HC Deb 05 July 1939 vol 349 cc1275-7
30 and 31. Captain Plugge

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (1) what proportion of naval construction work by cost and tonnage is now undertaken in private and Royal yards, respectively; and how these proportions compare with the pre-war period;

(2) what is the present approximate tonnage of warships under construction in Royal yards and private yards, respectively; and how this volume of construction compares with that in private and Royal yards in the period 1913 to 1914?

Mr. Shakespeare

As the answer involves a table of figures I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The cost and tonnage of new construction in hand in private shipyards and in the Roya Dockyards respectively on 20thJuly, 1914, and the corresponding figures for 1st July, 1939 are as follow:
Private Shipyards. H.M. Dockyards.
Tonnage. Cost. Tonnage. Cost.
£ £
20th July, 1914 372,000 37,275,000 134,500 13,020,000
1st July, 1939 690,000 Estimated 22,000 Estimated
151,389,000 5,825,000
34. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he has taken into consideration the possibility of accelerating the progress of all classes of naval construction now in hand, especially of escort and anti-submarine craft; and if he is satisfied that the maximum number of

Captain Plugge

Can the hon. Member say why it is that a battleship could be built in the Royal dockyards before the War, but not to-day?

Mr. Shakespeare

I think the short answer is that before the War we were building a new fleet. As the hon. Member knows, the Royal dockyards are available for the repair and reconstruction of capital ships, a service which they can better perform.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not the case that the proportion of orders now given to private firms is far greater than it has ever been in modern history?

Mr. Shakespeare

That is true. It is a deliberate policy, and an economic policy.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is it not the case that Government dockyards are not equipped as are private dockyards?

Mr. Shakespeare

The hon. Member is perfectly correct. The Royal dockyards are mainly concerned with repair and refitting, and are at present heavily engaged in the major reconstruction of a number of capital ships.

Mr. Thorne

How does that answer compare with the statement that we are building some of the best ships in the world?

Following is the information:

shifts possible is being worked, and the maximum number of hands employed in the shipyards and dockyards?

Mr. Shakespeare

The possibility of accelerating the progress of all classes of naval construction is constantly under consideration. Having regard to the programme of work in hand, the ships are being built as rapidly as is permitted by the labour and plant available and by the necessity for co-ordinating the progress of the ships with the supply of components for them. The best arrangement of shifts possible is being worked with the number of skilled hands available.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Is it not the case that only one shift a day is being worked at present, and in the present circumstances ought not steps to be taken by the Admiralty to bring about an acceleration in naval construction comparable to that made by the Air Ministry and the War Office?

Mr. Shakespeare

It is not the case that one shift is being worked where two shifts would serve a useful purpose. I have recently returned from a visit to a number of workshops in order to achieve the very purpose which the hon. and gallant Member has in mind, and I found the best number of shifts being worked, that is two, which was found to be better than three shifts.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

We have been told that, although we are not at war, we are certainly not at peace, and ought it to take three years to build a capital ship?