HC Deb 29 November 1922 vol 159 cc667-70
2. Colonel WEDGWOOD

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what countries have as yet ratified the decisions as to the reduction of naval armaments taken at the Washington Conference over a year ago; and whether he has any information as to the present attitude towards ratification of the French Government or Parliament?


The United States, Japan and Great Britain are now in a position to proceed to the deposit of their ratifications in accordance with the terms of the Treaty. I have no official information as to the present attitude of the French Government towards ratification.


Then we are to understand that neither the French nor the Italian Governments have ratified them?


That is so.

12. Viscount CURZON

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty which of the signatories have so far ratified the Treaty of Washington and which have not; and what steps have been taken up to date to dispose of ships condemned under the Washington Treaty in Great Britain, the United States, and Japan?

The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Commander Eyres-Monsell)

The Treaty of Washington has been ratified by the United States of America, Japan and this country, but not yet by France or Italy. Eight British capital ships rendered useless for war purposes have already been sold to, and removed by, shipbreaking firms for breaking up. Six more have been rendered incapable of further warlike service, and two more will have been similarly dealt with by the end of next month. So far as is known, the United States and Japan have not actually disposed of ships except possibly obsolete ships which would hive been disposed of in the ordinary course. I may add that until the Treaty has been ratified by all the Powers, none of them are bound to dispose of any vessels.

Viscount CURZON

Is not a very serious situation disclosed in that it means every ship will be reduced to scrap except the "Lion." whereas the United States and France have so far done nothing?


No, Sir. I think it is right that this country should give a lead in good faith, and also that we should be the first country to show our intention, in the spirit and in the letter, of carrying out this great Treaty for the limitation of armaments.


Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman give the names of the vessels that have been sold, the names of the firms who have bought the ships, and the prices paid?


I should be glad to do so, if my hon. Friend will communicate with me.


Now that the intentions have been shown, will the hon. Member undertake that no other ships shall be dealt with until the other countries have taken similar action?


Yes, Sir.


Is it not the case that the ships that have been scrapped were useless in any case?

13. Viscount CURZON

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what is the present relative strength of the navies of Great Britain, United States, and Japan in capital ships; and when are the capital ships already approved by Parliament to be laid down, in view of the fact that under the Washington Treaty they have to be commenced before 31st December?


The answer to the first part of the question as regards completed capital ships is

Great Britain:

23, of which one is still due to be scrapped on ratification of the Washington Agreement.

United States of America:

26, of which eight are similarly due to be scrapped under the Agreement.


15, of which five are due to be scrapped.

The United States have 15 capital ships in various stages of completion, of which under the Agreement only two are to be completed as battleships and two allocated as aircraft carriers. Japan has four capital ships building, of which two have been allocated as aircraft carriers, and two will be scrapped. As regards the second part of the question, I would refer try Noble and gallant Friend to the reply given by the First Lord to the hon. Members for Ecclesall and Devonport on the 27th November.


Is there anything in the Washington arrangement that prevents our building cruisers in the Royal yards?


The hon. Member had better put that question down.


I think that it arises on this question.

Commander BELLAIRS

Is no further progress being made with the ships which are to be scrapped by the United States and which are not completed?


I believe that that is so.