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Orders Of The Day

Volume 236: debated on Monday 17 March 1930

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Supply

Navy Estimates, 1930

MR. ALEXANDER'S STATEMENT.

Order for Committee read.

I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

The Naval Estimates for 1930 have been available to hon. Members since 6th March, and so this year they have had, shall I say, ample time to study them. I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) will follow me this afternoon, and I have been reading with a good deal of interest—not always with agreement, but always with profit—the speeches he made when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. When he was introducing his first naval budget in 1912 he made this reference:
"If the country is of opinion that the needs of the Navy have been well and amply provided for, it is to the House of Commons and not to the Board of Admiralty—to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not to the First Lord—that their thanks and gratitude are due. It is necessary this should be recognised, and it is right for me to say at this point that the great scale which our naval armaments have been forced to assume has only been rendered possible—without additional taxation or recourse to borrowing—by the wonderful fertility of the great Budget of 1909, for which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be long and variously remembered and increasingly respected."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1912; col. 1549, Vol. 35.]
He added that the financial aspect of the Naval Estimates was not cheerful. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was fortunate when introducing his Estimates in having such financial provision available to him that, even though he was using the product of a social reform Budget for the expansion of armaments, he had plenty of money with which to do it. I am not so fortunate, for I can find no such legacy in any one of the five Budgets for which the right hon. Gentleman has been responsible. On the contrary, I find myself, largely as a result of his finance, in charge of the Estimates for the Navy in a period of real financial stringency at the Exchequer. The net Vote which I am asking the House to make is £51,739,000, against £55,865,000 last year, showing a reduction of £4,126,000. This figure does not, however, adequately convey to the House the magnitude of the efforts of my Department for economy, because this net result is achieved after meeting new commitments which, with one exception, I could not possibly avoid. They are set out in the preliminary statement which accompanied the Estimates, but I think they ought to be recapitulated. There was the increased cost of Singapore to this country for the next financial year. There are the scale salary increments to be met, which are going up. There is the additional cost-of-living bonus. There is the continued growth of the non-effective Vote. There is the additional cost of supplies consequent upon the working off of stocks which were previously available. Then comes the one point in new commitments which I might have avoided, but which I now enter upon, and that is the cost of providing a week's holiday with pay for the Admiralty's industrial workers. These, together, make up a total of about £1,000,000, which my predecessor had not to meet. Moreover, the £55,865,000 last year was only arrived at after making a very heavy overhead cut, the cut referred to in the last paragraph of the White Paper accompanying the Estimates. So large was the overhead reduction made last year before the net estimate was submitted to the House that if it had not been for the very substantial curtailment of the 1928 construction programme I should have been forced to come to the House in the last few weeks with a Supplementary Estimate for well over £1,000,000.

There is no doubt that in the uncertain estimating conditions after the War there was considerable justification for the action of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in introducing in his year of office this "shadow" or overhead cut. I believe he pointed out at the time that it was always inadvisable in preparing the national Budget to ask the taxpayers to provide in a particular year any sums by way of taxation which were not actually required, and, generally speaking, I think the policy has justified itself, but in view of the more stable conditions which now exist in dealing with Estimates of this kind, I have felt justified in reducing the "shadow" cut this year by no less than £760,000. So, Mr. Speaker, a true figure of the economies which have been secured by the present Government may be said to be £5,886,000, the net figure being £4,126,000 owing to £1,000,000 of new commitments and the reduction of the "shadow" cut by £760,000. The House will readily understand that I could not have secured such economies in these Estimates without the loyal support of my staff at the Admiralty, and I want to take this public opportunity of paying them a special tribute and offering them my grateful thanks.

I should like to proceed now to one or two other items. The net Estimate which I submit to the House is within £190,000 of the figure submitted for 1914, which was the last pre-War Estimate, but, if we are to make a true comparison with 1914, allowance must be made for the higher costs and prices to-day. Calculated at pre-War rates, the provision covered by these Estimates would not have cost more than £31,153,000 or a reduction of 39.57 per cent. as compared with 1914. I would also point out that our provision this year covers a much larger proportion of non-effective charges than in 1914. To-day the non-effective charges amount to no less than £8,679,000, compared with just over £3,000,000 in 1914. If we compare the actual effective services of the Navy, that is omitting naval pensions and civilian superannuation, the net amount is £43,069,000 as compared with the figure of £48,541,000 in 1914. I want the House specially to observe that if you reduce that figure of £43,069,000 to pre-War value it shows an actual reduction compared with 1914 of no less than 46.05 per cent.

Can the First Lord give the comparable figures reduced to pre-War values?

That is what I have just done. I said that the present figure of £51,000,000 odd reduced to pre-War values is £31,153,000, and, taking the net figure and leaving out the non-effective Votes of £4,126,000, it shows a reduction of 46 per cent. I beg the House to remember that no other naval Power in the world has voluntarily made such a reduction compared with pre-War.

Turning from this comparison, may I say a word or two about personnel? The Fleet numbers at the beginning of the financial year 1929 were expected to stand at 99,800, which constituted the Vote for the year. My predecessor explained to Parliament that it was intended to reduce to 98,800 by the end of the year. Owing to administrative decisions such as the reduction of the Third Battle Squadron to a training status, and the exercise of strict economy in every direction, the requirements of 1930 show a further decrease in personnel. As the House is probably aware, Vote A has to show the maximum number to be carried at any time during the year, and so the figure again represents the number which will be borne on the first day of the financial year, 1st April, which is 97,050, or a reduction of 2,750 on the figure for 1929. That reduction of 1,750 from the original number intended to be worked to on 31st March, 1930, was desirable both for financial and administrative reasons, as further reduction was in prospect. The final figure which we hope to reach by 1930 is 94,000. Thus in the two years between the 1st April, 1929, and the 31st March, 1931, we contemplate a total reduction in personnel of 5,800 men.

Now I come to the question of shipbuilding. As will be seen from my statement accompanying the Estimates, the total net reduction, although far from revealing in full all the administrative economies secured, is attributable in the main to the Government's policy up to date in regard to naval construction, and the House will rather expect me to make some mention of it. The Government position in the matter has already been set out very fully in the statement made by the Prime Minister on the 24th July last. As has been made abundantly clear during the last few months, unilateral disarmament, for this or any country, is no part of the policy of His Majesty's Government. At the same time, we are very strongly impressed with the importance of sparing no effort to ensure, so far as lies with us, that an end is put to competitive shipbuilding between the nations lately associated together against a common foe, who as signatories to the Kellogg Pact have forsworn recourse to war, and whose representatives are at this moment gathered in London for the purpose of concluding a treaty for limiting and reducing mutually their naval armaments. It is with very great satisfaction that the Government nave found in the general trend of world affairs, and the general outlook for peace, justification for proceeding still further along the road marked out to some extent by the last Government of slowing down the rate of our naval construction and thus giving proof of our sincerity in the cause of all-round reduction of armaments.

4.0 p.m.

The reductions we have made in the last two annual programmes of the five-year scheme introduced by the late Government have been made, at least, in the same spirit which actuated the last Government in the reductions which they made themselves in certain of these annual programmes, but they have been made with greater courage, with a stronger determination to the end in view, and they have been made accordingly very much more drastic. At the same time, as I said before to this House, we are convinced that the provision we are now making is adequate. It is one of the sayings which the Prime Minister is always happy to hear quoted, that never under his auspices should the British Navy be allowed to rot away from the bottom. That is the policy of the present Government. It is a guarantee of a measure of new shipbuilding such as will secure us against relying upon a Fleet composed of obsolescent and ancient ships. Wise economy, if nothing else, demands such a policy, but it also requires that none of the public money shall be spent on the building of ships in excess of what our needs demand. Our replacement programme must be related, not to our present strength, but to future needs. What those needs will be cannot be accurately forecasted until the results of the London Conference now sitting have been ascertained and duly collated. That brings me to a reference to the Naval Conference now sitting, and for the successful conclusion of which, I believe, Members in all parts of the House are anxious. I must thank the House for the measure of restraint which it has, on the whole, observed on Conference matters during the past two months. Hon. Members have had in their hands now for about five or six weeks Command Paper No. 3485 setting out the general position taken up by the Government and their representatives at the Conference. I do not think that I can usefully add at the present stage anything to the Government's published statement, except to say that we are certain that not only the Government and Parliament, but the whole nation, appreciate to the full the co-operation of President Hoover with the Prime Minister to secure, if possible, real progress in the direction of limitation and reduction of naval armaments. We have cordially welcomed the representatives of the other naval Powers to the London Conference for that purpose, and I would like to say that the feelings of pessimism so often expressed will, I hope, prove to be unfounded.

I should deprecate any discussion in public session here this afternoon of a kind which would not be of assistance in bringing the Conference to a successful issue, especially as the House will have an opportunity of discussing the matter very fully when, as I shall show later, the new construction proposals are introduced. I make that appeal very strongly, and I make it not only from my own desire for the success of this Conference, but upon good precedent. I remember that in 1927, when the Three-Power Conference was sitting in Geneva, and questions were raised by us when sitting on the opposite benches, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) made a statement at our request, and, after we had indicated our attitude, he said:
"I take the question of the right hon. Gentleman as to facilities when the House resumes its sitting"—
which meant waiting from July until the autumn—
"as indicating his view, which is the view of His Majesty's Government, that it is inexpedient, and almost improper, that we should enter into any detailed discussions while the Conference is still sitting at Geneva."—[OFFICIAL RFPORT, 27th July, 1927; col. 1250, Vol. 209.]
I think, therefore, as I have said, I have not only my own anxiety for the success of the Conference, but good precedent in appealing to the House to have that in mind when discussing the Estimates which are now before them.

It will not have escaped the notice of the House that while these Estimates contain virtually the whole of the first 12 months' expenditure on the 1929 shipbuilding programme recently ordered, there is at present no provision at all made in them for a 1930 construction programme. I observe that some sections of the Press have stated that this is unprecedented, but in this I have actually followed a precedent which was set in 1925 when my predecessor introduced his first Navy Estimates, when he made an identically similar omission. The reason is substantially the same in both cases, though the circumstances are actually dissimilar. When it was decided not to include any Estimate for new construction in 1925, it was because the Government of which he was a member had not been sufficiently long in office, in their judgment, to formulate a programme, which was afterwards submitted in a Supplementary Estimate. To-day the fact that a Conference for the reduction and limitation of naval armaments is actually in session, at which the five principal naval Powers are still at grips with the problem of future naval strengths, has made it necessary for us to hold over any decision as to what this country's next shipbuilding programme should be after that which has just been commenced. Not only so, but in respect of the 1929 programme it has been though best, in view of proposals which we have made at the Conference for the total abolition of the submarine as a naval weapon, to suspend, for the present at any rate, the submarine part of the 1929 programme. I would stress, however, that there is no need for the House to view with alarm the prospects of a Supplementary Estimate to meet our future needs in these respects. It is true that I cannot hope out of these very greatly reduced Estimates to find the necessary provision without a Supplementary Estimate, as was done by my predecessor in 1925, but the House will bear in mind that that was done on that occasion out of an Estimate which showed as much increase above that of the preceding Government of my right bon. Friend as these Estimates to-day show a decrease below those of the last year in office of the present Opposition. Still, no very great sum will be required in the coming financial year for this purpose. The provision made in 1929 on account of the new construction programme was no more than £80,000, and I think I can promise that no more terrifying figure than that will be asked for in respect of 1930.

As regards the possibility of having to ask the House for provision for three submarines, which are provisionally included in the 1929 programme, should this necessity arise—and, frankly, I do not want to deceive the House in this matter at all; I think it is very likely to arise—the Supplementary Grant might have to be increased to a somewhat more material size, but it would still represent only a small fraction of the reduction on the Estimates as a whole, and would still mean that the ultimate saving on the 1929 construction programme would be no less than £6,500,000

May I say a word or two on a few points of interest in the Estimate? First of all, may I refer to the Estimate for the Singapore Base? The policy of the Government in regard to this question has already been announced to the House. It came before us at a time when the whole future as regards naval policy was necessarily obscured by the imminence of the International Conference in which we are now engaged, and we decided accordingly to refrain from coming to a final decision on the subject until the Conference should have been concluded, and until the situation with regard to the future composition of fleets should have become clearer. A very considerable slowing down of work on the Base has been found to be possible without in any way prejudicing the ultimate decision. But for this, the gross expenditure in 1930 would have been very nearly double the figure of the preceding year, and the net expenditure, after allowing for the contributions received from Dominion and Colonial sources, would have been over three times as great as in 1929. I observe that the late Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies cheers the contributions from overseas, but I hope he will also remember that I had to take into account that in the expenditure incurred on that Base up to date his Government used first of all the contributions from overseas.

As it is, I am asking for a gross provision only of 33 per cent. in excess of that for the current year—a cash increase of about £200,000, and I should not have to ask for that but for the peculiar arrangements which were made in regard to the main contract entered into by our predecessors in office, whereby there was a substantial carry-over of liability from this year to the next—another instance of the financial arrangements of the last Government. We have examined very carefully whether anything could be done about the main contract, but, having regard to its terms, it has not been felt that it would be possible, without grave sacrifice of economy, to interfere at this stage with its progress. A final decision on the future of the development of the Base will be sought as soon as possible after the Naval Conference, but it will not be taken until after consultation with the overseas Governments affected.

I have observed in the Press in the last few days constant references to the size of the Admiralty staff. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I like to hear those cheers from Members who supported, like lambs, the whole policy of the late Government, but I am quite willing to deal with that question. A great deal has been said upon it both here and elsewhere, and no doubt we shall all agree—I think this was put to the Committee upstairs—that a period of transition, whether the trend be upward or downward as regards naval strength, must always throw for the time being heavy work upon the headquarters staff. Even so, there have been material reductions effected in recent years. I found when I came to the Admiralty that a Committee of the Board had been working with that object right through the Department. That work has been carried on and completed under the present administration, the net result being a reduction of well over 5 per cent. in the total staff over the period during which this inquiry has been going on. Of course, I do not desire to take the whole credit for that. The committee has been working in the Admiralty under the ægis of the last Government as well as of this, and for the economy which has been effected, of course we do not want to take all the glory. We are carrying out in the direction of economy something which was already going on. May I say that we shall continue to keep a very close watch upon the size of the Admiralty staff in relation to the actual necessities of the time. The slight increase in the money provision under this Vote is due to two causes which are common to all the Government service. I refer to the calculation of the bonus on salaries upon a higher cost-of-living index figure, and the progressive increments due to longer service.

May I turn for a moment to the work of the dockyards? I have referred in the Memorandum accompanying the Estimates to the steps which have been taken to put into operation the recommendations of the Hilton Committee with regard to dockyard costings, to be completed at Portsmouth in a very few weeks, and as the reports submitted to us appear to be very satisfactory, we propose this year to extend the system to Devonport. Part of the expenditure provided in these Votes is required, as I have already indicated, to cover the institution of a week's holiday with pay to the workpeople in the dockyards and other Admiralty establishments, and I am sure the House will readily approve this step to place our Government industrial employés on an equal footing with those of many good employers in other industries. In addition, I might add, we propose to raise the number of paid holidays from four to five days.

I have also explained to the House on previous occasions the steps which have been taken to avoid heavy discharges in the dockyards, and which have been very successful. By means of restricting overtime, by allocating new work and facilitating voluntary retirements, the numbers in the yards have been kept practically stable, and we see no reason to anticipate any disturbance of this position in the coming year. For the first time destroyers are to be built at Portsmouth, and valuable experience will, therefore, be gained of this class of ship in Government yards. Every effort is made to obtain other classes of work of a repayment character, and we are in constant touch with the representatives of the workpeople on the general question. Before I leave the dockyard question, may I say that I am exceedingly obliged to the Civil Lord, who is a trade unionist of very long experience, for the great assistance that he has given to me in the last few months in stabilis- ing the position in the dockyards, and to the workers' representatives on the Whitley Council for the manner in which they have co-operated with him.

I will now say just a brief word on the question of fuel. The House will observe, I am sure, with interest that the Admiralty is giving special attention to fuel research, and taking active steps to try out oil obtained from the low temperature carbonisation of coal. If anything comes of the trials which we are carrying out, two advantages will accrue—in the first place, a real help to the coal industry, and, secondly, and this is of great importance to any Navy, the establishment once more of a natural fuel reserve in this country without heavy capital cost.

Can the First Lord give any comparison between the cost of the oil which he describes as obtained from coal and of ordinary oil fuel?

The costs vary in the different plants for obtaining oil by low temperature carbonisation of coal, but, generally speaking, the cost of oil of that kind, as compared with oil purchased in other directions would be rather higher. The Government, however, must not be blamed for promoting research in this direction—

It would be a great advantage from the Admiralty point of view if we could provide in this country a natural reserve of oil fuel, without having to build up at heavy capital cost fuel reserves purchased from overseas.

I come to the question of submarines. I am sure that the whole country was moved by the dreadful disaster to "H.47" last year, and the House will, of course, know that we have given public expression, as a Government, to our willingness, if other nations will agree, to abolish the use of submarines altogether. At the time of that disaster experiments were being carried out by the Admiralty with an improved submarine escape apparatus, which has proved to be successful. I am glad to be able to say that the necessary supplies of the apparatus were ordered some time ago for each unit of the personnel working in submarines, and they are now actually in course of delivery, and arrangements are being made for the personnel to be trained in the use of them.

Then just a word about the Fleet Air Arm. The naval air work has been given very careful attention, and a few months ago I had the opportunity of seeing for myself how the work has progressed, and of observing the very important coordination which has developed between the Fleet Air Arm and the general work of the Fleet. The present Estimates make ample provision for this work to be consolidated and extended. It is very pleasant to record the keenness and skill with which naval and Royal Marine officers have carried out their duties in this branch of the service, and I was immensely impressed last fall, when I visited the Fleet for the autumn exercises, to see especially this branch of the work, and how splendidly these officers were working. [Interruption.] I meant the fall of last year. It seems as if some of my hon. Friends would do well to come and live in Somerset for a while. They would then understand such an expression as that.

Our relations with Dominion Navies are, I am very happy to say, of the closest and most cordial character. For the first time, arrangements have been made for a Dominion flag officer to take command of a home squadron. That has been done with the consent of the Australian Government, the officer being Rear-Admiral Hyde, of the Royal Australian Navy, and he has been given command of the Third Battle Squadron for a year.

May I now briefly refer to a question which some of my hon. Friends have been considering—the question of promotions from the lower deck? I have had inquiries made into the general question, and further attention will be directed to this matter when the Naval Conference is over. Until we know the result of the Conference, we cannot formulate our Fleet plans, and upon these to a very considerable extent will depend the number of promotions available. I also intend to extend the inquiry to cover the whole question of the entry of cadets and officers.

I am very glad to say that the Medical Director-General reports that the health of the Fleet personnel in the past 12 months has been very good, and no serious epidemics have occurred; but I regret that some concern is felt by my advisers over the difficulty of obtaining an adequate supply of medical officers, in spite, may I say, of very special efforts which have been made during the last 12 months by the Medical Director-General; and, as I think the medical profession is not without some direct representation in this House, I hope that they will be able to use some influence in the direction of assisting the Admiralty in this regard. Very substantial provision is now made for the welfare of the men, and it is a great factor in maintaining general health and efficiency. The pressure of preliminary naval negotiations and the Conference itself have prevented my giving the amount of personal attention that I should have liked to give to this side of the Admiralty's activities, but the welfare work has been going on very well, and in the conferences which are to meet shortly opportunities will be given for the consideration of new suggestions.

I have referred already to the short visit which I paid to the Fleet at the end of last year, and I should like to add that I was very much impressed indeed at the time of that visit with the general fitness, keenness and efficiency of all the men in the Service; and I think I might add that it is not surprising to know that men of the kind that we have in the Navy are welcomed all over the world. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my thanks to them all.

I cannot close this preliminary survey of the Estimates without a reference to the First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Madden, who, as already announced, will retire this year, as soon as is convenient after the work of the Naval Conference is completed. Sir Charles Madden's career and service for his country need no eulogy from me; they are already well known; but I should, if the House will permit me, like to take this opportunity of expressing my personal gratitude and thanks to Sir Charles for his great kindness and help to myself during a very trying period. The Government especially appreciate the help and advice that they have invariably received from the Naval Staff. No step affecting naval policy has been taken by the Government without full consultation of the naval members of the Board, but I would add that the Government take full responsibility for ultimate decisions arrived at. In the circumstances that exist to-day, and in the improved conditions of world relationships, we consider that the provision which is made in the Vote now submitted to the House is adequate, and I confidently ask for its approval.

No one, I think, wherever he may sit, will fail to recognise the lucid and at the same time terse manner in which the First Lord of the Admiralty has laid his first Navy Estimates before the House, and I need scarcely say that with all that he said in tribute to the men of this Service, and in tribute to the high naval authorities, he carried with him the cordial concurrence of those at any rate who belong to the Opposition. Of course, I could not help being struck, during the right hon. Gentleman's speech, by the extreme air of apology which he assumed in speaking of the great Service, the great arm and instrument, upon which the life and the history of this country are both founded. One would have thought that he had something very shocking to explain to Parliament, but that he was anxious to state every extenuating circumstance that could possibly be pleaded for the continued maintenance of the British Navy, even on a scale so considerably reduced as he has described to us. It is true that this Debate takes place at an inopportune moment, and at a very inconvenient moment for the House of Commons. I am not blaming the Government, because they are bound by the ordinary course of the financial year, and, of course, the prolongation of the Naval Conference is a matter not within their control. Still, I think it would have been very much better if this Vote could have been taken even a week or 10 days later, when the Naval Conference would perhaps have been in smoother waters.

This is our regular opportunity for debating the strength and efficiency of the Navy; this is our annual opportunity. We do not get very many in the House; pressure of business stands in their path. It is undoubtedly a period in which there is deep anxiety about our naval position, and in which there is an earnest desire to discuss all sorts of grave matters. The right hon. Gentleman appealed to us, in the course of the Debate, not to make more difficult the task of the Naval Conference. I am sure that his appeal will be responded to on this side of the House, and that at any rate as strict a view of the public interest will always be taken by those who sit on these benches as has in the past been taken by some of those who now sit on the Treasury Bench. At any rate, it seems essential that we should make it clear that any silence which is maintained upon various matters which are the crux of the present Conference must not be taken by the Government as a sign that they have the consent of the whole of the House of Commons in many of the measures which they have proposed, and still less that we, with our present knowledge, are able to say that we consider that the Estimates which the First Lord has just presented are adequate for our security.

I think we ought to have had a full statement, from the Prime Minister or from the First Lord, of the basis of our naval policy. We ought to know what are the standards of naval strength which the Board of Admiralty consider necessary arid which the Government have approved, and we ought to know what are the measures that are being taken to maintain them. The Government have brought this Debate on—the first of the three Fighting Services to be discussed—at the earliest moment. They give us virtually no information on any of the vital points, and they seem to exploit to the fullest the argument that any discussion on these vital points will be embarrassing to them in their naval negotiations. We cannot really feel that that leaves us in a very satisfactory position. We have, of course, the assurance that, when the Naval Conference is over, there is to be a full submission of its results to the House and the country, and thereafter the Government will lay the new construction Vote for the year and will take any Supplementary Estimates that may be required. There are, of course, good precedents for such a course. There have been in my own recollection three occasions when it was not found possible to lay the full pro- gramme of annual construction before the House on the opening statement of the Navy Estimates, and, therefore, there are good precedents, but we must make it clear that in the interim we in no way assent to the present proposals and Estimates of the Government. We reserve to ourselves most complete and untrammelled liberty to examine the position at a later date.

There are, however, certain points of a purely domestic character which do not affect any other Power, which I think must receive some passing attention. First of all, I allude to the question of cruiser strength. We have been told that the cruiser strength which is thought necessary by Admiralty experts has been reduced from 70 to 50 cruisers. This matter is more complicated than the casual reader of a newspaper would often suppose. The strength of a cruiser fleet depends not only upon its numbers, but upon its newness, and the value of 70, 60, or 50 cruisers can only be judged in relation to the number of old and new vessels respectively that are included in those figures. However, we have been told that the Admiralty now advise the Government that they may remain content with 50 cruisers, not over 20 years old. That is the present declaration. That is an immense reduction on all the previous estimates that were brought before us by expert authority, and most recently brought before us, and when the First Lord boasts as at one moment in his speech he allowed himself the indulgence to boast that, as far as the present Government are concerned, there would be no unilateral disarmament he raised a question which I am bound to take up, and I am bound to ask him, in return, if there is to be no unilateral disarmament—his own phrase—why was this immense reduction in our cruiser strength announced before the Conference began, instead of becoming part of a general process of disarmament? It seems to me this is a very strange and unfortunate diplomacy. It is unfortunate in this sense, that, whereas every other Power states its requirements at the maximum, we begin the discussion with an enormous reduction, and then the argument proceeds on the basis of how much more can be cut off all round. Thus, there is a grave danger and risk, which we feel most concerned about, that the Conference may become a process, not of general naval disarmament, but of disarming Britain, while other Powers become relatively, and, in some cases, actually stronger.

There is another danger in this method of announcing these reductions before entering upon a discussion of this kind, and also of announcing reductions in the actual programme of the year, at this stage. If the right hon. Gentleman had been content to let the programme stand as he found it, in the hope of making a reduction should favourable results emerge from the labours of the Conference, he would have been in the good position, when the Conference had concluded its successful labours, of making a reduction which would be justified by all that had gone before; but now, if for any reason the Conference should not reach a completely successful conclusion—I hope the Prime Minister will follow this—he would have to emphasise the fact that it has not reached a successful conclusion by sending the First Lord to the House to propose a Supplementary Estimate for additional construction. That appears to me to be leading up to exactly the kind of conclusion that you would have endeavoured to avoid, namely, of following on upon a Conference of this character, which I cannot conceive is going to fail altogether, although it may not achieve its full purpose—to follow on upon results which, like so many things in this world, may be mixed and partial, with a Vote which will clearly indicate that those results have not been wholly satisfactory. I am sure it would have been far better not to be so impatient to make a gesture of disarmament, but to proceed frankly on a straightforward basis to lay all the cards on the table and endeavour to reach a general and joint conclusion.

But, even if the 50 cruisers of 20 years of age were accepted as the basis of the protection of our food and trade routes, what steps are the Government taking to carry out this programme? There is surely no need for secrecy about this. We ought to know what are the programmes that would be necessary to carry out the maintenance of the cruiser fleet on a basis of 50 cruisers not being over 20 years of age. It is not a matter of secret negotiation. It is not a matter of delicate diplomacy. It is a matter of pure arithmetic. The cruisers are all known. They are all in the list. Everyone knows them. Everyone knows the exact date when they were laid down and the date when they will accomplish their 20 years. Therefore, the rate of replacement can be produced with extreme simplicity and accuracy by anyone who chooses to study it. There is no question of running a risk in mentioning such figures to other Powers at the Conference for fear that they would be shocked, because they are capable of making the same calculations that I have had made for myself. I am told that, between now and 1939, approximately 34 or 35 of the present British cruisers will drop out of the line. They will be past the age when they can be considered efficient. If that is so, it would appear that the construction of about four cruisers a year is indispensable to maintain this programme of 50 cruisers of not more than 20 years of age. When the Government have reduced, needlessly, before the Conference, the programme of this year to one cruiser, it is clear that they are not only reducing the standard but they are not even maintaining their own programme.

