HC Deb 24 March 1952 vol 498 cc67-8

Resolution reported, That a sum, not exceeding £14,579,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of works, buildings and repairs at home and abroad, including the cost of superintendence, purchase of sites, grants and other charges connected therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1953.

Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

5.10 p.m.

Mr. Digby

With the leave of the House, I should like to reply to one or two points which were raised in the general debate but which I did not have an opportunity to answer.

The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) said that the provision for the dockyards was less than it had ever been. That is not correct. In fact, it is nearly three times as much as in the year 1950–21. I assure the hon. Member that we understand the importance of spending money on the dockyards and that we shall bear this point in mind. In future years, we shall try to continue with three major schemes which are approved for Devonport Dockyard this year.

Mr. Foot

I genuinely do not understand the hon. Gentleman. He says that three times as much money is being spent on new work as before, but on page 152 of the Estimates in item (g) "Dockyards and Factories," the "New Works to be started in 1952–23"is nil. How, therefore, can it be three times what it was in some previous period?

Mr. Digby

We are talking about the total expenditure. One has to look at Item (d) also and add the two together. The hon. Member spoke a lot about the new works started last year under Subhead B (g) but he omitted to tell the House that the provision was only for £20,000, which bears out my point that it is not the first year's expenditure, but the actual total expenditure, that counts.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), drew the attention of the House, rather unnecessarily, to the failure of the late Government to fulfil its programme. That was the real point behind what he said. He asked us to compare our Estimates this year with the Estimates for last year. What he did not say was that we got absolutely nowhere near to achieving the Estimates which were accepted last year.

In fact, on Vote 10 B the underspending was very considerable—no less than £1,700,000. The same thing applies to the married quarters under Vote 15, the underspending on which was altogether £1,350,000. It is quite easy to put a sum in the Estimates, but the difficulty is to achieve the total and to put up the buildings. We believe that it is necessary to concentrate our efforts on a realistic programme and to do everything we can to get it through.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) raised a point about airfields. I am sorry to see that he has now left the House. We are not, however, starting on the provision of totally new airfields. We are doing as my hon. and gallant Friend suggested and are improving the existing airfields, on which there has already been very considerable capital expenditure, not only on the existing runways but on buildings. We believe also that in this way we are doing what is best from the viewpoint of conserving good land for agriculture.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolutions reported,