HC Deb 08 December 1908 vol 198 cc227-30
MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been drawn to the conditions and specifications for the works at Rosyth as issued to the competing contractors; whether he is aware that under those conditions it must be at least six years before even one graving dock can be available for the use of the Fleet; whether he is aware that the plans also provide that the Admiralty may defer giving the order for the second graving dock for three and a half years; whether it is possible to modify these plans so that the construction of these docks may be commenced immediately, and may proceed simultaneously with the construction of the closed basin, instead of being deferred until the latter is completed; and can he state what steps the Government propose to take to provide for the docking of His Majesty's ships of the "Dreadnought" or larger types on the East Coast pending the completion of the Rosyth works.


The reply to the first part of the hon. Member's Question is in the affirmative. With regard to the second part, the time for finishing the contract is seven years, but there is no limit to the amount of bonus which the contractor can earn for earlier completion. If the second dock is ordered within three and a half years, it must be completed at the same time as the remainder of the contract. The hon. Gentleman, from his experience at the Admiralty, will be aware that the lock, basin, pumping stations, caissons, etc., must be completed before any dock can be available. The question of other docks on the East Coast is engaging the attention of the Admiralty. I would remind the hon. Member that the design for the "Dreadnought," was passed in March, 1905, when he was himself the member of the Board of Admiralty responsible for works.


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my Question with regard to the first of the two docks? He only referred to the second. Are there any engineering difficulties which would prevent the construction of the first of these docks simultaneously with the construction of the closed basin, as was done in the case of Keyham and other works of a similar nature?


I think that is answered in the part of the reply in which I say that "the hon. Gentleman, from his experience at the Admiralty, will be aware that the lock, basin, pumping stations, etc., must be completed before any dock can be available?"


But is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that was not the case when works were made at Keyham? And what special engineering difficulties are there at Rosyth which would make it impossible to construct these two works simultaneously, when it has been done successfully elsewhere?


These are matters with which I am not personally familiar. If the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question I will get a reply.


What steps are being taken with regard to further docks on the East Coast?


I can give no further information as to that, but the question is engaging the attention of the Admiralty at the present time.

MR. BELLOC (Salford, S.)

Do these contracts include the fortification of the port?


No, Sir.

MR. JENKINS (Chatham)

inquired whether it was true that it would take six years to complete the dry dock at Rosyth, and, in view of the fact that a large number of vessels would be built of the type of the "Dreadnought," whether the right hon. Gentleman would consider the advisability of enlarging, at a much less cost than would be involved in the case of Rosyth, existing docks which had now become obsolete.


The hon. Member is opening up a very controversial question. The matter is engaging the attention of the Admiralty.

MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

asked whether in the uncertain state of naval architecture the right hon. Gentleman had not better postpone the making of these harbours, and settle the final details of our great ships.


No, Sir. We have already such a large number of this type of ships under construction that, whatever the future type of ships should be, we shall nevertheless require docks of this size.


But shall we not require docks for even bigger ships?

[No Answer was returned.]