« AnteriorContinua »
those which have been made of late, the difficulty of providing suitable harbour and dock accommodation will be accentuated and will necessitate great additional outlay on further engineering works. Some comfort may be derived from the fact that similarly costly works will have to be undertaken abroad if many similar ships are built. For instance, the enlargement of the North Sea Canal will cost Germany 10 to 11 millions; and considerable expenditure has been and will be required on German dockyards, building slips, and plant beyond what has hitherto sufficed for the construction and accommodation of previous warships which are of much smaller size. From the taxpayers' point of view, however, this is but cold comfort. The vote for works in future years must be a much larger one than in the past. Concurrently there must be a considerable increase in the vote for new construction, if the building of the larger types is continued and the necessary numbers of ships provided to keep pace with foreign programmes.
Another cause of increased expenditure in the immediate future is the absolute necessity of replenishing the stocks of stores held in reserve at naval stations at home and abroad. During the last three financial years the sums voted for the purchase of naval stores have been kept comparatively small by withdrawing large quantities from stock without replacement '--that is, by diminishing stocks and so ' aiding cash expenditure.' The writer drew attention to this matter in the pages of this Review (April 1906), and emphasised the necessity for maintaining adequate reserves of stores to meet the urgent necessities of the Fleet in case of a sudden outbreak of war. At that time official figures were not available as to the actual withdrawals from stock without replacement; but enough was known to indicate that they were being made on a large scale, and that current votes were being correspondingly reduced. No reasonable person will advocate the retention of excessive reserves of stores, having regard to the danger of deterioration by lapse of time or the possibility of stores being made obsolete in pattern if long retained in store. On the other hand, there is a great temptation to administrators who desire to reduce Navy Estimates to cut down the vote for stores and to diminish stocks. This temptation, if yielded to for some time, must lead inevitably to considerable depletion of reserves and to serious risks of insufficient supplies in case of war.
The fifth line of figures in the official table (reproduced on p. indicates the extent to which withdrawals have been carried without replacement during the period 1905-8. In the last three financial years the aggregate value of these withdrawals, and the corresponding - aid to cash expenditure,' has exceeded three millions sterling; this
huge sum is to be increased by half a million in the coming year. Clearly so great reductions of stocks of stores require justification ; both Lord Cawdor (in his Memorandum of November 1905) and Lord Tweedmouth (in his Explanatory Statement for 1908-9) have recog. nised this necessity, and have attempted explanations. Three considerations are urged in justification of the transactions. First, it is stated that the closing or reduction of foreign naval stations has made it possible to make available, for the Fleet in general, stocks of stores hitherto maintained abroad for use on particular stations. Second, it is claimed that the removal from the Navy List of a considerable number of ships declared to be of no fighting value, and treated as obsolete or obsolescent, has set free large quantities of stores for general use in other ships still on the Effective List. Third, it is asserted that, after careful inquiry by competent authorities, it has been found possible, without prejudice or disadvantage to necessary requirements of the Navy, to reduce the standard previously in force for reserves of stores, and to depend to a greater extent on manufacturers and merchants to give prompt delivery in case of need. As Lord Tweedmouth put it in his speech on the 18th of March : * We can get our stores very much more quickly than we used to do.
· A fixed sum has been decided upon, and we shall make provision to keep a sufficient supply of stores for all purposes that may be required.' Lord Tweedmouth makes it clear that the era of withdrawals without replacement is drawing to a close when he says (in his Explanatory Statement): ‘By 1909-10 surplus stocks will have practically disappeared, and then the whole of the stores required for the Fleet will have to be provided for in cash by Parliament.' The main question, however, remains open to doubt. Are the explanations above recited sufficient to prove that there has been a real 'surplus' or 'redundancy of stores in the past three years, which surplus could be withdrawn without replacement' while maintaining an adequate reserve? This question is vital and may be considered briefly.
