HC Deb 20 January 1943 vol 386 cc201-3
42. Mr. Shinwell

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the intentions of his Department as regards the construction of fast merchant vessels?

Mr. George Hall

The policy of the Admiralty has been and will be to build, in consultation with the Ministry of War Transport, the ships which with the labour and resources available will give the best results, having regard to the need of providing within those resources for the requisite numbers of escort ships.

Mr. Shinwell

My right hon. Friend knows that that is not a reply to my Question. I asked what are the intentions of the Government in respect of the construction of fast merchant ships. Is our shipbuilding policy vis-a-vis the United States unified, and has he seen the statement made by Admiral Lang, head of the American Marine Commission, that they are now re-adjusting their shipbuilding policy and intend in future to build fast ships?

Mr. Hall

The policy of the Admiralty, as I have given it, has been consistent from the commencement of the war; and, with regard to the statement to which my hon. Friend referred, I can say that there is close consultation between the Admiralty and those responsible for American shipbuilding. They have been in constant consultation since the commencement of the war.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it not a fact that the policy of the Admiralty in respect of the construction of merchant ships has proved futile as one of the means of dealing with U-boats, and will the Government now reconsider their shipbuilding policy?

Mr. Hall

Certainly we cannot accept the statement put by my hon. Friend. We cannot admit it, and I would like to say that this matter has been dealt with very fully by my right hon. Friend the First Lord on many occasions, when, I may say, my hon. Friend did not take advantage of the opportunity of hearing what was said.

Mr. Austin Hopkinson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is quite impossible as a matter of practice to increase the average speed of convoys quicker than the enemy can increase the average speed of the U-boats?

Mr. Shinwell

In view of the reply, I want to ask the Leader of the House whether he will consider at a very early date allowing the House to discuss this question, which is fundamental in relation to the war effort?

Mr. Eden

I would like a moment to think over that proposition. My recollection is that it has recently been discussed in secret.

Mr. Gallacher

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Can I get an explanation, as I am anxious to understand the proceedings of the House, why an answer was refused the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) by the Leader of the House and an answer has been given to my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell)?

Mr. Speaker

They were two quite different questions.