatsoever between America and ourselves with regard to our programme.
Now I will turn to the points mainly raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping. With his general observations on strategy and naval building, which interested the House so much, I am quite sure he would not expect me to deal at such very short notice, but I should like to take up two points. One is as regards destroyers. It is perfectly true that I am not able to show the whole picture at the present time, but we can always if necessary return to that question. I think he minimised the importance of one thing. I said in my speech that at the end of the War we had definitely got the better of the submarine menace, and that we were still maintaining that supremacy owing to the advance of science. The Admiralty is quite convinced that the measures it has taken or is going to take are sufficient to meet the situation as it is at present. If anything further develops we are in a position to expand on that side of the fleet far more easily than in any other category. He talked about battleships and the question of experiments with battleships was mentioned by several speakers. It is really impossible to give details of those experiments. They were very secret and carried out with great thoroughness, and obviously we are prepared to go on with those experiments and get all the increased knowledge we can. With regard to the general question of battleships, I can only hope that I put my case strongly. I really want people to feel confident about battleships, to feel that they are necessary. I do not want people to go about feeling that their money has been wasted on battleships when it ought to be used for something else. We are perfectly prepared to take any steps to make people perfectly convinced that the policy of the Government is right.
The Admiralty has nothing to fear whatsoever. We have put our case time and time again. We have got our case ready and we would really like the opportunity of the critics of battleships coming out into the open. But they must not make airy speeches about what aircraft can or cannot do. Their views must be based on definite experience, and I hope that they will be open to cross questioning, by the naval authorities in the same way as the naval authorities have been cross-questioned by the opponents of battleships. Therefore, while I feel perfectly clear that my right hon. Friend will not expect me to pledge myself to the exact method of inquiry to be adopted, I can assure him that every step will be taken to ensure that all these points can be thrashed out as to the merit or otherwise of our battleship replacement programme. I think I have dealt with the main points raised in the general debate. Several other points were raised by the right hon. Gentleman but I hope he will allow me to reserve my reply until we get to the Committee stage.
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
this House, mindful of the fact that it is the Navy which has raised Great Britain to the foremost place in the world, has maintained it there for centuries, and made possible the growth of the British Empire, believes that, as this country is an island with an overseas empire dependent on sea communications for the safe transportation of troops, munitions, foodstuffs, and raw materials, the Royal Navy must remain the most important element in our defences, and further, that the Fleet should be maintained at an adequate strength, having due regard to the changed conditions of naval warfare resulting from the development of air power.
I rise to speak on this occasion chiefly because I am a member of a naval family. When I complained to the hon. and gallant Member the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) that he had cut away all the ground from under my feet, he said, "Well, you are to a certain extent an hereditary expert in these matters." Though I cannot claim to compete with the expert knowledge of some hon. Members who have taken part in the Debate, nevertheless I hope to be able to put forward some constructive views in support of the Amendment which I have moved. I am certainly mindful of the fact that I am one of the least of the Members of this assembly and I remember the advice of the Baloo,
the big bear, to Mowgli, "The jungle is large and you are small." However I will take my courage and talk. But for an accident which took me to Australia at an early age I might have gone into the naval service, and I might have been standing now on the deck of a destroyer in the Mediterranean scanning the vacant spaces of the horizon. Despite the fact that I am now scanning the vacant spaces of a more limited horizon, I have nevertheless been placed in a particularly favourable position for the acquisition of reliable information on naval matters.
My aim in putting this Amendment before the House is to underline, as it were, the demand which the First Lord has laid before Parliament and which the Parliamentary Secretary has explained in this House so ably this afternoon. The First Lord, although he has now cast anchor in another place, has nevertheless had experience of the Service himself. He is not therefore like that First Lord of the Admiralty who, on inspecting his first ship, is reputed to have exclaimed "Great Scott, the thing's hollow." The First Lord realises better than anyone that the Navy remains the first line of our defences, for the reasons stated in the White Paper recently published. That White Paper says that
the overwhelming importance of the Navy in preserving our sea communications and thus ensuring to this country the supplies of sea-borne food and raw materials on which its existence depends, was fully set out in the White Paper of March last.
We have there stated, in almost identical terms with those of the Amendment that if peace should be broken the Navy is, as always, the first line of defence for the maintenance of our essential sea communications. Thus it is that the security of sea passage to this country as well as to a great part of the Empire forms the basis of our home and Imperial defences without which all other measures can be of little avail." When the Civil Lord replies I hope he will state unequivocally, for the benefit of the public, that the opinion that the Navy does remain the first line of our defences is still the opinion of His Majesty's Government.
The Debate to-day has largely ranged on the controversy between the Air Force and the battleship upon the question whether or not the battleship is able to stand up to aerial bombardment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said that it was far too large a topic to be thrashed out in detail on the Floor of the House, but that did not deter my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) from giving the other day some cogent arguments in favour of the other side of the picture. I think that when we have people like my hon. and gallant Friend and a whole section of the Press giving the public the impression that the Air Force is supreme over the battleship, some pretty conclusive arguments ought to be forthcoming on the other side. The effect of this bias is not only to cause disquiet in the minds of the taxpayers, but it has a disastrous effect on the morale of the Navy itself. If the naval ratings and even the junior officers are continually reading in their morning papers that the people in whom they have been taught to place confidence are duffers who do not know their job, it is bound to have a very disturbing effect upon the morale of the Fleet. Therefore, I hope that the Admiralty and the Government will give more conclusive arguments in support of their contention that the battleship is able to stand up to the air bomb.
The Noble Lord who laid the Estimates before the House stated that he was satisfied that the battleship was able to stand up to air bombardment, but he did not give any very detailed reasons for supposing so. The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford stated that the "Ostfriesland" sank in two and three-quarter minutes after being hit by four 2,000-lb. bombs. In his anxiety to stress that side of the case he somewhat drew the long bow, for what he did not tell the H ruse was that these four bombs came at the end of two days' incessant bombardment, that the "Ostfriesland" was built in 1909, and that she was moored to a single spot and was unable to defend herself. It was nothing more than a carcase for the vultures to peck at, and yet it stood up to two days' bombardment—
I am glad that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has taken me up on that paint, because I feel justified now in giving some of the facts of that experiment. The bombardment of the "Ostfriesland" took place on 20th and 21st July, 1921. On the first day fifty 600-lb. bombs were dropped on the ship, but only 13 struck and they did very little damage. On the second day five bombing planes dropped some 1,000-lb. bombs on the ship, three of them hitting, but they also failed to sink it. It was not until six heavy bombing aeroplanes dropped four 2,000-lb. bombs that the ship sank. That ship had therefore stood up to a bombardment of fifty 600-lb. bombs, three hits from 1,000-lb. bombs and only finally succumbed to four 2,000-lb. bombs. This ship was moored to one spot, unable to defend itself; she was obsolete and had insufficient deck protection. What is the position in relation to these 2,000-lb. bombs? An aeroplane can carry only one of them. It cannot travel very far with it and it cannot leave its shore base very far in order to drop a bomb. It is the opinion of the highest command in the British Fleet air arm, as stated by the First Lord in another place, that the 2,000-lb. bomb can be discounted for practical purposes in naval warfare except within a very limited radius of the land.
Therefore, I do not think that the arguments advanced in favour of the "Ostfriesland" carry much weight. That was an American experiment, and we see the American delegation at the Conference in London now asking for the 35,000-ton battleship. That indicates that they are not satisfied that the battleship is doomed by the bomb. I know what my hon. and gallant Friend says to that, but it is an argument with which I do not agree. There was also the experiment carried out on the "Washington" in America. After four days of severe tests from bombs exploded in the water alongside the hull, and torpedoes exploded against the side of the ship, she remained afloat for four days and finally had to be sunk by gunfire. I could multiply these cases indefinitely to prove that the battleship is able to stand up to aerial bombardment, even when moored and unable to defend itself. It is perhaps appropriate to mention an English experiment, particularly because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) asked the Government whether they would carry out these experiments on moving battleships. I will refer to the experiment carried out on the "Agamemnon" in July, 1924. She was wireless controlled and 114 bombs were dropped from aeroplanes ranging between 5,000 and 12,000 feet. Not one of the bombs hit the boat. Why? Because the officer who was controlling the wireless course of the "Agamemnon" kept on jigging the ship to the right all the afternoon, and the airmen in their wisdom kept on expecting the ship to turn to port. The result was that they continually dropped their bombs on the port beam and never landed one on the ship at all.
I cite these cases because it is important to give in some detail the other side of the picture. There is one rather amusing case which has sometimes been quoted, that of the mutinous Dutch battleship "De Zeven Provincien." It was claimed that when this ship was brought to submission by the detonation of a bomb on the fo'c'sle, it was a triumph for the air arm. It was, however, subsequently revealed officially that the aeroplane had orders to drop a bomb two cables ahead of the ship, but such was the accuracy of the bombing that it fell a quarter of a mile wide of the mark and struck the ship by mistake. I have detained the House some time to speak on this side of my Amendment because so long as doubts exist as to the ability of ships to stand up to aerial bombardments, the case for the Amendment will lack conviction.
