HC Deb 20 March 1918 vol 104 cc953-5

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has now completed his inquiries into the statement made by Sir John Ellerman regarding tonnage built during the last thirteen months; and whether ships were launched in November and December of last year before they were in a proper condition to be put into the water?


I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for raising this question. With regard to the first part of the question, I dealt with the statement made j by Sir John Ellerman in my answer to a question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Wirral Division on the 14th instant. The whole question of tonnage output will be dealt with by the First Lord in the statement he proposes to make this afternoon.

With regard to the second part of the question, the figures of output do not deal with launchings at all. They give the tonnage of vessels completed and handed over for service. No question, therefore, of launching vessels during the latter months of the year before they were in proper condition, can arise.


asked if the officials responsible for the output of the apparatus for the destruction of submarines, and for merchant tonnage, are still in employment by the Admiralty?


Yes, Sir.

8. Sir F. HALL

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will state the percentage in the reduction of output in the shipbuilding yards in the Clyde for December, 1917, and January, 1918, as compared with the estimates that had been made by the Government?


Undoubtedly the actual output on the Clyde for December, 1917, fell seriously below the official forecast; that for January, 1918, more seriously below the official forecast. I have already endeavoured to state the main reason, in the answer I gave my hon. and gallant Friend on the 18th March. I am afraid I am not in a position to give precise percentages.


Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman tell the House the actual percentages? Have they not been worked out?


I told my hon. and gallant Friend on the 8th that a very serious defect indeed had occurred in the output because of the strikes to which I refer, but it would be very difficult to say precisely in percentages the effect.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say what ton meant by output? Does he mean the tonnage launched, tonnage completed, or the number of tons of material worked into ships in course of construction?


I should say the second—tonnage completed.


Does the right hon. Gentleman not think, in view of the serious state of the shipbuilding industry, that it would be to the general interests, of the country if he were able to give the figures showing exactly what losses we had sustained in consequence of these strikes?


I have categorically answered the question as closely as I could in the answer I have given to my hon. and gallant Friend. If we were to give arithmetical calculations on definite points, and if inadvertently they were untrustworthy, then we should have controversy on that particular reply.


Can he give the same statistics for the Tyne as for the Clyde?


I have already stated in my answer that the strikes had a very serious effect on the output.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if, at certain shipbuilding yards, the joiners have been on strike for a considerable period owing to their refusal to do piece-work; if the action of these men is delaying the construction of vessels to be used for bringing men home on leave from the front; if the men on strike are exempted from military service on the ground that they are indispensable; and whether the Government are prepared to take steps to release such men from the shipbuilding yards in order that they may fill up vacancies in the Army?


Since the 21st February 133 joiners have been on strike at one shipbuilding yard, that of Messrs. Denny Bros., Dumbarton, on the ground mentioned. The Minister of Labour and the Navy Controller have interviewed the representatives of the Employers' Federation and of the society concerned, and in the meantime the union has given an undertaking to use its influence with the men to return to work. Some of the men have returned to-day.

The men are on plain time-work pending a further consideration in the matters under dispute and the action of the society therewith. Undoubtedly the action of the society and the men has caused delay to several vessels which are urgently required, amongst others one vessel of the type used for bringing men home on leave from the front. The joiners in the shipyards between the ages of twenty-three and forty are at present exempted from military service.


Are we to understand that the Government have allowed men to remain on strike for two months without intervening?


I said that 133 men had been on strike for the reasons stated since 21st January, that the Navy Controller and the Ministry of Labour had intervened, that we had had discussions, and that pending a decision the men were going back and some had gone back.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman—


There are nearly 140 questions on the Paper.