HC Deb 15 March 1928 vol 214 cc2254-61

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £1,805,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Works, Buildings, and Repairs, at home and abroad, including the cost of Superintendence, Purchase of Sites, Grants in Aid, and other Charges connected therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1929.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I beg to move, "That Subhead B (New works, additions, and alterations) be reduced by £100,000."

I can explain briefly my reasons for moving this reduction. The expenditure up to date on the Singapore Dockyard is about £500,000 out of a total of £6,917,000. This year it is proposed to spend £200,000 on the dockyard, and want to reduce the expenditure by half. The total cost of the Singapore base is to be £9,750,000. One reason why I am moving this reduction is the development referred to by the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan)—the proposals of Mr. Kellogg to the French Government, which are, of course, still going on. He proposes that there should be a five-Power Treaty, jointly and severally outlawing war between the countries. If we accept the invitation, which has been addressed to us as well as the French Republic, and outlaw war by a solemn treaty between this country and Japan, it is absurd to go on with Singapore. Until we see the outcome of the very important negotiations now in progress, we ought to slow down expenditure and, I think, a reduction of half is not unreasonable.

Other reasons are too well known for me to spend much time on them. There is an existing dockyard at Singapore which can take the largest sized cruisers now being built. At Hong Kong the local company is enlarging the present dockyard to take the largest battleships. At Esquimalt is a dry dock, which can take the largest battleships and at Sydney, is the dock at Cockatoo Island, which will take the largest cruisers—all in the Pacific. Therefore, I consider this new dock unnecessary. There is a dockyard already to deal with the work, and the Straits can be closed, in time of war, by means of submarines, mines, long range artillery and aeroplanes. The site is unhealthy and it is easy to attack it from the land, and it would be much better to have the main Pacific base at Sydney, where the Australian army would defend it, and it would be a useful recruiting field for the young manhood of Australia. Singapore on all these grounds is a mistake but it is a double mistake at the present time in view of the discussions which I have mentioned. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are fond of saying that we should always employ British firms and buy British goods with Government money. The new floating dock is being towed out to Singapore by a Dutch company. I asked to-day how much the contract was worth but apparently it is not in the public interest to disclose the details. We may assume that it is a very considerable sum. I cannot believe that there is no British company capable of doing the work and we ought to have an explanation of why the contract was given to a Dutch company. Was it done to save money, and if so, what have hon. Members opposite to say about it? If there was no British company capable of doing the work, it is high time we had a towage company and I suggest that it might be a branch of the Navy. It would be good training for officers and men and might be a good commercial proposition. We might begin a nationalised mercantile marine by embarking on a subsidised and Government controlled towage company. It is scandalous that, with the largest mercantile marine and the largest liners in the world, we have not tugs capable of dealing with work of this kind.

Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM

I am sure the Committee listened with great interest to the reasons given by the hon. and gallant Member for reducing our expenditure on the Singapore base. I do not think the American proposals are sufficient to justify any great change in the policy that has been adopted and is being carried out as rapidly as circumstances will permit. With regard to the question of the floating dock, I should like to explain exactly what the situation is. The provision of the floating dock at Singapore has occupied the attention of the Admiralty for some little time, and anxious consideration has been given to the question. There were possibilities of constructing the dock in the East at some port nearer Singapore where a shorter journey would have been necessary by sea, but after very careful consideration the contract for the dock was placed in this country. We had to bear in mind the necessity for giving employment as far as we could to British workpeople. It is naturally advisable to leave the whole responsibility for the dock, including the towing to the site, to the contractors for the dock, who are required to connect up the sections of the dock after arrival at Singapore before handing it over complete to the Admiralty. Any other arrangement might involve the Admiralty in financial and other responsibility in the event of any accident unfortunately happening to the dock during transit.

Before entrusting the builders with the responsibility for the towing, the Admiralty made exhaustive inquiries into the position. Such a dock is a very large and clumsy structure for sea transport, and it can only be towed at a very slow speed. This involves, of course, great care in navigation in bad weather, and very special knowledge is required by those who are undertaking the work. It requires a sufficient number of specially constructed tugs of large coal capacity for this long ocean voyage. The use of Admiralty tugs is out of the question, because of the necessity for meeting dockyard requirements. It was found, after very careful inquiry, that the only reliable organisation possessing the necessary qualifications and equipment was a Dutch firm, and the Admiralty accordingly placed the contract for the towing with the builders of the dock, bearing in mind the contractual considerations referred to, and the builders have sub-let the tow to the Dutch firm in question, having come to the same conclusion as the Admiralty that this is the only possible firm for this work.


What firm was it that towed out a dock, which was somewhat larger, to Malta from these waters? It was a British firm.

Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM

I cannot give that information to my hon. Friend off-hand.


Obviously there are in this country some people who can tow a dock out to those waters.

Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM

There is some distinction between Malta and Singapore, and I can only repeat what I have already said, that we did not want to utilise the services of a foreign firm, but after the most careful inquiry we found that we could not avoid doing so.


I happened to see that dock being towed out to Malta, and I thought the tugs made a very good job of it. The strange thing is this, that this dock is going to be insured. Whatever risk there is in it, could not the Government insure against it just as well

as the builders? In regard to the tugs and their coal capacity, you could get as much coal on the top of the dock as would supply the steam to take it out to Singapore and back again. I have been long enough in this House to remember the beginning of the operations at Rosyth dockyard. I do not know how many Members there are in the House who know the millions of money that have been spent in building and equipping Rosyth Dock. It is one of the biggest docks in the world, and where is it now?

Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT

Where is the German Navy now?


