HC Deb 05 May 1920 vol 128 cc2050-3
24. Sir C. KINL0CH-C00KE

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, since his recent visit to Devonport, he has received any deputations from representatives of labour; if so, will he say what labour sections were represented on those deputations; and whether the interviews enabled him to make any further pronouncement regarding the carrying out of the recommendations contained in Section 14 of the Colwyn Report that the Admiralty should utilise their surplus facilities of the Royal Dockyards in the construction of mercantile vessels?


A deputation of the Amalgamated Union of Shipbuilding, Engineering and Constructional Workers, comprising the Shipconstructors' and Shipwrights' Association, Boilermakers' and Iron Steel Shipbuilders' Society, Blacksmiths' and Ironworkers' Society, was received by the First Lord on 28th April to arrange for the waiving of demarcation rules to enable an adjustment of labour to be made as necessary, for Mercantile Shipbuilding to be carried out in the Royal Dockyards. A provisional agreement has been arrived at which, when finally approved, will enable the following ships to be constructed in the dockyards:

  • At Devonport.—500-ton collier. 5,000–8,000 tons ship.
  • At Portsmouth.—10,000-ton oiler.
  • At Chatham.—Certain machinery for the above vessels.
This is in addition to the two 10,000-ton oilers previously decided upon.


Is it the fact that the Cunard Company offered two large boats to be repaired which would have given labour?


I think there is a subsequent question on that point.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if, in accordance with the suggestions made in Section 18 of the Colwyn Report, he has invited offers from shipowners requiring accommodation at Devonport as a terminal port; if so, will he say what replies, if any, have been received; in the event of no such action having been taken, as suggested in the Colwyn Report, will he say what steps, if any, he proposes to take to carry out the spirit, if not the letter, of the recommendations; and, if any steps on these lines have been taken, will he say what they were and what results have accrued therefrom?


The P. & O. and Orient Steamship Companies were approached by the Admiralty in January last on the lines suggested in Section 18 of the Colwyn Report, and both these companies wrote replying that, after full consideration, they were unable to make any use of Devonport Dockyard as suggested.

At a recent conference presided over by the First Lord at Devonport, the local deputation, headed by the mayor, were informed that the Admiralty would undertake to reserve the western arm of the Prince of Wales basin for loading and unloading merchant shipping if there was a demand for such facilities, and it was mutually agreed that the Corporation of Plymouth should be given a free hand to conduct the negotiations with the shipping companies, details being arranged as necessary with the Admiral Superintendent locally.


Are we to understand that the request has been granted?


Only to the limited extent I have indicated in my answer.


Is it true that in Portsmouth, where you are discharging both skilled men and labourers, there is a cruiser that has been on the stocks there for considerably over four years and that the reason for the dismissal of these men is because you have no available stocks?


I have not any further details.

32. Sir B. FALLE

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware of the claim to compensation made by Robert E. Read, ex-hired skilled labourer, Portsmouth Dockyard; that this man has been ordered to come to London to be reported on by a medical referee; that Read's state of health is such that he cannot travel without an attendant, which has been granted by the Admiralty, and must be conveyed in cabs to and from the station and the doctor; if there are no competent and honourable surgeons in Portsmouth who could be asked to report and save this invalid the trouble and pain of a long journey and the State an extravagance; and if he will see to the matter and future and similar cases?


Arrangements were made for Read's examination by the Government Medical Referee under the instructions of the Treasury and in accordance with the terms of the Government Scheme of Compensation. In cases in which it is considered sufficient to have the man examined locally this is invariably done, but where the Admiralty and private doctors disagree, it is generally considered advisable to refer such cases for the decision of the Referee. On the available facts in this case, arrangements were made accordingly, but in view of the suggestion that Read is unfit to travel, the Treasury is in communication with the Medical Referee with a view to considering whether arrangements can be made for his examination by a local practitioner.


Will my hon. and gallant Friend be good enough to see that some expedition is used in this case?


I understand from inquiry I made before I came down to the House that expedition is being used.