As to the first explanation—the effect of closing or reducing foreign stations-it must be noted that the total value of reserve stocks of naval stores requiring to be maintained at any time depends primarily upon the needs of the existing fleet in commission and reserve. It is not affected much by alterations in the distribution of stocks between home and foreign stations. The needs of each station, of course, vary according to the numbers and types of ships serving thereon from year to year ; but, for the Navy as a whole, the total reserves ought to be regulated by the requirements of all effective ships wherever stationed. Certain classes of stores are more easily procurable at home; consequently they may have to be kept in smaller quantities here than they would be at distant stations. But the aggregate effect of this consideration on the values of stocks must be small. Closing or reducing foreign stations, if taken alone, could have had but little influence on the great reduction of stocks made in recent years. According to published official returns, the total value of the stocks of stores at foreign yards and depôts on the 31st of March 1904 was 1,826,6851. : a year later it was 1,850,0001. From these figures it is obvious that even if foreign depôts had been nearly stripped of stores their stocks could not have provided more than one half of the 3 millions' worth of stores drawn from stock without replacement between the 1st of April 1905 and the 31st of March 1908. The same official papers state that the total value of the stocks of stores in home yards on the 31st of March 1905 was 3,928,3611., and that the corresponding value for several preceding years had been from 3} to 4 millions. Hence it appears that withdrawals from stock without replacement of more than 3 millions in three years must have had a very serious effect on reserves. February 1905 that he did not believe the Fleet has ever been in a more perfect state of repair than it is at the present moment.' This satisfactory condition of things did not continue. At the end of 1904 the scrapping' policy was adopted. The expenditure on repairs and maintenance in 1904–5 was 321,0001. less than the provision which had been thought necessary by Lord Selborne when the Estimates were framed. A general impression was produced in the public mind that this large reduction in expenditure on repairs as compared with the original provision was a consequence of getting rid of useless ships. The facts were quite otherwise, and were shown to be so by the writer in the article above mentioned. Not as much as 100,0001. was claimed by Admiralty representatives, when challenged in the House of Commons, as the saving on repairs and maintenance resulting from 'scrapping’ ships. While claims to considerable savings were put forward it was admitted that even an approximate estimate of the real savings produced by striking ships off the Navy List had not been made. In 1905–6 the provision for repairs and maintenance was about 3,317,0001., in 1906-7 2,778,0001., in 1907-8 2,969,0001. That for the coming year is 3,828,0001. : as against an average annual provision in the preceding three years of little more than 3 millions. At one step, therefore, the provision has been advanced more than 25 per cent. No better proof could be given of the determination of Lord Tweedmouth and his present colleagues to keep the ships of the Navy in efficient repair ; nor could there be more conclusive evidence of the justice of past criticisms of insufficient expenditure on repairs during the past three years. The writer may be pardoned for adding that it is a satisfaction to find such close approximation between the provision now made in the Navy Estimates and the round figure for repairs and maintenance (4 millions per annum) which he ventured to put forward in these pages nearly three years ago. Critics then suggested that he was biassed in his judgment and that the figure was too high. Lord Cawdor's Statement of Policy of November 1905 gave the official estimate of 3,105,0001. as the average annual future provision for repairs, &c., but subsequent experience has proved it to be inadequate. Mr. Robertson in the House of Commons on more than one occasion has dealt with this matter, and has expressed the determination of Lord Tweedmouth and himself to leave no doubt as to the satisfactory condition of the Fleet. It should not be forgotten also that during the period of service of these gentlemen at the Admiralty practical proof has been shown of their good faith in this respect. The actual expenditure on repairs has considerably exceeded the provision made in the Estimates : whereas in the years immediately preceding their accession to office the contrary was true. Mr. Robertson stated in the recent debate that on repairs alone in 1905–6 the actual expenditure was 437,0001. less than the provision made in the Estimates : whereas in the two years 1906-7 and 1907-8 the actual
