HC Deb 31 October 1934 vol 293 cc193-5

(by Private Notice) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he proposes to take any action arising out of the letter submitted to the American Senatorial Committee inquiring into the private manufacture of arms, as having been written by the Managing Director of Messrs. Vickers Armstrong, in which reference was made to a friend in the Admiralty who would get the firm a contract for submarines?

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Sir Bolton Eyres Monsell)

I read the report to which the hon. Member refers with surprise and indignation, and at once investigated the whole of the circumstances in regard to the placing of the orders for submarines in both the two years in question, 1926 and 1927.

After full examination, I am able to state quite definitely that the allocation in each year was settled, in accordance with the invariable practice, by the First Lord himself on the advice of the two responsible Members of the Board of Admiralty, namely, the Controller and the Parliamentary Secretary, and that there was not a trace of partiality for a particular firm either on their part or on the part of any official in dealing with the question at any stage. Indeed, one of the chief objects of the allocation in each year was to enlarge the number of firms upon which the Admiralty could rely for submarine building and to prevent anything in the nature of a monopoly, and the Board accepted extra cost in order to achieve this object.

I have since been informed by Sir Charles Craven that the letter actually written by him made specific mention of a particular official, namely the Director of Contracts, and that there were other discrepancies between his letter as actually written and as reported. The fact remains, however, that he did use language which could be read as casting a reflection on the impartiality of the Director of Contracts. He assures me that this was not his intention, and that any such reflection would have been totally unwarranted, and he has expressed his great regret for what he wrote.

I would repeat that I have satisfied myself that there was absolutely nothing in the nature of favouritism on the part of the Director of Contracts or anyone else in the placing of these submarine orders, and I should welcome the fullest independent inquiry into the way in which these orders were placed.


In the light of the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman, is it intended that an inquiry shall be conducted by the Admiralty, seeing that this letter has been written by a person of very great eminence and authority?


I have satisfied myself by a complete inquiry. I now offer to the House an independent inquiry into the placing of these contracts. I do not think I can do more than that.