HL Deb 06 December 1922 vol 52 cc304-19

LORD SYDENHAM had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government—

1. Whether the naval disarmament Treaty has now been ratified by all the Powers concerned.

2. What steps have been taken by the ratifying Powers to carry out Articles III and IV, Part 2, of the Treaty.

3. Whether a Return can be given to Parliament showing the names of all British ships which have already been rendered "incapable of further warlike service."

4. Whether, in accordance with the requirements of the Treaty, two capital ships will be laid down this year.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am afraid that some of my Questions may seem a little belated after what has happened in another place, but I sent them to the Admiralty at the beginning of the session before any attention had been drawn to these matters, and the noble Marquess, most wisely, I think, asked me particularly to postpone them for a time. My object is to try to make clear how the proceedings under the Treaty of Washington, and our battle fleet, now stand. I am sure that the Admiralty must be very anxious that the actual facts in regard to these two matters should be made as plain as possible.

As your Lordships know, the Treaty of Washington is a very precise, though somewhat complicated, instrument. We are allowed to retain for present purposes 22 capital ships; the United States may have 18, and Japan may have 10. All other ships are to be made unserviceable in six months and to be totally scrapped in eighteen months. There is also a limit to the total tonnage assigned to each Power, and in future no ship is to be over a tonnage of 35,000. There is a further limitation to the 16-in. gun as the maximum of the armaments of the future. It must be evident that the most important point at the present time is the offensive power and the nature of the design of the ships which are allowed to be retained under the terms of the Treaty. The battle of Jutland, with the terrible tragedy which occurred to three of our battle cruisers, revealed certain defects of design. These defects were remedied in all post-Jutland ships, which have their vitals much better protected and are better guarded against torpedo attack. It follows, therefore, that the number of post-Jutland ships must be at least one gauge of naval strength at the present time, and the battle fleet which possesses plenty of the post-Jutland type must have a great advantage over one which does not.

How do we stand at the present moment in this important respect? We have only one ship, the "Hood," which is of 41,200 tons and was classed at Washington as post-Jutland. The great size of the "Hood" was due, of course, to the effort to give her the high speed of 36 knots. But the "Hood" does not embody some of the improvements in design which were introduced subsequently to the great war, and she is not really a post-Jutland battleship at all. She is far inferior to some other ships which were designed later. Against our so-called post-Jutland battle cruiser, our one ewe lamb, the United States have three capital ships—the "Maryland," the "West Virginia" and the "Colorado." All of those ships are much superior to the "Hood," except in point of speed. The United States have two more ships—the "Tennessee" and the "California"—which are fully post-Jutland in design except that they have twelve 14-inch guns instead of eight 16-inch guns. It is quite arguable that these ships have more offensive power than those fitted with the larger types of guns; but that is a question which I must not discuss at the present time.

The fact remains that the United States battle fleet, with five post-Jutland ships and a total of eight ships of 31,400 tons and over, is distinctly more powerful than ours, with only the "Hood" and the "Tiger" which are above 28,000 tons. The potential superiority of the United States battle fleet would be still larger unless they have fully carried out all the scrapping which is prescribed under the terms of the Washington Treaty. This marked superiority on the part of the United States causes me no anxiety. I do not believe for a moment that we shall ever be at war with the United States, and if it were not for the strenuous exertions of the enemies of the British Empire to create friction between us, I believe our mutual relations would always be of the most friendly character. But the late Government proclaimed that henceforth we were to maintain a One Power standard. My point is that we have not nearly got a One-Power standard at the present time, and that Parliament ought to be made aware of this great deficiency.

Japan is allowed ten capital ships, of which two are post-Jutland, the "Mutsu" and the "Nagato," and six are of 30,600 tons or more. It was the disastrous Dreadnought policy of 1905 which first started the competition in monstrosities, led to enormous expenditure, and finally made our battle line weaker in the great war than it would otherwise have been. It is a curious thing that that policy has now let us down badly, because the larger number of heavier ships is possessed by the United States and Japan, and not by us. Looking ahead, the terms of the Treaty allow the United States in 1925 15 pre-Jutland ships and 3 post-Jutland ships, but in reality there will be 5 post-Jutland ships, as I have already explained. We are allowed in 1925 17 pre-Jutland ships and 3 post-Jutland ships. Unless, therefore, we lay down our two new battleships at once we shall still have one indifferent post-Jutland ship against five efficient American ships, and we shall remain nowhere near the One-Power standard.

