HC Deb 19 May 1924 vol 173 cc1813-4
23 Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that the eight cruisers which it has been decided to lay down for the United States Navy were originally proposed by the United States Navy Department, but that they were eliminated from the Budget before presentation to Congress; that on the news being received of the intention of His Majesty's Government to lay down five additional cruisers the eight United States cruisers were reintroduced into Congress by the House Committee on Naval Affairs; and whether, in view of the above, he will consider inviting this House to make some definite response to the recommendation of Congress to the President of the United States of America for the calling of a new conference on the limitation of naval armaments and, in the meantime, will he delay further work on the proposed new British cruisers?


With regard to the first and second parts of the question, I understand that the reason for the elimination of the cruiser programme from the Naval Appropriations Bill before presentation to Congress is that Congressional authorisation had not previously been obtained for this new construction, and that therefore it could not be included in the Bill, but had to be embodied in a separate Bill re-introduced into Congress. The events have been decided by rules of procedure, and, as far as His Majesty's Government are aware, no considerations connected with the British programme of cruiser construction entered into the matter. With regard to the last part of the question, I must refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply given to him on the 12th May by the Leader of the House, and to the answer of the Leader of the House given to the hon. Member for the Rusholme Division of Manchester on the 27th March.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

In view of what has happened in Congress since we ordered our five cruisers, would not the right hon. Gentleman consider that it would help the negotiations, which we all want to do, if we could retard our programme, particularly having regard to the great speed of British shipbuilding?


Is it not quite clear that the decision of the United States was taken before we decided on our programme?


There is no connection between what happened in America and what happened here. Moreover, I have the very best reason for stating that there is no misunderstanding in America with regard to our intentions.


Are we to understand that it had been decided to proceed with this American programme irrespective of our programme?