HC Deb 27 November 1922 vol 159 cc277-9

asked the Prime Minister whether, seeing that our present expenditure on the fighting forces is double that of pre-War, he will, before sanctioning orders being placed for two new battleships, ascertain whether sums already allocated are being properly spent; and whether the sum necessary for the provision of two new battleships would be better employed for defence purposes in the equipment of an efficient air force?


I am not at present in a position to give a definite answer to this question, as the Cabinet has not yet had time to re-examine this and similar questions of expenditure.


Before any definite order is given for any battleship, will the House of Commons have an opportunity of expressing its opinion on the matter, and also expressing its opinion as to whether the money would not be better spent on aircraft than on battleships?

Viscount CURZON

Is it not a fact that the House of Commons has already had an opportunity of expressing an opinion?


If hon. Members endeavour to debate every question by question and answer it will be unfair to those whose questions are lower down on the Paper.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what progress has been made with respect to giving out the orders for the construction of the two new battleships, their armament, and armour; and whether, with a view to relieving the unemployment in the centres interested, he can at once expedite such orders?


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can now say what steps have been taken with regard to the placing of con tracts in the matter of new capital ships; whether it is the intention of the Government to lay down one of these ships in the Royal dockyards; if so, whether he will consider the advisability of laying one down at Devonport; whether he is aware that the lengthening of the slip at Devonport would give work to a consider able number of men who are now unemployed; and, seeing that the undertaking is a necessity, can he give any assurance that the work will be started immediately?

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Amery)

Tenders for the construction of the two new battleships and their armament and armour have been invited and some have been already considered. I hope that a decision will be reached in the whole matter very shortly, but the latest tenders are not due till the end of this month, so that a final decision cannot be given for some days yet. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) that the possibilities of building in the Royal yards have been fully explored, but I regret that the Board of Admiralty could not accept the very serious delay in completion of one of the ship's, if it were built at Devonport, where the slip on which it would be built could not possibly be ready for some 18 months.


Would it not have been possible, if the slip had been enlarged 18 months ago, to have given instructions that the ships should be built in the Devonport Dock- yard, and was this possibility not brought to the right hon. Gentleman's notice 18 months ago?


That would have involved a cessation of the work which, was being done in the dockyard during the 18 months.

Viscountess ASTOR

Is it not true that I brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman—


This dockyard competition is not in place now.