HC Deb 24 February 1960 vol 618 cc360-2
30. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what has been the cost of maintenance of H.M.S. "Vanguard" since 1951; and what is the future of this vessel.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

The cost has been £1.71 million, almost all of which was spent before 1956. As stated in my noble Friend's Explanatory Statement, H.M.S. "Vanguard" is to be scrapped.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the Civil Lord tell the House why in the last eight years we have been told that H.M.S. "Vanguard" was of the utmost importance and that it was essential to provide maintenance, in view of the fact that after all these years it has been decided to break up this vessel as it is no longer of any importance? Is it not shocking of the Admiralty, and ought not the Board of Admiralty to be asked to resign forthwith?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Until 1958 H.M.S. "Vanguard" was considered by N.A.T.O. as a very useful warship. She was obligated and declared to N.A.T.O. as a warship in a high state of operational readiness. It is not the judgment of the Admiralty which was at fault; it is the judgment of N.A.T.O. which the right hon. Gentleman should query.

Mr. Shinwell

Then ought we not to ask N.A.T.O. to resign?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

While agreeing that a great deal of money has been wasted on this ship, may I ask whether it is a fact that a real mistake was made immediately after the war, when the first atom bomb was exploded and when it should have been quite clear that it was not worth while completing the ship; but that, having completed her, it was not easy to judge when to cut one's losses?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

It is true that very considerable sums of money were spent from 1946 to 1951 when the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) bore a lot of responsibility. But I would ask the House to bear in mind that it has served a very useful purpose in our naval alliances, and incidentally has provided useful accomodation for 750 ratings and training facilities since 1958.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Is not the hon. Gentleman going too far when he puts all the responsibility on N.A.T.O.? Is the Navy no longer responsible for its own ships and answerable to this House for them?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Yes, but N.A.T.O. valued the ship and she was obligated and declared to N.A.T.O. I am not blaming N.A.T.O. I am just saying that she was declared to N.A.T.O., although she was in earlier years under the right hon. Gentleman's régime with our active Fleet.