The need for reiteration cannot be doubted when we have people like my hon. and gallant Friend giving the other side of the picture with such eloquence and vehemence, and when we have a whole section of the Press stressing the other side of the case. The wisdom of God cannot have descended on Lord Rothermere alone among the naval experts of the world. It is a fact that the experts in the business are absolutely satisfied as to the ability of the battleship to stand up to bombardment. The First Lord of the Admiralty said in another place that
the battleships of the British Navy which have been fitted by extra deck armour during the last few years are virtually impervious to air bombing attack. This is the opinion of the highest officers in the British Fleet air arm.
That kind of periodical denial is merely like a dose of salts after a night of alcohol. The corrective is swallowed with dislike, if not with
scepticism, but the recollection of the pleasing dizziness alone remains.
Here I would give the Admiralty a home truth. The Admiralty is largely to blame for this misconception which has arisen in the public mind. It has a weak Press bureau. There are only two naval officers in it, and they are by tradition non-communicative—they think it would be inadvisable to say this, or injudicious to mention that. On the other side of the picture, the Air Ministry has a Press Department with nine men in it ready and anxious to give the reporters something that will leave no doubt—in the minds of the reporters' wives, at any rate—that the country is in great peril and that the Air Force is supreme. This is a somewhat barren controversy, and therefore I agree with the right hon. Member for Epping that it is time the subject was fully investigated so that the anxiety which exists in the public mind can be set at rest.
I will conclude this controversy by turning the tables altogether. I say emphatically that the Air Force is the most immobile force we have. When trouble broke out in Abyssinia it was only the Fleet which prevented Italy taking counter measures against the League of Nations. We cannot send aircraft out to Egypt or to India or any point of the globe at 250 miles an hour. When trouble broke out in Abyssinia, the aeroplanes had to be packed up in crates, put into tramp steamers, and escorted at 10 knots by the Fleet; and they took six weeks to get to Egypt. That would have been a, grievous danger in time of war, not only to the Fleet but to the aircraft packed up in cold storage. The aerial bombs also have to be packed up in crates. Therefore, I think it is true to say that the Air Force is an immobile force in that respect. It used to be said that, the sailor carried the soldier on his back. To this burden must now be added the airman.
I have listened to the Debate which preceded this Amendment with the misgivings which many speakers must have felt when listening to such Debates, when one expert after another has undermined the ground which they were going to use in order to make a speech. I should have liked to run through our present Fleet to indicate that we have not got an adequate Fleet because so many of our ships are over-age. Although that point has been made by speakers in this Debate, what the Debate has not brought out is that except for what we build now we shall very soon have no Fleet at all, because so many of our ships are over-age. Our fine old ships have been likened to a fleet of Rolls-Royces, put on the road 20 years ago, still in working order but laughably antiquated. They cannot remain in working order for ever. The case of our battlefleet has been mentioned. We have two modern battleships, the "Nelson" and the "Rodney," and the White Paper promises two more. Very good; that is four modern battleships, and if you include the battlecruiser Hood there are five modern battleships. That is your battle fleet of the future, unless provision is made for an enlarged battle fleet, because all the other battleships are already over-age by treaty standards, or become over-age this year. The same might be said of all the classes of ships in our Fleet.
The right hon. Member for Epping asked the Government t point blank why, in the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, they allowed Germany to build up to our strength in submarines. I think I can give him the answer, or at any rate give him a reason which, I think, influenced the Government very strongly. I hope I am not here betraying any very great naval secret, but it is a fact that we have to-day an almost fool-proof and efficient anti-submarine device. I hope it does not reveal any secret to say that it operates on the system of the reflector ray, an enormous improvement on the old hydro-phone system, which was faulty in operation, the submarine usually coming up on the opposite side to that on which it had been reported. Naturally if we have an effective and fool-proof anti-submarine device, which means practically that no submarines can come within torpedo firing range of a ship without danger of instant destruction, there is at least some argument that the provisions we have made for defence against submarines are more adequate than they might appear outwardly. I myself take the view that the Anglo-German Naval Agreement is 'f enormous value to this country by limiting in perpetuity tilt German Navy to one-third of ours. It seems to me we have eliminated one of the greatest possible sources of naval rivalry that ever menaced this country.
There are other classes of ships in all of which we find ships which are over age. In our destroyer class 109 of the present destroyers, out of 169, are over age, and 32 of the present 54 cruisers are over age. Therefore, to my mind, the White Paper ought to include provision not only for the additional 20 cruisers, to bring the number up to 70, which is the minimum which the Admiralty consider necessary, but also to provide for the replacement of ships. Cruisers are a class of ships which we need more than does any other country, on account of our extended trade routes, and the lessons of the last War ought not to be lost upon us—that it is not only in having sufficient cruisers that our security depends, but in having cruisers of a sufficiently up-to-date type.
The House will remember the lamentable loss of Admiral Cradock's squadron at Coronel, due to the superiority of Von Spee's ships over ours, and, on the other side, will remember how we turned the tables on Von Spee at the Falkland Islands through having cruisers of a more up-to-date type on the spot. Von Spec was on his way to South Africa to aid de Wet's rebellion and break South Africa away from the Empire at a critical stage in the War. The Admiralty sent Admiral Sturdee out to the Falkland Islands with the "Invincible" and the "Inflexible," two first-class cruisers, and as he made no wireless signals on the way out they arrived all unknown to Von Spee, who advanced unknowingly to his doom. When it was reported to Von Spee that ships with tripod masts were coming out of the harbour at the Falkland Islands he said, "There are no ships with tripod masts in the Southern Hemisphere," but as soon as he saw the "Invincible" and the "Inflexible" emerge he realised that he was confronted with cruisers of superior armament to his own and turned and fled. That, however, did not prevent him being overtaken and the "Scharnhorst" and the "Gneisenau" were sunk practically without the British ships coming within range of the German gunfire. That ought to convince the House of the importance of having not only enough cruisers but cruisers of a sufficiently up-to-date nature and design.
I know that some hon. Members may be thinking that it is not much use having ships at sea if the harbours behind them can be destroyed and pulverised by air attack, and I should like to have had a little more assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that our harbours are immune from air attack and the reason why. Only recently he was asked on the Floor of this House if he were satisfied that our ships in Haifa, Jaffa and Alexandria were invulnerable from air attacks, and his answer was in the affirmative, but perhaps more reasons might well be given without betraying to the world any particular secrets of naval design and construction. Here, again, I do not want to give away secrets, but I think it is known to most Governments that the Admiralty have constructed an entirely new type of ship for the defence of harbours. They have constructed an anti-aircraft ship by converting one of our old cruisers for this type of work. I think it would probably be injudicious to state which ship has been converted, or to say what guns have replaced its former guns, but the fact remains that the Admiralty now have an anti-aircraft ship which is capable of bringing a. terrific volume of fire into play in defence of a harbour, and in future there will probably be one of these anti-aircraft ships for every harbour and, no doubt, one will accompany every squadron.
I mention these things to try to correct the impression which has grown up in the public mind that we are defenceless from air attack. We are not defenceless from air attack at sea, and our harbours are not defenceless either. Therefore, the argument that our Navy remains the first line of defence still holds good. We should remember a little more clearly than we do what an overwhelming factor our supremacy at sea was in the last War. I shall not detain the House a moment longer, but I should like to quote a speech of the late Lord Balfour made at the height of the War. He said:
The Fleet is the life of the nation. You owe to it that in this unexampled moment in the history of the world we can freely import what we require from abroad and freely export what we produce at home. Our economic stability, not less than our military operations, depend upon the British Fleet. Silent though it may be, not engaged in actions of remarkable heroism, it is at this moment performing not for the British Empire alone, nor yet for the Allies of Britain alone, but for the
whole world, a most important part in the drama now being played for the freedom of the world. Every man, woman and child in this country when he enjoys his daily meal, when he carries out his ordinary avocations, when he feels that his shores are protected from the attacks of unscrupulous enemies, let him remember that he awes those incomparable blessings to the British Navy.
Let us not suppose that the usefulness of the Fleet is displayed in war-time alone. The Fleet is the greatest preserver of peace. During recent months it has been preserving peace. The British Navy is the foremost seal on the Covenant of the League of Nations, and it is those grey shapes on the horizon which, more than anything else, deter breakers of the Covenant or would-be breakers of the Covenant from aggressive acts. I think the Fleet does more than rivers of ink and torrents of words to preserve the peace of the world. I will end with a word from a Poet Laureate of the last century which, I think, is very applicable to-day:
You, you, that have the ordering of her fleet,
If you should only compass her disgrace, When all men starve, the wild mob's million feet
Will kick you from your place, But then too late, too late.
I beg to second the Amendment.
