§ 19. Mr. LAMBERT
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if all the Royal yards are engaged in repairing warships; and whether such yards could be utilised for the repair of merchant ships, which are so urgently required for the carrying trade of the country?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The Royal dockyards are at present engaged in refitting and repairing warships and the necessary auxiliary yard craft, with the following exceptions: There is a small amount of new construction in hand, while one British merchant vessel and two vessels belonging to the United States are in hand for repair. Recently arrangements have been made to deal with the refits of many oilers which, up to the present, have been carried out by private firms, and at the present time four of these Teasels are in hand for refit, etc., in addition to a German cable ship, which is 338 being surveyed for return to the Eastern Telegraph Company. My right hon. Friend will realise from what I have just stated that the Royal dockyards can be utilised to a certain extent for the repair of merchant vessels, but I would point out to him that the ruling factor is the supply of the men of the necessary trades, which, at present, is not equal to the demand, either in private firms or in the dockyards themselves.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Why is it that the Royal dockyards are not used for repairing merchant ships when food-carrying ships are far more important than warships at the present time?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I told my right hon. Friend that the Royal dockyards are fully employed at the present time, and they are engaged upon one merchant ship, as I told him. The shortage of shipwrights and of joiners particularly, not only in the Royal Dockyards, but in the private firms as well, is the difficulty. We have not got them.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Then may I ask him whether it would not be possible, in view of the excellent naval situation, to knock off all repairing of warships, except as regards safety from sinking, and put all the workmen, as an emergency after-war measure, on to mercantile repairing?
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Long)
That question, obviously, affects the whole policy of the British Admiralty and the Government. I have said what that policy was on two previous occasions in this House. The suggestions made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman are, of course, being considered by the Admiralty, but to suggest that no repairs of warships, no necessary repairs, and that none of the ravages of war should be made right now is an impossible suggestion.
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
Is it not the case that a large number of these ships that are being repaired in the yards in this country are being detained and hindered by constant strikes and trade union rules?