Last week I tried to explain the dangerous situation which might arise, in the event of war or threat of war, in consequence of the Irish Constitution—the dangerous situation, I mean, from a naval point of view—and, taking this in conjunction with the figures that I have already given, I think your Lordships will see that never since the eighties of last century have we been so weak at sea as we are at this moment. I note the agitation which has been raised against the laying-down of these two ships. The distinguished Admiral, who relies confidently on the opinion of a midshipman, has again been on the warpath, and has a number of supporters who maintain that the battleship is now absolutely useless. I am quite prepared to argue that question, but I am sure that the Admiralty considers that all these theories are premature at the present time. I hope the noble Marquess who is to reply will be able to say that the two new battleships will be laid down as soon as possible.

I should like to point out that no equal expenditure would give so much employment of the kind that is most needed at the present moment. Everything about a warship entails skilled labour—skilled labour in every single trade—and there is a real danger that if these two ships are not constructed some special skill of a particularly high order may be permanently lost to the country. Of course, the construction of the Forth and Clyde Canal is a most excellent project, which would give a certain amount of employment, but not nearly so much of the kind that is most needed as would the work to be done on these two battleships.

A controversy has recently been raised in America as to the extent to which our scrapping policy has been carried out. My own information is that the Admiralty has most loyally carried out all this part of the Treaty, and I hope the noble Marquess will give us the Return for which I have asked. I think it is essential to put an end to any controversy of that kind. There is one other Question, of which I gave the noble Marquess private notice. Can he say when the Jutland charts, which were promised last session, will be made available to Parliament and the public? I beg to put my Questions.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has asked this Question amplified a little in his speech the points as they appear on the Paper, but I think it will be most convenient if I deal first with the Questions as they appear on the Paper. The first Question was whether the naval disarmament Treaty has now been ratified by all the Powers concerned? The position is as follows. The Treaty of Washington has been ratified by the United States of America, Japan, and this country. It has not yet been ratified by France or by Italy.

The second Question reads: What steps have been taken by the ratifying Powers to carry out Articles III and IV, Part 2, of the Treaty? Articles III and IV, Part 2, of the Treaty, deal entirely with the matter of replacement of tonnage, and I think my noble friend must have been referring to a later part of the Treaty —namely, Sections III and IV, Part 2, Chapter II.


It is Chapter II.


Those are the scrapping provisions, and it is to those that I will address myself. In this matter I am able to tell your Lordships' House that, so far as is known, the United States and Japan have not yet disposed of any ships, except possibly some ships of an obsolete type which would be disposed of in the ordinary course. But your Lordships, at the same time, will have in mind the fact that no contracting Power is legally bound to dispose of any vessels until all the contracting Powers have actually ratified the Treaty. With reference to our own action under the Treaty, I think I can best make that plain by answering, as fully as I can, the next Question of the noble Lord—namely, whether a Return can be given to Parliament showing the names of British ships which have already been rendered incapable of further warlike service.

Let me first read through the list of completed capital ships which fall to be scrapped under the Treaty—"Commonwealth," "Agamemnon," "Dreadnought," "Bellerophon," "St. Vincent," "Inflexible," "Superb," "Neptune," "Hercules," "Indomitable," "Temeraire," "New Zealand," "Lion." "Princess Royal," "Conqueror," "Monarch," "Orion," "Australia," "Agincourt," and "Erin." Having regard to the importance of this subject, if I am not wearying the House, I think it right to tell your Lordships, so far as it lies in my power to do so, precisely how far this scrapping has proceeded. According to the terms of the Treaty there have been rendered incapable of service in the Royal yards, the following ships—"Neptune," "Orion," "New Zealand," "Monarch" "Conqueror," "Princess Royal." The "Agincourt" and the "Erin" are in the hands of the Royal yards, and are being rendered incapable of service at this moment.