This afternoon we have listened with great interest to all the experts who have spoken, and I think the House will agree that they have confined most of their remarks to the need for an adequate Fleet. Practically nothing has been said of the need for an adequate Fleet air arm. But for the luck of the ballot it would not have been my privilege, being only a layman, to have dealt with this subject, and it would have been more fitting if it had been left for an expert; but though I approach this question as a non-expert, I have gone to a great deal of trouble to examine the arguments and the experiences of experts. To that extent I may claim to discuss this subject without any preconceived ideas, and, if I may say so, with an impartiality that is not always found among experts. The conclusion I have definitely come to is that a very great strengthening of the Fleet air arm is absolutely vital to the effective defence of this country. I am not concerned for the moment with the question of dual control, with the claim of the Navy to maintain and control its own air service outside the Air Ministry, but what I am concerned with, and what I think the country is concerned with, is that the Navy should have an air arm adequate in the number of machines and in trained personnel to discharge the great responsibilities and duties which conditions to-day lay upon the Fleet air arm.
The first-line strength of the Fleet air arm at present is only 190 machines. No one who approaches this matter with an open mind and with any understanding of naval requirements to-day can pretend that this force is anything like adequate. What are the chief functions of the Fleet air arm? The chief functions have been laid down with authority as, first, to find the enemy; secondly, to attack with bombs and torpedoes; thirdly, to obtain air superiority; and, fourthly, to provide air escorts for convoys. Obviously the present air fleet is ridiculously-small to carry out these duties in time of need. When the Royal Naval Air Service was in existence as a separate unit, before the Royal Air Force was formed and absorbed the Naval arm, the Naval Air Service was the biggest and the best in the world. In April, 1918, the Royal Naval Air Service possessed, I understand, in addition to a number of dirigibles, 2,800 aircraft and 55,000 officers and men. It was of enormous value in convoy and reconnaissance work, and for bombing and fighting. To-day, despite the great developments in the air during the last 15 or 16 years and the acknowledged importance of air strength, the Fleet air arm is only about one-fifteenth of its former strength. We know that there is a big programme of expansion in the Royal Air Force. The home front in the air is being greatly strengthened as a matter of imperative necessity. We are told that we must be as strong in the air as the nearest Power within striking distance of our shores. That is all very good and sound, so far as it goes, but what of the air front it sea and of the Fleet air service? The Fleet air service, of 190 first line machines—
My information is 190, but if I accept the figure of the hon. Member, a Fleet air arm even of 217 first-line machines would be comic if it were not so tragically perilous. Think of those 217 first-line machines in relation to their grave responsibility. One of the greatest dangers in any future war will be the submarine, of which we all have bitter memories from the last War. As a spotter of submarines aircraft have an extraordinarily high value. The trail of the submarine, the small track of its periscope, is easily visible to aircraft, which can swoop down in a few seconds and bomb the submarine before it has time to dive. Experience proved this during the closing stages of the last War. Submarines went below when they saw heavier-than-air craft escorting a convoy. Their commanders admit that air attack is the most terrifying risk they run. The maintenance of our food supplies will always be the main interest of this island in war time, and we dare not neglect anything that will combat the submarine and give our fleets at sea the eyes that they need.
The First Lord of the Admiralty said last year that the air had given the Navy not only a potent weapon but an increased range of vision, and that hitherto limited horizons had been swept back for many miles. Everybody will admit that that is true, but while we depend mainly upon sea power to keep open our absolutely vital supply connections, the integral factor of that sea power and of its efficient exercise is the Fleet air arm. There is another aspect of this important matter and that is the equipment of more ships of the Fleet with aircraft and the provision of many more air bases throughout the Empire. The accommodation of aircraft on fighting ships is naturally limited and it is, therefore, extremely important that ships equipped with aircraft should have the greatest possible opportunity when at sea of replenishing and repairing their aircraft. It is a grave handicap if a ship has to choose between steaming a thousand or more miles to a distant air base and carrying on with diminished air equipment. There are many points throughout the Empire where air bases could be established with great gain to the efficiency and the utility of the Fleet air arm. I hope that the Government in their exhaustive review of our defence requirements, have given full consideration to this and have made provision for it. I have no doubt that they have.
I decided that I would not speak for more than 10 minutes, but I want to take this opportunity of assuring the Government, if they need any assurance on the point, that, so far as I have been able to gauge opinion, the people in this country expect—indeed they demand—adequate defences. I am convinced that in the proposals they are putting forward to that end the Government are proposing what the country strongly desire, that they are serving a high national interest and are vindicating in the most complete way their own national character.
Although I belong to an Opposition party I am sure the hon. Member who moved the Amendment will not take it amiss if I say with what very great pleasure I listened to his speech. I imagine it must have been a source of great satisfaction to him to move this Amendment since he bears a name which will always be held in honour in the Navy as that of an officer who performed most distinguished service, not only in the Navy but in the diplomatic field, when he accompanied Mr. Balfour, as he then was, to Washington in America, in 1917, and also as a Dominion Governor. One disagrees perhaps in point of degree with the terms of the Amendment rather than with the intention of it. The hon. Member must have been thinking of a scroll which used to hang in the old Naval College of Osborne and which read, "There is nothing that the Navy cannot do." It was in that spirit that the late Lord Charles Beresford, on being consulted concerning the possibility of repopulating some depopulated Pacific Islands, said, "That is quite easy; send for the Marines." The Amendment would make a very good Navy League appeal if it concluded with another paragraph making a request for a subscription.
There is one point upon which I particularly differ from the Mover. It is when he says that the Navy must remain the most important element in our defences. I am very proud of my own Service but I would not be prepared to go as far as that because, looking at the shape of things to come, it is quite possible that the air may yet become the predominating element in our defences. I think the hon. Member must speak to his own Front Bench about the question of the adequacy of the existing Fleet. Heaven knows, enough money has been spent on the Navy, and there must have been very gross mishandling of that money if the Navy is not at the present time both adequate and efficient. I remember, of course, the statements made about the Navy for electioneering purposes. On that point I will only say that I thought it most remarkable of too Prime Minister to move our Fleet to Alexandria, with a view to making an impression upon the Italian Government, and, having done so, immediately to broadcast to the nation that our Navy was in such a deplorable condition that it would almost sink if anyone so much as looked at it. I think the main difficulty of the Mover of the Amendment will be to discover what is the foreign policy of the Government, because he will need to do that before he can advance any views as to what an adequate Navy is.
The Amendment refers to the question of safe transport of food and raw materials, and I should like to ask how that transport of food and raw materials is going to be safeguarded in the future against air attack. I know that, when asked these questions, staff officers look very pontifical, and Ministers usually reply, "I am advised," or, in moments of extreme stress, they say it would not be in the public interest to reply: and plain and unpretentious people like myself are overawed and shut up accordingly. But these things were said in exactly the same terms before the War. If the Mover of the Amendment had been born earlier, and had been moving his Amendment in 1913, he would have moved it in practically, if not entirely, identical terms, and we should have had a very reassuring reply. But the War showed that the Admirals and the Ministers had never thought out what a menace the submarine was going to be, or what the reply to it would be.
If in 1913 anyone had raised the question in the House of whether the Admiralty were taking the proper steps to safeguard our trade against the submarine, one can imagine the salvos of oratory with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) would have deluged his questioner, and the drum-fire of redundant adjectives with which he would have assured him that it had all been thought out, that we had a perfect answer, and that everything would be done. Will the Parliamentary Secretary, in his rather quieter manner, give us the same reassuring reply about the air? Will he say that the answer has been thought out; and, if he is going to say that, will he say that the arrangements have been already made for the necessary equipment and so on? I hope very much that we may have a specific reply on that point. If I may, I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the Parliamentary Secretary for the very courteous replies he has given to the rather large number of questions I have addressed to him. I have not succeeded in getting all the information I hoped for, but I suppose a Minister would regard it as rather a reflection upon himself if any Member could say he had got all the information he hoped for. I am, however, grateful for his courtesy, and I think he has captured something from the Service over which he is presiding. In fact, I think that, with a trident in his hand and a little seaweed draped in the appropriate places, he would be the very embodiment of Father Neptune.
If he will allow me to say so, I hope that in these matters he is really exercising his own personal independent judgment, and not accepting only the judgment of his professional advisers. We are discussing these Estimates today in the shadow of the loss of one of the greatest sailors of all time, and it is tragic to remember how this country was robbed of the rewards of his unsurpassed courage and of his genius for battle by the wretched ships with which the Admiralty sent him out to fight. I remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, speaking of Lord Beatty's assuming command of the battle cruisers, said lie was given the command of "that incomparable squadron." In my opinion, if they were incomparable for anything, they were incomparable as death-traps. The question of design is all important. At present there seems to be a tendency to cram every ship with every conceivable gadget and device. It is like a young man with his first sports car putting every possible accessory on to the dash. In the same way, our ships are being crowded with devices and gadgets. The essential function of the ship seems to be forgotten in an attempt to provide for every possible and impossible contingency. I believe that other countries are ahead of us in hull design. Some of our hull designs give very little guarantee of seagoing qualities, while we know that ships of foreign design are able to get their speeds in all weathers.
