HC Deb 28 April 1920 vol 128 cc1194-5
14. Mr. PALMER

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether in the contract for the sale of ships of the Royal Navy to foreign countries there is any clause stipulating that there shall be no re-sale to our late enemies; and, if not, whether an assurance can be given that the contract will be amended, with a view to furnishing such safeguards?


The re-sale of vessels is prohibited by the conditions of sale; and where warships are sold to foreign countries, a bond is taken when necessary to secure that the vessel should be broken up to the satisfaction of the Admiralty.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that in no circumstances will any of these ships be allowed to pass into the hands of potential enemies? If he cannot give that assurance, will he not break up the ships?


I cannot give that assurance, because I do not know what the potential enemy is. So far, all our sales have been to Allies.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House some idea as to the age of the ships that are being sold, and, having regard to the fact that some ancient ships had modern guns fitted during the War, can he say whether these modern guns are being included?


Obviously I cannot give such detailed information, but I can tell the hon. Member that no ship is being sold which is not surplus to the requirements of His Majesty's Navy, and that no ship is sold without the approval and advice of the staff of the Navy. The question of sale has been considered by the Government as a whole, and every possible precaution is taken to prevent sales which would be likely to result in any possible injury to us. May I also point out that, if we do not sell ships which are surplus to our naval requirements, the result will merely be that a foreign country wanting a ship will order one to be built here—an order which would be readily taken—or will buy from some other country.

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