The following capital ships have already been sold to ship-breaking firms for breaking up—the "Commonwealth," "Dreadnought," "Bellerophon," "St. Vincent," "Inflexible," "Hercules," "Indomitable," "Temeraire" and "Neptune." The noble Lord will observe that the "Neptune" appears in the first list and in the second as well, and this is explained by the fact that having been rendered incapable of service in the Royal yard she was subsequently disposed of to a private firm.


Has the noble Marquess the information in figures so that we could follow it more easily?


I am afraid I have not the numbers. I will count them up if you like.


No, no. But I thought if he had the numbers it would be more convenient to follow the information.


I wish I had provided myself with the figures; I agree that the subject would then have been much easier to follow, but a list which I shall presently give will, I think, show the situation in full.


Perhaps he can tell us how many are left?


I shall come to that in a moment, and I will also read a subsequent Return which perhaps will satisfy the noble and learned Lord. With regard to the fourth Question of the noble Lord, his whole argument was really addressed to the importance of laying down these two capital ships. I am very disappointed that I cannot give him a definite answer this afternoon. He was good enough to give me early private notice of this Question, and also to postpone it at my request, in the hope that I might be able to give a definite reply. I am sorry to have to disappoint him. The position is that the matter is at present being considered by the Cabinet and a definite announcement will be made before the end of the present session.

The list which I now propose to read will, I think, satisfy the noble and learned Lord, as it covers the figures in general and in a clear manner. I thought your Lordships might wish to have a precise statement as to the relative strengths of the Navies of the United States of America, Japan, and Great Britain, in capital ships, if the Washington Treaty is ratified and if it is not ratified, respectively. Let me first give the strength in capital ships, assuming that the Washington Treaty is ratified. The United States of America would have 18 battleships and 2 building, a total of 20 capital ships. Japan, assuming that the Washington Treaty is ratified, would have 6 battleships and 4 battle cruisers, a total of 10 capital ships, and. Great Britain, under the same assumption, would have 18 battleships and 4 battle cruisers, a total of 22 capital ships.

If the Washington Treaty is not ratified the United States of America would have 20 battleships of the Dreadnought type, 6 battleships of the pre-Dreadnought type, 9 post-Jutland battleships building, 4 battle cruisers building, and 2 battle cruisers which are now being converted into aircraft carriers; a total of 41 capital ships. Japan, assuming that the Treaty is not ratified, would have 7 battleships of the Dreadnought type, 4 battleships of the pre-Dreadnought type, 4 battle cruisers, 2 battleships building, 2 battle cruisers building, 2 battleships projected and 2 battle cruisers projected; a total of 23 capital ships. Great Britain, assuming the Treaty is not ratified, would have 18 battleships and 5 battle cruisers, a total of 23 battleships.


Can the noble Marquess give the figures separately of post-Jutland capital ships in the three cases? They are very important.


The noble Viscount knows that as regards this country thee is one post-Jutland battle cruiser. I have not been provided with any precise analysis of the position of the United States of America, except that in the event of the Treaty not being ratified that country would have 9 post-Jutland battleships building and 4 battle cruisers building.

With regard to the final Question of the noble Lord, of which he was good enough to give me private notice, the Jutland charts and the narrative have been sent out to Lord Jellicoe in New Zealand. He has promised to return them with his comments as soon as he can. These will be made available as soon after we receive them as possible.


My Lords, I have no desire to embarrass His Majesty's Government on any question, and least of all on such a question as the state of the Royal Navy, which has always been treated as being apart from and outside any kind of purely political consideration. Still less do I desire to embarrass my noble friend the new Civil Lord of the Admiralty, whom I should like to congratulate upon having attained a most interesting position—a position which was the first that I ever held in official life and of which I always retain the most pleasant memories.

