HC Deb 19 December 1919 vol 123 cc853-4

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether no can state the total amount of contract or other liability in respect of new construction outstanding at the time of the Armistice in connection with which there has been a saving of £46,400,000 due to cancellations effected subsequent to the time of the Armistice?


The estimated total amount outstanding at the date of the Armistice on new construction and armaments therefore was £96,500,000. The saving by cancellations therefore amounted to nearly one-half of the total outstanding liability.

I should add that one of the main reasons why we continued the construction of the ships, not cancelled, was that they had reached such a stage in construction as to render it uneconomical to discontinue; and, further, that amongst the vessels under construction were many trawlers, drifters, tugs, and lighters, which it was obviously desirable to complete on account of their commercial value. In fact, we have realised already, by the sale of trawlers and drifters alone so completed, nearly £2,000,000.

The naval vessels proper which we continued since the Armistice are, of course, needed for naval requirements, and have enabled us to replace obsolete and obsolescent vessels by much more efficient types.


I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend for his answer. May I ask, arising out of that answer, on the general question of costs, whether he has been able to do anything by way of compliance with my request, addressed to the First Lord and himself, on the Navy Estimates when they were before the House, by way of a monthly return showing the reduction in the cost of the Navy to the nation; and will he, if he cannot give a complete return such as I suggested, at any rate give a return which will show one or two of the main items, such as that of the reduction of numbers, which is, after all, I think, one of the chief indices of reductions?


Immediately the right hon. Gentleman made the suggestion I put it in a concrete form to the Department for their view as to its practicability. In certain respects it would be very difficult, and it might be misleading, as I think the right hon. Gentleman knows. As regards the latter part a his question, as to whether we could select certain characteristic items of expenditure and prepare a return of those, which would not be misleading, probably, that I will consider very carefully and will communicate the result to my right hon. Friend.


Can it be done during the Recess, without waiting for the House to meet again?


If it were considered by the proper authorities to be a practicable proposal, there is no reason why it should not be done at once.