They are anxious to prove their pacifism and to avoid expense during the current year; they fail to maintain the minimum standard which they have themselves proclaimed, and they are thereby throwing a burden upon the future. They look forward to the day—I can foresee it myself—when they, being an irresponsible Opposition, will use their whole strength to oppose the construction of these very cruisers which, on their own admitted standard, would annually be necessary. The right hon. Gentleman sitting on this side will say, "In our day, we built only one cruiser. We reduced the Navy Estimates by so much. The moment the Conservatives come in up bounded the expenses of the Navy." Yet all this will be part of the execution of a reduced programme to which even the right hon. Gentleman himself has set his seal. The Government ought to have been able to state for this Debate, and I must ask specifically that they will, when the Supplementary Estimate is presented, state exactly what are their series of programmes for the next five or six years ahead to maintain these standards, in order that we may see that they are bearing a just and fair share of the burden of maintaining the naval strength which they themselves think necessary. The right hon. Gentleman said only to-day that the moment the Conservative Government came in in 1924 up went the Naval Estimates? Why did they go up? Because the right hon. Gentleman laid down five cruisers, for which he had had to pay some insignificant token sum, and the full cost came immediately upon us. Really I should have thought it was hardly worth while manœuvring in that way. The Government will greatly commend any programme of naval policy that they wish to present to the House if it is accompanied by a clearly worked out scheme of maintaining by annual programmes whatever standard is finally selected.

There is another point of a very general character on which I should like to say a word. We hear a great deal about the reduction, or abolition, of battle fleets. Only three Powers in the world have modern battle fleets, and everyone is agreed that it would be sensible to make the existing vessels last another five or six years, and also to reduce considerably the tonnage of these immensely costly capital units. The question whether battleships will be rendered obsolete by submarines or by aircraft is seriously affected by the size of battleships. I sat upon a Committee in 1919 which exhaustively examined the question for many months, and I have always been assured that it is much easier for the capital ship to defend itself against large torpedoes from submarines or heavy bombs from aeroplanes if it is a very large ship than if it is a smaller vessel. I have always doubted whether the submarine would ultimately endanger the battleship or render it obsolete, but the air menace to battleships increases with every year that passes, and, in so far as by general consent all Powers reduce the size of the battleships, to that very extent will you be emphasising the advantage of the new arm over the old and tending to diminish the life of the battleship type.

When we talk airily and hopefully about reducing or abolishing battleships all round, it may be well worth while to consider what reactions will follow from that. What is to take the place of these battle fleets if they are abolished all round? As far as the three great ocean Powers are concerned, their battle fleets are fixed in a certain ratio, but it must be remembered that, as far as Great Britain is concerned in relation to the Continent of Europe, she is able to accept a much lower strength of cruisers and of other small vessels, because she possesses a very powerful battle fleet, whereas the European Powers have not developed their battle fleets since the War. I am quite certain that the abolition of battleships will require a complete re-casting of the whole of our strength in other vessels in relation to the Continent of Europe, and I hope that, when the First Lord speaks on the next occasion, he will endeavour to throw some light upon this extremely difficult and anxious problem.

I ask myself seriously whether it is contemplated at any time that modern navies should consist of ships which are almost entirely unarmoured. The 10,000 ton 8-inch gun cruisers, which, I think, are most erroneously spoken of as if they were real symbols and tokens of naval strength, are mistakenly compared with the pre-War Dreadnoughts. These ships are virtually unarmoured vessels. They are the revivals of the old pre-War "Europa" class, which in my Admiralty days were held up as examples of what should be especially avoided in ship construction. They are ships which cost an immense sum of money, which offer enormous targets and carry a very large number of lives on board, and which are, I say, virtually unprotected from the fire even of guns of their own calibre. The first duty of a warship is to keep afloat. Have we really forgotten the combat of the "Merrimac" and the "Monitor," now nearly 70 years ago, in the American Civil War, when it was conclusively proved in those days that no ship could, stand up against modern artillery unless it was protected by strong steel or iron armour? What has happened in the interval to artillery to lead us to suppose that we can now talk of navies in which no battleships exist, but in which every form of naval warfare can be discharged only by unarmoured ships? I hope that the First Lord of the Admiralty will, on the next occasion, also tell us more about the Admiralty view upon these matters, which seem to be of the very greatest consequence.

I have only one more point. I do not wish to keep the House, as there is an Amendment which is to be brought on, but I have a third point which I must mention, as the First Lord referred to it in some detail. There is a reduction of, I think he said, 5,800 men in the strength of the Royal Navy. I always have been of the opinion that 100,000 men was the sort of figure we might well have maintained in times of peace. After all, it has been upon our incomparable, long service, seafaring personnel that our Navy has depended as much even as upon modern appliances. The men take an immense amount of time to train—they begin as boys—and a reduction which can be effected cannot be soon reversed if it is desired later on to increase the Navy. I observe that, whereas before the War we had 146,000 seamen and marines, and after the War under the late Government 99,000, we are now reduced to 94,000—that is a tremendous reduction—and that during the same period the next strongest naval power has increased its personnel from 67,000 in 1914 to 114,000 in the present year—114,000 United States seamen and marines and 94,000 British. I agree that figures are not in every respect entirely comparable, but in the main they are comparable, and I ask, in the face of such figures, what becomes even of the doctrine of parity?

I should like the First Lord to tell us—perhaps he will later on to-day when he has a further opportunity—how they have effected this reduction? Has it been effected on the schools and the shore establishments, by reductions there? Has it been effected upon the number of reliefs in transit? Has it been effected by still further reducing the quarter bills of the ships in active commission, by, for instance, providing crews to man the guns on one side of the ship or only a portion of the armament at one particular time. I am bound to say that I have in the past brought pressure to bear on the Admiralty to reduce to the neighbourhood of 100,000, and I was very conscious of the extremely cogent manner in which the Second Sea Lords of the different periods had always defended their numbers and pointed out how efficiency would suffer and how great a blow would be struck if they were unduly pressed in this respect. It was only last year that I heard a very strong argument put forward for a personnel of 99,000—approximately 100,000—and I therefore feel surprised—as many of us must feel surprised—when the right hon. Gentleman comes forward and without giving any real explanation, except saying that the Third Battle Squadron is to be placed on a training footing, tells us that he has succeeded in striking off no fewer than 5,800 of our naval personnel.

I cannot feel at all contented, or even reassured, by the able statement to which we have listened. Six thousand fewer sailors in the Navy, and still, on the other hand, there are many thousands more upon the dole! So I suppose it will be said that the Government are providing for all the population as thoroughly as before. I should think that it really is an epitome of the message which the present Government have to give to Britain at this time, that all this naval saving, so painfully extracted from the instrument of our protection, pared off from the efficiency and strength of the Fleet, all this £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 which has been saved only forms a small proportion of the additional sums of money which the same Administration is providing for further and better benefits to persons who may not even be genuinely seeking work.

I should like to associate myself with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in congratulating the First Lord of the Admiralty upon his very lucid statement. I know how difficult it is for a man who has come in fresh to that great Department to come down and face the House of Commons. I should also like to join in his tribute to the great service which the present First Sea Lord has rendered to the country. Sir Charles Madden and his distinguished brother-in-law have borne the lion's share of the burden of the Grand Fleet. The nation owes them a great debt of gratitude. As far as the Naval Conference is concerned, we on these benches are wholly with the Government in hoping that it may bring about a reduction of naval armaments. I had an opportunity of being in Washington about three weeks before the Prime Minister, arrived there, and I am very glad to know from my friends there that the Prime Minister created a most excellent impression in Washington. He did not make a single mistake, they told me, and the relations between the two English speaking peoples are very much better than they were or have been for some years past. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord, though, of course, he must accept the opinions of his naval experts at their true value, that, after all, the Government must accept the final responsibility. During the time that I was at the Admiralty—and I was there for many years—we found that experts differed. Therefore, the Government must take the responsibility. But with the Naval Conference sitting, it is not for us to go critically into these Estimates.

There was one remark by the right hon. Gentleman that Member for Epping which I regretted. I served under him at the Admiralty for a year or two, and I regret very much that he should now bring in a comparison between our personnel and that of the United States of America. I heard the late Prime Minister say that the British Government never proposed to build against America, and I hope that that will be the cardinal point of our policy. If the United States like to build more ships, they must do so. We cannot compete. We have to realise that position. I hope that we shall hear nothing whatever in these debates about the naval strength of the United States. I rather want to know what is the strength up to which we are building to-day? My mind goes back to the time when we used to build on a two-Power standard. That was against France and Russia. Then came the German menace, and we had to build two keels to one. What enemy are we building against to-day? That is the real point. [An HON. MEMBER: "At what rate are others building?"] Will my hon. and gallant Friend kindly tell me whom we have to build against? I want to bring the House back to this point, that it is the height of extravagance to build ships which we do not want. They become obsolete before they are finished. There is a little couplet which I heard quoted by the late Lord Fisher:
"Build few and build fast,
Each one better than the last."
But do not build them before you want them. I am perfectly certain that that is the right course to adopt. Therefore, I should like some authori- tative statement on the subject. To what standard are we building? It is no good building ships unless we have a potential enemy.

5.0 p.m.

I heard with interest what the First Lord said about the Singapore Base. I have been opposed to the Singapore Base from the beginning, and I never made any secret of it. I regarded it as a gross waste of public money, but the House decided otherwise. I am sorry that we cannot slow down to a very much greater extent. I am certain that the strategic aspects of Singapore have never been properly considered. It is open to attack by land, by air and heaven knows what else. There is one thing that I wish to say very earnestly to the First Lord of the Admiralty and to the Government—it is a matter more for the Government than the Admiralty—and that is, that the Air Force and the Admiralty should be joined together. When I advocated that in 1919 I was promptly sat upon by my late chief at the Admiralty, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the last Government, the right hon. Member for Epping. To keep the efficiency of the Navy, the Navy must have its own Air Force. I have never had the slightest doubt about that.

My hon. and gallant Friend agrees with me. I am glad that there is one topic upon which we are in agreement. If at some future date, which God forbid, we should be involved in war, there would be continual squabbles between the Air Force and the Admiralty. If we cannot have a Ministry of Defence—there is only one man in this House who would be capable of managing a Ministry of Defence, but I will not mention his name—I suggest very earnestly that the Admiralty should have its own Air Force. I would give the whole control of the Air Force to the Admiralty. As my late chief, Lord Fisher, used to say, the Army is a secondary affair compared with the Navy. The Admiralty should have charge of the Air Force and be responsible for the defence of this country against invasion. I do not intend to say more on the subject, because the Naval Conference is sitting, and I hope it will be a success.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Admiralty staff. I will give a few figures. I cannot understand why the Admiralty should require so large a staff to-day. In pre-War days, when there were 146,000 men and boys on Vote A, the Admiralty staff numbered 2,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "What do you mean by the Admiralty staff?"] I mean the officials at the Admiralty. They totalled 2,000 in pre-War days. To-day the staff numbers 3,000. Why should there be 1,000 more people at the Admiralty to-day, when we have 48,000 fewer sailors? I do not understand it. There must be something wrong somewhere. In the pre-War days to which I am referring we had very vigorous administrators, Mr. McKenna, now chairman of the Midland Bank, and the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, were both First Lords of the Admiralty and they did their work well. If it was necessary to have only 2,000 persons at the Admiralty in those days, when there were 48,000 more sailors in the Navy, I cannot understand why we need to have 3,000 to-day. I asked questions on this subject in 1923, but I never received a satisfactory reply. In the outport establishments before the War there were 57,000 employed, and to-day there are 53,000. Why should there not have been a greater reduction? I hope that when the First Lord next addresses the House he will be able to give us a satisfactory answer. Meanwhile, I congratulate him upon his statement, and I hope that the Conference now sitting will be a complete success.

It gives me peculiar pleasure to join with the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) in congratulating the First Lord of the Admiralty on his very lucid and what is equally refreshing, his very brief statement. Using the vernacular of his native Somerset, which has been adopted by the Americans, he has said a mouthful. He uses a vernacular which some people think is American, and can say a great deal in a short time. As the Naval Conference has been mentioned, I should like to say that I have spoken to foreign delegates, some of whom were comrades of mine in the late War, and they speak in very high terms of the First Lord, with whom they have come in contact on various expert Committees. I have heard nothing but praise of the right hon. Gentleman, and I say that with great pleasure, because I shall have some rather disagreeable things to say presently.

I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Epping has been called out of the House. It is very regrettable that he should have made a speech of the kind that he has delivered to-day, and then should have gone to another engagement. Nevertheless, I must comment on what he said, and I am going to comment with some severity, otherwise my silence might be taken for consent. I hope that the First Lord of the Admiralty will listen to what I am going to say, because I am going to give more power to his elbow. The right hon. Member for Epping talked about the immense reductions in cruiser strength brought about by the present reductions. Any outsider listening to or reading what the right hon. Gentleman said would suppose that our cruiser fleet had been cut down from 70 to 50 by the present Board of Admiralty. Nothing of the kind. The wonderful Conservative Government, with their great resources in this House, with the fine financial position which they inherited from our Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924, left an inheritance to my right hon. Friend the present First Lord of the Admiralty, which, on their own showing and by Conservative standards, was inadequate for the defence of the Empire. They told us that 70 cruisers were the absolute minimum strength, and that that was the advice given to them by the naval advisers who are now advising my right hon. Friend on the present Board.

What was the position when they went out of office? My right hon. Friend inherited 54 cruisers. Those were all the cruisers that were left for the defence of the Empire. Of that number 30 are old, or small, or weak vessels; useful vessels with a great deal of service left in them but, judged by present-day standards and in comparison with the kind of ships being built all over the world by other Powers, quite inadequate for their purpose. That was the inheritance from a Government of the blue-water school, the Navy League inspired Government. Judged by the standard for cruisers laid down by the Washington Conference of 1921, only 24 of the 54 cruisers left by the late Government are of the proper standard. Anyone who looks at the Navy List can confirm that statement. Even if the 70 cruisers existed, if this country should by some great tragedy be involved in another war and they were used as the right hon. Member for Epping used the cruisers at the beginning of the late War, they would be altogether inadequate.

When the right hon. Member for Epping was First Lord of the Admiralty at the outbreak of the War he had 130 armoured and protected cruisers as against 163 for the rest of the world—allies, enemies and neutrals. Deducting the cruisers with the battle fleets in the North Sea and the Mediterranean, and those undergoing repair, and adding the Japanese, French and Russian cruisers on the trade routes also, and under our direction, we had available for the defence of our trade routes 104 cruisers, outside the North Sea. The right hon. Gentleman had at his disposition these 104 cruisers on the trade routes, not counting the cruisers with the battle squadrons in the Mediterranean and the Channel and with the Grand Fleet. That was before submarines were used for sinking merchant ships. Outside the North Sea and outside the Mediterranean the Germans had two armoured cruisers, six light cruisers and four armed merchant liners. Of those, two armoured cruisers—the two most powerful ships of the enemy outside European waters—and four light cruisers were Von Spee's squadron, in the destruction of which the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) took an important part, and were kept together as a tactical unit. They were to be used for raiding the coast of South Africa or were later coming home to join the German High Sea Fleet and were not used seriously for attacks on the trade routes. Although their presence on the coast of South America held up our trade, they were not seriously used as raiders. Practically all the damage was done by the "Emden" and the "Karlsruhe," with their four-inch pop-guns. They were little ships of little fighting value.

I sent a note to the right hon. Member for Epping that I was going to attack him, and it is not my fault that he has been called out of the House. The dis- positions of the cruiser fleet on the trade routes which were made by the right hon. Member for Epping and his naval advisers on the Board of Admiralty were most faulty and unfortunate. Really, the right hon. Gentleman was the Admiralty at that time. The right hon. Gentleman did what he thought was right. At one moment he was commanding surplus marines and special units in the Naval Brigade and at another moment he was disposing the fleet according to his Napoleonic ideas, but the tragedy was that the Napoleon quality was missing. Despite our immense preponderance of cruisers, the tragedy of the disposition of those cruisers was such that the two German commerce raiders were responsible for sinking 220,000 tons of merchant shipping under the British flag and 30,000 tons under the flags of our Allies before they were disposed of. The "Emden" was only sunk by the "Sydney" through a pure accident. The "Sydney" was escorting Australian troops, but the "Emden" did not know that and attempted to make a little raid. The "Sydney" happened to be there, not through any dispositions of the Admiralty, and she sank the "Emden." These are the facts. There ought to have been a totally different disposition of our cruiser fleet and our merchant ships in the very beginning. It was urged upon the Admiralty, but they would not study these things, that we should put the whole of our merchant ships into convoys at the beginning. Had we done that, we should scarcely have lost a vessel. Seven hundred cruisers would not be sufficient to preserve our trade routes at sea, on the dispositions of the fleet carried out by the right hon. Gentleman for Epping. The less the right hon. Gentleman says about the use of cruisers in warfare the better.

I should be glad if the First Lord of the Admiralty would be kind enough to answer one or two questions. I am going to refer to the figures of the Washington Conference of 1921 in relation to the present Conference. It is common knowledge that it is proposed that the battle fleets of Britain and America and Japan should be reduced to 15, 15, nine. We have 20 battleships and battle cruisers on the Navy List, and to reduce to 15 obviously four of the oldest will have to go. The "Tiger" is the oldest battle cruiser, just on her limit of age, and the four Iron Dukes. Why is it that His Majesty's Ship "Tiger" appears in the Navy List for a big refit; and why is it that the "Benbow," one of the Iron Dukes also appears on the list for a large refit? In any case these ships will reach the age limit in two years, and it is proposed that within 18 months these ships should be scrapped, and not replaced, so as to reduce our battle fleet to 15 ships.

Why is it that these ships are to undergo large refit? If it is to provide work in the dockyards I can understand it. One of the best things this Government has done has been the provision it has made for work in the dockyards, and the prevention of the discharge of men. The work of the Civil Lord has been admirable in this respect, and all dockyard members know this. If that is the case all right, but let us know. But it is rather unfortunate that these two ships should appear as if they are to undergo extensive refit, as if they are going to last for many more years. I hope I am not criticising my right hon. Friend but I think it is a little unfortunate that we are carrying out grand manoeuvres in the Mediterranean at the time when you have the Conference meeting in London. I know the Fleet has to be trained, but it would have been a little more tactful to have postponed these manoeuvres. That is the only point on which I agree with the right hon. Member for Epping. He said that it was unfortunate that the Navy Estimates should have to be discussed now. I agree, and it is equally unfortunate that these manoeuvres should now be taking place in the Mediterranean. It is hardly the thing to get the French Prime Minister at Chequers and say, "You must not ask for the right to build more ships, you must reduce your fleet," to make similar demands on the Italians, when the papers are full of most beautiful pictures of these wonderful examples of the naval architect's art practising battle manoeuvres in the Mediterranean.

I said that I was going to say some rather disagreeable things. [Interruption.] I am going to say what everyone is thinking; it is time someone said it. I consider that this Naval Conference is going to be a terrible failure. It may be said that it is really a success, and attempts may be made to show how it has succeeded. That will be worse than to admit that the powers against the Government have been too great. It will be far better to do that and for us to part friends and try again in a few years time. The speech of the right hon. Member for Epping showed that we are bound to have to embark on a considerable building programme in the next few years even if the most successful result that can now be hoped is obtained from the Conference. If we are to keep to the 50 cruisers—the right hon. Member for Epping is largely responsible for it because he left us a small weak, and inadequate cruiser fleet—if we are going to rely on our own strong right arm for our defence, we shall have to build before 1935 21 cruisers. Under the present suggestion the Americans are to have—I am now talking about the 10,000 ton Washington type of cruiser—I understand, 18, Japan 12, and ourselves 15. We have built nine of these ships, there are two Australian cruisers and four are building. These four are to go on building, that makes 15. The First Lord of the Admiralty spoke of a Supplementary Estimate. Is it for building more 8-inch gun cruisers?

My right hon. Friend shakos his head. Is it to build more 6-inch cruisers to replace the 30 weak and old cruisers, which the right hon. Member for Epping left to my right hon. Friend? I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Epping in his place again, because I do not like to attack a man in his absence.

My right hon. Friend will be bound to build 6-inch gun cruisers, and they will be larger than the present 6-inch gun cruisers on the Navy List, most of whom are rather small for ocean work. They were left by the right hon. Member for Epping. We shall have to build at least four of these cruisers each year. There, I am in agreement with the right hon. Member for Epping. Then with regard to destroyers and submarines. I appreciate the effort that has been made to abolish the submarine by the First Lord of the Admiralty. His speech was admirable, but he offered nothing in exchange and, therefore, the submarine is not going to be abolished. I gather, look- ing at the figures and reading what has appeared already in print—I am exposing no secrete—that we are bound to embark even as a result of the most favourable outcome of this Conference on a considerable extra building of destroyers and submarines. The present total of destroyers is 134, as against 309 American and 106 Japanese. Of this 134, 126 will reach the 16-year age limit by 1936—this is the Navy we have been left by the right hon. Member for Epping. We have 22 building and 100 are needed by 1936. That is on the basis laid down by my right hon. Friend himself as the irreducible minimum, and the Prime Minister's statement that not one pound avoidupois will be reduced unless others do the same.

The best we can hope for is the necessity of replacing our destroyer navy at the rate of 100 in the next five or six years. This is a serious state of affairs, and it is useless for us to pretend that we are going to make a great success of the Naval Conference. Even on the Rapidan figures, so far as I can see, on the agreement then reached, there will have to be considerable augmentations, and this is a Conference called for a reduction of naval armaments. It will not be sufficient for my right hon. Friend to say, look at the paper programmes which have been scrapped. What the taxpaying public will want to know is: what will be the naval savings achieved as a result of this Conference, and on that matter you will not be able to deceive democracy for 24 hours. It is obvious from the point of view of a mutual reduction of armaments that if this Conference continues on the present lines it is going to be a failure, and the worst thing that can happen is that its failure should be represented as a success. We have heard a lot about Abraham Lincoln in connection with these matters. Abraham Lincoln said:
"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
The reason the Conference is failing, and is bound to fail, is because it is proceeding on wrong lines and by wrong methods. I am not blaming my right hon. Friend. He has fought well; he has bluffed with the best of them and stood up for his Board. He has played his hand as well as he could. If he had been a Conservative First Lord of the Admiralty he could not have done it better. It is not for hon. Members opposite to reproach him. It was not his business to sit in a corner bluffing with the representatives of the other Powers. He was the representative and spokesman of the one Socialist and progressive Government at the Conference. He was facing four Conservative Governments, or Governments of the Right—the Republican Government of America, the Conservative Government of Japan, the Fascist Government in Rome, and the Government of the Right Centre in Paris. It was necessary for our Government to have taken a certain line different from that of other Governments, and I am sorry to say that has not been done. What has happened is that everyone has ben thinking of the unthinkable war. It was a great pity that it was necessary at the beginning to speak about the irreducible minimum of 50 cruisers. I know my right hon. Friend said it in a small class-room in his constituency, but it went all round the world. How can we say to other Powers that they must reduce below their absolute needs? They say: "You need 50 cruisers, and your Conservative opponents say you need 70." We ought to have gone into the Conference with absolutely free hands. And, worst of all, what does it matter to us what the French and Italians want to build? I am very alarmed at the recrudescence in certain influential naval circles of the talk of the two-Power Continental standard. It was hinted at by the right hon. Member for Epping, whose sympathy with the big naval school is so well known. Originally the two-Power standard was against France and Russia, who were then in military alliance.

In my short naval career I was twice mobilised against France before Germany was the enemy at all. France and, Italy are not military allies; they are fellow-members of the League of Nations, and their alleged fear is of each other's navy. It is criminal to suggest that we have to be bound by the strength of these combined navies. If there is any panic about the French proposed building programme, may I ask why it is that during all the years the party opposite were in power there was no panic when there was a far greater threat to London from the French Air Force? We have inherited from the Conservative party an air fleet one-half or one-third the strength of that of France, and the political and financial capital of the British Empire might be devastated in a night by the magnificent French Air Force. The right hon. Member for Epping slept every night in his bed, and I suppose his constituents also slept every night in their beds under the most terrible threat from the French Air Force and the French submarine building programme, which is the greatest any nation has embarked upon. It is greater than that of Germany before the War. We have sat down under this threat because the people refuse to be frightened and panic-struck. There is an old hereditary belief in the necessity of being predominant at sea, by which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping is able to make political capital, as he does, out of the alleged weakening of British cruiser strength, but I did not expect the spokesman of a Labour Government to use the same argument against our close friend and ally. However, it is a good argument for hurrying on with the building of the Channel Tunnel.

No great saving on battleships is being outlined, I am sorry to say. We talk of the eventual disappearance of the battleship. The Fascist Italian delegation, in their proposals at the Conference, proposed a simultaneous abolition of the submarine and of what they called the capital ship, by which they mean the big battleship. There was no response from us, except a half-hearted statement that there would be eventually, it was trusted and hoped and believed, a disappearance of the great battleship. This, of course, will be a blow to the prestige of the British Government. But we can recover from that. The Labour party will come back. It was born on economic need and the economic need remains. I am not thinking of that so much, however. What I mean is that it will be a great blow to the peace movement all over the world, and that is more serious; a great blow to the democratic and progressive movement all over the world. The militarists of other countries will say to the pacifist and the Democrat and the Socialist "It is all very well, but look at the Labour Government in England. It stands for a strong navy, and we naturally must do the same."

That is the pity of the way in which the Conference is being held. We shall be told that a Labour Government is as nationalist and as militarist as its pre- decessor. It is not. But it talks like that, and that is the trouble. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister talks about the Navy being "us," it is the same language as was used by Lord Bridgeman, though not quite so terse. How long is Germany, a great nation, a clever and scientific people with an increasing population, a nation which will recover its economic position—how long will Germany remain unarmed under the Peace Treaty which we on our side have not kept? What is to be done? I make the following proposal. We should acknowledge the failure of the Conference; we should part friends and say "Gentlemen, we cannot agree with you." The British Fleet at present is stronger than any other. No fleet can possibly catch us for five years, even if we stop building altogether, even if the Americans and the Japanese and the others use the utmost of their building resources. [Interruption.] They could not possibly catch us in five years. We cannot be caught in cruiser strength for five years.

The hon. and gallant Member knows that I am speaking the truth. We are in such a position that we cannot possibly be caught in five years. Then let it be remembered that we have a great asset in the mercantile marine. The right hon. Member for Epping spoke about the cutting down of the personnel, and I am sorry that he made a comparison with the American personnel; but he did not mention that we have a splendid mercantile marine, which is not only a material resource, but a resource of personnel, with excellent seamen who would be of a very great value to the Fleet in time of war. Then I would say, let us in the meantime keep our Navy in being, scrap the old ships as they are due to be scrapped under the Washington Convention, keep our dockyards in trim and our seamen trained, and lay down no more ships of any kind for five years. We should then say to the others, "Build what you think you need; we shall not dispute it," and watch the result. I would like them to hear or read the debates that take place in the American Congress or the French Chamber or the Japanese Diet, when the money has to be found for building ships to beat us.

