HL Deb 01 April 1908 vol 187 cc466-8

My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government if they will grant a Return of the amount of money spent during the last two years on the repairs of each battleship and first class cruiser launched since 1st January, 1898, separately, divided under the following headings—(1) Repairs of boilers, engines, and other machinery used in the propulsion of the ship; (2) Repairs to armament, including all gun-mountings, torpedoes, and machinery connected with them; (3) Alterations in design, such as making cooling chambers, fresh ventilators, or supplying and fitting new apparatus of any description; also a Return of the number of days that our battleships and first class cruisers launched since 1st January, 1898, have been unavailable while undergoing repair during the last two years; and in addition to these Returns, for purposes of comparison, if the information is obtainable, a Return of the number of days that twenty or thirty of the best-known liners in our mercantile marine have been unavailable for the same reason during the last two years; and lastly, the weight allowed for indicated horse-power for all the vessels named in the above Return.


My Lords, my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has been called away on an engagement connected with his Department, and he has, therefore, asked me to make the reply which he would have given to the noble and gallant Lord's Question. He says that he is anxious to give the noble Lord as much of the Return asked for as is possible, but he cannot give it exactly in the form in which it is asked for by the noble Lord My noble friend assents to Paragraph 1, but be is only able to give the figures for 1905–1906, and 1906–1907, those for 1907–1908 not yet being available. As regards Paragraph 2, my noble friend says that the form in which the ordnance accounts of the Admiralty are framed differs from that of the dockyard accounts and for service reasons he does not feel justified in giving information with regard to repairs to armament. He will be happy to give the information requested in Paragraph 3.


What about Paragraph 1?


My noble friend agrees to that, with limitations. He cannot agree to No. 2, but he agrees to No. 3. As regards the last paragraph, my noble friend says he can give the information asked for if the noble Lord thinks it very desirable—that is to say, the noble Lord really presses for it—but it will involve a very large amount of research which my noble friend, if possible, would like to spare his staff, whom he considers very much overworked. My noble friend does not know how he could obtain the details with regard to the length of time that the great liners mentioned in the Question are kept under repair from time to time, and he considers that it is against the interests of the service that the weight allowed for indicated horse-power should be publicly disclosed. My noble friend has asked me to say that even the modified amount of information which he is able to give will take some little time to produce.


I am sorry to give the officials at the Admiralty additional trouble, but the Admiralty have been greatly attacked on the subject of repairs, sometimes justly and sometimes unjustly, and if these figures were given it might set the matter at rest. Therefore, I press for the details as to the number of days on which vessels were undergoing repairs. My reason for asking for the weight allowed for indicated horse-power, was that I believe the Admiralty, as a rule, have not allowed sufficient weight for indicated horse-power, and that is the reason why such a large proportion of our ships are kept under repair.