COMMAND OF THE SEAS.
RACE FOR DREADNOUGHTS GERMANY'S ACTIVITY. BRITAIN'S PROGRAMME INSUFFICIENT. (By Cable.--Press Association.—Copyright 1 LONDON, March 17. The House of Commons was crowded last evening on the occasion of the Naval Estimates being introduced by Mr R. JVIc- ! Kenna (First Lord of the "Admiralty). J The disquieting effect produced by Mr Balfour's detached non-party criticisms and Mr Asquith's grave admissions was intensified by the attitude of a majority jof the Reduction of Armaments Commit J toe and the Labour party having resolved Ito vote against the proposed increases. Mr jVleKenna admitted that the Estij mates required the strongest justification j from a Government pledged to peace, retrenchment, and reform, but the limits of -the British Xavy were fixed by other Powers. GERMANY'S HASTE. Germany was so hastening her shipbuilding programme that 13 Dreadnoughts, j instead of nine, would be completed by j 1011. Britain would then have 16, j but it was possible that Germany would complete four more by April, 1912. Thus the necessity for Britain ordering guns and armour to enable her to complete four extra battleships by March, 1912. Continuing, Mr McKenna remarked that in 1907 there were only two ships in the German Navy capable of meeting the British Dreadnoughts. Now there are 14 (?) and three in course of construction. Moreover. Knipp's and other firms were now able to supply the component parts of eight battleships in a single year. The resources of British firms would be taxed to retain supremacy in rapidity and volume of construction. The Dreadnought and Invincible types of I battleships and cruisers wer? not the I only vessels that Britain depended upon, I but in case of war it would be impossible to recall cruisers from foreign service, they being necessary to keep open the highways of the sea. The life of the King Edward VII. and Formidable types of vessels had been shortened, though they were not obsolete. A ONE-POWER STANDARD. Mr Balfour emphasised the fact that Germany had laid down eignt Dreadnoughts during 1908, and quoted the statement of the Gorman Minister for Marine in the Reichstag that '-we can build as fast as the English.' , Assuming ! this was true, in December, lfilO. Great I Britain would have 10 Dreadnoughts land Germany 13. and in July. 1911. Bri- , tain 14 and' Germany 17. For the first ) time in modern history. Mr Balfour con--1 tinued. Great Britain was facing a situ- ! ation so new and dangerous that it was difficult to realise all its import. Border- ■ in" our waffrs was a Power with capacity and will to compete with our navy. The Government's programme, he contended, was utterly insufficient. He askIcd the House to adopt a resolution, not I for a two-Power standard, which was beyond question, but for a one-Power standard. in ships of the first class, which seemed slipping from our grasp. BRITAIN'S LOST ADVANTAGE. Mr Asquith, in replying, admitted that the- hypothefi? upon which the la.~t naval programme was based had _been falsified by events. The GovernmenF had been greatly surprised in November to learn that Germany was hastening tlie construction of four Dreadnoughts. It was I now untrue that Germany required 30 I months to build a ship that Great Brij tain could complete in 24. There had ' been such an enormous development in merchant shipping in Germany, as well as in warship construction and all that appertained thereto, that Britain no longer held the advantage. Dealing with Mr Balfour's estimates, ' Mr Asquith stated that Germany had given an explicit and most distinct de- ■ claration that she did not intend to further accelerate her naval programme. Though this was not a pledge in the sense of an agreement, and it was impossible to put it before Parliament, the Government programme was based upon the assumption that the declaration would not be carried out. There was no possibility of an unai'gement v.;?h Germany for mutual reduction. Kiforts in that direction had been made, but Jitod failed. If Germany accelerated her I building, Britain would have, time during the year to make the necessary provision for replying. In answer to Mr Balfour. Mr McKenna stated that he, believed that only the material and armaments had been ool- ) leeted for two of thp four Dreadnoughts, the construction of which it was proposed to hasten. Mr Asquith added that he. regretted the necessity for comparisons with Germany. He insisted that he did not wish to imply that the relations between the two countries were strained.
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