An increase of the British Navy—No. I suggest a five years building holiday all round, if we can get it. Failing that, we should declare our five years building holiday. We can do that with perfect safety—that is not unilateral disarmament—and postpone the Conference sine die, and use the next five years for careful examination of the need of navies, their use and their real effect on the Covenant of the League, the Briand-Kellogg Pact and the Pact of Locarno, and make a careful exploration of the difficult question of the freedom of the seas. I am glad that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is here. He was so brave in war and is so very timid in peace. He dare not face the electors with the truth in this matter, and we have lost 11 years in consequence. Until you settle this matter with America it is useless going into Conference and discussing tons and guns and ratios and personnel and overseas bases and dockyards and how much trade you have to defend. You have to discuss the need of navies with America. As soon as you begin careful, well-thought-out negotiations for that purpose, not only with America but with the French the better. Above all it is no use blaming France in this matter. It is no use saying "The other man did it, please sir. Someone else broke the window."

The French have been realistic. So has the First Lord. The French warned us last December that they would raise this very question. They were not allowed to discuss it. We might have known, from the debates in the French Chamber that they were going to raise the question of the need of navies and guarantees. They are no more to blame than any of the others concerned. The Italians have played up very well; the Fascist Government has shown itself more willing to reduce armaments than the British Government. [Interruption.] There is the Italian Memorandum to the Naval Conference. The Italians proposed to do away with submarines, and they were prepared to reduce to the lowest possible ratio provided others did the same. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Moses) interrupts the remark that we have said that. That is just what we have not said. President Hoover said it, but we have not done so. My right hon. Friend the First Lord said that there was to be an irreducible minimum of 50 cruisers in peace time. That is a great difference.

You may say that the Fascist Government was not sincere. If we weigh up sincerities in these matters I do not know where we shall end. The Italians have put their proposals into writing. I wish that we had been as bold. In the meantime, let us devote our own energies to restoring our trade and finance, to developing our own land and Empire. Our strength is very great, but it will be far greater if the world respects us. Moral strength is greater than cannon, and the support of the public conscience is mightier than cruisers.

We have had one of the speeches to which we are accustomed from the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken. He has preached a sermon to every nation and to everyone in this House. A good many things that he has said will not have a good influence on members of the Conference. The hon. and gallant Member rather reminds me of a story of the mad-dog type of politician who goes about biting everyone, and although he does not inflict rabies on them he gives them a good deal of amusement and they have to pay some attention to him. I am reminded also of an appropriate rhyme:

"We are the true, selected few.
May all the rest be damned;
There's only room for me and you,
We can't have heaven crammed."
That is the sort of stuff we have been listening to for 20 minutes. It is of no interest and of no service either to the Naval Conference or to this Debate. We have been asked to be cautious in what we say. As far as I am concerned, I think that plain speech is very much more appreciated both in this country and in all the other countries concerned with the Naval Conference. A queer thing about it is that we are always thinking that other people's skins are thin. As a matter of fact it is our own skins that are thin, but people who have not the courage of their convictions ask us constantly to withhold our tongues and our pens for fear of upsetting other people. I notice that the converse does not carry much weight from other countries.

I want to make a few remarks on the statement of the First Lord, and to re- mind him, if he needs reminding, that in pre-War days we spent something like 25 per cent. of our annual Budget on the naval defence of this country, and that to-day, with all the shouting about the terrible expense of naval and other forms of defence, we are not spending 25 per cent., but very much nearer 6½ to 7 per cent. for the tremendous risks that we have to face and the commitments for which we are responsible. The First Lord mentioned unilateral disarmament and said that we were not going to be any party to it. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) touched on that point, and I do so myself in order to remind the First Lord that we have reduced by 66,000 tons, and that the result of that is a saving of something like £4,000,000 at the expense of the security of the country There is not the slightest use in talking about five years' holidays and things of that kind. What we have to do is to see that we have a steady building programme.

If we are not careful it is by no means out of the question that interest in the Navy will fade in the way that it did in the 'seventies and 'eighties of last century, and that we shall find the greatest possible difficulty in recovering and keeping our position. If we had no building programme, by 1936 we should have only 40 cruisers. I shall not go into that question, because it is to be dealt with very fully when Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair. At the same time I do want to remind the House that the most important thing that this or any Government can do, and the finest thing for the security of this country, is to keep up a steady building programme. Surely in so great a national question no Government has any right to create liabilities for its successors? It is not a party question; it is essentially a national question. There is no doubt that at the present time the manoeuvring that is going on on the Front Bench of the Government will have the effect, even if it is not the design, of piling up liabilities for the Government's successors.

We hear a great deal about the marvellous state of peace in the minds of other countries and of this country, and that there is no real necessity to bother very much about our preparation. With the submission of the House I must quote one or two documents to show how foolish is reliance on that type of talk. For instance, in 1772, Lord North, writing to the First Lord of the Admiralty of that clay, said:
"I do not recollect to have seen a more pacific appearance of affairs than there is at this moment.… This is the time, if ever there was a time, for a reasonable and judicious economy.… Great peace establishments will, if we do not take care, prove our ruin."
Within two or three years we were at war with several nations. Then, William Pitt, in 1792, when producing his Estimates, said:
"There never was a time in the history of this country when, from the situation of Europe, we might more reasonably expect 15 years of peace than at the present moment."
Pitt proposed a reduction in the Army, the Navy and the Foreign Service of this country. Within 12 months of his speech, France declared war on this country. The same thing occurs all through history, showing the necessity for caution. Even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) when asked in January, 1914, whether he considered it was a favourable moment then to overhaul our expenditure in armaments, said—I quote from "The Great War, 1914–1918"—
"I think it is the most favourable moment that has presented itself during the last 20 years."
As we all know, within seven or eight months we were embroiled in the most terrible international conflict. There are one or two specific points in the First Lord's statement on which I wish to touch. The first is in reference to naval air work. On page 6, the right hon. Gentleman speaks of 82 observers and six under training and of 120 pilots and 29 under training. I should like to know what is the ultimate aim of the Admiralty as regards the number of observers and pilots for this service, and whether the Admiralty are satisfied or not with the amount of control which they possess over the Fleet air arm. I have asked the right hon. Gentleman a question as regards the use of oil produced from coal compared with the ordinary oil fuel. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make inquiries and let the House know the actual comparative price as between the ordinary oil fuel and oil which can be produced by various methods from coal in this country. The right hon. Gentleman said something on the subject of divers and escape methods. I hope be will be able to give us some further and encouraging particulars on that point, because it is a matter of extreme interest to the British public that the officers and crews of our submarines should have a better chance of escape in cases of accident than they have had in past times. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some of the actual results of experience in this respect.

We have been asked to exercise caution in what we say about the Naval Conference. On this matter I would refer to Command Paper No. 3485, and to the official statement which was published in the "Times" and was described as:
"Summary of a memorandum setting forth the policy of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom at the Naval Conference."
I want to ask what is the position in regard to some of the statements in the White Paper concerning the Naval Conference, and particularly in regard to the question of the number of cruisers which we are said to require. That number is now stated to be 50, as opposed to the 70 which was stated at Geneva to be the figure of our requirements. Can the First Lord tell us the position as between the Government and the Admiralty? It may be an unusual question to ask, but the British public and this House have a right to know. If the Government have relieved the Admiralty of responsibility for the fullest protection of the interests of the country in war, then it is the duty of the Government to state that fact with clarity. If, on the other hand, the Admiralty have been directed to carry out our commitments and responsibilities in war, and have not been allowed the necessary ships and personnel wherewith to do it, again it is the duty of the Government to make that fact clear. I go so far as to say that if the Admiralty are in the latter position and, if I were a member of the Board, I for one would consider whether my resignation was not a fitting reply to such a demand.

I also ask whether the commitments and responsibilities of this country have decreased since the figure of 70 was laid down at Geneva as the number of cruisers necessary for us. In view of the fact that the Government now place the figure at 50 instead of 70, one is justified in asking if the 80,000 miles of trade routes of this country have shrunk in the interval. I suggest that nothing of the kind has happened; that our responsibilities remain the same and that, if anything, our risks have increased. I would like to have the position of the Admiralty in relation to these matters, made perfectly plain to the House. Page 5 of Command Paper 3485 states that the Admiralty has informed the Government that it would favour a reduction in the size of battleships from 35,000 tons to 25,000 tons and also a lengthening in the age of those ships. That is very good and proper, but in the next paragraph we find:
"In the opinion of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, the battleship in view of its tremendous size and cost is of doubtful utility, and the Government would wish to see an agreement by which the battleship would in due time disappear altogether from the fleets of the world."
Can the First Lord say that he has professional backing for that statement which is given as the opinion of the Government? I am not here dealing with my own personal opinions regarding capital ships. My views are, probably, perfectly well-known. But members of the public who read the document from which I have quoted, have a right to know whether the Admiralty are at the back of the Government in that expression of opinion. One finds something even more curious in the statement published in the "Times" of 8th February, because it is an official statement in which we have some queer English—I do not know where it came from. According to this statement
"The Government hopes that there will be an exchange of views on this subject (the abolition of battleships) during the Conference. Indeed it would wish to see an agreement by which battleships will in due time disappear altogether as it considers them a very doubtful proposition"—
That is the queer English to which I refer—
"in view of their size and cost and of the development of the efficiency of air and submarine attack."
Again I say we have a right to know if the Admiralty, if the professional advisers of the Government, are at the back of that statement. I observe at the end of Command Paper 3485 a note in regard to the abolition of the submarines. Regarding that matter I would make this comment. It is no wonder that we are suspect when we enter a conference, and ask nations with smaller navies to agree with us in abolishing the submarine. It is the sheerest humbug and everybody knows it. Of course we would like it to be done because it meets our wishes, but other nations are not fooled by such suggestions as that. I deprecate most strongly, and I think it would be infinitely better and a finer gesture if we said not a word about that subject. There are one or two other things to be said on the subject of the Conference—and again I would remark that plain speech is better than hiding one's opinions. We have heard much about parity. Parity leads, as it always has led, and always will lead to odious comparisons and jealousy. I ask what form of parity is in view and on what do the Government base their ideas of parity? If by parity is meant equality of numbers, or nearly so, then, as I have indicated in a question in this House, it can only react very adversely indeed on this country. May I quote from a statement made by Lord Cecil in 1919 apropos of the responsibilities of this country, in which he makes it abundantly clear that parity based on equality of numbers can only be a danger to this country. Writing to Colonel House he says:
"Not only have we Dominions scattered over the face of the world each of which requires protection from the sea, but the teeming population of the islands of the United Kingdom can only be fed and clothed provided that the avenues of sea traffic are safe. We import four-fifths of our cereals, and two-thirds of our meat, the whole of our cotton and almost the whole of our wool. If we were blockaded for a month or less, we should have to surrender at discretion. That is not true of any other country in the world to the same extent, and, least of all is it true of the United States which could, as far as the necessities of life are concerned, laugh at any blockade."
I suggest that that is an adequate presentation of the facts as to the risks and responsibilities of this country, and that we have no right to embark on a campaign for parity in the form of equality, in such circumstances. Parity, it seems to me, is merely a diplomatic means of depriving this country of sufficient naval power to ensure our interests, and such power, even if it amounts to maritime supremacy in war, is inseparable from and vital to an Empire like the British Empire. After all, this is a form of Socialism—a levelling down—and these protestations of everlasting friendship are in the nature of the statements about the submarines. I conceive them to be humbug. They may be very well meant, but they do not lead us very far. In that connection may I quote from a very respected and well known American publicist in regard to the actual feelings of the citizens of the United States on the question of parity. He writes:
"While Britain fought for its life, while it incurred a debt of 40 billions of dollars, the American rival with small cost, hardly with an effort, took financial supremacy and thereupon claimed naval and therefore political equality….
Moreover, we are not in reality doing this thing by moral suasion."
He refers to Geneva.
"Always at the back of the stage there is the immutable fact, that if we choose, we have the wealth to build a fleet which will be in all respects supreme.
The trouble is that no one can quite afford to be frank. Ostensibly we are seeking for equality, but actually we are out to get equality for nothing."
Again he says:
"In reality, therefore, the American proposal applied to Great Britain undertakes to set a limit to British tonnage without regard to British necessities, and in conformity with our convenience. That is the sum and substance of our proposal."
These remarks are not made in bitterness. They are published in the British Press and they are perfectly well known and understood in the United States as representing the real aim of the United States.

6.0 p.m.

His name is Mr. Frank H. Simonds. I do not deprecate these remarks at all. I do not quote them as being unpleasant. I think they are truthful and straightforward and I believe every citizen of the United States would agree that they are a true presentation of the case. Lastly, there are two nations in this Conference, whether we like; it or not, which are aiming at parity, and their aims at parity have brought about a great deal of the difficulties with which we are faced at the present time. They are asking for parity, not on any logical ground at all, but for other reasons. Surely it is better for the Conference on Naval Disarmament to conclude its labours now in a spirit of amity, rather than continue and produce armament, and not disarmament and calamity to follow.

To-day, to morrow, and on Wednesday, on the Motion that you, Mr. Speaker, do leave the Chair, we shall express approval of expenditure during the coming year, on armaments of one kind or another, of some £110,000,000, of which £52,000,000 is represented by the Navy Estimate that we are discussing to-day. That £52,000,000 represents £1,000,000 a week. The Estimate is brought forward by a Government which represents a movement pledged to comprehensive disarmament. I have in my hand a resolution adopted by the Labour Party Conference, not many years ago, before our leadership attained years of discretion, but as recently as 1927. It was a resolution which was spoken to, among others at Blackpool, by the right hon. Gentleman who now presides over the destinies of India, and it concludes with these words:

"The Conference calls upon the Government"—
that is, at that time, the Conservative Government—
"to re-open negotiations with the United States with a view to the settlement of all outstanding political questions between them, including the question of the control of the sea in time of war, the conclusion of a treaty outlawing war between the two peoples, and a drastic reduction of naval armaments."
In the light of the declared policy of the Labour movement of this country, I think it impossible that those who are associated with me in the Independent Labour Party, and upon these benches, and whose point of view in regard to armaments is quite distinctive, should allow this Estimate to pass without an attempt to state our point of view. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) has expressed the view that there is little hope of success for the present Naval Conference. I would not desire, any more than any other Member of this House, to embarrass the Government in its conduct of the naval negotiations, but in common honesty I am bound to go further than the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, and to say that that Conference was damned before it was born.

May I illustrate what I mean by that? I think the conception of naval parity with America, unimportant as the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) appears to think it is, was a tremendous improvement, for which our Government deserves all credit, upon the prospect of unlimited naval competition with that country, but when agreement at parity with America had been reached, what happened next? There were two statements—one from the First Lord of the Admiralty and the other from the Prime Minister—defining the minimum needs of this country, statements to the people of this country and to the other naval Powers that the basis of parity with America was a certain minimum naval strength from our point of view. Any Government of Great Britain, France, Japan, America, or Italy which goes into an international conference and puts as the basis of its statement for that conference minimum needs, defeats the objects of that conference before it begins, for the plain truth is this, that if Great Britain claims the right to say, "Our interests are such that we need so many battleships, so many cruisers, so many torpedo boat destroyers, and so many submarines," then every other Power has exactly the same right to say, "Our needs demand a minimum, from our point of view, of so many battleships, so many cruisers, and so forth."

I invite the House to notice two important things, and the first is this, that when any Government bases its naval programme upon terms of need it immediately delivers itself into the hands of the naval experts. I have the greatest personal respect for the right hon. Gentleman who presides over the Admiralty at the present time. I think he lends dignity and distinction to that Front Bench, but may I say, with all respect to him, that when an issue arises within the Admiralty as to whether our minimum need in cruisers is 50, 70, or 30, he is completely in the hands of the experts, because he cannot argue with the experts on their own ground. I would not say an unkind work about the experts in the Admiralty. I will only say this, that what the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister said the other night in this House—and, as I thought, so finely said—that every science is bound to be erroneous because it draws conclusions from a limited and isolated area of facts, applies with tremendous force to the conclusions of Admiralty experts in regard to minimum needs. The naval expert would not be human if the naval expert were to conclude that the naval expert was not wanted. It is idle to expect the naval expert to do that.

The first thing I ask the House to note is this, that once you accept the basis of need, the real control is outside the hands of the Government and becomes vested in the experts. The second thing—and it is crucial—that I ask the House to observe is this, that if need be accepted as the basis of our naval programme, then this country is at the mercy of any other Power which, like France at the present time, takes a different view from our own. If you have five Powers in conference, and one of them says, "In spite of all that you may say, we intend to build on such-and-such a scale," then, if need be accepted as the basis of our programme, we are bound to build up to such other standard, and the whole basis of international disarmament goes by the board.

On behalf of those who are associated with me on these benches, I desire to say that to-morrow and the day after there will be Motions down to reduce the Army and the Air Force Estimates. We cannot do that to-day, but, on behalf of my comrades on these benches, I am trying to put our point of view. I believe that the only devil in this universe is fear, and I believe it to be an eternal law that fear attracts the very thing that is feared. The basis of this £52,000,000, the basis of the statement that we want 50 cruisers, is fear, and fear attracts the very thing that fear fears. I put it to the House that there will be hope for disarmament in the world when one great Power says: "For our part, whatever other Powers do, we intend to do so-and-so." I believe that the nation that will first make that gesture—and we have had a great opportunity in these last few weeks—will evoke a response in the world that will surprise and astound it.

After all, the other Governments that make up the Five-Power Conference are, like our own Government, dependent upon public opinion. If anything were needed to stiffen French opinion behind its Government, it would be the kind of announcement that our minimum needs are so many and that we are going to have them. If anything were calculated to weaken a French jingo Government, it would be a statement from our Government—the first Socialist Government in Europe, outside Russia—that we believe for our part that the Locarno Pact meant something, that the Pact of Paris meant something. It is idle for Prime Ministers and Presidents to stand up and announce to the world that they have banished war, to say that they have agreed among themselves that war between us is an unthinkable thing, when all the time we go on building up the machines of destruction. Those things do not march together, and I believe that the Power which first has the courage to stand by its declaration will evoke a response from the public opinion of the world that will surprise it, and that any other Government that dared to act in disregard of it would find itself placed with a public opinion behind it that would make its position gravely uncertain.

For our part, on these benches, we are only a, handful, but we are in earnest, and we believe that our point of view is going to win through. I want to say this to our Front Bench. There are many things they cannot do; many things that they would like to do which public opinion in this country will not let them do; but there is one thing upon which public opinion in this country will be solidly behind any Government, and that is the issue of peace and disarmament which figured so largely in the election struggle a few months ago. I do not believe that the Front Bench can go too fast for public opinion in this matter; but it can make the fatal mistake of going too slow.

May I say this last word, not unkindly. Our domestic record is not such as to command unmitigated enthusiasm. Our foreign record up to now has been our strongest point. Our Prime Minister has captured the imagination of the people of this country on the issue of peace and disarmament more than any other statesman in my lifetime, but the only thing that can beat him on that issue is fear. I beg the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty not to let the policy of the Government be determined by the experts, valuable as they are in their place, but to let it be determined on the sure and certain knowledge that a generous gesture in this world never failed yet to find its response, and will not fail to find it in this particular field of international life.

Policing Of Empire Trade Routes

I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:

"this House, having regard to the dependence of the British Empire upon the sea routes for its security, unity, and prosperity, is of opinion that the maintenance of adequate naval forces and establishments, and a steady building and replacement programme are of vital importance, and expresses the hope that these factors have been, and will be, given the fullest consideration by the Government, and particularly at any conference held to discuss the limitation of armaments by international agreement."
More than one hon. Member in the past week or two at Question Time, and possibly at other times as well, has endeavoured to induce the Government to delay this Debate until a later date. That is a point of view with, which, I imagine, many of us are in full sympathy. It is not a happy or opportune moment to discuss Estimates of this kind, for they have wide implications in the matter of naval policy. They show reductions of over £4,000,000 on the Estimates of last year, no construction for the coming year, and the reduction of personnel by over 6,000 by next year as compared with figures which were shown in April, 1928. These are reductions based on certain considerations about which at the moment we have inadequate information. There is, I understand, one sufficient reason why the House must discuss these Estimates now, namely, the close of the financial year. Nevertheless, many of us would that this opportunity to discuss this important matter had been delayed until the Conference had completed its work, or the Government had been able to inform the House where this country stands in relation to other countries in the matter of disarmament.

There is, however, at least one other point of view. I do not think that under any circumstances a full and frank statement on the part of the Government could have been much longer delayed. The country is growing a little restive. The Navy is a vital national concern, and we have been too much in the dark as to what is really going on. I think sometimes that Ministers are so absorbed with the problems with which they are wrestling, that they forget the people and the anxieties of the people in whose interest they are seeking solutions. It is quite true that at the moment this feeling of disquiet is not very vocal. If the times were normal, and if the country were less absorbed in the gravest of our national questions, namely, unemployment and the depressed industries, the Government would hear more and learn more of the disquiet and the misgivings which are prevalent throughout the country. Apart altogether from the merits of naval policy, it is impossible for the average man to appreciate that policy fully, but whatever be its merits, whether it be to increase or decrease armaments, let us realise that the naval policy of this country comes home to nearly every household in different ways.

The country, of course, is deeply interested in the matter of economy, and it is terribly disappointing from that point of view that, after the tragic experiences of recent years, this country, burdened as it is with heavy taxation, should yet have to foot a bill of something like £50,000,000 odd for Navy Estimates alone. At the moment, there is probably no greater duty resting, not only upon the statesmen of this country, but upon the statesmen of the whole world, to do all that is in their power to rid humanity of this intolerable burden. Different areas are interested in this problem from their own special points of view. I represent a constituency of Tyneside. Industrial development of that part of the country has been closely linked up with the naval policy of this country for generations. During the War, it was one huge naval workshop and shipyard. Into that area there were brought thousands of people to carry on the work of naval construction and repairs, and the engineering connected with it. That work has gone, but the people remain, and while these shipyards and workshops have been reduced to a peace basis, there can be no doubt that the policy of the Government, and the naval policies of this country in recent years, always has an important and vital effect upon that dense population from the point of view of employment.

There is another point which causes most people in this country to be closely interested in and affected by naval policy. We are a nation of realists. We can paint an ideal world as well as anyone, but we know that we have to live in a real one. We have to adjust ourselves to realities as we find them, and the country as a whole certainly appreciates what we, as a nation, owe to the Navy, what we, as an Empire, owe to the Navy, and what, indeed, the liberties and peace of the world owe to the British Navy. The Prime Minister was right when he said the other day, "The Navy is us," and that partly explains a considerable amount of the discomfort that is felt throughout the country at the moment. We as a naval Power feel as if we were in an operating theatre undergoing a severe examination, X-rayed, pummelled and turned about, and threatened with another major operation, not so much for our own health, but rather for the benefit of the students of peace in other parts of the world. It is because of these points of contact that the naval policy of the Government is arousing a considerable amount of interest and concern.

There is another circumstance which makes the consideration of these Estimates none too easy. As the result of a success in the Ballot, I gave notice that I would draw the attention of the House to the Empire trade routes, and the necessity for the policing of them. I received letters from different parts of the country and from constituents of my own, and there were letters in the local paper in my constituency, denouncing me as one who had learnt nothing from the War, as one who belonged to a party that never learnt anything even from a war, and stating that my Amendment was a deliberate attempt to embarrass the Government in the delicate and difficult negotiations in which they were engaged. It is because of the prejudice which is so easily aroused in the country that it is so necessary for anyone discussing these Estimates to try to set out the issue as he sees it. In one of those remarkable speeches which he delivered in this coun- try or in the United States of America, General Smuts made this striking statement:
"Since the War, and as a result of the War, humanity has crossed one of the watersheds of history, and is now marching through a country it has never entered before."
I believe that is true. I believe that in recent years the nations of the world have been headed in a new direction. The League of Nations, now an integral part of national life, the Covenants of the League, the Locarno and the Peace Pacts are all, in my opinion, milestones marking the distance already travelled in this new direction in which the nations of the world have been headed in the desire for world peace and national security. We on this side of the House believe in the League of Nations. We believe that the world is a safer and a more hopeful place as a result of all the conferences and conversations, the treaties and the understandings, that have been such a marked feature of international relations in recent years. We believe in all these pacific agencies of better understanding and greater co-operation between the nations. This also I believe, speaking for myself, that armaments, and more armaments, are no secure foundation for permanent world peace. But having said that, there is no inconsistency—at any rate, I see none—in urging upon the Government the vital importance of such a policy as that set out in the terms of my Amendment.

What is there in the world to-day to justify anyone in saying that a defence force is superfluous? One might as well say that the police force of London is superfluous. If some defence force be necessary, all that my Amendment asks is that it should be adequate. Who are they that say that the defence forces of the world are unnecessary? Certainly not the present Government. They, at any rate, believe in a defence force, but it is a defence force based upon the assumption that war is highly improbable. Certainly a defence force is not regarded as unnecessary by any of the other nations who have signed the Peace Pact. Although America is a party to that Pact, America still insists upon a policy of parity. Neither France, Italy nor Japan has ruled out war as a world possibility, and they have based their requirements upon the principle of security. Once again I would like to refer to the words of General Smuts, spoken to a Committee of this House:
"To my mind there is no doubt the world will remain a dangerous world. We are on the move. Forces have been set going by the great War and since which are incalculable and almost uncontrollable. We see developments in the last 10 or 15 years in Russia, in China, in India, and practically all over the world there are forces that are almost beyond human wisdom to control; and, therefore, whatever machinery of peace we build up, the world will remain in my opinion for a generation or more to come a dangerous world. For an Empire like ours it is essential to follow lines of safety."
Those are the words of a representative of the South African Union, and I think it would be easy to find similar words expressed by the representatives of Dominions like Australia and New Zealand. It may be that their fears are groundless, but that the fears exist no one will deny. The cords binding the Empire are none too strong, but I believe that nothing would more quickly contribute to the disintegration of the Empire than the neglect of the home country to discharge its responsibilities to our Dominions in the matter of world defence. Because the world has reason to denounce war, because it has reason to hate war, because it does not expect or want war, who can say for certain that war will not arise?

My Amendment is one which, I imagine, the Government will have no difficulty in accepting. It simply asks them to base their policy upon the principle of our Imperial requirements. Ours is a heavy responsibility. There are 80,000 miles of trade routes, the arteries of the Empire of which this island is the centre. Along these routes come three-quarters of our food supply, four-fifths of our raw material; merchandise to the value of something like £3,000,000,000 travels over those routes. But it is a narrow and material point of view which regards the guarding of our trade routes as the only reason for having adequate forces for Imperial defence. There is the Empire itself. There has been nothing like it in the world. It guarantees peace and liberty and freedom to a quarter of the human race. I believe that peace, progress, liberty, the ideals of human progress, and good government are wrapped up in the British Empire, and that if you were to scrap the Navy to-morrow, so far from hastening world peace you would place it in jeopardy. I am not an expert, and I am unable to suggest what is necessary to carry out the duties which this heavy responsibility lays upon us, but while Japan, France and Italy base their requirements upon security, and America bases hers upon parity, it seems to me that the least we can do is to base ours upon the requirements and responsibilities which devolve upon us as a great Empire.

I beg to second the Amendment which has been so ably moved by my hon. Friend. I think it cannot be too clearly understood, not only in this House, but throughout the whole Empire, that the provision and maintenance of adequate cruiser forces for the protection of the commerce of the Empire is a vital and paramount necessity affecting every man, woman and child in the Empire. This is a domestic matter. Although it must of necessity enter into any considerations of disarmament which may be discussed internationally, it is, primarily, a domestic matter, in which our position is governed by a stark necessity that cannot really be the subject of international discussion. The number of cruisers required for the Battle Fleet has been laid down as five for every three capital ships. The number of capital ships in our fleet is 15, by agreement. This is a number which is governed by policy. Therefore, we can assume that the number of cruisers required for use with the Battle Fleet is also governed by policy.