The second explanation-stores set free for general use by removal of obsolete ships from the Navy List- also furnishes no sufficient justification for the large withdrawals from stock without replacement. Readers who desire to know exactly what has been done in
scrapping' ships, and what exaggerated estimates have been made of savings effected by a courageous stroke of the pen ’ in 1904 --to quote Mr. Balfour's words—may turn to this Review for May 1905 and April 1906. The statements then made by the writer, after thorough investigation of facts, have never been challenged. Lord Tweedmouth (on the 18th of March) again stated-of course in accordance with the brief furnished to him--that in consequence of the scrapping of 150 ships, large quantities of naval stores and of ammunition were set free and have since been used in other vessels. In April 1906 the writer published in this Review a careful analysis of the grand total of 155 ships said to have been scrapped' or 'weeded out,' and showed that a very large number of these ships had not been regarded as effective for many years past; many of them being employed simply on harbour services as hulks, receiving ships, &c. Only forty-three vessels out of the 155 were really removed from the Effective List of the Navy; and out of these forty-three vessels, no fewer than thirty-six were small cruisers, sloops, and gunboats. This summary of the facts disposes completely of the claim that by scrapping ships very large quantities of stores and ammunition suitable for general use in the Fleet were set free, and that their amount could produce a marked effect on future reserves or on annual votes.
The third explanation-revision of the standard for stocks-must therefore be taken to have been the chief cause of the large withdrawals ' without replacement. This kind of economy has been practised previously. It has enabled temporary reductions to be made in Navy Estimates for certain years; but it has always been followed by reaction and by increased subsequent expenditure in replenishment
of stocks. Lord Tweedmouth in his Statement admits that a fresh sum of some 700,0001. has to be provided to buy the balance of naval stores required for 1908–9. It is proposed to 'draw from stock without replacement,' next year, stores to the value of 500,0001. ; but the provision made for Naval Stores (Vote 8 Sec. 2) is raised in the New Estimates to 2,113,0001. as against 223,2001. for 1907-8-an increase of over 70 per cent. Most fortunately the corner has been turned in time of peace. No practical test has been put upon the present reduced standard of stocks by the stern necessities of war; and it will be well if Lord Tweedmouth and Mr. Robertson follow up their first step by a thorough inquiry into the real necessities of the Fleet as it stands to-day in regard to reserves of stores. It is to their credit that action has been taken in this important matter at a time when there were great inducements to favour a minimum expenditure on stores.
REPAIRS OF THE FLEET
Considerable anxiety has existed for some time past as to the state of repair of the Fleet in commission and reserve. Probably many of the statements made in regard thereto have been exaggerated, but the fact remains that the provision made for repairs and maintenance of the ships of the Royal Navy during the last three financial years has been of moderate amount in proportion to the capital value of the Fleet and having regard to the complexity and delicacy of the mechanical equipment of modern warships. When comparisons are made between actual expenditure on repairs and maintenance in past years and the provision in recent Estimates this conclusion is inevitable. It is essential to the retention of naval supremacy that completed ships on the Effective List should be kept in the highest possible state of efficiency, with propelling apparatus, armaments and equipments in thorough repair and ready for immediate use. This result can only be secured by constant care and large expenditure. The relatively moderate provision made for repairs and maintenance (including sea stores) since 1904-5, in the opinion of the writer, has not sufficed to secure full efficiency. He gave reasons for that opinion in this Review for July 1905, when the provision was first reduced. It is neither necessary nor desirable to repeat what was then said, but it is important to summarise the recent history of the subject and to make the present position clear.
At the close of the last century the annual expenditure on repairs and maintenance stood at nearly 2 millions : it approached 2! millions in 1901-2. These amounts were found to be inadequate; repairs fell into arrear. Lord Selborne grappled with the difficulty, called in the aid of private firms, spent over 7 millions in the two following financial years, and provided nearly 4 millions in the Estimates for 1904–5, declaring in his Explanatory Statement of