My hon. friend the Postmaster General says hear, hear. He has been saying hear, hear, all afternoon. Surely he deserves the knighthood and I hope I will be present when he receives the accolade.
It is the penalty of becoming a nation and which all nations have to hear and which, in course of time, I hope they may dispense with.
Without going any further, because I might multiply these examples, I say it is important to show that in reality there has been an attempt on the part of my right hon. friend the Prime Minister and his friends to veil and disguise their policy in grandiloquent^ expressions of all sorts instead of putting it fairly and frankly be-for the people. We have, therefore, the right to ask in the first place what is that policy. Now, I lay this as the basis of my argument. It is absolutely impossible to pursue even the very meagre report of the imperial conference, and there can be no doubt that report is incomplete; in fact it was decided at the conference that only such papers as were agreed upon would be put on record-I say it is impossible to read
that blue-book through and have any doubt whatever that the policy is absolutely new and novel, differing in every respect from any policy enunciated or suggested before by either the imperial or this government. There can be no doubt tiiat the policy is entirely novel, and that the people have so far been kept in the dark as to its real meaning and import. Let me point out what in reality is the proposal which was laid before the imperial conference in 1909 and agreed upon by our delegates and the others, and I will do it in connection with this proposition, which it is also necessary in the interests of truth to elucidate, and which is this. A local navy or a contribution of ships .and money is attended with precisely the same political consequences, because, in my province at any rate, it has been held out to the people in a deceptive way, that what the government proposes to do is to organize a naval defence uniquely and solely for our own protection, and it has been hinted every where that this was the first step in the direction of a far larger emancipation than we have hitherto enjoyed. I say that in the first place, it is suggested that in the case of the navy we are arming for our own xiro-tection. The responsibilities, however, are precisely the same, as far as political consequences are concerned, as if we were contributing in money or ships to the British navy. In the first case, as they are, we are arming for our own protection; in the second, we are making common cause with the imperial fleet for imperial defence. That is the pretension set forth in my "wn province, this view has been systematically advanced in the province of Quebec by people who are interested in deceiving the electorate. But in either case, the consequences, now I say, are the same. The only variation lies in the mode of assistance. That was what was advanced at every stage of this discussion as far as the British government was concerned. Of course, my right hon. friend did not agree to that. He who makes such terrible attacks on this side of the House, because there are on this side honest and sincere differences of opinion, has differed so often with himself on this very subject that he thinks he can escape by playing the role of the tadpole which throws mud all round it in order to escape. I am prepared under any circumstances to respect the opinions of my fellow citizens on this subject and that does not seem to be the disposition of the right hon. the Prime Minister or the future Knieht of the Bath, my hon. friend the Postmaster General (Mr. Lemieux). As soon as he is knighted, he will, like the errant cavaliers of ancient times, put a patch on his eye until he has met with some man of noble blood and slaughtered him.
What I say is that this proposition which I venture to lay before the House was abundantly proved by the proceedings of the conference itself in regard to which if my hon. friend, instead of giving us the story of Peter the Hermit, had explained those things, as he should have done, on the second reading of the Bill, I might have been spared the trouble of detaining the House on this point. _
In support of this, let us take in the first instance the declaration of the results of the conference made before the House of Commons by the Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Mr. Asquith, and set out in the proceedings of the conference-a declaration which was absolutely approved by the conference itself, and after one of our own delegates, my hon. friend the Minister of Militia, had moved a vote of thanks to the British government. This is the statement made by the Prime Minister:
The conference, which has just concluded its labours, was convened under the terms of Resolution I of the conference of 1907. In the invitation sent by His Majesty's government at the end of April to the governments of the dominions, it was stated that the object of the conference would be to discuss the general question of naval and military defence of the empire, with special reference to recent proposals from New Zealand and Australia, and to the resolution passed on March 29, by the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada. It was further stated that the conference would be of a purely consultative character, and that it would be held in private. It follows that all resolutions come to and proposals approved by the conference which has now been held, must be taken, so far as the delegates of the dominions are concerned, to be ad referendum, and of no binding force Unless and until submitted to their various parliaments.
1 should add, in special reference to the delegates from South Africa, that they did not feel themselves in a position, in regard to either naval or military defence, to submit or to approve positive proposals until the union of South Africa was an accomplished fact. With this preface I will briefly summarize the main conclusions of the conference in regard, first, to military, and next to naval defence.
After the main conference at the foreign office, a military conference took place at the War office, and resulted in an agreement on the fundamental principles set out in papers which had been prepared by the general staff for consideration by the delegates. The substance of these papers, which will be included among the papers to be published, was a recommendation that, without impairing the complete control of the government of each dominion over the military forces raided within it, these forces should be standardized, the formation of the units, the arragements for transport, the pattern of weapons, etc., being as far as possible assimilated to those which have recently been worked out for the British army. Thus, while the dominion troops would in each case he raised for the defence of the
dominion concerned, it would be made readily practicable in ease of need for that dominion to mobilize and use them for the defence of the empire as a whole.
The military conference then entrusted to a sub-conference, consisting of military experts at headquarters and from the various dominions, and presided over by Sir W. Nicholson, acting for the first time in the capacity of chief of the imperial general staff, the duty of working out the detailed application of these principles.
I may point out here that the creation early this year or an imperial general staff, thus brought into active working, is a result of the discussions and resolutions of the conference of 1907. Complete agreement was reached b.v the members of the sub-conference, and their conclusions were finally approved by the main conference and by the committee of imperial defence, which sat for the purpose under the presidency of the Prime Minister. The result is a plan for so organizing the forces of the Crown wherever they are that, while preserving the complete autonomv of each dominion, should the dominions desire to assist in the defence of the empire in a real emergency, their forces could be rapidly combined info one homogenous imperial army.
Naval defence was discussed at the meetings of the conference held at the Foreign Office on the 3rd, 5th and 6th August. The admiralty memorandum, which had been circulated to the Dominion representatives, formed the basis of the preliminary conferences.
The alternative methods which might be adopted by Dominion governments in co-operating in imperial naval defence were discussed. New Zealand preferred to adhere to her present policy of contribution; Canada and Australia preferred to lay the foundation of fleets of their own. It was recognized that in building up a fleet, a number of conditions should be conformed to. The fleet must be of a certain size in order to offer a permanent career to the officers and men engaged in the service; The personnel should be trained and disciplined under regulations similar to those established in the Royal navy, in order to allow of both interchange and union between the British and Dominion services; and with the same object, the standard of vessels and armaments should be uniform.
A remodelling of the squadrons maintained in far eastern waters was considered on the basis of establishing a Pacific fleet, to consist of three units in the East Indies, Australia and China seas, each comprising, with some variations, a large armoured cruiser of the new ' Indomitable' type, three second-class cruisers of the ' BristolJ type, six destroyers of the River class, and three submarine of ' C * class.
Separate meetings took place at the admiralty with the representatives of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and general statements were agreed to in each case for further consideration by their respective governments.