It has been said this afternoon that possibly battleships may be done away with: but I think you will not do away with capital ships altogether, although the capital ship may be greatly reduced in size. Present considerations of strategy and tactics demand that for every three capital ships there shall be five cruisers for Fleet purposes. Here, then, we have a number of cruisers which may reasonably foe said to be elastic, in that variations of policy may cause its expansion or reduction, but the number of cruisers required for the protection of the commerce of the Empire depends entirely upon the number and length of your trade routes and the volume of your commerce. It may well be that if the volume of your trade in- creases, the number of cruisers you will have to provide will also increase. As long as there is in existence one possible enemy cruiser, and as long as the possibility exists of so arming and converting a merchant vessel that she may be used as a commerce raider, so long will exist the necessity for the provision of a large number of cruisers for the protection of our trade. The number required should be based not merely on the number of possible enemy cruisers but primarily on the number and length of our trade routes, because so long as one possible enemy ship exists which may attack our trade routes there will remain the necessity for protecting all the trade routes lest any one be specially singled out for attack. Therefore, you cannot reduce the number of cruisers beyond a certain limit. I submit that the reductions which have been made by the Government in the number of our cruisers have reduced that number below what is required for the adequate protection of our trade.

It is a curious fact that ever since the seventeenth century the number of cruisers required for the protection of our trade routes has remained round about 45. Repeatedly in the past in this House hon. Members have asked for adequate cruiser provision, and repeatedly the merchants of London have asked for increased cruiser protection for their trade. This is not a new question. It has always been with us. It has grown with the Empire, and it has always been considered the duty of every Government to provide adequate cruiser protection. It does not matter whether that protection was provided by the sailing vessels of bygone days or by the up-to-date oil-fired turbine-driven ships of the present day. The problem has remained whatever Government has been in power. There is only one thing that has altered, and that, alas, is the question of the cost. Economy is a question of primary consideration, and it is therefore necessary for any Government to provide the barest minimum that the country can afford. No one will deny that the lack of cruisers in the late War cost us 300,000 tons of shipping, to say nothing of the cargoes in those ships. A distinguished French Admiral, La Motte Picquet, by name, who commanded a squadron during the War of American Independence, once said:
"The surest way of conquering England is to attack them through their trade."
The French knew it then, and the Germans knew it in 1914; in fact, the whole world knows it. They all know that there is one sure way of attacking this country, and that is by attacking our trade. To keep our trade we must have power to protect our sea communications, control of which means the control of the power of buying and selling our goods outside this country. There exist very few nations which are independent of sea communication, and to us sea communications are more important than to any other nation. I think and hope that it is going to be more and more in the future a question of the Dominions and the Colonies supplying our raw material in order that we may send them our finished manufactured articles. Our supplies of raw materials have to come from overseas, and in this particular connection we stand alone. That is not the position of the United States, because they are practically self-supporting, and when the Government ask us to come down to parity with the United States as far as cruisers are concerned, I submit that parity is impossible, because the requirements of the two nations are so completely different. I think that in making this great reduction in the cruiser strength, and giving up the Singapore base, the Government have gone beyond anything which is reasonable in deference to the United States in search of parity, the fundamentally unattainable. I am not concerned in the Motion now before the House to deal with the general question of naval disarmament, but I would like to say, in passing, that I believe that if you approach any question of disarmament without having the frankest exchange of views, without putting all the cards on the table and stating clearly what your needs are, you run the risk of putting the "dis" into "discord" and the "arm" into "armament."

If you compare the trade, shipping and geographical position of ourselves and the United States it becomes obvious that the Government concession in regard to cruisers gives an overwhelming superiority to the United States. We have 84,000 miles of coast line to defend as against 55,000 in the case of the United States. Ours is a scattered Empire, and the United States is not. In considering this so-called parity between our country and the United States, we ought to remember that our position and their position are radically different, and we should not be expected to reduce our cruiser strength below what will give the security which is so essential to us.

What does the proposed reduction in our cruiser strength really mean? I have said that it is proposed to reduce it to 50 cruisers, and that leaves us with only 25 for the protection of our trade. We now possess 54 cruisers, and of those 12 are in reserve. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty this afternoon to tell me how soon those 12 cruisers could be got ready for sea and he said that it was impossible to give an estimate. Besides those 12, six more are in the Special Reserve. Consequently if you take them away you get a smaller number of cruisers for the service of the Empire. Ever since the Geneva Conference of 1927 up to September, 1929, the figure of 70 has been laid down as the minimum requirement of the British Empire. What is the reason for a reduction from 70 to 50? I have asked this question before, but up to the present I have not received an answer from the First Lord of the Admiralty or anyone else. Is it a gesture for the Naval Conference? If so the Government have no right to risk the future defence of our Empire trade routes in order to win the approbation of the United States and make a gesture before going into a Naval Conference, the result of which cannot be foreseen. If those cuts are in the interests of economy made at the behest of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then I say that the Government have no right to reduce the protection of the Empire in order to pay for Socialistic extravagancies which the country cannot afford. The United States have always been a country which welcomes frank and free discussion, and I am sure that they would be the first to say that we ought to have our proper measure of strength to protect the trade routes upon which our existence depends. The United States know that our trade is vital to us, and if that is the case nothing is lost by perfectly plain speaking on the subject.

Let us examine the question. Speaking at Geneva on 14th July, 1927, Lord Jellicoe said:
"The cruiser requirements of the Empire were 70. He pointed out, that taking away the 25 cruisers required for work with the Fleet it would leave 45 cruisers for direct trade protection. Of this number we must expect 12 to be refitting, or fuelling at any given moment. With lines of communication 80,000 miles in length this gives one cruiser for every 2,500 miles of communication."
We have had no evidence as yet that the Admiralty have ever departed from the standard laid down by Lord Jellicoe in 1927. Let me give the House some figures as regards our cruiser strength. In July, 1914, we had 97 built and 17 building, making a total of 114. We had 25 cruisers sunk during the War. At the Armistice we had 99 built and 21 building, giving a total of 120. In February, 1927, we had 48 built and 14 building, making a total of 71 with nine projected. That makes a total reduction of 49 since the War. Now we have got only 54 cruisers. No other country can show such a reduction in cruiser strength as we can.

Surely the hon. and gallant Member cannot count the nine projected cruisers as a reduction?

I will now take the number of cruisers in the case of the United States. In 1914 they had 25 built and none building, making a total of 25. In 1919 the figures were 15 built and 10 building, making a total of 25. In 1930 the figures were 19 built and 18 building and authorised, making a total of 37. This shows an increase from 1914 of 12. The United States are right in building any amount of cruisers they want, and it would be wrong for anyone to say that their building programme should be limited in any way. They should build what cruisers they need, and we should build whatever cruisers are necessary for us. Mr. Frank H. Simonds, writing in the "Sunday Times" on 24th July, 1927, said:

"It is by no means clear that the United States needs any such equality, particularly in the matter of cruisers. It is patent that naval strength is for us a much less vital affair than for either Japan or Britain. But we have raised the question, it has become one, not of national security, but of national prestige. Underlying all else in the whole discussion is the question of prestige. Our naval programme is based, not upon potential dangers, but upon national pride."
I contend that the nation's requirements of cruisers depends upon the commerce passing across the seas, and in that connection I would like to quote a distinguished American Admiral. This is what Admiral Rodgers says writing in Brassey's Naval Annual for 1929:
"The ocean commerce of the United States is so great that it requires a proportionate Navy to protect it, and this the country is well able to afford. It has not been made apparent that the nation would gain in other directions by agreeing to sacrifice her ability to give her foreign trade the full measure of security which its importance demands."
7.0 p.m.

That is quite true, but if it is true of the United States it is doubly true in the case of this country. The British tonnage for 1929 was 20,166,331, equal to a percentage of 29.6 of the total world's tonnage. The United States tonnage for 1929 was 11,835,176, equal to a percentage of 17.4 of the world's total tonnage. Therefore, taking this as the measure of our cruiser needs, surely those figures alone show that our needs in the direction of cruiser protection are double those of the United States. May I make one more quotation to the House? Lord Cecil, whose words always carry great weight, and rightly so, with hon. Members opposite, wrote on 8th April, 1919, to Colonel House:
"Not only have we Dominions scattered over the face of the world, each of which requires protection from the sea, but the teeming population of the islands of the United Kingdom can only be fed and clothed provided the avenues of sea traffic are safe. We import four-fifths of our cereals, two-thirds of our meat, the whole of our cotton and almost the whole of our wool. If we were blockaded for a month or less we should have to surrender at discretion. That is not true of any other country in the world to the same extent. Least of all is it true of the United States which could, as far as necessities of life are concerned, laugh at any blockade."
In view of these facts what has been the history of our cruiser programme? The Financial Secretary to the Admiralty on 18th March, 1924, was introducing the Estimates for the 1924–25 programme, and this is what he said:
"I want to emphasise that these cruisers are part of the replacement of the County-class cruisers, which have already been scrapped but were not replaced owing to the urgent need for economy. The consequence is that, for the last two or three years the number of cruisers available for the protection of our world-wide trade has been below requirements, which depend primarily on the length of our trade routes and the volume of our sea-borne trade, and only to a limited extent on the numbers possessed by other countries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1924; col. 284, Vol. 171.]
That has always been the view taken by right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House. Yet, when the hon. Gentleman was speaking those words, the total number of cruisers on the effective list was then 50, and four were completing afloat. So that, when he said that and laid that down as an axiom in this House, the number of cruisers was exactly the same as it is to-day. On the same topic the Prime Minister said on 21st February, 1924, in this House:
"There is no increase in our naval strength if we begin building these five cruisers this year, the cruisers are purely for the purpose of replacement …. are we going to be told …. that the method of bringing about disarmament and of carrying out the pledges given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself is to allow the Navy to disappear by wastage from the bottom?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1924; col. 2129, Vol. 169.]
There speaks the voice of the Prime Minister. What has been the history of our Cruiser Programme? In 1925 a Committee sat under Lord Birkenhead and laid down that there should be a minimum replacement programme of three cruisers a year since none had been laid down in the six years from 1918 to 1924. It authorised the completion of 16 cruisers in five years. Of these, only eight have been put in hand and one has to be laid down in 1930. Great Britain has laid down none since the signature of the Kellogg Pact. If we take the effective age of cruisers to be 20 years, then we have a large number of cruisers which will shortly come off the list as ineffective. Nobody knows it better than the First Lord. On that basis there will be one cruiser ineffective in 1931, two cruisers ineffective in 1934, six in 1935, and six in 1936. Therefore, if we accept the Government's programme of 50—which is hopelessly inadequate for the needs of the Empire—and it is reasonable to suppose that there is, at any rate, some consideration of the idea of scrapping the four ships of the Hawkins class—I will not say as a gesture to the United States, but, at any rate, as a gesture to the Conference—then we must before 1936 lay down 10 cruisers. It takes about three years to build a cruiser and, in order to provide these 10 cruisers, it means that you have got to lay down 10 cruisers before 1933, in other words, a steady replacement programme of three to four cruisers a year is required to keep up to the Government's own figure of 50.

The Government say that that is the number of cruisers necessary for the British Empire, and they admit that you have got to lay down three to four cruisers a year, yet what has been their contribution? Only to scrap four cruisers of the existing programme. If there is one thing which is absolutely vital it is a steady cruiser replacement programme, and the First Lord knows perfectly well that every year you put off the proper replacement of cruisers it is going to be more and more difficult to find the money to build the ships which will eventually have to be produced. He knows very well that many of the cruisers now on the Navy list were run to death during the War, and that you cannot expect them to have as long a life as a modern vessel operating under existing peace conditions. Yet with the knowledge that the cruiser force of this country is gradually wasting away, with ships already on the sale list and more to go on the sale list, this is the time the Government choose to cut the programme down purely as a gesture to the Naval Conference. Nobody wishes well to the Naval Conference more than I do. There is no Member who does not hope for a successful issue from the Conference, but I say that it was a wrong thing for the Government to enter into this Conference laying down a minimum programme already too low for the needs of the Empire, and which does not allow of any reduction during the discussions at the Conference.

There is one other aspect, that of the employment given, to which I am sure attention will be paid by dockyard Members. To build a cruiser takes, roughly, 206,252 man-weeks. In the construction of a cruiser at least 20 trades are employed. The employment is not so great in the early stages of the building, but it becomes greater as the construction goes on. Of the cost of building a cruiser, 85 per cent. is paid out in wages to British workmen and the House should know, in passing, that the Government have scrapped about £12,000,000 worth of ships, and that that has meant a loss in hard cash to the working men of this country of £10,250,000 spread over 3½ years. We require a steady building and replacement programme of cruisers. It gives continuity of design. It means that, instead of the necessity of a panic programme and rushing a large number of cruisers through, you can try out cruisers as they are built and improve the design of successive vessels. It gives you better ships and, what is equally important in these days of unemployment, it stabilises employment in the shipbuilding industry and in the allied industries such as iron, steel and coal, while it also keeps together your skilled men.

Therefore, I suggest that the Government should keep before them the necessity of a steady-going replacement programme to provide for national needs. In conclusion I want to say that whenever and wherever the naval needs of the British Empire are considered, one facts stands out above all others, and that is that the security and prosperity of the inhabitants of the British Empire and the trade by which we all live, demand a flexible cruiser programme of our own choosing, adapted to our special needs and in no way inferior to that of any other nation, either as regards the individual unit or the total numbers. I submit to the House that the reductions made by the present Government and their lack of provision for future requirements are utterly without justification, and are a betrayal of their trust as guardians of the safety of our people.

The right hon. Gentleman introduced the Navy Estimates this afternoon with an appeal that nothing should be said which could possibly compromise his negotiations in any way. That appeal has received the most adequate consideration from every quarter of the House except his own. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) indulged in a perfect tirade and, if his speech was an indication of the manner in which the naval destinies of the country would be handled if he were First Lord of the Admiralty, I must say I prefer the present regime. It is pleasant to note the passing of the hon. and gallant Gentleman leftwards. He began as a good Liberal, he then became a good Socialist, and now he has joined the group of insurrectionists who sit upon the back benches.

His declamation was excelled in quality and emphasis by a very remarkable utterance from the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. W. J. Brown). He challenged the First Lord of the Admiralty in very dramatic tones and, if there were any lessons to be learned from his speech, they were, first, that the real opposition to the present Government comes, not from those opposite to them, but from those behind them, and, secondly, that in the course of progress from the Back Benches towards the Front, Socialism is gradually shed or—to use the language applied to cruisers—scrapped. The hon. Member denies very strongly what he calls the doctrine of needs. He said it was an extraordinary thing that a country should base its defence forces on its needs and that, once you accepted a principle like that, there was no knowing at what destination you would arrive. I would ask the House to observe that, when it is a question of social matters, it is the doctrine of needs that the hon. Member advances. Does a person want an unemployment donation? Certainly, it must be determined on the doctrine of needs. Does a widow want a pension? Simply refer to the doctrine of needs. But, does this country want defending, the doctrine of needs is preposterous.

Hon. Members on the other side of the House have no limit to their needs. If this doctrine of needs is to be applied to questions of social reform, perhaps the hon. Gentleman opposite who is to follow me will tell me where the doctrine is at fault. It is useless to attack the Navy Estimates to-day on the doctrine of needs, because they make no provision for any further programme at all, and hon. Members opposite can be completely satisfied on that point. I sympathise with the First Lord of the Admiralty in the fact that the only Members in the House who have spoiled and poisoned the atmosphere in which he is negotiating should have been his own colleagues.

It -would be useless to deny that this country is over-burdened with expenditure, and that any economy which can be achieved must be achieved. The only trouble, where the Naval Service is concerned, is that we have a First Lord of the Admiralty coming down one year and saying that what he places before the House is the absolute minimum of our requirements, and we have another First Lord of the Admiralty coming down the year after and saying that an entirely new standard can be observed. That places the ordinary layman in very great difficulty. We should like to know whether these economies in which we are indulging are permanent economies, or whether they are merely, if I may use a favourite term, gestures.

There are only two ways in which permanent economies can be achieved. If one looks at the spectacle of the Naval Conference now sitting, it will be observed that all the delegates are playing with our money. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) to come down this afternoon and deliver us a homily on how to deal with foreign nations, but his debt settlements have enabled France to keep up her Navy, and the debt settlement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) is helping to pay for the American Navy to-day. It is no use balking these facts. The Prime Minister has qualities which entitle him to very great respect as a convener of conferences. He has a fine bearing; he has all the arts of hospitality; wherever he appears, great impressiveness surrounds him; but I do regret that he had not associated with him in this Conference the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If we had had a little of the Hague spirit introduced into this Conference, I think we should have reached a more rapid conclusion, and one very much more satisfactory to this country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would have been able to tell the Foreign Powers concerned, and particularly France, that, if they were able to hold up the Conference, it was only because they refrained from repaying the loan that we had made to them.

There is another way in which economies can be achieved on a permanent basis, and that is this: These Estimates are for Imperial defence, and not for National defence. Nobody can pretend that, if we were concerned simply and solely with the United Kingdom, we should have Navy Estimates of between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000. Our whole fleet would be constructed and planned upon an entirely different basis, and our expenditure would be very much less. These are Imperial Estimates. Hon. Gentlemen talk about Imperial unity. We all believe in Imperial unity, but Imperial unity involves, not only common advantages, but common obligations. We have associated with us in this Conference, I am glad to say, prominent statesmen from the Dominions. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he or the Prime Minister, with the kind of candour that we associate alone with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the kind of courage that we associate alone with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on that Bench, said to the Dominions, "You are associated in this Conference, and we are going to discuss an Imperial Navy. You are our brothers; you share our risks—in fact, you share them to a far greater extent than we do. Are you prepared to do away with the paradoxical disparity under which every citizen of the Empire who happens to live in this Island pays 25s. per annum towards the Navy, whereas anybody in South Africa pays about 4d. or 5d., and in Canada about 1s. 6d.?" That is a position that should not be tolerated. Our Imperial defence should be placed upon an Imperial basis. The country is groaning under taxation. We have all the difficulties that could possibly confront a nation at this hour, whereas our Dominions have none of those difficulties. They are expanding nations—

We have the interest on the war debts of generations. We have the whole of the past, we have the whole burden of English history to bear upon our shoulders, and all the previous wars, as well as a great deal more of the last War than we ought to be bearing. I am not there referring to the Dominions, but to our Continental allies, and I say that some day or other a statesman must arise who will have the courage to tell the Dominions that a common Empire means a common obligation.

I was very glad to hear the First Lord of the Admiralty say that, as soon as this Conference was over, he intended to devote his attention to making promotion from the lower deck into a reality. In the small Australian Navy it is a reality, and it must be made a reality in this country also. Nobody could do it better or more appropriately than a Socialist Government. I wish the right hon. Gentleman success in his Naval Conference, and I hope that he will achieve economies on the lines that I have forecast, for, unless he regards this Empire as an Empire with common obligations, the Empire can never endure.

I am very glad that I am able to agree with some of the arguments of the hon. Member for Devon-port (Mr. Hore-Belisha). I believe that if, as so many people say, we have an Empire, the Empire should bear its share of its obligations, but at the moment the Empire, instead of being an economic advantage to this country, instead of being an asset, is a liability, and we have the privilege of paying for its defence. I might carry the argument a little further, and say that not merely should Australians, Canadians and South Africans pay their portion, but that people in this country who have property to defend should pay for the defence of their own property, and not the British working man, who only owns his body and his soul, and he would not even own them if they were worth pinching. The people who own Britain should pay for the defence of Britain—in other words, there should be a square deal—

The hon. Member is getting a long way from the Amendment. What he has just been saying has nothing to do with the Amendment.

I quite agree. I was merely dealing, I thought quite legitimately, with the argument that the Empire should pay its proportion of the expenses of the Navy, and I carried it a little further, which I thought would be perfectly legitimate, because I thought that, if the hon. Member for Devonport was able to advance those arguments, I surely ought to be able to reply to them without getting out of order. I do not want to get out of order.

The hon. Member may reply, but it is for me to judge whether his reply is in order or not.

Then I will leave that subject severely alone and will come to the first of the hon. Member's remarks with which I do not agree. He was talking about the doctrine of needs, and be said that we needed widows' pensions and we needed unemployment pay. I would say this, that when we do need widows' pensions, when we do need money for social services, we do run up against the stingy mind that will object to the spending of money on these social services, but, as soon as you begin to talk about our naval or military needs, there is an open purse and we cannot spend too much. I would remind the hon. Member that since the Armistice, since the War to end all wars, since the War that was going to produce peace on earth and good will to all men, we have spent £1,600,000,000 on armaments, and we have not spent nearly so much as that upon the more necessary social services. The hon. Member says that we have to spend money on need and we have to spend an adequate amount on a common Navy. What is an adequate amount? He went on to talk about American naval needs and French naval needs. But if France is to have adequate armaments, if the United States are to have adequate armaments, if Japan is to have adequate armaments, and if we are to have adequate armaments we are going to have cruisers all over the ocean, the world will be enormously more armed, and everybody will be enormously more insecure than they are at the moment. The more we arm, the more other nations arm, the more suspicion there is in the world and the more hatred there is in the world; and, when there is more suspicion and more hatred all that is necessary is something like the assassination of a Crown Prince, and then there is another Armageddon.

It is not good enough, now that there is a naval conference sitting, and particularly when the situation is precarious and difficult, for the hon. Member to get up and throw sand into the bearings and a monkey wrench into the machinery. This is not the place or the time, and even if it were it is certainly not helping what is perhaps the most historic Conference in naval history, upon which the whole world is waiting for practical results, to talk about France not paying her debts and all that sort of thing. If I am to say what I want to say on these questions, I hope it will help and not hinder the very delicate negotiations that are going on at this moment. The hon. Member spoke about what our Navy can do in regard to security, and how our armaments make for peace. If our armaments make for peace, then French armaments make for peace, French submarines make for peace, Italian submarines make for peace, Japanese Rodneys make for peace. If armaments make for peace, we should be intensely delighted if the Americans want to build more cruisers, and we might even allow Germany to build some, and also Russia, which, by the way, is the only country that is not joining in this armaments scramble. If armaments make for peace, let us encourage the other fellow to build all the armaments that he possibly can.

There is no security for France, or for this country, or for Italy, or any other country in the world, as long as we depend upon armaments for defence, and, as far as we are concerned, we are in the most desperate condition of any country in the world. It is true that our trade routes must be kept open. We have to buy and sell goods if we are to live, and we are desperately dependent upon the different countries in the world and upon the trade routes being kept open; but I wish that some of the people who depend upon navies and upon more cruisers for defence would consult some of their own technicians. The truth is, whether we like it or not, that the Navy cannot keep our ports open, that the Navy cannot defend us. No matter how many Dreadnoughts we have, no matter how many Rodneys we build, they cannot keep our ports open against the long-range aeroplane and the depth charge. The modern weapons of attack would put the Navy into the condition of bows and arrows. We could not keep our ports open, and there are a good many people who know that, but not so many who want to talk about it.

How are we to defend ourselves? We cannot defend ourselves by armaments. If the United States wanted to attack us, they would not have to indulge in any actual belligerency, they would not have to let loose the dogs of war. All that they would have to do would be to declare a financial and economic blockade, and we should soon sue for terms of peace. We are desperately dependent financially upon America, as far as our gold standard is concerned. It is not a gold standard; it is a dollar standard. As to raw materials, Lancashire is more desperately dependent upon Louisiana and Texas than upon Yorkshire. If America wanted to use her economic weapons, she would have us at her mercy. We cannot think in terms of keeping our trade routes open, we cannot think in terms of buying and selling goods, if we are going to think in terms of the old-fashioned militaristic methods of defence.

There is a real defence—to persuade the other fellow that there is nothing to be gained by attack. If we could only persuade the other fellow that winners were losers, that the world, economically speaking, was one country and that we were merely one county in the world, that any war was a civil war and, no matter how victorious we might be, or the other fellow might be, all we should have at the end of it would be a graveyard, a war debt and unpaid butchers' bills, if the peoples of the world understood that we were inter-dependent, that all the interests of the nations were harmonious and were not antagonistic, if they only understood what the real interests of nations are, no nation would make an attack and, if no nation made an attack, surely that would be our best defence.

I do not know whether I am making myself clear, but I am suggesting that never were we in such a dangerous position as we are at this moment. Never were lethal weapons so terrible and so shocking. When we think of the possibilities of a future war, the imagination of anyone owning an imagination sickens. We cannot defend ourselves. We cannot keep our trade routes open. We can go on spending our millions, but in the end we are all less secure. Our real defence is to understand the true relations that exist between nation and nation. I agree with General Smuts that this is a very dangerous world. I do not believe that the last War has ended the possibility of war, but I know that my best pals are dead, and that they gave their lives in exchange for hope. Those Tipperary singing lads died in the hope that that would be the last war. Now we are told we live in a dangerous world. What are we going to do about it? The very fact that there is danger means that men and women of goodwill should think in terms of alternatives and of scattering the real truths of international relations, and of perfecting international machinery so that never again shall we have another war. If we had right thinking, there would be no war. What shall we use our Navy for?

I want hon. Members who will follow me to tell me who is the possible enemy. I know alliances are slippery things. They do not last long. We can love France yesterday and be suspicious of her to-day. We have loved and hated every country under heaven. We have fought with the Russians and against them, with the French and against them. We have boxed the compass in our likes and our dislikes. I want to know now who is the enemy. I know the "Daily Mail" will provide us with one. Hon. Members opposite would love a Sermon on the Mount, Christian war with Russia. If there was a change of Government there we should soon have another enemy. I want to know now who is the enemy against whom we are to build a navy. Then I want to know why that enemy will attack us, what will be the purpose of the attack and what are they going to gain out of it.

A lot of flap doodle is talked about the Empire. There is a story told about the Empire by the hon. Member for North Bradford (Mr. Angell), my intellectual godfather, the author of "The Great Illusion," the greatest book on international relationships ever written, a man who has never had to apologise for a single line he has written, a man who has been pathetically right. If the world had been advised by him, it would have been a much happier world than it is. This is the story. There was a Cockney who was listening to a patriotic speech at the time of the Coronation Procession. He walked away and soliloquized thus. "I am a great man. I am a member of the greatest Empire the world has ever seen. I am an Englishman, and England owns Canada, Australia, Uganda, Nigeria, Hong Kong, Timbuctoo, and many other places, and, therefore, I own part of Canada, part of Australia, part of Hong Kong, and part of the biggest Empire the world has ever seen; but, in spite of the fact that I own so much, I have nowhere to sleep to-night and I am very hungry. I wonder if any pawnbroker will advance me anything on my property." The story is that we are supposed to own the Empire. The fact is that the Empire is owned by the people who live there and by the international pawnbrokers. If we are going to think in terms of Empire, let us hope the people of Canada and Australia, and the people who want navies, here and elsewhere, will pay for their patriotic prejudices. I hope men will bend their minds to the problem and realise that the only solution is that the nations of this earth will realise their mutual interest, will perfect their international machinery, get rid of their armies and navies, and co-operate in order to produce more happiness for their common peoples.

