§ MR. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether firms tendering for the construction of battleships and cruisers have had their tenders accepted by the Admiralty on condition that they extended the required period for construction.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. Goschen,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I need scarcely say that the whole policy of the Board of Admiralty is in exactly the opposite direction to the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman's question. We have, of course, been anxious for the quickest possible construction of ships. I have puzzled over the possible genesis of the delusion that we accepted tenders on condition that firms extended the period required for construction, and the only thing that I have been able to hunt up which could be twisted into supporting it has been the circumstance that one firm offered on one occasion earlier delivery of a cruiser than the contract date in the form of tender, if we could guarantee the earlier delivery of armour than stated in the invitation to tender. This guarantee we were unable to give. At the same time we informed the firm that any earlier delivery of the vessel they might find it possible to realise would be fully appreciated by the Board.