HC Deb 24 January 1951 vol 483 cc110-1
6 and 8. Mr. Watkinson

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (1) in view of our present defence commitments, how far the number of fleet destroyers being converted to fast antisubmarine frigates has been increased;

(2) how far the building programme for new fast anti-submarine frigates has now been increased.

11. Commander Noble

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he has any further statement to make on the new construction programme.

The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. James Callaghan)

I regret I am not yet in a position to make a statement about these matters, but I hope that it will be possible to do so soon.

Mr. Watkinson

I apologise if my supplementary is a little long. In view of the effect of this matter on our allies, and particularly the United States of America, may I ask the hon. Gentleman, with all the seriousness at my command, whether a statement will be made in the very near future, possibly before certain decisions which may well be taken with the United States, perhaps in a week's time? May we expect a statement in the next few days?

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Gentleman had an answer on that point from the Lord President yesterday. As far as the Navy is concerned, as the House knows, a number of orders for additional ships have already been placed. I am not yet in a position to give a full picture.

Commander Noble

Does the hon. Gentleman mean that he himself will make a further statement on the Navy, or will it be included in the one which we are expecting any day now from the Minister of Defence?

Mr. Callaghan

That question had better be addressed to those who decide those matters.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

In any case, will not a full picture be at the disposal of the House when we discuss the Navy Estimates?

Mr. Callaghan

Certainly, by the time they come along I should hope to be in a position to give the whole story.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

Could the Minister say why he is not in a position to give the whole story now? Is it because he has not got the information, or is it because Government policy precludes him from giving it?

Mr. Callaghan

It is because there is a very long-term programme under consideration. No one can complain that the Admiralty have not been extremely forthright in the way in which they have dealt with their share of the programme.

Mr. Watkinson

As we all know that additions will have to be made to the present construction programme, could not the Parliamentary Secretary at least say that urgent negotiations and discussions are now taking place with a view to settling an increased programme?

Mr. Callaghan

I should have thought that was implicit in what was said yesterday by the Lord President of the Council.