§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty at what date were the battleships and cruisers of the 1904–5 programme laid down, and where; what interval of time elapsed between the date of the announcement of the 1904–5 programme to Parliament and the laying down of the two battleships; in the case of the new programme does the Admiralty propose to carry out the statement of the then Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, 3rd July, 1903, that it was their intention to return to the system under which the laying down of vessels proposed in any year shall follow closely upon Parliamentary sanction being received.
§ * THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. PRETYMAN,) Suffolk, Wood-bridge
Tenders for building the two battleships of the 1904–5 programme were accepted as follows—"Lord Nelson," Palmer's Shipbuilding Yard; "Agamemnon," Beardmore's, Glasgow, both in November last. Both firms have made good progress with the preliminary work, but the keels are not yet laid on the blocks. Of the three cruisers, the "Minotaur" was laid down in Devonport Dockyard on the 2nd January, 1905, the "Shannon" at Chatham Dockyard on the same date, and the "Defence" at Pembroke Dockvard on the 22nd 301 February. The earlier commencement of ships included in the annual programme is a policy desirable in itself, but must always be subject to modification having regard to the circumstances of the year. I may add that what is technically known as "laying down" is not a governing factor in reference to the time of building. An immense amount of preparation and collection of material has to precede the construction of a ship, and the laying of the keel may actually take place at any time during this period without affecting the date of completion.