HC Deb 13 July 1932 vol 268 cc1264-6

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state the estimated annual financial saving to this country in respect of the years 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1936, firstly, if the Government's disarmament proposals are adopted unchanged and, secondly, if the Hoover proposals are adopted unchanged?


As the Lord President of the Council informed my hon. Friend on the 11th July, it is not possible, on the information available, to make any reliable estimates of the savings imme- diate and prospective which would be realised if the proposals of His Majesty's Government were adopted; and the same arguments apply to the proposals of President Hoover.


Has the right hon. Gentleman seen a calculation that by the end of 1936 the Hoover proposals will save £42,000,000, compared with £20,000,000 for our proposals, and can he make any comment on those figures as to their accuracy?


I heard my hon. Friend yesterday refer to a letter which contained that calculation, and naturally I listened to him most carefully, but, as I have already said, it is not possible to make any reliable estimate.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider issuing a statement showing the cost of the two sets of proposals in such a way as it is possible to foreshadow policy in assuming that in some respects it will be possible and in others it will not?


I hope that the hon. Lady will agree with the suggestion that I made last night that it is much better not to regard these two sets of proposals as cast-iron proposals. We are meeting at Geneva in an effort to reach agreement.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what would be the approximate annual saving in maintenance costs if one-third of the capital ships now in commission were scrapped in accordance with the Hoover proposals?


Assuming that it were practicable to scrap one-third of the capital ships which we now possess, the ultimate annual saving for maintenance would amount, approximately, to £1,305,000. Some of this saving, however, would not accrue for several years until the personnel rendered surplus by such scrapping had been absorbed in the personnel requirements of the reduced fleet. I would refer the hon. Member to the statement in Command Paper 4122, that "having regard to the widely scattered responsibilities of the British Navy, it is not practicable for us to cut down the number of naval units beyond a certain point."


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty in what year the Government's proposal to the Disarmament Conference for the reduction of the tonnage of capital ships will, if accepted, begin to effect a reduction in the tonnage of British ships; and how many years it will take before the ultimate reduction of 195,000 tons foreshadowed will be effected?


Owing to the fact that under the terms of the London Naval Treaty not only have we already prematurely scrapped five capital ships, but have also accepted a complete "building holiday" in this category until 31st December, 1936, further reduction in the total tonnage of British capital ships resulting from acceptance of the British Government's proposal to the Disarmament Conference will of necessity be deferred until after 1936. The number of years required to effect the total ultimate reduction of 195,000 tons will depend upon the agreement reached at the General Disarmament Conference upon the age limits of capital ships and upon the rate of replacement of existing capital ships which may be authorised after 1936 by this House.

12. Rear-Admiral SUETER

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what savings would accrue under all Votes if capital ships of over 10,000 tons displacement were abolished by agreement with the other naval nations?


It is impossible to give any reliable estimate of what saving might accrue from the abolition of capital ships of over 10,000 tons displacement, since such abolition would in all probability entail additional expenditure in other directions which might well more than offset the savings attributable to the abolition of the ships in question.