I believe that the one thing we must bear in mind about naval warfare is that the only thing we know about it is that the next war will not be like the last. The air weapon is a completely new menace to our command of the sea, and we shall have to protect our commerce in future against air attack. It is not enough to take naval opinion to the effect that everything is all right. May I remind the Noble Lord that the professional advisers of some of his predecessors advised strongly against the introduction of steam, and against the introduction of the ironclad? Professional advisers are apt to be a little conservative, if not reactionary. In fact, I remember that the present First Lord, when he first took office, advised reverting to training under sail for the Navy. Our potential enemies recognise our weakness in the matter of the air. We have to import 90 per cent. of our food, and we have also to import our oil fuel. This is our weak point. The submarine in the next war will certainly force us back to convoys, and the convoy is the ideal target for bombers. Some of these convoys will have to run the gauntlet of the Mediterranean, which is a bomber's paradise. I do not think we can assume that in the next war all the Mediterranean Powers will be on our side, and, indeed, if certain events which are happening now go in a certain way, there may be a very strong air menace from the direction of Eritrea to our convoys approaching the Red Sea.
This question of air attack is not only a question of aeroplane versus battleship; it is also a question of the aeroplane versus the convoy. The escort of that convoy may be armoured and she may have anti-aircraft guns, but the merchantmen will not be armoured and it is those convoys which are likely to fall such a prey to the bomber. I think the effect of thermite bombs upon oil tankers will be extremely interesting for anyone who does not happen to be on board one of the tankers. The aeroplane versus battleship controversy seems to me very largely shrouded in mystery. We have heard of these American experiments about which there is so much talk, the Queen Bee experiments, which seem to have led to a great deal of hard swearing on both sides, and there is also the instance of the naval mutiny in Greece. I understand that the attacks in the latter instance were a little half-hearted. But, generally speaking, the question still seems shrouded in mystery. I am certain that the Navy takes it extremely seriously and naval gunnery lieutenants, with their great knowledge and efficiency, have done all that can be done but I do not think that lay opinion is by any means satisfied on the subject. We hear about armoured decks. A bomb that fails to penetrate the armoured deck may yet wreck all the controls—the gunnery controls and so on—and remember what damage a near hit may do. In that action off the Dogger Bank when Admiral Beatty was robbed of the fruits of his victory, it was due not to a direct hit upon the "Lion" but to a near hit, which put the ship out of action and allowed the German Fleet to escape.
We cannot, I am afraid, press for any information as to what lessons have been learnt from Alexandria. I have heard that all we did there was to adopt the methods that we are already adopting for the defence of London—anti-aircraft guns and sound-ranging apparatus—but we cannot press for more information interesting though it may be. When discussing the possibilities of anti-aircraft protection, let us remember that the modern bomber, flying at 12,000 feet, can fly two miles in the time it will take a shell to reach her, and remember also the great advantage conferred upon the bomber by the fact of her being able to dodge in and out of clouds and to fly out of the eye of the sun. Generally speaking, the whole element of surprise is on the side of the bomber. I know that we cannot press the Parliamentary Secretary for specific replies on these points but there is one question which I think may fairly be put to him. Can he tell us if the Air Ministry are completely satisfied that the Navy has provided them with full and adequate opportunities for carrying out the exact experiments under the exact conditions which the Air Ministry have laid down in order to arrive at exact data on this aeroplane versus ship question? I am not asking if experiments have been carried out, because we know they have been. I am asking if the Air Ministry have had all the facilities that they have asked the Admiralty for in this respect.
As a last word on this question of the aeroplane versus the ship, remember that, while Admiral Sir Percy Scott questioned the efficacy of the battleship on the score of submarines, we know that that menace has practically passed away so far as the capital ship is concerned. The capital ship is on top where the submarine is concerned. But the late Admiral Fisher said after the War that the air would dominate the sea in the future and was extremely sceptical of the future value of the capital ship on that account. Admiral von Scheer, who was also known all through his life as a great advocate of the capital ship, was extremely impressed by these American experiments of which we have heard this evening and said that, while it was true that they were carried out against ships at anchor, ships could not always be on the move. Capital ships require large bases, and those bases are exposed to air attacks. I hope we may have some reassurance that this question of the value of the capital ship and of her ability to meet air attack is being gone into and will be considered by impartial minds. With all respect to them I am not prepared to take a verdict on that subject from admirals and captains whose dearest ambition, very rightly, ever since they have been cadets has been to stand on the bridge of one of these big ships in command.
I am just as susceptible as anyone else to the beauty of those ships at sea but there is no mystic virtue in the battleship qua battleship and there is no magic in size. A battleship is only a means of floating guns into position, and you have to think out what the function of those guns is going to be when they are there and whether the air weapon will allow them to perform that function. This question of size also opens up the question of manoeuvreability. I am not sure, even if we decide that we must have the capital ship, whether we have not gone too far in point of size. There was a remarkable episode the other day when that very intrepid and dashing officer, Lord Cork and Orrery, was going to sea from Portsmouth and he had the mortification of putting the "Nelson" ashore. He had the sad experience of not being able to go to sea in his own flagship but of having to go by train to Plymouth like any ordinary mortal and not an admiral and commander-in-chief, and to find another ship to take him to sea. That is a question also in this controversy, whether we have not reached the limit of size in regard to manoeuvreability.
I should like to refer to another aspect of this question that is raised by the Amendment. That is the question of the naval defence for the Empire. Australia, for instance, has a bone of contention with Japan in regard to the question of a white Australia. If this country is engaged in a war in Europe, what would be the position of Australia in view of the fact that Japan would certainly then be in command of the Far Eastern seas? With our Fleet engaged on this side of Suez, what is going to happen to Singapore and Ceylon and the Straits Settlements, and what would become of our Indian Ocean trade and the Australian coastal trade? How would Australia face a blockade? I know that the theory of Empire is that, when the Mother country is attacked, the daughter Dominions promptly rush to her aid, but it may not be so possible for us to go to the aid of a daughter Dominion if she and ourselves happen to be attacked at the same time. It seems to me that a situation has arisen in the Far East which makes it impossible to guarantee the safety of our Empire on a basis of national armaments. I believe that now only collective security can give us Empire security. If the non-sated Powers attack us in Europe and in the Far East, we cannot survive without pooled security. We cannot expect to have that pooled security unless we show ourselves willing to make those economic concessions and adjustments at which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) hinted in a speech at Geneva.
I have noticed in attending many lectures and meetings that no subject arouses such belligerency as the question of peace, and no subject arouses such intemperance of language as the subject of temperance. In fact, I quite expect my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey West (Dr. Salter) to take part in this Debate and to speak to us on the incidence of the rum ration upon collisions at sea. But undoubtedly we all take great interest and pleasure in discussing these questions of war and the weapons of war, although I believe we discuss them without any prejudice to our opinions on the subject of war and peace. I would respectfully remind the House of a most remarkable prophecy made by the philosopher Kant, who said that man was delving into the mysteries of nature in order to find out how to make profits for himself, but in delving into those mysteries man would come upon secrets which would make this world a graveyard unless those secrets were used for what is right and just. They are words we might lay to heart when discussing such subjects as we are debating this evening.
In rising to address the House for the first time, I would ask for a double measure of its usual indulgence not merely as a new Member, but also as one who, having listened continuously to Debates in another place, where rather more latitude is allowed, may perhaps have contracted therefrom a certain tendency to discursiveness. But I do not see how anyone who cares about the condition of what should be "our sure shield," the Navy, could at the present juncture keep silence. The whole effectiveness of our existing small Fleet, and also of any ships that are under construction, must depend upon one thing without which they will be practically useless, and that is the proper provision of sound naval bases. It is, I believe, an axiom of naval strategy that the mobility of a fleet depends upon its having a sufficient number of properly-equipped, unassailable and well-distributed bases. A small fleet properly equipped with these bases can often be far more effective than a large armada poorly equipped with bases. Formerly, the British Empire was very well equipped with bases both in our Home ports, the Mediterranean and the Far East.
To-day, without going into the merits of the question, the fact is that our foreign policy has not prevented our turning former Allies—one in the Far East and the other in the Mediterranean—into a mood of definite hostility to ourselves, and who at this moment could guarantee the duration of the recent Anglo-German Naval Pact as a factor in the peace of Europe? This very unpleasant fact seems to make it the inescapable duty of the plans division of the Admiralty to envisage the possibility of our being engaged on these three fronts simultaneously. It is a very unpleasant and grim possibility, but one which as far as I can see is inescapable. This also throws into still sharper relief the need for an even greater mobility of our Fleet, which can only be provided by improved naval bases. Yet it is a lamentable fact, though a true one, that there was a period within the last eight years to my knowledge when there was not one of the so-called defended ports of this Empire in a proper condition of defence even in peace time. Formerly the whole Mediterranean was looked upon as a safe, central and pivotal base from which the British Navy could, as need arose, issue either westwards to the Atlantic and North Sea or Eastwards to the Indian Ocean and Pacific. The Mediterranean is the absolute linchpin of our whole oceanic position, and whether we are engaged either in the Far East or in the North Sea our communications in the Mediterranean must be made absolutely secure. But what do we find to-day? The recent Italo-Abyssinian crisis was not of great gravity to us because of the Italian navy, but it was of gravity to us because it revealed the patent insecurity of our 80,000 miles of sea communication, the main line of which passes through the Mediterranean. What has been the result of that. The British Navy had to leave its former citadel of Malta and seek the hospitality of a foreign though friendly Power, Egypt, at Alexandria. For that hospitality we shall have to pay either in the present negotiations or in some other way.
