§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That there be laid before this House a Return, showing the Fleets of the British Empire, United States of America, Japan, France, Italy, Russia, and Germany, on the 1st day of February, 1924, omitting obsolete ships of all classes, and distinguishing, both built and building, Battle hips, Battle Cruisers, Cruisers, Licit Cruisers, Cruiser Mine-layers, Armoured Coast Defence Vessels and Monitors, Aircraft Carriers, Flotilla Leaders, Torpedo-boat Destroyers, Torpedo Boats, Submarines, Sloops, Coastal Motor Boats, Gunboats and Despatch Vessels, and River Gunboats:
§ Return to show date of laying down, date of completion, displacement, horsepower, type of machinery and fuel and armaments, reduced to one common scale (in continuation of Parliamentary Paper, No. 67, of Session 1923)."—[Rear-Admiral Sir Guy Gaunt.]
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Is it possible, by any form, to object to a Return of this character? It is in the same obsolete form as 30 years ago, and its preparation will cost a great deal of money. It has never previously been moved for at this early period of the Session, and I wish to know if this Motion could not be postponed, especially as there may be a new First Lord of the Admiralty dealing with this matter shortly. I have objected to this Return in private on past occasions, but I have never objected to it on the 235 Floor of the House. I should like to know now if there be any means of having it postponed until opinions can be secured?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
May I, in support of the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs), point out that a Return in the form asked for on the Paper is capable of being altogether misleading. It may be misused, and misrepresentations may be made with it. There are certain very necessary additions which should be made to such a Return, and until they are made I should like to move that we resist this Motion, and postpone it until it has been put in order.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think there has never been a case where an hon. Member has moved for a Return, and where the Government have agreed to it, in which objection has been taken in the House. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member for Buckrose (Sir G. Gaunt), in view of what has been said, would like to consult the two hon. and gallant Members who have raised objections, and put the Motion down again on a future date?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
May I submit, very respectfully, that as this involves expenditure, the amount of which has not been stated, the House has a perfect right to discuss and, if need be, reject the Motion.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I was not ruling on that point, but only calling attention to a very old custom of the House.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.