HC Deb 22 February 1921 vol 138 cc754-5
48. Lieut. - Colonel ARCHER - SHEE

asked the Prime Minister whether any policy has yet been decided on by the Cabinet with reference to the building of capital ships, in view of the fact that the United States are now building or are about to build 700,000 tons of capital ships, and that Japan is building or is about to build nearly 300,000 tons of capital ships; whether any decision has been come to to postpone the question of laying down capital ships until after the Imperial Conference; whether there are very few slips upon which first-class capital ships can be built in this country, and that, if the order for large ships is delayed, it will mean that it will be difficult to obtain the necessary armour, guns, etc., owing to the disbandment of their expert staffs and dismantling of their factories by the armament firms; and whether he can say whether the House will be given an opportunity of discussing the general policy as regards naval strength at an early date?

Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)

The question of the building of capital ships is still under consideration of the Committee of Imperial Defence, who have before their minds all the considerations referred to in the question of my hon. and gallant Friend. No decision has yet been reached. The House will have the opportunity of discussing the subject in connection with the Naval Estimates.


Will any provision be made for the construction of capital ships in the Navy Estimates about to be submitted?


I said that no decision had yet been taken. When the Estimates are submitted the House will see what is the decision of the Government.


When is it expected that the Committee will form their conclusion?


I think we should have had the matter settled now but for the Conference. We must come to a decision before the Estimates are introduced and the end of the financial year.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is the Government considering approaching the Powers mentioned on the question, with regard to a conference on the whole question of shipbuilding?


I think it would be undesirable to give any expression of opinion about that. At all events, it would be premature until a new American Government has taken office.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Are we doing nothing?

Rear-Admiral ADAIR

Are the figures which are quoted, 700,000 and 300,000, respectively, accepted as correct by the Admiralty or by whomsoever is supposed to check them?


As my answer did not go into details I did not check the figures. I cannot say off-hand.

Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these are figures given by a first-class American naval expert and that they were published in one of the leading newspapers?


I was not aware of that. In any case I cannot accept responsibility for them without examination.