The hon. Member who has just spoken asked us repeatedly the rhetorical question, "Who is the enemy?" to which I feel inclined to give the answer that the enemy, not of his country but of common sense, is the man who is too certain that the future is going to be in accord with his own desires. We cannot, he said, defend ourselves. Let us, on behalf of a very large number of his fellow-countrymen, assure him that, should occasion arise, at least an effort will be made. In view of the achievements of this country, it would probably be unwise to be too sure that that effort would not succeed. I rise to support the Amendment which has been moved with such a wide sweep of argument by my hon. Friend behind me, and seconded with so much technical knowledge by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Commander Southby).

I think a word should be said in comment upon an observation made by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), who attributed to the financial settlement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) the circumstance that our French and American friends are able to build ships. Surely, the true view of this incident is just the reverse of that which the hon. Member presented with so much ingenuity. Does anyone imagine that France and America would not be build- ing ships now if it had not been for this financial settlement? It is possible for a man of sense to have very grave doubt whether this country would have had sufficient credit to maintain the enormous expenditure it has made for the sake of Empire if it had not fortified itself so strikingly as it did by the financial settlement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley.

The French settlement had not so strong an effect, I agree, but it had a most appreciable effect in the support of her credit and the restoration of those normal conditions that are so essential to our trade.

This Amendment is most moderate and reasonable in its terms, so much so that it is almost impossible to doubt that the Government will accept it. But let me take this opportunity, late though it may be, to make one more appeal to the Government that whoever replies to the Debate shall not miss the opportunity by leaving the House and the country in doubt about the particular basis of the naval policy of the Government as it stands at present. We have been holding the Debate under circumstances of the most exceptional difficulty. First of all, there is the difficulty that is embodied in the so-called Navy Estimates for the year, because the truth is, of course, that this document, which is supposed to provide us with the Government's naval policy for the year, does not really contain Estimates at all. It is a document that is enough to give a sense almost of nausea to anyone who is devoted to regularity of financial control, because it lacks all precision on the widest bases of information. There are three submarines on the 1929 programme. I do not know whether they are to be built or not. We are left in doubt as to the whole future of the shipbuilding programme of the Government.

There is another matter which makes these Estimates deficient in the information to which we are entitled. It is not peculiar to them. They possess it in common with all big Estimates nowadays. It is this device that is called the overhead reduction, or super-cut. The House understands what that is. It is a sort of departmental joke. When a Department has estimated to the best of its ability the money it is going to spend in the course of the year, it encounters the hypnotic eye of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, by the power of that eye, it is forced to say: "After all, our most careful Estimates were only a joke, and we hope we shall be able to spend less than we originally calcuated." It really comes to be more and more, as the years go by, a means of lightly deceiving the House of Commons and the country as to what the real expenditure of the year is, because as we know, in very many cases, and as we saw recently in the Air Estimates, the Department has to come back to restore the money taken out on the super-cut. The Estimates leave us in complete doubt as to the real policy of the Government.

There is an even more substantial aspect of the deficiency of information from which we suffer as to the fundamental policy of the Government. The First Lord will agree that the House, if it accepts the Amendment, will have observed the request for the most discreet handling of the Naval Conference. Let me only speak of it in the terms almost of bedside whisper which would be appropriate for a patient in a state of delicate health. Nevertheless, there is one thing that must be said about it, and it can be said with propriety, because it concerns, not the negotiations of the Government, with its fellow negotiators of the Conference, but the relations of the Government with the people of the country. There is a very serious subject of criticism to be made by the House on this occasion—the only occasion it will have to do so—of leaving the country and this House in the dark as to what are the bases of this naval policy on which they have gone into the Conference. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty has given us some vague and amiable generalities to-day. He has referred us to the White Paper which in itself contains nothing but vague generalities. Sharp things may he said when the right time comes as to the contrast between the frame of mind in which our Government and other Governments have approached the Conference, as to the definition of their point of view and as to the uncertainty of their terms. Let them not be said to-day, but let us simply dwell upon the deficiency of information to the people of the country.

The truth is that never so much as at the present time has the country been so much in need of a re-definition of naval policy. Before the War things were fairly certain in that respect. We had the simplicity of the two-Power standard. We had the perfectly well-understood series of doctrines about our naval rights based upon embargo, blockade, distinction between public and private property, and, in particular, upon the right of search. Now with the passage of time and with the development of the world, all these matters are completely in doubt. The blockade has gone. The blockade is an absolutely obsolete idea. Owing to the fact that now every State can be mobilised as to every individual for war, all the other circumstances upon which our rights and policy were based before the War are absolutely Obsolete, or, in any case, obsolescent. The distinction between public and private property is now meaningless in working out the mechanism of naval warfare. The definition as to neutrality itself may have ceased to mean anything now that, according, at any rate, to the doctrine of one school of thought, there can be no neutrality in a country because there can no longer be any private war; there can only be war between the League of Nations and the object of the League's attack. That, of course, is not accepted by many, but, nevertheless, that is the problem.

I quote this to show the great doubt there is about these fundamental rights in naval warfare at the present time. They centre round the most important practical question affecting the rights of neutrals, namely, the right of search. In pre-War days the whole of our naval policy was based upon the right of search, but nowadays that right is challenged. Does it exist? Is it claimed by this country? We do not know. We do not know what is the Government's attitude towards it, and the point we have to bring out when discussing naval affairs is that it is impossible to base any reasonable and considered policy as to what are to be the naval forces of the country until you have a clear conception as to the anxiety of the country as regards these rights. It comes to a head in one particular question. The question might be expressed in many different ways, but perhaps best in this way: Is it any longer an essential necessity for the safety of this country that it should be able, in the event of being at war, to isolate the enemy from all intercourse with neutral countries? That is the whole basis of our sea power. Has it gone, or has it not? Or, on the other hand, are we to rely, and to what extent are we to rely as a substitute in achieving our safety, upon international obligations such as those contained in the Covenant of the League, the Kellogg Pact and any other international agreement? We do not know. We do not know what is the Government doctrine. The Government may say, "These things can only be decided in the course of time." You must have a working hypothesis or you cannot strike any intelligent or reasonable standard for the designing of the naval forces of the country, and so it must be.

We have been asked to wish success to the Conference. Certainly we wish success to the Conference. We wish it true success, and by true success we mean a success which consists of a reduction of armaments at the same time as a general increase of security. It is easy indeed to obtain success which will have some other conclusion. It is very easy indeed to obtain an apparent success by the wholesale reduction of our own forces as a sort of bribe to other nations to come in. That would be peace without security. It would be very easy to get apparent success by the converse method of allowing everybody to build what they want. That would be security without disarmament. But neither of these apparent successes would be true success, and the only true success we wish for the Conference is a success which leads to an actual increase of disarmament and security. When we speak of success to the Conference, we must go back to this consideration and remind the Government of the words of an Addisonian tag:
"Tis not in mortals to command success,
But we'll do more, Sempronius,—
We'll deserve it."
We are in doubt as to whether the Government have deserved success in the Conference. We are in doubt whether they have thought out the fundamental problems of naval safety. At any rate, they have not taken the country into their confidence. If that is so—and, indeed, it is so—are not the Government laying up for themselves the most dangerous of all situations where they will have to announce to the country the decision of the Conference which will vitally affect the country in regard to the future safety and prosperity and welfare of the nation, without having prepared the mind of the country, without having educated it to understand what the implication of their decision will mean? There is at the present time a profound sense of unrest and anxiety all over the country. Very largely it is due to other conditions—to economic conditions, trade conditions and so on. But who shall say that it is not the truth that that unrest and anxiety are to some extent—to what extent we would hardly like to measure—due to the fact that now, for the first time for many years, the country feels this restlessness in the matter of naval policy? It is the Government's fault if they fail to give the consideration which is necessary. At the last moment, if it be possible, on this the first opportunity which has occurred for some time, for them to relieve these anxieties, would it not be worth while to take the opportunity? If they do not take it now, they must inevitably face in time the indignation of the people who cling to this instinctive wisdom that safety is upon the sea.

Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I were now to reply to some of the points which have been raised, in order that we may afterwards proceed to the Committee stage and consider matters in detail. I think that the whole House must congratulate my right hon. Friend the First Lord upon the reception which has been accorded to his Estimates. At the some time, I want to express on his behalf his appreciation of the way which the House generally has responded to his appeal not to embarrass the Government with regard to the discussions which are going on in connection with the Naval Conference. It is only tempered with very deep regret that anything to mar that has been the mischievous speeches which have been delivered from these benches. That is a matter one cannot help but deplore, and trust that it will not have a very harmful effect.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), I must admit, honourably observed the request made by my right hon. Friend. One might have expected some criticism from the right hon. Gentleman in that respect, but it certainly did not occur. He certainly gave us no cause to complain. He opened by saying that there was a note of apology running all through my right hon. Friend's speech. I am bound to say that I failed to observe it. All along one had the impression that the First Lord was claiming, with some pride, the achievement which he had been able to announce, that the Navy was not suffering in any way from loss of efficiency owing to these reductions. One might gather from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and other speakers who followed him that somehow or other the Government had been guilty of cutting down the cruiser strength from 70 to 50. As a matter of fact, there has been no such thing. The figure of 70 has all along been the anticipated strength at which it was thought we might aim. The Tory Government never had more than 54 ships, and so there is no question whatever of any cutting down except as regards prospective requirements or programmes.

When the right hon. Gentleman complained that the personnel of the Navy was reduced to below 100,000 men, he might have paused to reflect that it was reduced to 98,000 by his own Government, who held out the possibility that there might be even greater reductions later on. Therefore, the facts hardly square with the arguments he put forth. There is a suggestion that the reduction in personnel in some way or another means a weakening of the strength of the fleet. May I say right away that there is no cause for alarm in that direction? The strength of the fleet is being maintained in personnel, and, in fact, we have, in a measure, a larger number of ships to be manned than was the case in the previous Government with a larger personnel. It has simply been a reduction on the lines of true economy, and we have sufficient men to carry on the work of the Navy.

8.0 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) raised again the old and difficult question of the size of the Admiralty staff. No one feels more keenly, or has expressed stronger opinions on that question than I have, and no one could have given greater attention to it than have the First Lord and myself. I want to remind the House, and to repeat what has been said before, that on the whole mere numbers do not express the exact position. You cannot measure the size of your administrative staff solely by the numbers of the personnel of the fleet. It is well known that in 1914 the staff at the Admiralty was considerably under strength, with the result that much extemporising had to take place, entailing probably a good deal of unnecessary expenditure, and it was felt that we ought not to be allowed to lapse into that condition. Fresh legislation and a variety of other things all tend to make a large staff necessary. The higher rates of pay given in the Navy, the improved salaries, and cost-of-living bonus, increase the cost of the staff. The elaboration of the activities and the machinery of Government caused by legislation which has been passed in this House—such as the Representation of the People Act, the Pensions (Increase) Act—the granting of marriage allowances to petty officers and men, and the periodical revision of naval officers' pay—entail additional work. All this work which has been thrown upon the Admiralty since the pre-War years has called for a considerable increase in staff. Owing to the great financial stringency there is a closer scrutiny of every proposal and—this is a matter with which I am sure the House will readily agree—a growing consideration for and more sympathetic treatment of the men on the lower deck. That in itself has caused a considerable amount of extra work which has necessitated an increase in the personnel at the Admiralty. I need not elaborate the point, but I would remind the House that this matter will be watched with the greatest care and will not be allowed to lapse. There will be no unnecessary accretions of staff allowed to remain. We must, however, remember that although the Navy has been decreased, it is essential that it should be as efficient as possible in every respect. I may also refer to two other points to indicate the amount of extra work that has been thrown upon the administrative staff. Before the War we bought our cordite by contract from manufacturers; now the Admiralty manufactures it. That has necessitated a certain amount of extra staff.

The hon. Member is answering the Amendment, but he is going into details regarding the Admiralty Vote.

I apologise. I thought for the moment that I was answering on the Vote. I bow to your Ruling. If we had to deal only with the speech of the Proposer of the Amendment, there would be no difficulty, but it is impossible to accept the Amendment because there is in it an implied censure of the Government. It will be necessary to vote upon it in order to get Mr. Speaker out of the Chair, so that we may proceed to detailed consideration of the Estimate. I would, however, ask my hon. Friends who have supported the Amendment to be good enough to withdraw it, after I have met their point, as I hope to do. They must realise that all the points to which they refer in their Amendment are now under consideration in the discussions that are going on at the Naval Conference. When the hon. Member was moving the Resolution he made a speech wholly in support of his belief in the reduction of armaments and the movements towards peace, but as he proceeded I could not help recalling the lines of Hosea Biglow:

"I do believe in freedom's cause As far away as Paris is."
The hon. and gallant Member who seconded the Resolution asked on what ground we had decided to fix 50 as the number of cruisers. That question was answered by my right hon. Friend on the 12th February last, in reply to the right hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton), who asked upon what basis the reduced number of 50 cruisers as needful for the British Empire is calculated. My right hon. Friend replied:
"The number 50 has been arrived at after full investigation and is that which will, it is considered, meet all requirements for the period of an agreement which it is hoped will be reached as a result of the London Naval Conference. The number is subject to the satisfactory outcome of that Conference.
Colonel GRETTON: Cannot the right hon. Gentleman give the basis on which the calculation was made?
Mr. ALEXANDER: That has already been stated. The Admiralty in the past advanced the view that a different number of cruisers was required, namely, 70. It has been quite plainly stated that, in view of the developments that have since taken place—the signing of the Pact of Paris and the holding of the Naval Conference—50 cruisers would be sufficient for the period covered by any agreement reached by the Conference."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1930; col. 395, Vol. 235.]
The answer is, that the number was fixed as quite sufficient while the Conference is going on, and if what is hoped for from the Conference materialises it will be sufficient to meet our present needs. The gibe of the hon. and gallant Member that the reduction was in order to meet Socialistic extravagance, can hardly be justified. I imagine that he would not begrudge the money that has been voted to meet the needs of some of the most necessitous people. It appears to me that what we have been suffering from has been the extravagance of our predecessors, and that we find ourselves with a depleted bank balance. It is on these grounds that we have found it a hard job to cut down our Estimates. It is true that I made a speech on the Navy Estimates in 1924, but if the hon. and gallant Member had read that speech he would have seen that I stated the position, namely, that the cruisers were built in order to replace those that had been scrapped. We submit that the present number of 54 is sufficient for the time being, and that we might be content to let the matter rest there until we see what comes out of the discussions that my right hon. Friend is carrying on at the Navy Conference, in conjunction with the Prime Minister.

As you have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that I cannot reply on the other points raised in the Estimate to-day, there is not much left to be dealt with. I would, however, point out that the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young) does not seem to have profited very much by the lessons of the past. He seems to be living in the days of pre-War. It is true that there is a certain amount of unsettlement as to our Naval requirements and our ordinary standards, but that is happening all over the world, and it is a good thing that it is happening. It is a sign that the nations are recasting and reconsidering their position in order to see whether or not they can cut down extravagant expenditure and whether or not they cannot find a better way of settling disputes than by the arbitrament of war. We are gradually reducing our expenditure on armaments and by that means we hope to give a lead to the world. The questions to which the right hon. Gentleman referred are being thrashed out at Geneva and are being discussed in various ways between the nations. It is impossible at the moment to say where these discussions will ultimately lead, but we have given a definite lead in the way of the reduction of armaments and when some people deplore that we have not gone far enough they might reflect that we have evidently gone a good deal further than we can persuade other nations to go at the present time. That in itself should be a sufficient earnest of the Government's intention to give a lead to the world.

It is true that certain risks may be run, but the Government are prepared to take risks in order to promote peace, so far as their own life is concerned, and to leave the matter to the judgment of the country. The right hon. Member for Sevenoaks said that a good deal of the unrest and anxiety that is now felt in the country is due, perhaps, because there is a feeling that there is no settlement as to our naval policy. I can find no trace of that feeling, and I move about the country and mix with all sorts and conditions of people a great deal. There is one thing that I do find strongly expressed, and that is that whether people agree with the Government on their general policy or not, the whole nation is behind them in their endeavour to arrive at a peace settlement, and particularly in regard to the Five-Power Naval Conference. One can hardly go into any assembly without finding people wishing good luck to the Government in this respect, and a general desire that the Conference may enable us to settle our differences, so that we may proceed to settle other difficulties, both social and economic.

The Amendment, as moved, in a certain way is meaningless unless it is meant to imply censure upon the Government in taking part in the Naval Conference. I do not believe that the supporters of the Resolution intend that. The Government are quite aware of the points which have been raised in the Resolution and I can assure hon. Members that those points are borne in mind while the matter is under discussion. We have had to put down a certain figure in regard to our naval requirements. It is for that reason that we are discussing with other nations whether or not we cannot find ways and means so that the argosies necessary for the safety of the country can come into their desired haven. I would ask hon. Members to withdraw the Motion. It will be helpful, having regard to the position of the Naval Conference, if it could go forward that all parties are agreed in wishing God speed to the Government in their endeavour to arrive at a satisfactory settlement.

The hon. Member said that the Government were in entire agreement with the Amendment.

The hon. Member said that the sentiments expressed were such that the Government could agree with them. If so, and if they agree with us that a steady building and replacement programme is of vital importance, their method of agreeing with such sentiments is very strange, because they have dropped any building programme.

The hon. and gallant Member does not want to misrepresent our position. I stated earlier that I intend later to introduce a Supplementary Estimate, which will give the programme to be laid down.

That may be so, but the Supplementary Estimate is not the bird in hand, and it will be time to discuss that when it comes. I wonder if it ever will come. It is all very well for the First Lord of the Admiralty to smile, but there have been speeches from his supporters behind him, and we are never certain how far the back benchers of the Socialist party carry the Front bench. The right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young) asked the Government representative to give some general outline of the grounds on which the Government base their naval policy. With that question the hon. Member did not deal. That is surely the fundamental issue which this country has to face. If there is one thing clearer than anything else it is that the Government in these negotiations have not been perfectly frank with the country. The country does not know absolutely and definitely, with the same clarity as the nationals of other Powers at the Conference, exactly the policy of the Government. What is the fundamental law which governs all these problems? In a quotation from Hobbes, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition some time ago said:

"The first and fundamental law of nature is to seek peace and follow it."
We all agree with that:
"The second the summe of right of nature, which is by all means we can to defend ourselves."
If that was true centuries ago it is equally true to-day, and we have to find the greatest common measure between the two needs; the need of peace and the need of self-defence. That is why we are discussing the Amendment to-day, which stresses the fact of the dependence of our Empire on its sea routes. It is the policy of the Government to deal with the United States on a question of parity. Let us deal with them on a question of parity in regard to policy. Let us see what their policy is, and adapt ourselves to it.
"The fundamental policy of the United States is that the Navy should be maintained in sufficient strength to support United States policies and commerce and guard its Continental and overseas possessions."
This is the doctrine laid down in the General Board's statement of policy, and it would be well to keep before our minds the fact that the same policy should govern this country. This is an old country which had a Navy centuries before the United States ever swam into our ken. Consider what the silent Mr. Coolidge said. Every now and then he used to make pronouncements of the greatest possible importance and dealing with this very subject—after the signature of the Kellogg Pact, the basis upon which the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister have made their suggestions, that is, the existence of the Covenant and the signature of the Kellogg Pact—he said on Armistice Day, 1928:
"All human experience seems to demonstrate that a country which makes reasonable preparation for defence is less likely to he subject to hostile attack and less likely to suffer a violation of its rights which might lead to war."
That is a point of view which is often forgotten. It is the violation of rights which possibly may lead to war. Therefore, anything we can do to prevent that taking place is not only in harmony with our own Imperial needs but in perfect accord with anything the spokesmen of the United States may say. The basis of all disarmament questions is the Covenant of the League of Nations. Some people talk a great deal about that document and are apt to forget its exact terms. If we read the Article 8 dealing with the subject of Disarmament we find that a reduction in forces is:
"to be to the lowest point consistent with national safety, taking into account the geographical situation and the circumstances of each State."
That is the point—the geographical situation. We cannot get away from it. In a widespread Empire like ours it is the geographical situation which has to be watched the whole time. That is the point of view that the French Government has recognised at the Naval Conference. In their own statement of policy they set out in so many words that.
"The existence of such an Empire, the necessity of providing for the separate defence of each of the big communities it comprises, the many political and economic ties which bind these big communities to each other and to the Mother Country, the need to protect the integrity and economic life of the latter, the task of providing for the security of more than 30,000 kilometres of seaboard all told—
in our case it is 80,000 miles of sea route—
"impose upon the French Navy duties which the French Government cannot ignore when it is called upon to apply Article 8 of the Covenant."
And that Article says that you must take into account the geographical situation and the circumstances of each State
"The French Naval Budget is lower today than it was in 1914, and the same desire of strict moderation will continue to inspire France in the appreciation of her needs, and in computing the forces necessary to meet them."
Every single word of that statement applies to us. You have only to substitute the words "British Empire" for "French Empire," and 80,000 miles of sea route for the 30,000 kilometres of seaboard. If other nations have appreciated their responsibilities in these matters we ought to have had a clearer statement from the Government in regard to their attitude. These facts have not been presented by our own Government, and that is why I support the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks when he complains that the Government have not laid down a policy in sufficiently distinct terms. We do not get the information from the Government; we get it from documents that are circulated by other powers. The French Naval Committee, apparently, went to the trouble of calculating and tabulating the relative defensive needs of the Five Powers, out on the basis of area of territory, length of coasts and communications, external trade and sea borne traffic; five points which, obviously, must be taken into account when you are discussing the question of policing the seas. The figures are instructive when dealing with the question of parity, which is the policy of the Government. If you take the figure 1, as being the figure for Italy, then other countries work out, Japan, 1.6; France, 3; United States, 4.2 and the British Empire, 10. That is the measure of our responsibility with regard to trade routes, the point to which the Amendment calls attention. We cannot be accused of having weighted the argument in any direction because these figures have been produced by the French Naval Committee, and they show that we are 10 while the next nation in point of responsibility is 4.2. Is it to be wondered at that the party to which I belong should introduce an Amendment calling attention to these facts?

There is a great difference between ourselves and other nations, and the Prime Minister recognises it. He has said that "the Navy is us." He may not always have taken that view, but sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Apparently, that is the view he takes to-day. There was a time when he said that the reason we went to war was that the Admiralty was anxious to seize any opportunity for using the Navy in battle practice. His sentiments in 1914 are different to his sentiments to-day. He recognises, and the Government recognise, the vital importance of these cruisers for the defence of our trade routes. Every farmer in Canada, every tea planter in Assam, every cocoa grower in the Pacific Islands, different peoples, different occupations, creeds and races, depend for their livelihood on selling the produce they bring to the world, and that depends upon the safety of the sea routes which are guarded and kept not only for ourselves but for the rest of the world by the British Fleet. Therefore it is important. The Government have had experience of this problem. They know that last autumn they had to send ships, troops and aeroplanes to Palestine. For what purpose? Not to defend purely British interests, but to keep the peace between Jew and Arab in a country where we were really the mandatories of the League. It does not lie with the present Government to shut their eyes to the facts. Yet they go out of their way to make a gesture, to suggest the reduction of our construction programme by 66,000 tons. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in spite of all the speeches that he made in the last Parliament against the Conservative party for its slowness, had himself to admit, when speaking to his constituents the other day, that
"Any impartially-minded person will agree that Great Britain has already made great sacrifices in the cause of disarmament."
Surely, there is to be some limit to our gestures and to our disarmament proposals without response from elsewhere? That is the point about which the country is nervous. The country is prepared to see great measures of disarmament, but is not prepared to give a free hand to the Government without seeing some change of sentiment, some kind of response on the part of the countries with which we are dealing. If this Debate has tended to open the eyes of some of the plenipotentiaries who are now sitting in London dealing with this matter, it hasdone good. It is as well that some indication should be given in this House that there are those who realise that this country and the Empire form one of the great pillars of peace in the world, and that if the Government scrap every kind of shipbuilding programme they will not in the end advance the cause which they profess to uphold. The First Lord, in his own Memorandum, stands convicted, or rather convinced, by what he himself states:

"FLEET ACTIVITIES ABROAD.

Mediterranean.—In August the situation in Palestine necessitated the despatch from Malta at short notice of units of the Mediterranean Fleet.
Red Sea and Persian Gulf.—Patrols of sloops in these waters have been carried out, as in past years, for the prevention of slave traffic."

These are not purely British interests.

"China.—Piracy is still prevalent, both on the high seas and on inland waters, and much of the responsibility for dealing with this menace to peaceful commerce has continued to fall upon the Navy."

In this very document there is some measure of our responsibilities. When we find these gestures given without explanation, when we find the Government going to the Conference without taking the country into their confidence, and exhibiting the utmost vices of the secret diplomacy which they had previously so strongly condemned, is it surprising that in this very mildly critical spirit we called attention to these fundamental facts? The point is, did the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty mean by his statement that all these considerations would be taken into account?. I hope that before we finish with the Navy Estimates, we shall receive from the First Lord something more reassuring than what we have heard to-day with regard to the permanent policy of the country and a real replacement programme—not aggrandisement but replacements—about which the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) spoke with so much technical knowledge. We hope that he will give us some satisfaction on these points. At present it appears possible that the present Government will do nothing, but will leave their successors to come to the House with the enormous Estimates that will be necessary in order to make up for the falling away from grace of which the present Government are guilty now. Let us try to look at naval policy as something which has to be continuous from year to year. The programme of 1925 has been whittled away.

All round, by what the right hon. Gentleman has done himself, and now his gesture regarding the 66,000 tons. Let us have some continuity in this great Imperial question of the Navy, just as we have had in the past in great matters of foreign policy. Then the right hon. Gentleman will have nothing but thanks to offer to us for having reminded him of the duties which his high office entail.

In view of the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Supply accordingly considered in Committee.

[Mr. DUNNICO in the Chair.]

Navy Estimates, 1930

Personnel

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That 97,050 Officers, Seamen, Boy6 and Royal Marines be employed for -he Sea Service, together with 500 for the Royal Marine Police, borne on the books of His Majesty's Ships, at the Royal Marine Divisions, and at Royal Air Force Establishments, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."

In the course of the Debate some hon. Members opposite have shown a most undue super-sensitiveness to what has been said on this side of the Committee. For instance, it has become the custom for hon. Members to object to any sort of comparison with the United States.

The hon. and gallant Member is not entitled to discuss in Committee what took place in Debate in the House.

I shall confine myself to a general statement. I think it is inadvisable to show super-sensitiveness in regard to comparisons with the United States. Nobody on this side of the Committee thinks for one moment that we are going to war with the United States. The United States has claimed parity with this country, and also a proportion of 10 to 7 in regard to Japan. The United States has a great fleet in the Pacific. It is a point for us to make that if the United States is making such-and-such preparations, we are very likely to be right if, with far greater interests on the sea, we imitate the United States. The super-sensitiveness of hon. Members has been shown on such questions as the holding of manœuvres, or grand manœuvres as they have been called. The Board of Admiralty are carrying out ordinary tactical exercises, not grand manœuvres. We are the only one of three great naval Powers that has never carried out grand manœuvres since the War was ended. We have carried out the ordinary tactical exercises without mobilising special ships. Such sensitiveness exposes us to the charge of hypocrisy. If we were to abandon the ordinary tactical exercises, the natural result would be that the nations would accuse us of hypocrisy. The other side show no such super-sensitiveness about laying down the law in regard to matters on which they differ from the war staff—the experts who are advising the Admiralty. I saw a petition the other day signed by 206 Members of Parliament in favour of the abolition of the battleship. Not merely that, but the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty advocated the abolition of the battleship, although I know that the war staffs of all the great naval Powers consider that it would be madness to abolish the battleship.