Yet, all the time, there lies available an Imperial asset in those waters, one indeed which came into our hands primarily for the purposes of naval strategy in 1878. I refer to the island of Cyprus. In 1877 Russia was practically at the gates of Constantinople, and it was to guard against the Russian menace to our position in the Levant and on the Suez Canal that Disraeli, to secure our position and also that of Turkey, took over the administration of Cyprus. To-day, while the Russian menace takes other forms there is another and more definite
strategic factor in the Levant which we cannot ignore—the Italian possession of the Dodecanese and Castellorizzo. In Volume IX of the British Documents on the Origins of the War a quotation is made from a Memorandum written by Admiral Troubridge as long ago as 1912, as follows:
The geographical situation of these islands (i.e. Dodecanese) enables the Sovereign Power, if enjoying the possession of a Navy, to exercise a control over the Levant and Black Sea trade and to threaten our position in Egypt in an unprecedented degree. … It may be confidently asserted that the possession by Italy of naval bases in the Aegean Sea would imperil our position in Egypt, would cause us to lose our control over our Black Sea and Levant route to the East via the Suez Canal to the operations of Italy and her allies.
That was written in 1912, long before the present possibilities of either air power or submarines were realised. It was not true then as it is to-day that the Island of Malta lies as a convenient half-way dumping ground for the heavy bombers of Italy in their criss-cross flights between their bases in Sicily and Libya. Malta is practically useless for a fleet operating either in the central or the eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus, on the other hand, 270 miles distant from the Dodecanese Islands and 500 miles from Libya could provide at Famagusta, at a cost of less than £1,000,000, a very suitable base for naval and aerial purposes. While the friendship of Egypt is essential to our strategical position in the Near East, one wonders whether it is sound policy to rely on friendships never being broken or sabotage never taking place by a foreign Power. With the transfer to a much safer base at Famagusta than at Malta and Alexandria both those risks could be eliminated. Both labourers and local defence forces on the analogy of the Royal Malta Artillery are easily available for the base of Famagusta out of the island population of 340,000. The Cypriots would welcome such an opportunity for their employment and ambitions, which at present are without any healthy outlet.
The recent development of Haifa., with a tonnage of shipping very little less than that of Marseilles, with all sorts of commercial establishments, stores and oil pipeline heads existing there, would not only suggest itself as an alternative naval base to Malta, but render it all the more necessary to take advantage of the geographical position of Cyprus as a fender to ward off attacks coining from the Dodecanese on the northwest or from a hostile Turkey in the north, against Haifa. While its continental position and its proximity to the Syrian border. 20 miles away, does not render Haifa. as secure as the insular position of Famagusta, I would urge upon the Admiralty that the development of Haifa and Famagusta as twin or complementary bases would consolidate as far ahead as one can reasonably foresee our whole naval position in the Eastern Mediterranean and the control of the Suez Canal.
In view of the proposed co-ordination in the Services I would urge upon the Admiralty the great need of co-ordination between themselves and the Foreign Office. As was said by an hon. Member on the other side of the House, the question of pooled security should occupy their minds in the search for a sufficient number of bases to safeguard our position, especially in the Far East. If I might specify one direction I would particularly urge the pooling of security with France, Holland and Portugal, with special reference to their East Indian and Chinese possessions. A most fruitful and helpful line of consideration for the co-ordination of policy with great benefit to ourselves could be undertaken in that direction. In thus stressing the need for naval bases I would not suggest that naval bases alone will give us command of the sea, but I do say that without these naval bases for refitting and refuelling purposes it is impossible for our squadrons not merely to command the seas but even to keep them.
In considering the technical composition of these squadrons any layman will very soon find himself both metaphorically and completely "at sea," but the British taxpayer and his representatives in this House have a right to ask one question very loudly and very persistently of the Admiralty and that is—Is the mammoth battleship really worth while? For the solution of that problem one must, of course, depend upon the opinions of experts and the results of experiments. One has heard of many experiments in America, and I gathered from the Noble Lord that we have taken part in similar experiments. I hope that in spite of much talk to the contrary our experiments have been carried as far and with equally heavy bombs as those of the Americans. We must not put ourselves into a false sense of security as regards the invulnerability of battleships to bombs. Also, since freedom of manoeuvre in the past has made all the difference between victory and defeat, it seems to me that three small battleships with three 16-inch guns each would provide us with far greater liberty of manoeuvre than if we had nine 16-inch guns locked up in one "Lord Nelson." It follows that, whatever may be the results of experiments, the bigger the battleship the bigger the target and the more we can reduce the size of the battleship the more we reduce the risks.
It has already been pointed out that because of their extreme unwieldiness the larger battleships have difficulty in getting out of harbour. One "Lord Nelson" stuck on a sandbank would deprive the commander-in-chief of a much greater proportion of his strength than if one of these smaller battleships became stuck on a sandbank. The smaller battleship would, however, be less prone to such mishaps. One thing that haunts the minds of those of us who cannot forget the Battle of Coronel, is that we find the Admiralty continuing to build small cruisers, armed with 6-inch guns, while all the other Powers seem to be concentrating on much heavier gunned cruisers. One wonders whether in this regard we are not simply preparing a greater number of human sacrifices. It is comforting, however, that the Admiralty has undertaken to increase the number of our cruisers and that we are not to compare our own need for cruisers with that of any other Powers. The need of other Powers for cruisers is merely to protect their mercantile marine. For us cruisers are necessary to protect our food and our life itself. Consequently, I do most earnestly urge right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the other side to realise that when we are pressing for a big Navy it is not for the purpose of advertising what they would term the semi-bankruptcy of Imperialism, but because we believe in the same ideals in which they believe, that is to say, justice and fairness to the under-dog, and the maintenance of democratic British ideals. Those ideals flourish more healthily in the British Empire, which means one-third of the population of the world, than in any other part, but it is impossible for them to flourish "against the envy of less happier lands" unless we are strong enough to show these "less happier lands" that it is not worth their while to try by force to take them from us. Our ideals can only flourish if we are virile enough to maintain them strongly. If we are not, then we deserve to lose them to those who are more virile than ourselves.
The House will wish me most heartily to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Wirral (Captain A. Graham) on his speech. He has dealt in an efficient mariner with naval defence and called attention to what is a very important point, the necessity not only for adequate bases but for bases upon which the Fleet can rely in time of war, because without them it would be impossible for the Fleet to operate at all. The hon. and gallant Member must have made a close study of naval questions, and we hope to have the opportunity of hearing him in further Debates in this House. In a White Paper issued last year it was stated:
In cases of aggression against ourselves we should be unable to secure our sea communications, the food of our people and the defence of our principal cities and their populations against air attack.
In plain language that informed the country that the policy of disarmament carried out by successive Governments had placed the Navy of this country in such a weak position that it was no longer able to fulfil its function of giving security for our vital trade routes. A further proof of the deplorable weakness of the Navy has been given by the events which have taken place in the Mediterranean. In order that the Fleet in the Mediterranean might be brought up to adequate strength it has been necessary to deplete almost entirely our home forces and also those on foreign stations as well.
That is what has happened. The hon. and gallant Member who spoke from the Socialist benches a short time ago said that it was only the policy of collective security which would give us the security we all desired. The Prime Minister in his speech last week drew attention once more to the fact that the policy of the Government was to rely upon collective security. I quite agree that it is a magnificent ideal, and I should be entirely in favour of collective security if it existed, but, unfortunately, it does not exist and it never has existed. In my opinion to continue to rely for the security of our country and Empire, or to found our foreign policy, on collective security is to rely upon the substantiality of a quicksand. There is only one security upon which we can rely with any assurance at all, and that is the security which can be given by our own defence forces, the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. The White Paper issued this month lays bare the naked truth that we cannot rely on these forces to-day to give us that security which the country have a right to demand. And no wonder, from the naval point of view, when we realise that in 1937 we shall be faced with the necessity of replacing practically the whole of our battle fleet, almost one-third of our cruiser forces and 65 per cent. of our destroyer forces.
The programme of the Government is to lay down two battleships in 1937, to include five cruisers in the 1936 programme, only one more than the normal, and to provide ultimately 70 cruisers, with the proviso that.10 of them are to be over age; to carry on a steady replacement programme for destroyers and submarines and that the construction of sloops and smaller craft shall continue on their normal basis, that is no increase whatever. In the opinion of the Government that is going to give us an adequate Fleet. But we are not told what the ultimate strength of our destroyer forces is going to be, and that is most important. It may be that the Government cannot tell us—I do not know why they should not be able to—but it is most important we should know to what strength in destroyer forces we are working. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty a question on that point to-day, and he told me that we were going to have 115. That is what we have now and, therefore, from his answer I understand that there is no proposed increase in our destroyer forces over what it is at present. If that is so, it is most unsatisfactory, and will not meet the case.
