HC Deb 19 March 1925 vol 181 cc2521-3

I am afraid I am not at liberty to divulge the personnel. There is one other subject to which I wish to refer—the Singapore base. As announced in the King's Speech, we have decided to proceed with the provision of a dock at Singapore, and one at which the largest vessels will be capable of being docked and repaired. The site has been very carefully investigated for several years past, and we have gone through it again in the last few months, and the preponderating evidence is in favour of the dock being placed in the Old Strait between the island and the peninsula of Johore. The programme so far decided upon is to set a floating dock in the Old Strait, and it will take about. three years to complete.

Several hon. Members yesterday put questions down upon this subject, and they were kind enough to allow me to say that I would deal with them in the course of this Debate. I hope I shall be able to give them the information they require in what I am now going to say. The floating dock which we are going to make use of is one of the German floating docks which came into our possession, and it is now at Portsmouth. The exact size has not yet been settled, but it is going to be large enough to dock battleships of the largest size. For that purpose this dock will have to be extended, and a certain sum will be required for that purpose.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is the work of extending this dock to be done before it leaves this country or at Singapore?


Most of it will have to be done before it leaves this coun- try. With regard to the full programme including the graving dock, the matter is still under consideration. I was asked yesterday to give the cost of the full programme. It was originally estimated to cost £ 11,000,000, and that was to include the floating dock and the graving dock and all the necessary complements to that. The graving dock itself was to cost £ 1,200,000, included in that sum. But we are going again into the whole question of the graving dock, both its extent and the buildings attached to it, and the time which should be spent over its building, and, at any rate, nothing can be done to begin it for a year or two from now.


So that so far as. expenditure on the dock is concerned, its suspension by the late Government has saved money and enabled you further to consider the matter?


It is not correct to say you have saved money, because some of it had to be wasted, but the amount required to be spent at Singapore on the floating dock, getting it into its place, making the necessary roads, moorings and so on, is estimated to cost £ 787,000, to be finished in three years. Those figures, which were given in the House of Lords, I think were not understood by some people to refer merely to the expense at Singapore. The floating dock has to have extensions made to it which will cost altogether £ 310,000, and there is a certain sum provided in our Estimates for supervising staff to supervise the work as it proceeds. The figure given for the cost of Singapore during the year of which we are speaking was £ 204,000, but. we have provided in the Estimates for £ 250,000, for two reasons. The first is that whatever we spend this year will only be deducted from the expenditure in future years, and therefore if we can spend up to £ 250,000 it would be an advantage. We have already got £ 250,000 for this purpose, and therefore it would be just as well to spend it if we can. [Interruption.] £ 250,000 has been contributed by Hong Kong for this purpose and for no other, so that if you do not spend it you are wasting it. That money is there ready to be spent, and we have put in the Estimates £ 250,000 in order that if we proceed fast enough we shall have made the necessary provision.