HC Deb 21 February 1902 vol 103 cc735-6

I am sure the House will look with interest to the character of the programme we propose for next year. There will be some hon. Members who have noted the fact that the total provision proposed for the new programme at the beginning of last year has not yet been expended. I do not say that I do not to certain extent regret the fact, but I do not think the fact that some ships will be barely commenced by the end of the financial year will vary very much the date of their completion. I believe that the difference of a few weeks one way or another will not seriously or to any great extent affect the date of completion of the ships. But I should have a very bad tale to tell if I were unable to account for the utilization of the money that we asked for new construction at the beginning of the year, and if I could not say it had been effectively spent on another purpose. I am glad to say that I can give that assurance. I can give the assurance to the House that there has been an almost unparalleled rapidity of work on some ships now under construction. I can assure the House that the long period of arrears and delays has now come to an end, and on two ships alone—on two of the most powerful armoured cruisers—there has been an expenditure in excess of the estimated year's cost of no less than £70,000 on each. The House will thus realise that what has not gone in one form of construction has effectively gone in another. We have a great ship now lying at Portsmouth, the "Good Hope," of the formidable class of cruisers which takes its name from the "Drake," which has been delivered by the contractors two months before the contracted elate. There has been solid, steady work put into the existing pro- gramme of construction, all of which will, I think, produce its fruit at a very early date in a large addition to our Fleet.