There may be one or two, but they have been largely misquoted. Some admirals have pointed out that if you abolish the battleship, then the cruiser becomes a battleship, but they do not advocate scrapping the existing battleships. You may be able, here and there, to find an admiral who would not be accepted as a great expert, who has perhaps never held any responsible position on the war staff, advocating such a view as the total abolition of battleships. I saw the names of some admirals given the other day, but I would not accept the opinion of one of them as against that of the War Staff. It is very different when Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond is quoted, but all he said was that he would reduce the size considerably and he did not, as far as I remember, advocate the scrapping of the existing battle fleet. We have that fleet now. Some hon. Members seem to think that our cruisers can function without the backing of a battle fleet, but cruisers without a battle fleet behind them would be in exactly the same position as the German cruisers which we eventually hunted down during the War. The battle fleet is the secure foundation on which all sea power rests. You could not defend your commerce in the Pacific unless you had a battle fleet in the Pacific to face, say, the Japanese fleet, supposing that there was a war with Japan. Without a battle fleet your commerce would come to an end. Here you have in existence a fleet of battleships ready to secure peace.

Consider another point. If the battle fleet were abolished the cruisers would become a battle fleet and it would be necessary to have a fleet of cruisers on which your other cruisers could base their operations. You would get a repetition at sea of the tactics of the Boer commandoes which gave us so much trouble in the South African War—at one moment they dispersed, at another they concentrated. You would have to build a big fleet of cruisers to function in place of the battle fleet and you would require another fleet of light cruisers to protect your commerce, and so, instead of escaping from a building programme, you would add to the building necessities of the country. That would be the only result of the abolition of the battleship. By all means, scale down the size of the future battleships, and reduce the number, as long as you have a fleet, but the abolition of the fleet of battleships altogether would not be economical and would endanger our whole position, unless we built a large number of extra cruisers.

I recognise the inadvisability of any comments which might embarrass the Prime Minister or the First Lord in the negotiations which they are conducting. I think that on the vexed questions still under discussion of cruisers and destroyers it is better to defer any remarks that we may have to make, until we come to the shipbuilding Vote. There is, however, one item which has been more or less passed over in the Conference, and that is the question of the submarines, on which one is perhaps entitled to make a few remarks. There is a great deal of misconception because the possibilities of the submarine in a future war are judged by what took place in the last War. It is true that we lost 20 merchant ships for every submarine that we sank belonging to Germany, and that we went through a very trying time in the spring of 1917. It is true that there was one period when we had only three weeks grain supply in the country, and when we lost 237,000 tons of merchant shipping in one week.

I understand that it has been the custom in previous years to allow a certain latitude in the Debate on Vote A, and I am prepared to follow that custom as long as the matters brought under discussion are linked up with the question of personnel, but obviously I cannot allow a discussion going into all kinds of details such as the question of ship construction, details of submarines. Therefore, I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will keep as closely as possible to the question of personnel and its relation to the other matters he desires to raise.

I do not question your Ruling, of course, Mr. Dunnico, but, speaking from a long experience, may I say that we have always been allowed to carry on a Debate on general policy on Vote A.

I have ruled that there can be a very wide discussion on Vote A, but that it must be linked up with the question of personnel, which is the Vote before us.

I do not know quite how far I can go under that Ruling. I have taken part in many of these Debates, and I have always found that full discussion was allowed on naval policy.

I do not wish in any way to limit the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech. I am only anxious that he should not wander too far from the subject matter of Vote A.

I do not suppose that I shall wander too far. I was going to deal with the question of the Root Resolutions also, because those Resolutions, by limiting submarine warfare, would necessarily save us the provision of a large number of ships. There are two considerations in regard to the submarines and their possibilities in any future War. First as regards merchant shipping. We were not prepared for the submarine warfare on merchant shipping in the late War, and nothing like the success achieved by the German submarines would be achieved by submarines in any future war. In the second place, as regards warships, it is true that we lost 191,000 tons by submarine attack, but I venture to say that only a small percentage of such loss from submarines would be incurred under modern conditions with the proper provision of destroyers and so forth.

That leads me to my point that if you can abolish the submarine, and convince other nations that the submarine is not of the utility to them which they think—just as I imagine we have convinced Italy of that fact—if you can do this, you will necessarily bring about a great economy in naval force. You will economise in cruisers, very largely in destroyers, and in minelayers, because minefields are to a large extent laid in order to protect submarine exits. If we had destroyed the German High Seas Fleet in the late War, we would have been able to bring the submarine menace to an end within a week, because we would have destroyed the mine field, which was the means by which submarines made their exit into the high seas. So long as the High Seas Fleet existed, it was a complete protection to the maintenance of the minefield. Therefore, if you get rid of submarines, you get rid also of a large number of minelayers, minesweepers, a large number of small craft used for depth charges to destroy submarines, and so on.

Even if this Conference fails to achieve many of the things that we had hoped, the Entente that has been created with America will be one very solid achievement upon which the Prime Minister may plume himself. That is a great thing. There is, in addition to that, as far as I can see, the fact that we have got France to the point at which she has once more reaffirmed the spirit of the Root Resolutions. At the last Conference, France found herself faced by the public opinion of the world, because she demanded 10 battleships of 35,000 tons, and she had obstructed the Washington Conference at every point. Finding herself faced with that, she agreed to the Root Resolutions, by which every vessel had to be stopped and searched, and the searchers had to be satisfied as to the nature of the vessel and had to provide for the safety of the crew and passengers. Some 17½ months elapsed before France ratified the Washington Treaty, and she never ratified the Root Resolutions. I think that at this Conference it is very necessary that every nation should pledge itself to ratify the Resolutions of the Conference within a year.

That is one thing that we have gained, as I have said, France's assent to the Root Resolutions; but here is the difficulty. The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), speaking from the Liberal Benches, pointed out that the air ought to be under the Admiralty. I entirely agree. We would then have brought into the Conference this whole question of the air menace to our merchant ships, and it is a very serious question in the Mediterranean. Surely, if the submarines have to search merchant vessels and provide for the safety of the crew, the same rule ought to apply in regard to the air attack on merchant vessels as well. Yet this Conference, owing to the British Navy having nothing whatever to do with the administration of the air services, is not even discussing the question of the air in this connection. We do not know what provision we have to make, because we have so little to do with the air in regard to these matters, and I think the Government would be well advised, now that the Air Force has been established for so long, to have a public inquiry into the whole of the relations between the air and the other fighting Services and civil flying, such as was carried out in America under Mr. Dwight Morrow, who is one of America's representatives over here. In fact, the First Lord of the Admiralty could not do better than find out exactly how that inquiry was carried out, and what an amount of good it did in America.

I wish the First Lord of the Admiralty the utmost success in his work. I really think the Conference will succeed, in spite of the pessimism of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) and others. I believe it will succeed in a measure, and that that measure will lead to fresh successes in the future. I think that France, rather than face the public opinion of the world, will come down considerably in her demands. Such is the state of the finances of this country that we have to get naval and all armaments down if we can, and we have to rely more and more, as time passes, on the Kellogg Pact. I believe that that Kellogg Pact is the first successful attempt to substitute the precepts of Christianity for those of Machiavelli, and in its attempt to carry that Pact to further and further successes, and to bring it into the atmosphere of the world, so that people may come to believe in it, I wish the Government all success.

On a point of Order. Do I understand that we are on Vote A only, or are we on Votes A and 1?

I am sure the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) will not think it amiss if I do not follow him in the line of argument which he has pursued. I wish to direct attention to other points which opportunities such as these—and they are all too few—give to those of us who represent dockyard and naval towns to make points upon which our constituents feel strongly. The first point that I would like to make is this: By questions and privately, through the Whitley Committee and otherwise, a good deal of attention has been directed towards getting the Admiralty to stop a practice, which has grown tremendously in recent years, of employing naval ratings in the dockyards. The trade unions, naval men, and the men who work in the yards all agree that this practice is one that ought to he kept within much narrower bounds.

The Admiralty tell us that it is a necessary part of the training of the naval personnel, and we agree that that argument has a great deal of force. Jack is called a handy man, and it is essential that, when he is many miles from shore, he should be able to turn his hand to all kinds of repairs; but I would suggest to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty that this practice is now carried much too far, and is greatly overdone. The men from the naval barracks are taken into the dockyard at about 8.30 in the morning, whereas the dockyard men get there at seven. They then draw overalls and tools from the dockyard store, and they work till 11.30, when they are taken back to barracks. They come again at about 1.30 to do more work, either painting or some kind of engineering repair work, and at 3.30 it is "Liberty men ashore."

I would suggest that that kind of thing is extremely uneconomic. The men spend a great deal of time in marching to and fro, and when they get there, they are not long enough on the job to be able to do anything worth while. I am informed that there are 130 men working on His Majesty's Ship "Hood," 50 on His Majesty's Ship "Valiant" and 25 on His Majesty's Ship "Dauntless." His Majesty's Ship "Effingham" has just returned to Portsmouth Harbour after two and a-half years of foreign service, and is undergoing the same sort of treatment by the naval personnel; and men are being employed upon that ship who have had no leave since they returned home at the end of February. I hope, therefore, that these representations and those by others which will, I hope, be made to-night will have their influence on the First Lord, and in particular on the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty.

There is another point which I would like to raise, and that is this: Portsmouth has recently been greatly surprised to hear that a suggestion has been put forward that the School of Music, now situated in Eastney, should be removed to the Royal Marine Barracks at Deal. The "Portsmouth Evening News," by no means a journal which is given to overstating, has said that this will mean the loss of over 1,000 men and boys to the City of Portsmouth, with serious results to traders and others. Many of the men who are employed either as officers or warrant officers or instructors have bought or are buying their houses in and about Portsmouth, and they view with great concern the suggestion that this school should be moved. They feel that if they have to uproot themselves, they will have to sell their houses at a great loss, and when they get to Deal they will have great difficulty in finding similar houses. In fact, all the information goes to show that there are no small houses at Deal; rents are extremely high, and much difficulty will be caused to these men.

Another point which may be raised, and which has great force, is that a great number or the boys who go to this school are recruited from local homes, and when they are off duty they are under parental control which they will lose if they go to Deal. There has been so much feeling on this subject in Portsmouth, that I do not want to miss a single point that may have weight with the First Lord when he comes to make a decision. Eastney, Southsea and Portsmouth together are a much more healthy place than Deal can possibly be. Facilities there for outdoor recreation and games are not nearly so fine as the facilities which are offered at Eastney. The City of Portsmouth, apart from any question of the loss to the traders which the removal of the school will mean, is very proud of the School of Music; they find it extremely useful; for in concerts and charity concerts, and in other directions, the school has helped the city a great deal. Then there is the question of training; these men form an integral part of a ship when it is at sea; Portsmouth is adjacent to Whale Island and if the school is moved to Deal, the distance of Whale Island would cause inconvenience or even its loss to them. On the question of pay and allowances, hon. Members will remember that a few months ago there was a discussion in this House on the question of giving marriage allowances to officers.

The question of pay and allowances will come on Vote 1; it does not come on Vote A.

9.0 p.m.

I bow to your Ruling. I would like to offer a few observations on the question of promotion from the lower deck. I was pleased to hear the First Lord say that this matter was now receiving his careful consideration. Most of us here are very much in favour of an extension of promotion from the lower deck. The first commander ex-mate received his third stripe in 1926, and at least two years went by before the second commander was so promoted. I believe that during 1928 a good deal of pressure was brought to bear from the Admiralty, and as a result, owing to the new Government I hope, the third commander was promoted. If promotions are going to be made at that rate, it is much too slow, especially for a Labour Government, which believes in making promotions in the Navy as democratic as possible. I hope that the First Lord, when he considers this matter, will take into account the fact that almost universally there is a feeling that the word "mate" should be dropped.

I hope that he will consider also whether it is possible for the men who have received promotions in the mate class to be brought into line with those who have been cadets. At the present time, owing to the change in the pay and allowances for new entries since 1925, there are lieutenants and lieutenant-commanders, ex-mates, drawing £36 a year less than men junior to them, who came up from the cadet class; and it strikes me as unfair that this should continue, especially as the Conservative Government, when they implemented the Anderson Report, gave a distinct understanding that this should not affect any man already in the Service. We should look with confidence to a Labour Government which, of all Governments, might be called a Government of the mate class. Many of the Members of this Government have received promotion from the lower deck; that is why it is such a fine Government, and I hope that they will realise that in other walks of life, especially in the Service, men of ability on the lower deck should be able to rise much quicker and go much further.

With regard to the engine-room artificers, we hear a great deal these days about the enormous changes which have taken place in the Army and the Navy. They have become much more mechanical, and they employ the human body as a means of directing the machines which do the work of the Army and the Navy. Years ago a man went aloft to furl a sail; now he goes below to tighten a nut. Then he cocked an eye to the wind; now he fixes his eye on a clock or pressure gauge. It is the same with the compass. Compass bearings are important to the commander of a ship or the watch-keeper, but the engineer who watches the bearings of the engines is just as important. So the engineer on board ship has now become of the highest moment to the welfare of the ship, but, unfortunately, since 1925 the position of chief engine-room artificers and engine-room artificers has been reduced. This branch of the service seems to be the only one that has suffered a reverse in status and in pay, yet it is one of the most, if not the most, highly skilled of all the branches found in the Navy. Every day the duties of the engine-room artificers and chief engine-room artificers become more and more important, and I therefore hope that the private representations which have been made to the First Lord of the Admiralty by representative bodies and also by hon. Mem- bers who are interested in this question will receive his utmost consideration. If any body deserves well of the First Lord of the Admiralty it is the men of this rating.

Among one or two other points I wish to raise is the question of political privileges. In 1918 the vote was for the first time given to the sailor, the soldier and the airman, in the same way that it was given to women—because they had been good and had done their bit during the War. Prior to that the sailor as a sailor had no vote. Unfortunately, the new regulations of 1918, although acknowledging the citizenship of the sailor, took away from him privileges which he had before enjoyed. It then became an offence for a rating in uniform to take part in political meetings or in an election. I suggest to the First Lord that he would receive their gratitude if he were to restore to the men of the Navy that which they previously enjoyed. Some of us cannot understand why a man should be less of a citizen because he happens to be in the Navy. If he is considered respectable enough and educated enough to be in the Navy, he ought to be regarded as respectable enough and educated enough to take an active part as a citizen in elections and activities of that kind.

There is another point. Every Member of Parliament for a naval constituency gets letters from time to time from men who desire to take their discharge from either the Navy, the Army or the Air Force. At present it is quite possible for them to secure discharge if they are willing to pay a sum of money. In one case I had recently the sum demanded by the Government Department concerned was £80. That is a considerable sum for a man who is only an ordinary rating in one of the services. Although it may be essential that some money payment should be required, I ask that it should be more in keeping with the capacity of such a man to pay. Surely it is wrong in principle, especially in a country like this, where we can always get all the volunteers we require for the Services, to keep an unwilling man in the Army" the Navy or the Air Force. If, as was the case with the man who wrote to me, a man has excellent reasons for desiring to leave the forces, I suggest that it is the duty of the Minister responsible, especially under a Labour Government, to make it as easy as possible for him to get his discharge. I say it quite openly, sometimes a man has become a pacifist since joining the Service. For religious or other reasons he no longer desires to remain in a fighting service. It should be realised that men often enter a service at a very early age, and after some years find that their opinions about things have changed; and instead of making it impossible or difficult for them to leave, it should be made easy for them, or as easy as possible.

It is the custom in the Navy that men must take their share of what is called foreign commission service. No man entering the Navy can object to that, but one finds frequently that certain men get far more than their fair share of it. I have here a list of instances. I will not give the whole lot, but will just quote one or two extracts from this list of men now due for draft. There is a chief engine room artificer who came home from foreign service commission in December, 1929. He has been only three months at home and is now warned for further foreign service. Another man came home in June, 1929, and after nine months at home is now warned for foreign service again. There is a third case of a man warned again after being at home only eight months. I suggest that some latitude should be allowed to men who have been some years abroad and who, for various reasons, are either not fit or ready to go abroad again at once. I made representations on a case to the Admiralty some months ago which, in my view, was an extremely hard case. It was the case of a young man who had come home from commission in the Persian Gulf. He was by no means well, but he was not ill enough to prevent his going out again. He had married and his wife was expecting an addition to the family quite soon. But the answer I got was, "No." A decision has been laid down that this man must again go abroad, and in spite of all representations he had to go. There are many men only too willing to go abroad who have not yet been. They would like to see foreign parts. I suggest that now and again the human touch might be introduced into the Admiralty's administration when cases of this kind are brought to the notice of those in authority, and that decisions could be rescinded without any loss of discipline or dignity and men saved from going abroad even although they had been warned for draft.

Finally, I would like to say that the opportunities which Ministers of the Crown have ought not to be lightly disregarded. Those of us who have been interested in politics for many years know that politicians come and go and that very few remember them. How many of us could now give the names of the last three or four First Lords of the Admiralty? Those Ministers alone are remembered who have carried out some great reform, and if I may say so without offence I would like to remind my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend on the Treasury Bench that if they wish their names to be remembered, if they would like the men of the Navy to recollect them with gratitude, they should carry through some of these small reforms, adjust these small grievances which the men in the Navy now suffer.

The Vote which we are discussing concerns the personnel of the Navy, but I understand that it is in accordance with precedent that a more or less general Debate should take place upon the Estimates. Speaking for a moment in regard to the personnel, may I recall what I think is in the minds of most of the public, not only in this country, but in countries abroad, and particularly in those parts of the Empire where there is a very keen interest in the Navy? The one question they ask, the one question which interests them very vitally, is whether the numbers provided for in the present Estimates are adequate. I think it is true to suggest that most people in this country would welcome any agreement which may be made for the reduction of armaments, and any agreement that would tend to lessen international complications with regard to armaments, but I think they would make one important proviso to the effect that, first of all, those responsible for the submission of those agreements should be satisfied that there is security for the mother country, security for our Empire, and security for our trade and commerce. That is the test which I would suggest that the First Lord of the Admiralty should apply. There is one thing which the people of this country are always ready to do. They will trust the occupant of the high office of First Lord of the Admiralty, to whatever party he may belong, provided that he does not allow himself to be persuaded by any arguments which do not take account of the fact that we are exceptionally placed, and that our needs are greater than any other country in the world in regard to naval matters.

Great though the cry may be, and sound though the cry may be, that the financial position is really stringent, I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty, when he comes to the real test, when he comes to making an actual decision as to whether he will take as his slogan, "Safety First" or "Financial Economy First," will not hesitate to take "Safety First." May I take advantage of the wide Ruling which has been given on this Vote to ask the First Lord what amount has been paid in connection with the Singapore Base by the Malay States, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. I understand that we are partners in that enterprise, and that the Malay States have offered £2,000,000, New Zealand £1,000,000, and Hong Kong £250,000, or a total of £3,250,000. That is a very large sum, and I should like to know-how much of that sum has been received, and especially if, in connection with the decision to delay the work, the opinion and the unqualified consent of those contributors were obtained. I would like for a few moments to devote myself to a question which is of a more domestic character. I suppose all dockyard Members of this House are regarded on this question by the Government as something of a nuisance. They have, of course, a great responsibility in the sense that they represent dockyard towns.

That question would properly arise on Vote 10, and the hon. Member must not go into that question in detail.

Is it not a fact that on Vote A any of these questions may be discussed?

I suggest that while we are having a general discussion it is not permissible to go into details in regard to these matters.

I will, if I may use a nautical expression, say, "Aye, aye, Sir," and submit at once to your Ruling, and I will try to keep within the limitations which you have laid down. In connection with the dockyards, there are two factors which are most important in order to secure efficiency. I would like to ask, in the first place, whether the plant and machinery of the Royal dockyards is being kept up to date; and, secondly, whether the personnel of the dockyards is being fully employed, because if the machinery has not been modernised, and if the men are not kept fully employed, efficiency must be impaired. I have been looking forward to the time, as most dockyard Members have, when it can be said that we have reached the point of stabilisation with regard to employment, and in this connection I am glad to find myself in agreement with other hon. Members representing dockyard constituencies who have put forward the case of the dockyard men, and this applies to the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). First of all, may I ask, having regard to the decision to restrict naval construction, if the Royal dockyards are to be allowed to tender for outside work, and, if so, how much outside work was done by them last year. I understand that last year £40,000 work was done, and I think the First Lord of the Admiralty might give us some information as to the measures he has taken with regard to outside work as an alternative. I want to know it there is to be any real chance given to the Royal dockyards in competition with private yards to do outside work. I think the Royal dockyards should be modernised, and brought thoroughly up to date. The fact that there is any likelihood of the stabilisation point being reached in regard to the employment of the men depends upon outside work, and I should like to know if there is anything in the Navy Estimates providing for the improvement of the plant in the Royal dockyards. I would like to make an appeal that work should be undertaken from other Departments of the State, and that the Admiralty should use their influence to see that the Royal dockyards are used for that work.

There must be at all times new lines of development in regard to the Navy, both as to apparatus and equipment, and I should be glad if I might make a personal plea that the claims of Sheerness should not be overlooked. It is a very conveniently-situated centre for purposes such as I have indicated, for there new lines of development could be tested and tried. I am not quite sure when the present yard was put there, but in 1667 the Dutch captured it, and, according to the records, the first dockyard church was established in 1690. In 1823, something over 100 years ago, the dockyard was reconstructed at a cost of £2,500,000, which represents much more money to-day. I hope, therefore, as the yard is fairly old, that fact may make all the more apt my appeal that some regard should be given to the need for modernising the dock and putting our yards generally into a state which will make them capable of competing on equal terms with private yards.

There is one other point which I should like to mention. I hope I shall not be outside the rules of order for it is certainly a question which affects the workpeople employed. In his statement, the First Lord said it was part of the Admiralty's policy that its industrial employés should have one week's annual holiday with pay. That is a policy to which most of us would subscribe, and I only regret that in this instance it should not work out quite in the way it appears in the statement of the First Lord. I have looked up the figures, and I find that the wages in this work—

The hon. Member is now getting outside the Estimates. He is quite entitled to make remarks relating to the policy of the Admiralty in that direction, but he is not entitled to go into details, and I must ask him to await the proper time.

With regard to the policy as affecting the workers employed, I want to say that, so far as can be seen, the policy laid down is not in fact being carried out as measured in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. The policy which it is intended by the First Lord to carry out is to give a week's real holiday to those employés, but as a result of a calculation which I have made it will be seen that the wages of every employé in the dockyards is reduced by £5 8s. 2d. per year. It is perfectly true. I know I am very near the border line of order, and I do not want to go beyond it, because the Chairman has given me a great deal of latitude; but, if the First Lord will take the trouble to work out the amount provided in the wages of those employed in the dockyards, he will find that the average amount lost per man in the present year is £5 8s. 2d.

There must be no mistake about this, lest false impressions should be created. There is no reduction in the rates of wages, but it certainly is to be considered, when you have a smaller volume of work to be done, that the men themselves would rather take the ordinary weekly wages than work overtime while their companions are without work.

The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I do not suggest that there is any change whatever in connection with the rate of wages. I was merely showing what the effect was, and the figure I have given is quite correct. I hope he will look into it.

With regard to the statement made by the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Maitland) that wages have been reduced in the dockyard areas, speaking as a dockyard Member, I should like to say that there is not a grain of truth in that statement, and wages are now at the same rate as they were a year ago. I am very glad indeed that the First Lord contradicted that statement, which has been made quite recently outside by another Member, and which has obtained considerable credence in the Chatham and Portsmouth areas.

With regard to the Vote under discussion, I should like to take the opportunity, as representing a dockyard constituency, to congratulate the First Lord and the Government generally on the endeavours they have made to disarm to a certain degree. I know that in Chatham, which is a dockyard town, at the last election, the vote in favour of disarmament was 64 per cent. What is true of these dockyard areas is true even to a greater degree of the rest of the country, and, however much hon. Gentlemen opposite may oppose this policy of disarmament, it is the desire of all the civilised people of this country that we should lead the world in peace as, under the Churchillian regime, we gave the lead towards war. We ought to lead the world in the policy not only of disarmament but of turning the money that has been spent on disarma- ment into productive channels rather than in wasteful and destructive channels as has been done under previous Governments. On behalf of the dockyard workers and others in the Chatham and Rochester area, I want sincerely to congratulate the Government on the stand they have taken up. I hope that the Conference will be a success, and that we shall see a resultant reduction in armaments.

With regard to the main question of personnel, there is one point to which I should like to draw the First Lord's attention, and which was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Portsmouth (Captain Hall), namely, the status of the engine room artificers. One of the iniquitous things which the last Government did was to reduce in 1925 the status of the engine room artificers. Prior to 1925 engine room artificers were graded as chief petty officers. The last Government graded all new entrants as first-class petty officers. It is a known fact that in the main engine room artificers have to undertake a greater degree of responsibility than any other lower deck rating. The Admiralty have already recognised that by giving them increased pay. It is our appeal this evening that the engine room artificers should enjoy the status which they enjoyed before the last wretched Government came into office. We want them treated with fairness, and they were under the Labour Government of 1924 and the preceding Liberal Government. We want this injustice removed, and I sincerely hope that the First Lord and his Board will give this matter very earnest consideration in the very near future.

There has been considerable prejudice in the Service against the engine room staff. They are looked upon as "oily devils from the furnaces down below," and there has been an endeavour to keep them down. People forget that when the engineer officer is absent the chief engine room artificer has to take control and is as much responsible for the battleship during that period as is the chauffeur for his car. I sincerely hope that this injustice of status will be recognised and that these men will be put back to the pre-1925 grade.

There is one other point which I should like to touch upon very briefly. I hope I shall be forgiven for mentioning it under Vote A. The new Estimates refer to two submarines to be placed at Chatham which may be cancelled if the Naval Conference is successful. I want to put one frank question to the First Lord. If these two submarines are not given to Chatham, what other work will be given in lieu? I understand that it is the policy of the Admiralty to keep the dockyards stabilised at their present level in regard to numbers employed and wages paid, but I should like confirmation that additional work will be given to Chatham should these two submarines be deleted from the new construction owing to the success of the Naval Conference.

May I finish with two additional words of thanks to the Board of Admiralty? The first is with regard to the week's holiday for the men. On behalf of the men in the dockyards, I sincerely thank the present Labour Government, and the First Lord of the Admiralty in particular, for this great boon, which places these men on a par with the best industrial workers outside. Further, I would like to offer to the First Lord my personal thanks for the policy that the Admiralty have adopted in treating the dockyards with greater consideration than they have had from any previous Conservative administration.

I rather wonder that the hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Markham) should express a kind of eagerness that his constituents should be allowed to make deplorable and anti-pacific machines like submarines. After hearing the Beginning of his speech, I should have expected him to be only too eager to dissociate himself and his constituents from anything of that nature, because he tells us that he and his constituents are so pacific that the whole idea of naval defence almost shocks them. How can he justify himself in this very curious attitude, that, while decrying the defence which the Navy offers, he is prepared to welcome the construction of what I think we all admit to be the weapon that is, perhaps, the most open to criticism of any that is used in sea warfare, namely, the submarine? And yet the hon. Member wishes, as I understand, for the construction of two of these submarines in the constituency which he represents.