But I cannot but express deep disappointment at the reply which he has given this afternoon, or rather the absence of a reply, to the main Question addressed to him by my noble friend Lord Sydenham. The attitude which lie indicates that the Government is adopting with regard to the question of laying down these ships is one which, frankly, fills me with alarm. I have no desire, of course, to hurry the Government unduly, but I would remind the noble Marquess who is leading the House that this session is likely to be extremely short, and I earnestly trust that the announcement of the Government's policy with regard to a question of this importance is not going to be postponed until the last moment of the session, when it will be impossible to raise a debate upon it. I hope that at any rate the answer, whatever it may be, will be given in time for a discussion to take place in your Lordships' House as well as in another place.

I am naturally deeply interested in this question, for two reasons; not only because I have recently laid down the great office of First Lord of the Admiralty and am thoroughly familiar with everything that took place up to the time of my handing over my duties there, but also, in a very special sense, as being one of the signatories to the Washington Treaty. I can assure your Lordships that when Lord Balfour, Sir Auckland Geddes and myself appended our signatures to the Treaty of Washington. we, together wit h the Dominion representatives, did so in good faith that our signatures would be honoured. We had a definite and categorical assurance, in taking over our plenipotentiary powers, that our signatures would be so honoured by our own Government and by our Sovereign. Certainly, we would never have put our hands to that document had we supposed for a moment that one of the most vital considerations which led its to accept the drastic scrapping proposals that were made at Washington would be held as a matter of doubt, possibly a matter involving a consideration as to time, means and so forth, by a British Government, after its accredited representatives had placed their signatures upon it. That was a consideration which was altogether outside our purview at that time.

If that be not a sufficient reason for asking His Majesty's Government to proceed without further delay with the laying down of these ships, perhaps I might be permitted to give one or two others, or rather to amplify some of those which have been already advanced by my noble friend Lord Sydenham. What I want to make plain, if I can, is that there was something in the nature, not only of an honourable understanding, but almost of a treaty obligation between the Government and the Board of Admiralty and the whole Naval Service in this matter. The only consideration which enabled the Board of Admiralty to agree to this scrapping, as the noble Marquess has shown, of 19 of our capital ships, was that the other signatories who ratified the Treaty were naturally expected to fulfil their corresponding obligations in the matter, and that on our part we should have the countervailing advantage of the new ships which would embody the lessons of Jutland, and would form, in fact, the spearhead of our Fleet.

As has been shown by the noble Marquess, the Fleets of the other great Powers, and notably the United States and Japan, possess such a spearhead. He showed that in actual fact at the present time the United States have three of these post-Jutland ships, Japan has two, and we have only the "Hood," which is admittedly only a hybrid, and does not fully embody those lessons. He further showed that if the Washington Treaty could not be ratified we should be in a position where the United States would have 16 of these post-Jutland ships, Japan would have 10— counting those built and building—and we should still have only the one hybrid, the "Hood." I venture to say that that is a perfectly impossible and unthinkable position for the British Empire to contemplate.

On the other hand, if the Treaty be ratified, as I confidently believe that it will be effectively ratified by all the Powers concerned, even then the comparative strengths, as shown by the noble Marquess, are sufficiently alarming in themselves, and show that we shall maintain only by a considerable stretch of the imagination that principle of bare equality with the United States which was the whole basis of the Agreement to which we came in Washington. That being the position, I cannot believe that the Government are going to hesitate for more than a few days, possibly, to carry out what is not only an honourable obligation but a debt which they owe, not merely to their negotiators at Washington, but to the Navy, to the country and to the Empire, which is so vitally concerned in this matter. I cannot suppose that, after having taken whatever time is reasonable to consider this matter—and I think that already there has been more than sufficient time—they are going to reverse a decision which was deliberately come to not merely by the late Government, but by Parliament. This whole matter was debated in Parliament during the last session; these proposals were heard, and Parliament decided that these ships were to be built. Money was provided in the Estimates, and the Board of Admiralty, of which I was the head, took the consequential action of proceeding to call for tenders and to take all steps to have these ships laid down in the course of the present year.