We are not given any information with regard to the time factor. That is very important too. We cannot afford to wait for an indefinite period before we obtain the security in our Navy, which we have a right to expect, but no information whatever is given by the Government as to when they expect the country will obtain this security. How long is it going to take to construct the new Battle Fleet and the cruisers? We know that at the present time it is taking four years, perhaps three years, and if there is a speeding up, two years; but we do not know how long it is going to take to construct these various units. To what programme as regards time are the Government working? I know that there are limitations. It is only possible for our industries to under take the construction of a certain number of ships at the same time, but it is vitally necessary that construction should be speeded up to the greatest possible extent.
In regard to the question of destroyers I was not at all satisfied with the position as disclosed by the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. We have 169, of which 110 are over age, that is 65 per cent. We are told that the policy of the Government is steady replacement. We have been told that there was to be. steady replacement year after year as the Navy Estimates came up in this House, and that steady replacement has meant one flotilla of destroyers. Therefore, it is of some moment that the House and the country should know what is really meant by steady replacement. Are we to have only one flotilla, or are we to have two flotillas? It will make all the difference in the world. In order to overtake this enormous deficiency in under-age cruisers, it is necessary to lay down considerably more than were laid down under the policy of steady replacement in previous years. We can be steady going fast just as well as steady going slow. I suggest also that in considering the number of our destroyers, we ought to take into account to a greater extent than has been the case in the past the destroyer and submarine forces of foreign Powers.
I entirely disagree with the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) concerning the London Treaty. I say that that Treaty ought never to have been signed by this country. We had no right whatever to sign it, and I will give the House my reasons for making that statement. That Treaty was to have been a. five-Power Treaty, with three European Powers, America and Japan. Now, it is absolutely essential that this country should remain supreme in European waters. We would like to be supreme in the Far East also, but if we are to maintain our position, we must at any rate be supreme in European waters. Of the three European Powers concerned with the London Treaty, France and Italy refused to sign, but this country signed and bound us hand and foot. France and Italy had a free hand, of which they took full advantage. What did France do? She built M so called destroyers of nearly 3,000 tons displacement and armed with 5.1 inch guns—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough knows all about them—and she has 12 others being built. We have no reply whatever to those destroyers.
When we are considering our defence forces, we have to take into consideration the forces of every other Power. How ridiculous it would be to say that we will not take into consideration the forces of France! No doubt the right hon. Gentleman would not take into consideration the forces of any other foreign country. Very well, if the right hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with providing this country with the necessary cruising forces to give security to 85,000 miles of trade routes, with the numbers that are actually required for convoys, etc., I will agree with him—but he will not. His policy is 50 cruisers, and that is totally inadequate.
My answer to the right hon. Gentleman is this. If the following question is put to a naval ex- pert, "Supposing you are assured of 10 years' peace, how many cruisers will you require?" he will give one answer. If the same expert is asked, "How many cruisers do you require to give security to our trade routes?" and no qualifications are put, he will give quite another answer. I would very much like to know what question was put to the naval experts when they said 50 cruisers would be enough. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell me.
There can be no question whatever that 50 cruisers is totally inadequate, and for years the naval experts have told us that the minimum is 70 cruisers. I will return to the destroyer problem. We must not only take into consideration the destroyer forces of other nations, but we must remember the very large submarine forces possessed by France and Italy. France has 82 submarines and eight in course of building; Italy has 64 submarines and eight in course of building. Are these not to be taken into account? Have they no relation at all to the strength of the destroyer forces required by us? Another factor which must be taken into account is the additional menace to our merchant fleet from the air. All these things—the air menace to our merchant fleet, the paucity of our own numbers, 65 per cent. over age, the strength of the destroyer and submarine forces of France and Italy—point to the necessity for an increase in our destroyer forces. I am very dissatisfied with what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary. I understood him to say that we would continue with the 115 destroyers. If that be so, the number is totally inadequate.
There is another consideration to which I would like to refer. The services carried out by a destroyer involve a great deal of time at sea. The destroyer has to be kept at sea in all weathers, and in order that it may carryout its functions, we must be reasonably certain that the likelihood of a breakdown is reduced to a minimum. It is well known that two years ago, in the manoeuvres in the Atlantic, several of the destroyers could not face it and had to put back to port—a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. So long as we have 110 destroyers over age, we shall never get rid of that very distressing possibility. I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that in certain areas a. sloop could take the place of a destroyer on convoy. That is true in certain areas, but not in areas where a sloop could be attacked by a destroyer, because a sloop would not have a chance against a. modern destroyer. The area in which sloops can work is a somewhat restricted one. Consequently, I do not think the argument that the sloop and the old destroyer can be utilised in convoys can be taken without a good deal of qualification.
I would like now briefly to deal with the question of battleships. The policy of the Government is to lay down two battleships in 1937. It is a very significant fact that France is already building four and Italy two battleships, and that Germany already has three pocket battleships, which are not by any means to be treated with contempt, we have only three ships in the Service which can catch them. They have gained a start on us in the building of a new battle fleet. These are very serious considerations and we cannot afford to be behind-hand in rebuilding and renewing our battle fleet. I hope the Government will be able to give some indication not only as to the laying down of two battleships in 1937, but as to their policy and plan for the renewal of the Battle Fleet. We cannot afford to waste time in that respect.
I would like to deal with the question of the cruisers, because the cruisers are extremely important. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has dealt very adequately with that matter. He pointed out the tragedy of the Washington Treaty, which forced us to build 10,000 ton cruisers with 8-inch guns, the very worst ships ever built for His Majesty's Navy. We built them, not because we wanted them, but because America and other nations said that they were going to build them. We did not want them; they are a deplorable weakness. The London Treaty still further crippled our cruiser forces. We had the limitation on replacement tonnage and total tonnage. At any rate, the Government to-day say that we are going to have 70 cruisers. But 10 of them will be over age. What do they mean by that? If the Government admit that the minimum number which we require for our security is 70, surely to goodness every one of them should be under age, up-to-date and efficient. We have 51 today. Nineteen of them are over age, one will be over age in 1937 and four will be over age in 1938. So that within the next few years to make up the Government programme there will have to be 19 additional cruisers and 14 replacement cruisers, and that will still leave us with 10 over age. It is important that the Government should give some indication of the length of time we shall have to wait before we have an adequacy in cruiser strength.
I would like to deal for a very short time with the question of the size of the battleship. The United States of America still, I understand, is determined to build a 35,000 ton battleship and she gives as her reason her paucity of bases away from home and that she must have a 35,000 ton ship which can operate when far removed from her own bases. That presupposes that there is something in a 35,000 ton ship which it is not possible to put into a 25,000 ton or a 14,000 ton ship. That is a complete fallacy and there is no justification whatever for such an argument. Not even a 35,000 ton ship can operate for an indefinite period far removed from a bare. It would either be obliged to have a base of its own or to rely on the base of an ally. I do hope that we are going to revert to what our policy was in the past. We have always set an example to the world in the ships we built. We built the ships we required, not what we thought other nations were going to build. Other nations followed our example, and I feel confident that if we were to revert to that policy and build the ships we required other nations would follow our example. I hope that we shall not build 35,000 ton battleships but the ships we require. To build ships which are larger than is necessary for the functions they have to perform is a waste of money and effort, and I hope that we will break away from that policy.
I want to say something about personnel. It is very important. It is no good our building ships unless we have the personnel to man them, and recruitment should precede construction. It takes far longer to train an officer or a man than it does to build a ship. To-day every one knows that there is a deplorable shortage in the personnel of the Navy. All the shore establishments have been combed out until there are not sufficient men there to provide a care and main- tenance party, let alone anything else. I would like to put this to the Parliamentary Secretary. We can get—we always have been able to get—as many boys as are required for the Service, but all the time the older men—the highly trained men and the petty officers—are leaving the Service. We are very short of them to-day. The Admiralty have taken steps to try to get some of them back. I wonder what success they have had? But notwithstanding the number of boy recruits which you can get they will take nearly twice as long before they are capable of manning the ships as it takes to construct the ships themselves. What do the Government propose to meet that situation? I think that there will be also a very serious shortage of junior officers. There will be great difficulty in getting junior officers in sufficient numbers to man the new ships. What are the Government going to do about that? There are a good number of young officers who have retired under various retirement schemes. Are any of these going to be brought back into the Service? There is a large number of lieut.-commanders who have passed through the promotion zone, who looked upon the Navy as their career, and, due to the War and to no fault of their own, have passed through that zone and have no prospects in the Service, whose whole career has gone, who are in the prime of life and are highly trained. Is there nothing which the Admiralty can do to keep some of these officers on in the Service I would like to know how the Admiralty propose to meet the shortage of men and of junior officers for the new construction.