It is most important that I should not be misrepresented on this point. We would rather do peace work—repayment work—in the dockyards than build submarines, and that is what we want. We want the dockyards to be turned to productive, and not to destructive, use.

The hon. Member would like to see his constituents making sewing machines, or something equally useful, but he can be assured that, when there is not enough work to go round in other places, one of the prices which must be paid for a policy of naval disarmament—and, if it is the right policy for the country, it will have to come—will be the sacrifice of the dockyards. That is a matter of reality which, probably, the hon. Member and others in his constituency will have to face when we come to that point. We are now discussing what is perhaps the basic Vote for the whole Navy, and I would urge hon. Members opposite, in particular, not to think that anyone who wishes to see the naval defence, and the defence forces, of this country kept up to an adequate degree, is in any sense decrying what may be done by treaty and by agreement with foreign Powers. It is absolutely wrong to think that treaties and pacts are antagonistic to a proper and moderate scale of defence. Defence by treaty is complementary, and not antagonistic, to armament, and armament is complementary to defence by treaty. We cannot cast away the Navy which has been our shield in many dangers, and which is historically our one prime defence, until we are certain, until experience shows, that we can have an adequate substitute for that historic guard. To my mind, it would be just as reasonable to blame, say, the London County Council for being responsible for fires because they have the effrontery to maintain a Fire Brigade. There are many regulations to prevent the likelihood of an outbreak of fire, but they do not do away with the necessity for having a brigade to extinguish the fire when it breaks out. In the same way, the Navy and the Army are our ultimate protection when other and more diplomatic means of defence have failed.

One of the reasons why there is, on the other side of the House, what sometimes seems to me to be rather unreasonable criticism of a programme which I should have thought no one could have said was excessive, is that armaments are expensive to some extent, and a treaty is cheaper. Paper is always cheaper than steel, and so it is attractive from that point of view. But, if war is still possible, we must have, not only a Navy, but a Navy which is adequate for the protection of this country, because the question of the size of the Navy is not affected by the question of the frequency of war. If the misfortune should occur, even though it be unlikely, the fact that it is unlikely does not make an inadequate Navy better able to fulfil a task which is beyond it. In this Vote we find a very considerable reduction, and one which I understand is to continue. The personnel of the Navy is now being reduced to a degree that is unprecedented in this country. I think I am right in saying that never since the beginning of the century has a First Lord come to the House of Commons and asked for so few men to be in the sea service as the present First Lord is asking us to sanction to-day, and I think it is proper to consider in a little detail where the men are being cut out.

The first thing that would strike anyone looking at this Vote is the heavy reduction in the number of boys on sea service. In 1929, the number of boys on sea service was 2,077, and this year it is 1,232, showing a reduction of two-fifths. That is affecting the fleet of the future. It means that a much smaller number of the seamen class are getting proper training to be seamen, and the seamen are the backbone of the fleet. It is no use building ships of you cannot man them suitably and properly with trained men. It is a long job to train a seaman, and yet we have this very heavy cut in the sea service boys who are the new blood coming into the fleet. I would ask the First Lord whether, if he is driven to reduce the strength of the Navy, it is wise to reduce it in this way by cutting down the number of boys who are undergoing sea service. The number of other boys under training is also reduced, and I think it may well be that the seamen class boys are reduced to a greater extent than any other class.

From that there arises another question. There is no question of the two "Iron Dukes," which have been used to some extent as sea-going training ships. There is no doubt that their posi- tion in the fleet has been altered this year, and I should like to know whether they any longer form part of the seagoing fleet, or whether they have been so reduced in complement as to become merely one might almost say hulks, not capable of sea-going service with the fleet, as they have been accustomed to do in the past. It seems to be bound up with this question of sea-service boys, and I should like to ask the First Lord particularly about that. It is an astonishing thing to find this heavy reduction when fleet service civilians are not only not reduced but increased by 10.

I have a little diffidence in discussing dockyard matters. It is a little difficult to know exactly where one can get in the questions one wishes. In fact, one feels sometimes to be quite in order if one gets all at sea. I should like to ask as to payment by results. That system has been curtailed, and I would deprecate the curtailment of a system which is surely very satisfactory to the man who is really out to work hard and to the Government, his employer, who is anxious, no doubt, to get a good output per man. When this system was in vogue, it was possible for the Royal dockyards to tender against the private yards. Now, I understand, the system has been to a great extent checked, and I would ask the First Lord whether it is still possible for the Royal dockyards to tender with success against the private yards, because that is a matter of considerable importance from the point of view of national economy.

There is a suspicion which must come to the mind of anyone who has been through the Naval Estimates with any degree of care that there are many economies in them which are, in a sense, spending capital. It appears that nearly all stores are being reduced—victualling, clothing, even medical, and not only that, but fuel stores and, I suspect, ammunition. I hope to allude to these matters in more detail later on. It would be improper to do so at this stage in detail, but there is that suspicion, as you go through the Votes, that economy is being effected by reducing stores generally—and we know they were cut to the bone under the last administration—to a lower degree than is right and proper for the efficient conduct of the Naval service.

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman was not present when I spoke earlier. I pointed out that I had to meet commitments this year made by my predecessor, a large proportion of which was in respect of additional stores.

I was here when the right hon. Gentleman was alluding to that, but I am only going by his own Estimates. It is clear that there is a decrease in stores. For instance, on page 36 there is a footnote saying that in addition to the cash Vote of £3,679,000, stocks of victualling stores purchased in previous years will be drawn upon without replacement during 1930 to the extent of £153,000. That does not sound very like the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, because here we have stores bought by the previous Government which he is going to draw on. Now he tells us that the previous Government had not left him enough stores and he was having to buy them. There is another instance on page 47 on the question of naval clothing, soap, tobacco and allowances in lieu of clothing—a decrease of £113,000. That is due to the smaller average numbers and larger surplus stocks available for current requirements. Is the right hon. Gentleman using up stocks or is he laying in stocks, because the previous reference was undoubtedly drawing on old stores to effect an economy and a reduction. I should like him to say whether this is new or old. On page 57 we see reductions even in medical and surgical stores. The sum provided by the right hon. Gentleman for the provision of medical stores and surgical appliances has been reduced by some £11,000, and still he would complain that he has not been allowed a sufficient stock, or that sufficient had not been bought, and I suggest that he is not even keeping the stocks which have been supplied up to the standard. These are matters of such technical intricacy that it is impossible for anyone outside the Admiralty to do more than read this document and ask for some explanation as to what the situation really is. It seems to me that the stores are being cut dangerously low, and we are entitled to some explanation.

On the general question of naval reductions, there is one thing I would ask the right hon. Gentleman with some force. Would he not be frank with the country and tell them who is framing the naval policy that is being pursued? It is a technical question. There is no getting away from that. One hon. Member opposite suggested that it was appalling that the needs of the country should have any bearing upon naval strength, and I have been trying to think ever since upon what other basis one could possibly frame a naval policy. He also said, "Beware of anyone who deals with the matter technically." This is really predominantly, if not entirely, a technical question, and it is very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone who is not a sailor of experience to know what is an adequate and appropriate minimum, strength for the fleet. It is undoubtedly for the Government to take the responsibility, but they should frankly say whether these technical conclusions are theirs as politicians or whether they are the technical conclusions of the seamen on the Board, because otherwise it is not fair to the country. They see a decision on the number of cruisers or on the policy of maintaining capital ships. It is published in a White Paper. It has behind it apparently the authority of the Admiralty. They think that must be all right. How are we to know unless the right hon. Gentlemen are frank and tell us whether these views and these decisions are just the decisions of the politicians, of the Government as such, or whether they have the approval of the Sea Lords. If this country is to be governed on a popular basis and if the people of this country are to have their opportunities of deciding whether a policy is right or wrong, they must be told what that policy is and who is responsible. They must know whether their Government are following their own sweet will—their idealism if you like—whether it is just their view or whether it is the view which has the technical support of the experienced seamen who are the Sea Lords.

Does the hon. and gallant Member intend to apply that to other Departments?

I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman is trying to shuffle this discussion on to some other body. I dare say he has an excellent reason for doing so, but I would hold him to his ground. Whenever the question arises and I have the honour to address the House, I shall be very glad to deal with it. I am dealing at present with a technical naval question, and I intend to stick to the point which I have made, that any question connected with the strength of the Navy and its efficiency for the protection of these islands is a question, in the first instance, which is technical. We should be told whether it is merely the view of the Government, of the politicians, however eminent as politicians they may be, unsupported by naval opinion, or whether it is the solid view both of the political side of the Admiralty and of the Sea Lords. In my opinion, if the Government are not frank about this—and they are the trustees of our safety—they are acting contrary to popular Government.

In rising to address the House for the first time, I must crave the indulgence of hon. Members, and I am sure that Mr. Speaker will afford me every kindness if I should transgress the Rules of the House. I should like, first of all, to congratulate the First Lord on the way in which he has been able to bring about a reduction in the personnel of the Navy. He has reduced the Vote at the dockyards, but he has done it so silently and so wisely that very few take exception to it. We recognise the very heavy toll which the country has to pay for Empire, and we recognise the difficulty which the First Lord finds in framing Estimates of this character. If our Colonies contributed a little more towards the expense of the Navy, we should feel that they were justified in asking continually for the protection which they demand and which this Vote represents.

10.0 p.m.

In the reductions which are revealed we recognise that there is an attempt on the part of the Admiralty to reveal the spirit which is governing the Conference in London and which has brought about the very excellent meeting, upon which we are all prepared to congratulate the Government, between the maritime Powers of the world. I disagree somewhat with the statement made earlier in the day that the expression that the Navy is not a superfluity to us should not come from a Labour Minister; the Navy is us, and I quite agree with these sentiments as coming from a part of the country—[An HON. MEMBER: "City."] We have advanced a bit, although we are waiting to appoint our first Lord Mayor. The city from which I come has a reputation and is associated with the maritime history of England—we look upon Plymouth as being the birthplace of the Navy—and in the reductions which are involved in this Vote there is considerable apprehension as to how they will affect that city. Owing to the attitude of the last Government, we found that a very great deal of havoc was caused when they began to work out economies in this direction. We found that they devastated naval areas and caused a very great deal of distress in those areas where communities have been brought together because of naval needs. In such areas, there has been a retardment of commercial progress and development, because of the needs of the Admiralty in the years which have gone. When economies are suggested it greatly affects the business and commercial life, as it affects the development of areas where the naval element predominate. We have found that the policy of the past Government created considerable hardship.

In Plymouth, where our historic associations prove what we have really done in the building of the Empire and how important the West has been in the contributions which have been made to the personnel of the service, the economies suggested there have been such curtailments of the naval services that we have almost been led to believe that we are simply going to make an historic district like that into a naval dormitory and nothing else. There is one ship which cannot be shifted at Plymouth, and that is His Majesty's Ship "Vivid." That happens to be the Royal Naval Barracks. But the late Admiralty, in the pursuit of economy, have taken away the Gunnery School Establishment, the Boys' Training Establishment and also the Engineering Artificers' Training Establishment, and we are practically left now with the barracks. What I want to plead with the Admiralty is, that in any reductions which they are making, consideration shall be given to the effect of these reductions in areas like ours. The reductions which are indicated in this Vote are considerable, and we are anxious to know how they are going to operate. In the past when re- ductions have taken place there has been a tightening up of the medical survey. Men have been selected for medical survey and, even when they have had little if any knowledge of any defect, they have found themselves invalided from the Service without any pension or consideration of any kind. Is that the policy that is to be pursued in the future, or are the Admiralty going to set up an Appeal Board, which will give the men an opportunity of stating their case? The setting up of such a board would create confidence so far as the men in the Service are concerned.

In conection with these reductions, will the Admiralty consider that whilst the Navy is looked upon as a protection for commerce it shall be used to that extent not from the war point of view, but from the peace point of view, and that instead of scrapping so many ships there shall be a utilisation of the redundant vessels, equipped for life-saving purposes? During the recent gales there has been a considerable loss of life because of the lack of patrols. The old coastguard service used to render very great service to the mercantile navy of this country, by their constant watchfulness. Cannot some of these redundant vessels be used for that purpose, and the men who otherwise would be thrown out of the Service be used in that direction? I recognise the very great service that has been rendered to the nation by the Royal National Lifeboat Institutions. Ought such a service as that be dependent upon voluntary effort? Ought not we to recognise that service in these peace days as part of our protective service? If our Navy is for the protection of our commerce, surely in the time of storm and stress it should provide protection in the direction I have indicated.

Instead of scrapping men and ships, are there not other peace services to which they might be devoted? In these Estimates I note that provision is made for a survey vessel for fishing grounds, to be manned by Service ratings. I congratulate the Government on that departure. Surely, we could utilise some of the redundant vessels for the improvement of our home fishing grounds. At the present time out home fishing grounds are strewn with wrecks, very great loss has been inflicted upon the fishing community, thousands of pounds have been lost, many men have been ruined, and the possibility of their livelihood has been taken from them. Cannot redundant vessels be used for that purpose? Could not those vessel that are engaged in coast patrol be fitted with the necessary appliances, such as were used for the detection and destruction of submarines I In that way, the wrecks could be destroyed, and our home fishing grounds restored. It is an excellent decision that we are going to use part of the depleted personnel in the survey of our fishing grounds. Will the vessel, when completed and manned, be stationed at Plymouth, where we have an excellent laboratory in existence? The survey vessel could be used in conjunction with that laboratory.

The efficiency of the Navy is the real point. The real strength of the Navy lies in its efficiency, but we cannot have efficiency in the Service, without contentment. Efficiency does not depend upon personnel. Reference has been made to-day to a Navy of 114,000 men, but it is possible to have a more efficient Navy with the figures mentioned in the Estimates when the reductions have taken effect. That efficiency can be produced only when we have real contentment in the Service. Those of us who have been associated with Service areas know the advances that have taken place during the last decade, in improvements, in pay, messing and accommodation, but I would impress upon the Admiralty that there is room for greater improvement. Has any consideration been given to the fact that there are two rates of pay in the Service operating at the present time? The Financial Secretary to the Admiralty stated at Plymouth, in reply to a question, that it could not be tolerated that there should be two rates of pay. Has any consideration been given to the fact that we have men in the Service to-day, ordinary seamen in the depleted personnel, who will be rceeiving 1s. 6d. a day and others 2s. 6d. a day?—a reduction of 1s. a day for the men who have joined the Service since October, 1925. They are men doing exactly the same class of work. The late Government introduced that principle. They dared not face up to a reduction in the pay for the men in the Service, and they decided that new entrants should be brought in on a reduced rate of pay. In the reduced personnel there will be greater contentment if there is only one rate of pay, and I suggest that it should be the higher rate.

There is also need for stabilisation in the officers' pay. We want to bring contentment to the men and also bring contentment to the officers. In that direction it would be well if the officers were considered in regard to marriage allowances, and that the young men of 25 in the depleted personnel should be given an opportunity to marry earlier. I believe that it is the policy of the Admiralty to discourage young marriages, but they cannot prevent Cupid's dart from striking the young seaman. I hope that, point will be taken into consideration. The depleted personnel will still be under the disability of having two rates of pension. I am very anxious that there shall be contentment in the reduced personnel, and that they will have a knowledge that whilst they are claiming for one pension the other pension, in the event of their being killed, will not be reduced. Why should there be one rate of pension for the war widow and another rate of pension for the widow of the man who has lost his life in a disaster, like the Devonshire disaster?

In connection with the depleted personnel there is to be a welfare conference called. Is it to be a real welfare conference or are these requests to be refused as before? Something has been said concerning the different branches of the Service and I want to ask whether grievances are going to be redressed. A hundred years ago, when steam was first introduced, the First Lord of the Admiralty at that time said that he was bound to discourage the introduction of steam vessels into the Service because it would strike a fatal blow at the supremacy of the Empire. The Noble Lord—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—I am sorry I may be a little previous—the First Lord of the Admiralty is rot confronted with that difficulty to-day. The engineering branch of the Service is most important. There are grave disabilities amongst the mechanical ratings. Engineer officers are suffering great disabilities. Why are they denied the special allowance of 6s. and also the tropical allowance. You cannot have contentment in the Service if requests of this character are refused, and also the 1s. a day for instructional allowance. Then with regard to the engine-room artificers—are they not the practical engineers of the Navy? Are they not the watch-keeping engineers? They have suffered badly at the hands of the Admiralty. Why is it that this class of man has been served so badly in the past? Indignities have been heaped upon them which cannot be accounted for in any way.

For 55 out of the past 60 years the engine-room artificer has been entered as a chief petty officer. Now they are entered as petty officers, wear an inferior uniform and suffer the loss of many privileges. I have seen boys who have gone through our schools and have entered the Service as artificers going home in their uniform for the first time with the gilt buttons quite proud, throwing out their chests and saying, "Mother, I have come, and here is a naval officer for you." To-day they are denied this because the Admiralty has thought fit to degrade these useful servants of the Navy. They now have to wear just the ordinary uniform. Why has an indignity of that character been placed upon these servants? A severe and unmerited blow of that kind cannot be vindicated, and I ask that they shall be placed in a position equal to that which they have enjoyed in the past. The mechanical side of the Service has never let the Navy down. Why should the Admiralty let the mechanics down? This lowering of status cannot be justified, and I ask that the uplift which has been indicated by previous speakers shall be given to the engine-room artificers and other mechanic ratings. Then, if we are to have contentment, there must be a stabilisation of pay. There must be retiring pay for officers in accord with the cost of living figures. When there is a constant threat of reduction there is bound to be discontent.

So, in pleading for an efficient though depleted service, I am asking the Admiralty to pursue the path of contentment as far as the various ranks are concerned. There is at the present time difficulty with the warrant officers. They find that they have to wait a considerable period for promotion. Could there not be a speeding up in that direction? The schoolmasters of the Service also suffer a disability. I ask that there shall be con- sideration given to the proposal that after 10 years' service they shall be recognised for promotion to senior masters, and, when not promoted, that they shall be allowed to retire at 45 years of age. This would make possible the advancements that should take place in these ranks of the Service.

While I am concerned about the men of the Service, I recognise what so many hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to forget, and what I am afraid sometimes escapes the notice even of some of my own friends, namely, that the Royal Navy and the dockyards are one, that they cannot be separated, that the one is dependent on the other. The dockyards and the Navy establishments are part of the great service, and efficient dockyards make for an efficient Navy. I am asking that if there are to be reductions they shall be made in the spirit which has been revealed by the First Lord in his application of the principles of economy to disarmament. As a representative of a dockyard area I would like to pay tribute to the splendid spirit that has been introduced by the Civil Lord. In dockyard establishments a very much better spirit than that which previously existed has been promoted. Dockyard hands are recognised now more as human beings. They are not subject to mere ridicule as was often the case in the past. There is a story told of a boy who was asked, "Where is your father working, sonny?" The lad replied, "Oh, he does not work now. He is in-the dockyard." That day has gone. Dockyards to-day are efficient and are on an economic basis.

I noticed that the First Lord, in introducing his Estimates, referred to the extension of the clocking-in system. If we are to have a reduced personnel and if machines are to be introduced, I ask whether full consideration has been given to the question. As to costs being compared with the system now operating, I ask, is it going to be real economy or will it make possible further reductions in the personnel such as are indicated to-day? I ask that the roads of the dockyards, the roads over which this reduced personnel will have to pass, should be put into better repair. I ask that consideration shall be given to all these matters, and that the First Lord shall take steps to sweep away the differences which now exist. Why should there be the differences which exist between the hired man and the established man in the dockyards? Why should the one man go out on a pension—a miserable pittance it is true—while the other gets nothing at all? I ask that the spirit of humanity which evidently now prevails at the Board of Admiralty shall be extended to the men in the dockyards so that there will be greater contentment, that grievances will be done away with, and the dockyards and the Navy together will form one great whole for the defence of this Empire.

I am glad that it should fall to me to be the first to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Moses) on his maiden speech. That speech has been awaited with great interest because of the distinguished part played by the hon. Member in the city life of Plymouth. He has wrought great havoe all around him. Indeed, he has slain the Egyptians on the Front Bench having first called down plagues upon them. He drew a very sorry picture of the plight of Devonport and Plymouth and described the wicked action of the last Government in taking away, first, the gunnery school, then the boys training establishment, and now the engine room artificers establishment, leaving us with our barracks and our laboratory. I am very glad that my hon. Friend has appeared at last to lead us out of the wilderness. I do not think that anybody else could have crowded so many questions into one speech and I look forward with great interest and some amusement to the task of my right Hon. Friend in answering him. I am sure my right hon. Friend will respond to his invitation and immediately increase the pay of the Royal Navy, reduced by the last Government, to say nothing of providing marriage allowances and better pensions and the incidental details which my hon. Friend the Member for the Drake Division advocated. I have advocated most of these items for many years and therefore am mot as optimistic as my hon. Friend.

Having made at an earlier stage such general observations as I wished to make on this Vote I rise now only to ask two questions. The right hon. Gentleman said he was going to give his attention to the workings of the mate scheme, in order that men might rise with greater facility from the lower deck. Up to the present that scheme has been a complete failure. I think only three men have reached the rank of commander since it has been in operation, and that in itself is an exposure of the scheme. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is now going to make it work more favourably. I wish to know what is the nature of the inquiry which he is going to conduct and if there will be upon it an officer who has risen from the lower deck. Unless there is someone with experience of the working of the scheme and of the prejudice which operates against those who rise from the lower deck, I am afraid good results will not be obtained. The second question is as regards dockyard personnel. I would not spare my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has done in saving so many men of the Royal Dockyards from discharge. It has been a miracle almost equal to one of those of Moses, that, while keeping fleet construction down almost to zero, he has managed to spare these men. That achievement, I think, is chiefly due to the work and ingenuity of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, who is especially deserving of praise, because he has done what very few Civil Lords before him have been able to do, because of his great experience of this particular kind of work.

I want to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether we cannot look forward to the day when dockyard employment will be absolutely stabilised, and by that I mean that when a man undertakes dockyard work he shall have exactly the same kind of career and security as when a man undertakes police work. In all branches of the Civil Service there is absolute security, with a pension at the end, but the dockyards-man, who is a national servant, merely because he is in industrial employment has not that security, and I cannot see any reason why you should differentiate between an administrative and an industrial branch in the service. I feel that in addressing myself to the present First Lord, he, as a Member of the Socialist Government, cannot refrain from giving me a favourable answer, namely, that he will use all his endeavours to make an industrial service into a Civil Service, so that men in the future shall be spared being constantly under the threat of discharge and having their skill wasted, not only to their own detriment, but to the detriment of the country for which they have worked.

I am concerned with the safety of the men, even of this reduced personnel, and I am anxious to know whether the Admiralty has satisfied itself with regard to the line-throwing apparatus that is in operation on His Majesty's ships. The further point that I would put is whether that line-throwing that is in operation on some, if not the whole, of the ships is capable of being used in the boats for the purpose of life saving. I am anxious for this matter to be dealt with, as we find that when difficulties arise, particularly inshore, the lightness of weight of many of the lines used prevents the opportunity of the saving of life. This has been raised with the mercantile marine and with the Lifeboat Institution, and I hope that each of them and the Admiralty will take the matter into its purview and will, even with the reduced personnel, make life safer for the seamen concerned.

The first question I wish to raise is in regard to the stabilisation of officers' pay. I understand that it is looked over every few years, and that 20 per cent. of their salaries is varied according to the cost of living. It seems to me that it is high time that that factor was abolished altogether. It is many years now since prices have fluctuated very extensively. Prices are pretty well fixed now, and it is only fair to these officers that their salaries should be fixed definitely, and not altered every few years. Many of them live in foreign stations, such as Malta or China, and the cost of living does not affect them there. Again, they find that rents in dockyard towns are not the same as in other towns. In this cost of living there are taken into account the questions of rent, fuel, lighting, brushes, pottery, and so on, and unless an officer is married, these last items do not affect him at all, and it is difficult to see why he should suffer. I therefore suggest that this factor should be abolished. Further, the cost of accounting every three years and working out the different factors must be enormous and must cost the Admiralty a very large sum of money in working out the figures.

The next point I wish to raise is that of the number of officers on the active list. According to the figures given in the House on 12th February, of the admirals on the active list, only 46 are actively and definitely employed. I cannot find that the remainder do anything except give an occasional lecture. A number of commanders, lieutenants-commander and captains are in a similar position. It may be claimed that they have to be kept in reserve when they are waiting a transfer from one ship to another, but surely they can be more usefully employed than resting. It ought to be possible to arrange some position in the dockyards or land establishments for these officers when they are not actively appointed to a ship, and they could take the place of some of those civil employés whose number has considerably increased in the Vote. As the Estimates for naval expenditure are being so drastically cut down, we want to see that we get value for every penny that is spent, and I cannot see why so many of these high officers are kept on the active list when such a small proportion of them are actually engaged in their work.

A further point which I want to raise is that of Dartmouth College. There is provision for 630 naval cadets being trained there, but that establishment could be done away with altogether, for I cannot see that it has justified the expenditure upon it. Of 100 cadets being trained in 1918, I cannot trace that more than 40 of these officers are now serving. Surely it would be possible, if the Admiralty took boys from the public schools at the age of, say, 17—

Yes, elementary school boys too. In view of the Naval Conference, it is quite possible that the number of officers required in the future will be cut down, and it is hardly fair to retain all these young men at Dartmouth College and not be able to place them in the Navy, whereas, if the Admiralty took boys with a leaning towards a sea life from the public and elementary schools, they could have exactly the number required, and see that every lad who was taken was placed. I therefore suggest that Dartmouth College should be done away with; this would cause no loss of efficiency from the point of view of the Navy.

With regard to the question of the pensionable age of petty officers and seamen, I understand that these men are pensioned after 22 years' service at an average age of 40 years, or a little over. It takes a great deal of training nowadays to get an efficient able seaman, and with all the mechanical devices which there are to-day on board ship, it must take a considerably longer time to make an efficient experienced seaman who understands the requirements of the modern fleet. I suggest that, at the age of 40, it is a pity to lose the services of men who have got this training. I agree that a number of them would have had enough of it, but there must be a large number who do not want to give up the sea life and retire to shore on a small pension, and compete in a market where there is already far too much unemployment. If the First Lord would look into those points and give me an answer I should be very glad.

Finally, to come to the question of disarmament. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Portsmouth (Captain Hall) said in his speech that politicians come and go, and that it would be very difficult for many Members of the House to recall the names of the last three or four First Lords of the Admiralty. I hope that the present First Lord will be numbered among them, but that his name will not be handed down with abuse as the First Lord who did away with 66,000 tons of naval shipping, when no other nations, in spite of the Kellogg Pact, had scrapped a single ton. At present the limit is fixed at 50 cruisers. I understand that unless cruisers are replaced every year, or practically every year, that in 10 years' time we will have only about 26 effective cruisers. I would like to ask the First Lord if all the Lords of the Admiralty are agreeable to that proposal and are prepared to take full responsibility for it? It is a very great responsibility. There may be a dreadful legacy for the Government who come into power after this Government if they find that they have to make these replacements. If they have to start building ships, what effect will that create abroad? Will it not give a very bad impression to foreign Powers, and if such an eventuality should arise, should we have the personnel, should we have the firms who would be able to put the ships in hand? Is the First Lord not scrapping men whom it will be impossible to replace in an emergency? It takes a long time to train mechanics for armament work. They are leaving us and going abroad to other countries, and are not coming back.

