§ SIR E. GOURLEY (Sunderland)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will inform the House why the subsidy for the current estimate for merchant cruisers, without any addition to the number, is increased from £48,600 to £65,000 per annum; can he state, in detail, the nature of the constructional additions to the hulls of these vessels required by the Admiralty for the mounting of the guns, and also 1268 the number and calibre which will, in case of need, have to be fitted on board each cruiser, and where the guns and mountings are now stored; and, is it intended to continue the subsidy of the ships now under call, or rearrange it for swifter vessels; if the latter, are they to be fitted with one or two modern guns, and be manned with enrolled members of the Naval Reserve and a gunnery instructor?
§ GENERAL RUSSELL (Cheltenham)
I beg at the same time to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, as stated at the recent annual meeting of the Cunard Company, notice has been given to the effect that in September next the subsidies now paid to the "Lucania" and "Campania," at present the fastest and largest vessels in our mercantile marine, for their services as auxiliary armed cruisers, are to be withdrawn; and, whether, in view of the considerable increase under this head in this year's Naval Estimates, he has any objection to state the reasons which have caused the Admiralty to come to this decision?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN, St, George's,) Hanover Square
Notice has been given to terminate the present agreements with the Cunard, White Star, and P. and O. Companies, which are terminable by notice in this financial year, in order to place the Admiralty in the position of being able to review both the conditions of the contracts with the companies and the selection of vessels to be subsidised, a process which ought to be undertaken periodically. There is no intention of abandoning the policy of these subsidies. The increase in the Vote is to provide for the payment for one year's arrears of subvention, which, in certain cases, are kept in hand until the termination of the existing agreement. The constructional additions include the strengthenings under the deck and platforms on the deck at each gun emplacement. Armaments and mountings are complete, ready for issue to the ships. It is not desirable to publish further details with regard to the armaments and their disposition.