Finally, I would like to add my voice to those raised for turning the Fleet air arm over to the Admiralty, in its control and administration, completely. The Fleet air arm is one of the units of the Fleet just as the submarines, destroyers and sloops are units of the Fleet. It is well known that the present system does not work well and that the efficiency of the Fleet air arm is not what it ought to be. The Navy requires machines of its own special design. I believe that, up to the present time, the Army machines have had alterations made to them and that the alterations have reduced the performance of the machines. That is most unsatisfactory. The Navy relies upon the Royal Air Force for the machines, for skilled mechanics, for the training of pilots and so forth. But who should know better than the Admiralty what is required in the training of the personnel and what type of machine is required? We shall not have an efficient Fleet air arm until the Admiralty have complete control of it, and I hope that the new Minister, whom I congratulate upon his appointment, will give that question his earnest consideration at the earliest possible moment.
My last word is this: We have heard a great deal about bombing from the air and the danger of bombs dropping on the decks of ships. In nay opinion that is not the chief danger to the Navy. The chief danger is that the dockyards, on which the Navy relies, may be bombed and destroyed and the Navy's bases rendered useless. I hope the Government will be able to give some assurance to the country that the defence which already exists or which can be brought into being to protect the dockyards at Malta, Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Chatham, is adequate to ensure reasonable security for the maintenance of our Fleet.
We ought to be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) for having brought this Amendment before us. It has given the House an opportunity of debating the necessity for an adequate Fleet and has enabled us to hear the whale case for the battleship put forward most clearly. I think my Noble Friend has shown very lucidly the necessity of the battleship in the organisation of the Fleet and the desirability of allowing an inquiry into the whole question. He has shown that he has a free mind on the subject and I hope that when it comes to a question of replacing our battleships we shall have a full court of inquiry and that definite information will be given to the country as to the advantages of battleships. It is very necessary at this moment to emphasise the importance of an adequate Fleet because there are so many air enthusiasts at the present time who appear to be possessed of the one idea that the Fleet could be replaced by and its duties carried out by aircraft. I would remind them that the Air Force as well as the Army or Navy requires oil for its operations, and that it is only by an adequate Fleet that it is possible to ensure the supply of oil to this country. An Air Force can be as much paralysed by lack of oil as a battle fleet can be hampered in its operations by lack of an efficient Fleet Air Arm.
I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) point out the great necessity of a strong and efficient Fleet Air Arm. The Air Arm is the eyes of the Fleet. It enables the Fleet to withstand enemy air attacks; it can carry out the necessary operations for "spotting" and it can assist in the job of dealing with both submarine and air attacks on merchant shipping. But aircraft are necessarily limited in their radius of action. The Fleet supplies patrols and escorts in rough weather, in tropical weather, in Arctic cold, in mist and darkness, whereas aircraft become useless in case of fog or mist, are unreliable in rough weather, and at present are unable to remain at sea for months on end, keeping in contact with convoys and so forth. There are 3,000 British merchant ships at sea at the same time. Of that number, 90 per cent. are out of sight of land and outside the range of fighting aircraft operating from land. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) mentioned the importance of oil. It is estimated that in a future war we should have to import 1,000,000 tons of oil, employing 100 ships, per month. The Navy will be required to provide escorts for those ships in order to ensure that our defence forces shall not be immobilised by lack of oil. I hope that the Admiralty will continue to build up and develop oil reserves in this country and encourage the production of oil from coal by buying up any surplus supplies which are available. To have proper oil reserves in this country is vital to our defence, and we should see that our oil supply is out of range of destruction by any foreign Power. The tanks should be well protected and removed as far as possible from the risk of attack from the air.
I come back to the question of the necessity for an adequate Fleet and I congratulate the Admiralty on placing before the country a policy of maintaining the strength of the Navy, of repairing our deficiencies in battleships and increasing the number of our cruisers. I would emphasise the point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) on the question of personnel. We have recently seen the result of a shortage of personnel, in an emergency. That emergency, I believe, has been safely got over, but it does point to the fact which I hope the Government are considering that in any sudden emergency there should be a potential reserve of officers and men who would be immediately available to take command of the thousands of extra vessels which would be required for patrol duties and convoy duties. I believe that at the present moment the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve have annual refreshers for officers and men so that they are capable of taking part immediately in case of emergency. I wonder if it would not be possible for such a scheme to be inaugurated for the Navy.
There must be thousands of men who have left the Service, thousands of naval officials who were "axed" and have retired since the War, whose knowledge is rusting with years, but who if they were given an opportunity of having short courses occasionally to modernise their nautical knowledge would form great potential reserves capable of jumping into the gap in the case of a sudden emergency. It would be a great thing to have that potential reserve. I will not continue, but I would like to say in conclusion how very much I appreciate the efforts of the Admiralty in their policy of maintaining the strength of the Navy. I hope they will expedite this policy, because time is precious if we are to take an effective part in trying to preserve the peace of Europe and carry out our part is collective security.
We are discussing the need for an adequate Navy and I think it would not be right if I did not straight away pay a tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary and his opening speech. There is no fear, I think, that the Admiralty are not fully alive to the need, but I would like to ask my Noble Friend to give us some reassurance on two matters. The first is with regard to the question of cruisers. Not many of us criticise the Government very seriously for their policy in the past of trying to lead the world on the path of disarmament. That policy has unfortunately failed, but that is no fault of theirs. Now that we are obliged to steer a very different course, and are obliged to recognise that the effort towards disarmament has failed, I think some of us are a little disquieted to see that in the programme set out in the White Paper on Defence the figure of cruisers at which the Government aim is fixed at 70. That was thought the minimum only a few years ago, when conditions were very different and when the height of armaments throughout the world was considerably lower than to-day, and the general unrest which we now experience was not so prevalent. We wonder whether the figure of 70 is now really adequate in view of the higher degree of danger, uncertainty and emergency. I would like my Noble Friend if he can to give a word of explanation on that point.
I would like also to support my hon. Friend who has just sat down on the question of oil and other supplies in this country. We know, and the Government admit, that at the present moment the number of our naval vessels is far fewer and the vessels are far older than we should like. I would ask His Majesty's Government to give us an assurance that they will leave no stone unturned in providing all possible means for sparing the Fleet unnecessary duties in the way of convoy. I ask, first, that they should develop to the utmost the possibility of producing oil from coal, as my hon. Friend urged just now, and secondly that they should work out a very definite scheme, and develop it with the utmost speed, for the storage of oil and grain and all other non-perishable commodities which in time of war would otherwise have to be imported under the convoy of naval ships.
Lastly, let me say that I think this Debate has shown that there is no justification for supposing that Members of this House are losing their faith in the Navy or are being led to believe that the Navy no longer plays the important part that it did in the past. There is some evidence of a school of thought which believes that the Air has replaced the Navy, but I would urge both schools of thought not to compete with one another but to recognise that the future of these two arms lies in proper co-operation and in closer co-operation between them rather than in fruitless competition.
It is so long since I addressed the House that I almost feel that I want to claim indulgence for a maiden speech. First I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) on his very fluent speech. I think it was peculiarly fortunate that it should fall to him to win his first ballot on the Naval Estimates, and we listened to a speech which was packed full of information. Fortunately he answered most of the questions which he put, and therefore he has left me very little to say. Indeed, taking the Debate as a whole, I think it may be said that most hon. Members who have spoken tended to give information to my Noble Friend and myself, for which we are very grateful, rather than to raise specific questions.
There are, however, four or five questions which run through the whole Debate. In so far as this Amendment calls attention to the Estimates and the White Paper, the original speech of my Noble Friend and his later answer are adequate to the occasion. The Amendment also calls attention to the predominant importance of sea power. All I feel like saying to that is "Agreed," and to pass on to Estimates, because you can either say one word or write a. long essay about sea power and the Empire. To those who would like to see such a speech, I would recommend the rectorial address which was given at Edinburgh in 1920 by that great sailor whose passing we mourn to-day. The hon. and gallant Member for Wirral (Captain Graham), whom I seem to remember in old days at Oxford, made a very informing and interesting speech about the Eastern Mediterranean. I have some lurking agreement with many of the points he raised, but all I can say is that the Admiralty recognises the great value that a naval base might have in that corner of the world. It would be impossible for me to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his speech in any further detail. The second question, which was referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Cambridge (Lieut.-Commander Tufnell), by the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor), and by the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) was that of oil. I rather prefer to take that question in the general argument that I want to put before the House.
I have been re-reading debates on the Naval Estimates since the War with considerable interest. There are many hon. Members and right hon. Members who bear some responsibility for our present position. We have run grave risks in the cause of peace. I should like to pay my tribute to the Noble Lord who has now moved to another place for the quiet but persistent manner in which he has guided the Navy during the last four years. I approach this subject with an open mind, but with realism. I think that we have come to the end of an era in naval affairs, as in many others. It has been an era of yardsticks, ratios and quantitative restrictions, but what was possibly right in 1922, 1930 or 1931 is not necessarily right to-day. The security of our sea communications, as the Amendment says, forms the basis and the foundation of our system of Imperial defence. The varying needs of different countries call for different naval strengths. The acceptance of a smaller navy by other countries no more reflects on their dignity than our dignity suffers by having a smaller army than France, Germany, Russia or Italy.