From the point of view of employment alone this scrapping of capital ships is a very dangerous thing. I understand that every 10,000-ton cruiser means work for something like 3,000 men over two years. One of the hon. Members representing the Clyde said in this House a few days ago that it would be far better to build some of these ships in order to keep mechanics at work and to reduce the total of the unemployed, and to sink the ships afterwards. I think there was a considerable amount of common sense in that suggestion.

How many cruisers should we have to build in that way before we had solved our unemployment problem?

It is not a question of how many cruisers we should have to build. You have got a gentleman on the Treasury Bench who has been engaged for the last six months in struggling with the unemployment problem and has totally failed. You ask him. I would again ask the First Lord whether he is prepared to accept the responsibility for cutting down the Navy? Is he prepared to see his name go down to history as that of the man who held that high office and was content to see such a reduction, in spite of the fact that other Powers are not following the example of the country?

I think it will be convenient if the Committee allows me to reply to the Debate which has now gone on for two or three hours, and then we might get on with the other Votes. I have been very interested in the concluding remarks made by the hon. Member for East Willesden (Mr. D. G. Somerville) who seems to have been very much concerned about what my reputation will be in the future, in fact he is much more concerned about that question than I am myself. After all it is the duty of the First Lord of the Admiralty to see that proper security is afforded, from a naval point of view, to meet all the circumstances of the case. Hon. Members opposite do not seem able to get away from the circumstances that existed before the War, and they want to deal with the whole problem of providing naval security as if they were living in the same political circumstances.

I should have thought the hon. and gallant Member, with his long experience of political life, would have been able to answer that question for himself, but I will tell him what is the difference. When the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate for the Opposition this afternoon was First Lord of the Admiralty he said he was making a very large naval provision, and openly making it, with the very large funds he had got as he said from the Social Reform Budget, in order to build especially against Germany. Where is the German Fleet to-day. The German Fleet is at the bottom of the sea. Does the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) in spite of what has been said by his leader, believe that we are building against America?

I should like to clear up this case. I remember the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) saying, and I was very glad to hear him say it, that in the lifetime of his Government there never was, and never would be, any attempt to build against the United States of America. I should have thought that we should never have had a statement of the kind made to-night from the Conservative Benches. I am content to judge this matter from the point of view of naval security now as to what is required in the light of the changed naval situation. Secondly I should like to ask what advance has been made in political circumstances. Do pacts and treaties mean nothing to hon. Member opposite? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) took a very important share in the Government of the time which set up the machinery for bringing about the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, and subsequently the Government of which he was the head made the Pact of Locarno. They were also concerned in making pot merely the gesture but the actual signature of the Kellogg Pact. Since that time we ourselves, as a Government, have made another advance by signing the Optional Clause, and we hope that the general progress which has been made will expedite a general settlement of that question.

Are we to have no credence at all in the political treaties we have mentioned? I think we are justified in showing to the world that we are prepared to express our faith in the progress which is being made by the nations at large in this direction. One hon. Member who spoke on this subject said that he thought that pacts, and treaties, and armaments were really complementary to each other, and that illustrates my point, because none of the pacts and treaties of the kind which I have referred to existed before the War. If they are really complementary surely we can do with a smaller naval provision, and with a smaller general provision of armaments to-day owing to the existence of these political pacts and treaties.

The point I was trying to make was that if a war should break out—I admit it is less likely with pacts and treaties—the fact that it is less likely does not make you any more able to win the war or avoid defeat with an inadequate navy.

How can you maintain that argument? You cannot take the two things separately. First of all, we have the advance in political treaties. I was quite prepared to hear the question put on this side to-day: "Who are you building against." We have no potential enemies in the world to-day such as we had when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was building up a navy in 1914. It is surely time we introduced a little sanity into these matters. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down took me very soundly to task for my announcement that we had cut out altogether 66,000 tons of various kinds of ships—some of them not very much of a combatant character—from the programme which we found when we took office. I did not hear the same kind of attack from Members of the party opposite when it suited the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the last Administration, which also lopped off something. How can hon. Members now talk about the scheme followed during the five years of the last Government as though it was something sacrosanct which had never been touched, and say that no one should dare to lay a hand on the Ark of the Covenant? If you look at the records of the last Administration, you will find that they were not above lopping off something from the programme which had been laid down. We have done no more of that sort of thing than the last Government was prepared to do when it suited them.

I should like to point out, also, that we have made it perfectly plain to the House to-day, in my first statement, as also in the White Paper accompanying the Estimates, that, when the conclusions of the Naval Conference and such results as we can obtain are known, we shall then be able to submit proposals for new construction. I do not think I ought to have to repeat that over and over again. I have made it perfectly plain. Hon. Members will then be able to discuss in greater detail perhaps than to-day what they regard either as the faults or the virtues of the Government in dealing with this question of construction.

The other point raised by the last hon. Member who spoke was the question of officers' pay. I should like to remind him that the officers did originally get an advance upon the basic rates of pay of 107½ per cent., of which 20 per cent. only was fluctuating according to the cost of living. The variable part of the pay was fixed to be dealt with on a sliding scale, and the officers had the choice as to whether they would have fixed emoluments or a sliding scale.

You cannot have it both ways. The officers asked for it to be on a sliding scale when the cost of Jiving was very high. Now they want it stabilised, because they are afraid that some of that is coming down. I know what has happened very often in the case of ordinary industrial workers. They have not been very successful in securing as an insurance against any further fall in the cost of living that their pay should be stabilised at the higher rates existing according to the sliding scale.

The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) asked whether we had a really efficient line-throwing apparatus. We are quite satisfied with our apparatus at present, but we never cease to try out any other kind of apparatus which is available for inspection and research. We have two main classes working, one fired by rifle and the other fired only by pistol.

The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) asked me two questions. He asked about the inquiry which I said I was making as to the mate scheme. I do not admit, in the first place, that the mate scheme has been such a total failure as the hon. Member seemed to indicate. I have already said, in answer to questions earlier in the year, that, considering the date when the mate scheme was introduced, just before the War, considering the special circumstances since that time, when we had a large number of officers, leaving a heavy surplus in different grades, and considering that, in spite of that heavy surplus, quite a number are now approaching the promotion zone, I do not think that the mate scheme has been such a failure as is made out. It must also be remembered that during this period, since the War, quite a number of those promoted to mate have been pensioned or have retired under special retirement schemes. I am, however, going to have a Departmental inquiry into the working of the scheme. I do not propose to set up a special committee; I think that nearly all the information on the matter is already available. I shall have a Departmental inquiry as to whether any improvements can be made with a view to doing what is very essential, namely, to get an adequate, number of applicants for promotion. I am not at all satisfied that the mate scheme, and especially that part of it which deals with the executive branch, is producing enough applicants for promotion.

I am sure that the hon. Member is not going to suggest that we should have a differential rate of pay—that we must offer a higher rate of pay to attract men from the lower deck than to other branches of officers. I think that what needs to be done—and this point was also touched upon by another hon. Member—is to consider, side by side with the general question of promotion to mate, the whole question of entry into the officer ranks of the Service. We are now bringing in a new system of national education, under which, we hope, sooner or later, there will be a free educational road right through from the elementary school up to the end of the secondary school period, and, if possible, on to the university; and, whatever branch of the public service is available, I want those who go through the national system of education, as apart from private and public school education, to have an equal opportunity of entering that Service. I believe that my inquiries will show that there is room for extending the special entry system, and for its including a larger number of candidates of the secondary school type than we have had in the past, and that we shall really democratise, if I may use that term, the officer ranks in the Navy, and I hope in the other Services, in such a way that a man will not be caused to feel awkward and out of place when, at an age, perhaps, too late, he is suddenly introduced into the officers' mess or the wardroom on board ship.

The other question that the hon. Member for Devonport asked me was as to what I propose to do about dockyard personnel. He particularly wanted to know when there is any likelihood of the personnel being stabilised. He might give me a little time. We have been dealing, as he admitted, with a difficult situation at a time when we were reducing shipbuilding, and yet the numbers in the dockyards have kept very stable indeed. I will only say that we have done our best to go along the road towards providing stability of service and employment, and I am certain that any Government holding the views which my party hold will always do their best to secure that end.

11.0 p.m.

We have not done away with piecework altogether. I will deal with that on a point raised by another hon. Member. The hon. Member for the Drake Division (Mr. Moses) made a delightful maiden speech. I feel it because I am a West countryman myself. He is able to go back to his constituents and say, "If I did not get all my questions answered, and if all your disabilities are not put right, it is not for lack of the eloquence I brought to bear." It is a long time since I heard a more forcible and eloquent maiden speech. I will give careful consideration to most of the points-he raised. We have already had submitted to us the case of the Chief Engine Room Artificers and Engine Room Artificers, and we have that under consideration. I was not clear when he put a question to me whether he was speaking of marriage allowances for officers or ratings.

All I can promise is that I will give the matter consideration. He asked me whether in the suggestion I have made that we should apply to Devonport the same system in the yard that we have tried at Portsmouth there would be any danger of a reduction of personnel. All I can say, based on our experience at Portsmouth, is that he has nothing to fear at all. The results hare been so satisfactory that the system is worth introducing for its own sake. The men who have been displaced by the mechanical use of this system have all been absorbed in other occupations, and we shall certainly try to secure that the same thing happens at Devonport. I will do ray best to consider my hon. Friend's other points.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Londonderry (Major Ross) asked one or two special questions. Concerning the reduction in personnel, he said he would like to know why it was that there was a reduction in boys. I quite understand the reason for the question. It is because we want to adjust the general flow to a proper level, and if there is a need for reducing two or three thousand at a time, it is much better to steadily adjust your requirements, having a long view as to what your requirements are likely to be over a few years than to have to come to the House and ask for the special payment of a large sum of money for a retirement scheme at the other end. We are quite convinced, on examination of the problem, that the steps we have taken are the best. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked me about the third Battle Squadron. Of course, it is still available for ordinary use, but we are using it in the main at present for the training of boys.

They are not manned with the full complement of adult crews, but they could be manned within a very short time. I think the complement of full crew that they carry is about 50 per cent., in addition to which they carry hundreds of hoys, who are helping to do the work of the ship and are being trained in the process. I have given the percentage from memory but I think it is right. Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman asked me whether it it still possible for the dockyards to undertake work by tender against the private yards. Yes, certainly.

Yes, certainly. If the changes we have made with regard to a reduction in the amount of piece work and the rates of overtime turned out to show that the morale or the efficiency of the dockyards was decreasing, we should certainly have to take the whole position into account, but I have much more faith in the dockyard workers than that. I believe if the dockyard workers understand that they are being treated sympathetically and if in a time of difficulty we want to secure the largest amount of stable work for them, we are going to get as good and efficient work as possible from them. Then he asked me a question which has been asked by more than one Member, as to who was framing the naval policy? Whether our policy represents the view of the naval advisers at the Admiralty? I am going to say no more on that point than I have already said. I made the position perfectly plain in answer to a question in the House, and also in my opening speech to-day. I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Member was not here.

I perfectly understood from the right hon. Gentleman's opening speech that he had consulted the Sea Lords and they did not agree with him.

I said we took no steps with regard to naval policy without full consultation with the naval staff, but that the Government took responsibility for the ultimate decision. The position there, surely, is the same as it would be in any other Department. Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest for a moment that every time the Government take a decision in any Department of State they have to come and say whether the officials agree or not? Certainly not. We want to make it perfectly plain that we give every opportunity, as we ought to do, to the technical staff and to the naval staff to state their opinion. That opportunity has been given on every occasion.

I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that when the matter is one of such extreme importance as the question of the strength of the Navy, the least the Government can do is to say whether or not they have had the backing of their technical advisers.

We did not ask from that side of the House, when the last Government reduced the number of cruisers which they had previously asked the House to authorise, whether they had consulted their naval advisers; not at all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) went down to Chelsea Town Hall the other day and made a speech in which he revealed the fact that he did not agree with the advice given some time ago by naval advisers that 70 cruisers were required. It has appeared to me, as the First Lord of the Admiralty in the present administration, that again and again the right hon. Gentleman, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, did his very best and succeeded in cutting down the demands of the Admiralty. Why did not hon. Members then get up when they were on this side of the House and ask whether the policy of the Government was in accordance with the technical advice of the Board of Admiralty? We are taking no different steps in this matter from those taken by their Government, and hon. Members opposite have no more right to ask whether we are taking naval advice than they had to ask their own Government when they were in power.

Hon. Members may draw their own conclusions. I thank the hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Markham) for his appreciation of and thanks for what the Admiralty have done. I can assure him that if by any chance the submarines which were mentioned in the 1929 programme are not ordered we shall take every possible steps to secure other work for Chatham. I think he had better leave it with me in that way.

Will the right hon. Gentleman extend the same consideration to the private ship yards which have had submarines held up or cancelled?

I am very anxious to see that whatever work I can give is given to the yards all over the country, but I am bound to say that as the head of the Department my first concern is with the State yards. Moreover, I have to remember that even though we may build in the Government dockyards the hulls of these ships a very large portion of the work is put out to contract except in the case of the submarines, for which we also construct the engines.

I believe that so little had been done to the ship there, that it was cancelled completely, and it is not likely that it will be proceeded with. It must be remembered that the private yards are differently equipped than the naval dockyards. We have only a limited number of slips although we have a large number of docks, but the other yards have large numbers of slips and are so equipped that they can compete for commercial shipbuilding in a way that at present the Government dockyards cannot. From that point of view I think we are justified in seeing that our Government dockyards get their proper share of naval building.

I do not think that there is any point in the speech of the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Maitland) which I have not covered in dealing with other speeches. The hon. Member for Central Portsmouth (Captain Hall), in an interesting speech, raised a number of questions. He raised the question of the employment of naval ratings in dockyard work. I can understand the pressure that is brought upon dockyard Members in regard to these matters, but the hon. Member and other dockyard Members must realise that the Admiralty has to consider the general efficiency of the Fleet and that it is essential for us in dealing with the Fleet to have the ratings trained in such a way that they can carry out the temporary maintenance of the Establishment on whatever station they are situated. We are not in any way increasing the number of the naval ratings employed for this purpose. My own aim would be to see rather less than more of that type of work done by naval ratings, but I cannot promise, in the interests of the general efficiency of the Fleet and the varied character of the work to be done, that the naval ratings should not be employed in such a way as to keep them efficient in that direction.

The hon. Member asked me what was going to be done about the school of music at Eastney. There has been no final decision and I shall certainly consider very carefully the detailed report of his speech, and see what bearing the points he has made may have upon the final decision. He asked me if I was prepared to restore to the naval personnel certain political privileges. I am not aware that we have taken away any political privileges, but I am aware that they are to-day in an exactly equal political position with the Civil Service. Any question of the kind raised by the hon. Member will have to be dealt with by a general Government decision dealing with the cases of Government employés. The hon. Member asked me to consider reducing the charge for discharges. He suggested that a rating might develop religious or pacifist views that would make it impossible for him to remain in the Navy. That may be so. He rather suggested that it might be that they were going to get married, or there might be some other domestic change. It would be difficult on religious or pacifist grounds to have a general rule which would make it easy to get out of a con- tract for service, especially if such a type of reason was going to cover a multitude not of sins but of happenings like marriage, or employment elsewhere, and things of that kind. We have a voluntary basis for enlistment, and, therefore, if you make the enlistment attractive and enter into large capital expenditure for the training of the men in order to make them efficient, it is only reasonable, if the contract is broken, that there should be some reasonable compensation.

The First Lord has rather telescoped two arguments. I referred to marriage in connection with another point. All I ask is for the human touch; that there should not be quite such rigidity of rule as has obtained up to now on the question of discharge.

When it is a case of real hardship, consideration is always given to the case, but the hon. and gallant Member is pressing me rather far, if I understood his speech. If he is merely asking for the human touch, he can depend upon it that whenever possible it will be used. I do not think there is any other point on which I need reply. The other speech came from the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs). He spoke in a general way on one or two matters on which I need not say much; matters which are the subject of consideration by the present Conference. Although he is not present I would say to him how pleased I was to hear the note, the encouraging note, upon which he ended his speech with regard to the hope of a successful issue of the Conference. Let me say to the Committee generally how much obliged I am for the sympathetic consideration they have shown during the Debate. It has not been easy for us to handle the situation during the actual progress of the Conference, but with the exception of two rather sharp speeches from this side of the House, the Committee has been exceedingly sympathetic and I hope they will now give us the Committee stage of this Vote.

I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the comprehensive way in which he has dealt with the various points which have been raised during the Debate. I only rise for the purpose of taking exception to the remarks of the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) in regard to the Dominions, when he urged the First Lord to impress upon them the necessity for taking some share in the defence of the Empire. I should like to point out that as far as the Colonies are concerned, taking the Singapore Base, that the Federated Malay States have contributed £2,000,000, New Zealand, a little country with 1,500,000 people, no less than £1,000,000, and that while Australia will not be contributing direct she has taken on an obligation of £7,500,000. That is some reply to the hon. Member who referred in rather scathing terms to what the Dominions have done.

As far as Australia is concerned, she is labouring under a debt of £400,000,000 in connection with the recent War, upon which she is paying 6 per cent. interest. The Dominions took their part in the War. When war was declared, the Australian and New Zealand forces at once came under the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. I can only say to the hon. Member that we have to realise that those two countries are right in the Pacific Ocean, and that if we are not prepared to give them some defence in the way of cruisers there is another nation which is only too glad at the present time to play with them and, provided it is put on the same preferential basis as far as tariffs are concerned, will be prepared to give them the necessary protection as far as the Navy is concerned. I remember in the old days, as a young Australian, the enthusiasm we felt when a British man-of-war came into one of our ports. People came hundreds of miles to see it, because they realised that it was a connecting link between the old country and Australia. Some years afterwards I saw an American fleet come there. We sent out our odd cruisers. We saw 16 ships of war in the bay underneath the flag of Uncle Sam.

"Built of Yankee steel,
Flying top to keel,
Yankee from the rudder to the ram."
What did the Americans say? "You have a big brother in America—Uncle Sam." And the Australians began to think that America was a great naval Power. The Americans believe in the white Australia policy. At times we have to realise that the British Navy is the link that hinds us and the British Dominions together. We must not forget it. I would not have risen had not the hon. Member rather touched me on the raw. We know the sacrifices that the Dominions made in the War, and are making at the present time. It ill becomes any Member of the British Parliament to speak disparagingly of what the Dominions are prepared to do in the case of a national emergency.

I am sure it has been a pleasure to hear the gallant defence of the Dominions by my hon. and gallant Friend. We have no fear in regard to the Dominions. Our fear is in regard to the present Government. Many people think that the Government are taking an undue risk in reducing tonnage and personnel. I was rather sorry to hear the First Lord say that his personal reputation did not concern him very much. I hope he will reconsider that point. He is the First Lord of the Admiralty, "the ruler of the King's Navee," and we all hope that when he leaves that position he will leave it with credit to the Navy and honour to himself. He stated that the Government had to make a decision. We recognise that that is so. Although he is First Lord, the right hon. Gentleman is also a politician and a Member of the Cabinet. The difficulty that we have is to know how far the political element is allowed to outweigh the service element and the expert advisers. The opinion that I hold—I have heard it expressed by other people—is that the Board of Admiralty, men of knowledge and science and experts, are the safeguards of the country, and that if any Cabinet, any political body, simply presses those Gentlemen beyond the point which they consider safe for the country, they would resign. We, in this country, are not trusting to the First Lord, or to the Cabinet, but to the honour and sense of duty of the Board of Admiralty, believing that if any political party wishes to go beyond the danger line those Gentlemen rather than give way to the politicians will resign their offices. The First Lord in his original statement was rather perturbed at the lack of medical men. The right hon. Gentleman is reducing the personnel of the Navy by 2,750, and he said he could not understand why the medical services, not only of the Navy but the Army, were not more popular. I suggest that, probably, the terms are not quite good enough and yet the terms are very good. The right hon. Gentleman visualised a time when boys from elementary and secondary schools would pass through the University and into the services of the Crown. They are doing that now in the medical profession, and that is the difficulty which you are up against. If I may say so without offence, medicine is becoming more of a trade and less of a profession. Many of these young men have no money; they have spent all their money on their education. They have become qualified, and they are out to do the best they can for themselves. They have several opportunities before them in civil life. A young doctor can set up in a National Health Insurance panel practice, and there are other openings, but if he goes into the Navy even on the short service system, even though he can go out with a gratuity of £l,000, he has to give three years or five years of his time. He has to go abroad. He dare not get married because you will not give him a pension. On the other hand, those who do not go into the Service, and who stay at home, can earn as much money; they can get married and have home life. They have before them specialised services, such as tuberculosis service, school medical services and others in which they can work for six or seven hours a day on five days of the week and earn from £600 to £900 a year. With that prospect on shore why should a young doctor go to sea? He would be very silly to do so unless he had a great love of the sea. The right hon. Gentleman may make up his mind that the medical services of the Crown will have to be amalgamated It is no good asking the heads of the separate medical services to agree to such a proposal, because they are not going to commit hari kari. The Government will have to make up their minds that when they want medical men they are in competition with the great civil medical services of the country, both national and municipal. The suggestion which I would make for what it may be worth is this: Would it not be possible to give to men who have served in one or other of the services for five years a preferential claim on all medical appointments under the Crown or in the municipalities? [HON. MEMBERS: "Trade unionism!"] I do not know whether it is trade unionism or not. It is really a question of a choice between a man who has given five years of his life to the service of the country voluntarily, and the man who has stayed at home. When the Government want a medical man for the Ministry of Health or any other Department, the man who has served his country for five years should have a preferential claim. By offering an inducement like that you would get these young men into the Service. Unless you have an efficient medical service, you are not going to get a healthy Navy, and if you do not get a healthy Navy, you will have an inefficient Navy, and, as you remember in the War, it was the medical men who won that War. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] There was never a war in all history where there was less sickness and disease or where more people were cured after being disabled. It was the medical profession absolutely that won that War by keeping your men fit. It is no use having your ships unless the men are healthy and fit, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be discouraged at the lack of flow into the medical service, but that he will recognise that there are more tempting offers made outside, and that it is up to his Department to see if they cannot make the Service additionally attractive to these men.

Question put, and agreed to.

Wages, &C, Of Officers And Men Of The Royal Navy And Royal Marines, And Civilians Employed On Fleet Services

Resolved,

"That a sum, not exceeding £13,990,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Wages, etc., of Officers and Men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and Civilians employed on the Fleet Services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."

Works, Buildings And Repairs, At Home And Abroad

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a sum, not exceeding £2,073,960, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the expense of works, buildings, and repairs, at home and abroad, including the cost of superintendence, purchase of sites, grants, and other charges connected therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."

I want to ask the First Lord for some explanation of the reduction in Vote 10, particularly concerning the storage of oil fuel at Ceylon. I see there is a reduction of no less than £240,000, or nearly a quarter of a million of money, which I understand was intended to be spent upon the storage of oil fuel for Fleet purposes; and there is another reduction at Singapore of a considerable amount, getting on towards £100,000, for a similar purpose. That is a very serious matter from the point of view of the efficiency of the Fleet, because there is no fleet that can function unless it has adequate fuelling arrangements. I should like an explanation of this reduction, which, in regard to Ceylon, at any rate, seems to be quite wrong.

There is another point, concerning Singapore, where the floating dock, I understand, is in use. I want to know what arrangements are made for the discharge of the ammunition in ships that have to be docked there. When ships are docked in the ordinary graving dock, are arrangements being made whereby they can discharge the ammunition from their magazines for safe custody while they are in dock? As the right hon. Gentleman knows, it is a custom of the Service that the ammunition should be so discharged, and I should like a reply on that subject, and in particular in regard to the cessation of the work on the oil fuel storage at Ceylon.

During the Debate those Members who represent dockyard constituencies and those who have been attached in some way or another to the Navy, seem to have had a real field day. On the Order Paper is an Amendment in my name dealing with the question of naval bases throughout the Empire, and I think that I am right in assuming that this comes under Vote 10. I want to make it clear that I do not represent any dockyard constituency, and I have not been directly or indirectly attached to the Navy. At the same time, I have on many occasions had the pleasure of sea voyages and the discomfort attached to them when the sea has been unkind. I am interested in commerce and industry, and the enormous amount of work that has been done in this connection by not only the Navy, but the naval bases in various parts of the world. I am not one of those who consider—and we come across this type of person from time to time—that we ought to take the stand that our Navy ought to be the biggest in the world. We are glad to be assured by the First Lord of the Admiralty that we should have a Navy which can grant us the security of the Empire and of this country, and the security of our commerce in all parts of the world. We ought not to be consumed by any suspicions of the intentions of other countries with regard to their navies, but at the same time I hold strongly the view that we ought not to be the victims of self-complacency and be lethargic with regard to the requirements—

We have been discussing this all the evening, and we are now on the Vote for works and buildings.

The hon. Member can deal only with the Navy buildings at home and abroad which come under the Vote.

That being the case, I will not take up the time of the Committee further, except to say, in regard to the question of naval bases which are included in Vote 10, that I want to express gratitude to the First Lord for the assurance which he has given to the Committee that we shall have at least a Navy that will be quite capable of giving us security in all parts of the world.

The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) is under a little misapprehension about the position with regard to oil fuel storage in Ceylon. On page 198 of the Estimates he will see that the total estimated cost of providing storage accommodation is £535,000. The expenditure to 31st March this year had amounted to £517,500, £10,000 more is to be voted this year, and that will leave £7,500 to be voted in the following year.

The right hon. Gentleman has overlooked the foot-note (a). It there says that the estimate has been reduced from £795,000 to £535,000.

I do not think that affects the point. The storage accommodation there is more than adequate for the oil, and there is no occasion for the hon. and gallant Member to have any anxiety about the oil situation there.

But is it not a fact that the Vote has been reduced for some reason from £759,000 to £535,000? This is not a debating point. I only want to get the position clear, so that we are not misled.

The hon. and gallant Member may be assured that I shall not allow him to be misled. If, as the footnote shows, the Estimate has been reduced, it was reduced by the Government which the hon. and gallant Member supported. It is not a reduction by the present Government. But I do not think the hon. and gallant Member need worry about that. There is a point of substance in the question he raised with respect to the dock at Singapore. Of course it is very necessary when a man-of-war is put into the floating dock to take precautions with the ammunition, and I understand that adequate arrangemnts have been made for storing ammunition when the ship is in dock. The dock has not yet been used for any important operations, only for the scraping of bottoms and things of that sort; and on those occasions adequate arrangements have been made for storing the ammunition and we have had no complaints From the senior and responsible officers.

Question put, and agreed to.

Victualling And Clothing For The Navy

Resolved,

"That a sum, not exceeding £3,679,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the expense of victualling and clothing for the Navy, including the cost of victualling establishments at home and abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.

Motor Vehicles (Unauthorised User) Bill

Order for Second Reading read, and discharged; Bill withdrawn.

Gas Undertakings Acts, 1920 And 1929

Resolved,

"That the draft of a Special Order proposed to be made by the Board of Trade under the Gas Undertakings Acts, 1920 and 1929, on the application of the Grange and Cartmell District Gas and Waterworks Company which was presented on the 17th day of February and published be approved."—[Mr. W. R. Smith.]

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Thirteen Minutes before Twelve o'Clock.