You might as well ask me where my grandmother is£she is dead. What I am endeavouring to point out is that we are either to take seriously or jocularly the attempts that are being made by other countries in putting propositions before the Government for the elimination of war, and it is a monstrous thing that, in these hard times, when employers are complaining about the difficulty of getting orders, all this money should be spent. During my short time in this House, tens of millions of money have been sunk in Rosyth; it is at, a standstill, and what guarantee is there that within a few years, by the time we get Singapore Dock finished, it will not be exactly in the same position? Therefore, my hon. Friend is justified in calling a halt to this expenditure so that some serious effort can be made in response to the appeals that have been made to this country by other nations in the direction of peace rather than in the preparation for war.

Question put, "That Sub-head B (New works, additions and alterations) be reduced by £100,000."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 87; Noes, 194.

Division No. 40.] AYES. [11.29 p.m.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Buchanan, G. Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Chariston, H. C. Gosling, Harry
Ammon, Charles George Crawfurd, H. E. Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coine)
Barnes, A. Dalton, Hugh Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)
Barr, J. Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Griffith, F. Kingsley
Batey, Joseph Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Groves, T.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Duncan, C. Grundy, T. W.
Bromley, J. Dunnico, H. Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Fenby, T. D. Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)
Hardle, George D. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Scurr, John
Hayday, Arthur Mackinder, W. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Hayes, John Henry MacNeill-Weir, L Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Malone, C. L.'Estrange (N'thampton) Sitch, Charles H.
Hirst, G. H. March, S. Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Hore-Belisha, Leslie Maxton, James Snell, Harry
Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Montague, Frederick Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Morris, R. H. Stephen, Campbell
Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Naylor, T. E. Strauss, E. A.
John, William (Rhondda, West) Oliver, George Harold Sutton, J. E.
Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Owen, Major G. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Paling, W. Varley, Frank B.
Kelly, W. T. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Wellock, Wilfred
Kennedy, T. Ponsonby, Arthur Whiteley, W.
Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Potts, John S. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Lansbury, George Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Wright, W.
Lawrence, Susan Riley, Ben Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Lawson, John James Runciman, Hilda (Cornwall,St. Ives)
Lee. F. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Lindley, F. W. Sakiatvala, Shapurji Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.
Livingstone, A. M. Salter, Dr. Alfred Charles Edwards.
Lunn, William
Albery, Irving James Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Margesson, captain D.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Fraser, Captain Ian Marriott, Sir J. A. R.
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l) Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Mason, Colonel Glyn K.
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby) Galbraith, J. F. W. Meller, R. J.
Applin, Colonel R. V. 'K. Ganzoni, Sir John. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)
Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W. Gates, Percy Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Atkinson, C. Gauit, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Moreing, Captain A. H.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon, Stanley Gower, Sir Robert Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)
Balniel, Lord Grant, Sir J. A. Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Greene, W, P. Crawford Murchison, Sir Kenneth
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Grotrian, H. Brent Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Bennett, A. J. Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Nuttall, Ellis
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Gunston, Captain D. W. Oakley, T.
Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.) Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)
Blundell, F. N. Hamilton, Sir George Pennefather, Sir John
Boothby, R. J. G. Hammersley, S. S. Penny, Frederick George
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Harland, A. Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Harrison, G. J. C. Perring, Sir William George
Brassey, Sir Leonard Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Philipson, Mabel
Briscoe, Richard George Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Pitcher. G.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd,Henley) Pownall, Sir Assheton
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian Price, Major C. W. M.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks,Newb'y) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Rees, Sir Beddoe
Burman, J. B Henn, Sir Sydney H. Remer, J. R.
Butt, Sir Alfred Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Rentoul, G. S.
Campbell, E. T. Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Cazalet, Captain victor A. Hills, Major John Waller Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Hilton, Cecil Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)
Christie, J. A. Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St.Marylebone) Ropner, Major L.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Clayton, G. C. Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Rye. F. G
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hopkins, J. W. W. Salmon. Major I.
Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George Hopkinson. A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Colman, N. C. D. Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Conway, Sir W. Martin Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K. Sandeman, N. Stewart
Cooper, A. Duff Huntingfield, Lord Sanderson, Sir Frank
Coupor, J. B. Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Courtauld, Major J. S. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Savery, S. S.
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Kindersley, Major Guy M. Shepperson, E. W.
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) King, Commodore Henry Douglas Skelton, A. N,
Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro) Knox, Sir Alfred Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West) Lamb, J. Q. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n S Kinc'dine,C.)
Cunliffe, Sir Herbert Little, Dr. E. Graham Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Curzon, Captain Viscount Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Smithers, Waldron
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset,Yeovil) Long, Major Eric Spender-Clay. Colonel H.
Davies, Dr. Vernon Lougher, Lewis Sprot, Sir Alexander
Dawson, Sir Philip Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Dixey, A. C. Lynn, Sir R. J. Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Drewe, C. MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen Streaffeild, Captain S. R.
Eden, Captain Anthony Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Edmondson, Major A. J. Macintyre, Ian Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Elliot, Major Walter E. McLean, Major A. Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Ellis, R. G. Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South) MacRobert, Alexander M. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Everard, W Lindsay Maltland, A. (Kent, Faversham) Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Maltland, Sir Arthur D. Steel- Waddington, R.
Fermoy, Lord Makins, Brigadier-General E. Wallace, Captain D. E,
Fielden, E. B. Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Warrender, Sir Victor Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay) Wood, E.(Chest, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
waterhouse, Captain Charles Williams, Herbert G. (Reading) Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Watson, Rt. Hon. w. (Carlisle) Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield) Wragg, Herbert
Watts, Dr. T. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Wells, S. R. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple Womersley, W. J. Major Cope and Mr. F. C. Thomson.
Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern) wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)

Question put, and agreed to.