It is an interesting fact that no charge of aggressiveness is brought against the British Navy. Two specific questions are raised by this Amendment—what is adequate strength, and what are the changed conditions of naval warfare resulting from the development of the air arm? I want to say only a word on both those points, because my Noble Friend has already dealt with them. Subject to quantitative restrictions and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, the British Navy will be regulated by security, strategy and finance. There is an absolute standard and a relative standard, the latter bearing relation to the strength of other navies. Obviously, we must be able to meet any threat to our trade routes. The actual ships required to meet those conditions must depend upon strategic and political considerations. That is why it is impossible for me to answer specific questions about the 70 cruisers. These considerations are constantly kept under review by the Admiralty and the Committee of Imperial Defence.
The essence of the matter is simple even to a layman. If an enemy battle fleet occupies a strategic position and we cannot drive it away, our cruisers cannot do their work and our food imports cease. If our battle fleet occupies a strategic position and the enemy cannot drive it away, our cruisers can do their work and our food imports arrive at their destination. It follows, of course, that our battle fleet must be as strong as, if not stronger than, the enemy because our food imports are vital to our very life. This argument applies to the Empire as a whole because all history proves, I think without exception, that the ownership of overseas possessions is determined by the outcome of war in the main theatre. When all nations are agreed that unrestricted submarine warfare is against international law, attacks on merchant shipping should be similarly regarded. The only effective interference with merchant shipping would be attack on sight, and if it is to be really effective neutrals must be attacked as well. Such action would range the whole civilised world against the aggressor.
As long as commerce is carried in surface vessels and not in the air, surface vessels will be required to protect them. I have tried to put this in simple language because clearly it is a technical subject and it has been raised by several hon. Members. Air forces have a limited radius of action; they cannot occupy a strategic position at sea. We must be able to deploy sufficient sea forces to protect our lines of communication where they run outside the radius of aircraft. This is the historic role of the Navy and is completely unchanged by the new position. There remains the position whether all this work of shepherding foodstuffs for long ocean passages will be nullified by enemy aircraft when ships come within their range. Subject to international law, the enemy might use this desperate move, but the aeroplane can only attack with torpedoes or bombs. The only difference from the old form of ordinary naval attack is that it is a vertical attack. One hon. Member said that aeroplanes might be away up in the clouds and get away very quickly. I would point out that if you cannot see your target at all and remain so high that your bombs drop anywhere, half the point of the new weapon of attack is immediately gone. My only point in raising this is to try to show that the aeroplane will be no more immune from disturbance, damage and, possibly, destruction than the surface vessel.
Special measures have been taken to deal with the submarine menace, with concentrated submarine attack. Similarly, very special measures are being taken to deal with air attack. My Noble Friend has referred to many such measures and any one who reads these Estimates closely will see a good many more measures which have already been taken. The point raised by the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) and others was the Fleet Air Arm. This most valuable extension of naval observation, reconnaissance and fighting strength is one, I suppose, of the few fundamental questions that must come before the new Minister, and I think those hon. Members who have given any thought to this question will agree when I say that it is peculiarly a matter for an unprejudiced and judicial mind to settle, to settle quickly and give a decision.
I must apologise to hon. Members in all parts of the House for making a speech, a very short speech I hope, on defence without mentioning collective security. I have noticed a certain soporific effect that that phrase has on hon. Members. Aristotle long ago defined the first business of the governor as being to ensure to the governed two things, security and supply. We seem during this week end to have appointed a Minister for security, and I am informed that the Government are also considering the question of supply. If for once I have concerned the House with national security, it is because I think that the food and trade which are shared by hon. Members on both sides of
the House are a vital part of our existence, and also because I believe there are principles of freedom and principles of conduct which are of infinite value both to ourselves and, perhaps, to the world and therefore worth defending. I come, as I say with a fairly open mind to this question, and I am not aware that all the quantitative restrictions in the past have necessarily produced a more happy situation with regard to the relative strengths of navies except during the immediate period after the War. Too many liberal constitutions and generous outlooks have been toppled over since my generation came back from the Great War, and I say that I believe we have got to look to our security and look to our supply. The spirit of the Navy is, I believe, an inspiration to the country. I say that because I have moved pretty freely during the last six months among officers and men, and I think you will find there three things. I would remind hon. Members opposite that the defence services and social services both require some obligations of citizenship. There is in the Navy to-day a high efficiency, a devotion to service and a love of peace. The Amendment, moved by my hon. Friend so fluently, is dedicated to the Navy and I, for one, delight to support it, and so will hon. Members on these benches.
|Division No. 100.]||AYES.||[10.11 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff(W'st'r S.G'gs)|
|Albery, I. J.||Bracken, B.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Craddock, Sir R. H.|
|Anderson Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Craven-Ellis, W.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Bull, B. B.||Critchley, A.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Burghley, Lord||Crookshartk, Capt. H. F. C.|
|Assheton, R.||Butt, Sir A.||Croom-Johnson, R, p.|
|Astor. Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Cartland, J. R. H.||Cross, R. H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Carver, Major W. H.||Davies, C. (Montgomery)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cary, R. A.||Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Castlereagh, Viscount||De Chair, S. S.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Denville, Alfred|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Clarke, F. E.||Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Colfox, Major W. P.||Dodd, J. S.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.||Donner, P. W.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Dower, Capt. A. V. G.|
|Drewe, C.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Reed. A. C. (Exeter)|
|Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Leckie, J. A.||Reid, Captain A. Cunningham|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Reid, Sir D. O (Down)|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Levy, T.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Dunne, P. R. R.||Liddall, W. S.||Remer, J. R.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Lindsay, K. M.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Llttle, Sir E. Graham-||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Liewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'nderry)|
|Elliston, G. S.||Lloyd, G. W.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Emery, J. F.||Loftus, P. C.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Russell, A, West (Tynemouth)|
|Errington, E.||Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Erskine Hill, A. G.||Lyons, A. M.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Evans, D, O. (Cardigan)||Mabane, W. (Huddersfleld)||Scott, Lord William|
|Fleming, E. L.||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Selley, H. R.|
|Furness, S. N.||MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R, (Scot. U.)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McKie, J. H.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Gledhill. G.||Maclay, Hon. J. p.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Maitland, A.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Goodman, Col. A. W.||Mander, G. le M.||Simon, Rt. Hen. Sir J. A.|
|Graham, Captain A. c. (Wirral)||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Markham, S. F.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Somerville, D. G. (Wlllesden, E.)|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Spens, W. P.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Guest, Maj. Hon.O.(C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Moreing, A. C.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Morgan, R. H.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Tasker, Sir R I.|
|Hamilton, Sir G. C.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Hanbury, Sir C.||Morrison, W. S. (Clrencester)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Munro, P. M.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Harbord, A.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Harvey, G.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Owen, Major G.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Holdsworth, H.||Peat, C. U.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Penny, Sir G.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Hopkinson, A.||Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.||Wallace, Captain Euan|
|Hulbert, N. J.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Hunter, T.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Petherick, M.||White, H. Graham|
|Jackson, Sir H.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Pilkington, R.||Wise, A. R.|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Porritt, R. W.||Wragg, H.|
|Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Radford, E. A.|
|Kimball, L.||Ramsbotham, H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Rankin, R.||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||and Mr. James Stuart.|
|Latham, Sir P.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Leach, W.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Lee, F.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Leonard, W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Gardner, B. W.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Garro-Jones, G. M.||Logan, D. G.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)|
|Barnes. A. J.||Grenfell, D. R.||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Barr, J.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||McGoverr, J.|
|Batey, J.||Groves, T. E.||Maclean, N.|
|Bellenger, F.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||MacNeill, Weir, L.|
|Benson, G.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Marklew. E.|
|Bevan, A.||Hardie, G. D.||Marshall, F.|
|Brooke, W.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Maxton, J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Messer, F.|
|Cape, T.||Holland, A||Milner, Major J.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hollins, A.||Montague, F.|
|Chater, D.||Hopkin, D.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Cluse. W. S.||Jagger, J.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Compton, J.||John, W.||Paling, W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Daggar, G.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Potts, J.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Kelly, W. T.||Pritt, D. N|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Quibell, J. D.|
|Dobble, W.||Kirby, B. V.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Lathan, G.||Riley, B.|
|Ede, J. C.||Lawson, J. J.||Ritson, J.|
|Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Stephen, C.||walker, J.|
|Rowson, G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Sexton, T. M.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Shinwell, E.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Short, A.||Thorne, W.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Silverman, S. S.||Thurtle, E.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Simpson, F. B.||Tinker, J. J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Smith, E. (Stoke)||Viant, S. p.|
|Smith, T. (Normanton)||Walkden, A. G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|