HC Deb 16 March 1903 vol 119 cc876-7

There is one subject which I think may interest the House on which I should like to say a word. It is undoubtedly going to have an effect on the rapidity and the quality of the construction of our ships. Last year I made a reference to a matter which was then engaging the attention of the Admiralty—namely, the standardisation of our work. That question has been dealt with for a year past by some of the most powerful engineering committees which this country has ever seen, gathered together, under the presidency of Sir John Wolfe Barry. Those committees, on which there have been representatives of the great Government Departments, are now commencing the product of their labours, and the first of their volumes on standardised sections has been already issued. I should not have spoken about this matter but that it has the greatest possible bearing on the work of the Admiralty. When I say, what I believe to be a moderate estimate, that the Government of this country controls manufactures to the extent of over £40,000,000 a year, and that out of that the Admiralty controls at least £18,000,000 or £19,000,000, it will be seen that anything which tends towards the efficient supply of properly manufactured and properly graded materials must be of importance to the Admiralty. Let me give one or two examples of what this means to a great manufacturing concern like the Admiralty. The 12-inch guns up to last year were manufactured by three great makers. The exceedingly complicated mountings for those guns which cost some £30,000 apiece, were manufactured with minute differences by these three great makers. We have now got these three makers into one room, and they have agreed to make every part of these great mountings interchangeable. That is a considerable advantage; for now, wherever these 12-inch guns go throughout the world, from all our stores we shall be able to replace any part of them at the shortest possible notice. With regard to another class of mountings, small, but not unimportant—I mean the transferable mountings of the 6-inch guns—I believe I am not exaggerating when I say that the effect of standardising will save us from £100,000 to £200,000 in respect of the accumulations of those mountings, which at the present time we are obliged to make and put in the stores, but which now are to be made interchangeable on all guns of the same class. We have taken the lead in this matter at the Admiralty, and within the last week we have taken steps to communicate officially to all those who are concerned, and to our heads of Departments all over the world, an announcement that we propose, in consequence of the efforts of these great voluntary Committees, to give all our orders for Admiralty material in terms of these standardised dimensions. I think it will be seen, therefore, that we are taking a step which is likely to have real value in connection with the building work of the Admiralty.