My noble friend, Lord Sydenham, referred to an ancillary consideration, that of unemployment. Surely, at a time when the Government is naturally being pressed from every direction to do whatever it can to find useful employment for the large numbers who are out of work, it is not, for some reasons which I am wholly at a loss to understand, going to deprive of this work the districts concerned, which are dependent to a quite abnormal extent upon this class of work and where the keenest distress prevails at the present time. It was estimated at the Admiralty before I left that the building of those two ships would give employment for a period of three years to an average of over 20,000 men, rising in the course of the winter of next year, which is likely, I believe, to be an extremely difficult time so far as unemployment is concerned, to 30,000 men, and, the winter after, that of 1924, to over 25,000. That, of course, is only a secondary consideration, but I venture to say it is an extremely important one, because if these men are not employed upon useful work of this kind they will have to be supported by doles and other undesirable methods, and there will be very little gain financially.

The point I wish to emphasise particularly at this moment is that there is no Parliamentary authority either for abandoning or varying the decision to build these ships. It would, if presume, be necessary, if such a disastrous decision were reached, to ask the new Parliament to reverse the decision of its predecessor last session, and if such a proposal were made I trust it would be made in sufficient time to be amply debated and resisted, as in many quarters it would be resisted to the uttermost, in the course of the present session. There is a good deal in the way of detail that I could urge in order to indicate the necessity of laying down these ships if the One-Power standard is to be maintained. But it would be sufficient if I mentioned only one consideration, which I am sure will impress your Lordships. It may be said that you cannot always expect to have the newest and the best, but there is this difference between the newest and the less new in the case of capital ships. The post-Jutland capital ships possessed by the United States and Japan are capable of outranging any capital ship which we possess in the British fleet, the result being that it would be possible, in the case of a fleet action, for those capital ships of other Navies to lie off at a safe range and destroy our best capital ships without the latter having any means of reply.

That is an intolerable position to contemplate when you consider the moral effect that such a position must have upon thepersonnel of the Fleet. It is surely our duty to provide the officers and men of the British Navy, who are the best in the world, with the very best weapons, if they are to maintain their pre-eminence and efficiency. To ask them, in sonic unhappy event, to go into battle armed with weapons inferior to those of the adversary is asking of them something which we have no right to ask, and I cannot believe for one moment that any Conservative Government, which has always done its best to maintain the strength of the British Navy, would be responsible for anything of the sort.

I do not want to say anything on this occasion with regard to the technical implications of the Treaty and its schedules, but it is perfectly plain to me as one of those who signed the Treaty, and it was perfectly plain to the Board of Admiralty when I was associated with it, that it is not open to us under the terms of the Treaty to postpone the building of these ships. We have either to abandon them altogether, to tell the world and the Empire that we cannot afford to keep up the One-Power standard, and to be content to fall to the third rank of Naval Powers, or we must build these ships. Of course, it is open to this country to say that we cannot afford to keep up the One-Power standard, if it is so desired, but we are not able to postpone the building of these ships.

The schedule which was drawn up, and which formed the subject of prolonged negotiations and consideration at Washington, was based upon actual dates, and for this reason—unless the dates on which various Powers might lay down ships were fixed, it might be open to any Power to postpone, and to take advantage of that postponement in order to introduce even greater development of naval science, and to produce ships winch would not in fact bear any relation in strength to the ships of other Powers of which they were supposed to be the equivalent. If once you start upon a system of trying to postpone, in order to get better ships later on, you will be not only breaking the Treaty but arousing the suspicion of every Admiralty in the world, and, I think, giving ground, and good ground, for suspecting the good faith of the British Government and the British Admiralty in this matter.

Therefore, it is really a question either of abandoning or of commencing building at once. As regards the idea of abandonment, I can only say that I am quite unwilling to believe that this Conservative Government can be contemplating for a moment such a disastrous surrender, which would amount really to a betrayal of our whole position as the principal sea-power of the world. If that is an issue which is under discussion, or even in contemplation, at the present time, then, as I have said, it will be necessary for the Government to make a full and frank confession of the position to Parliament, the country and the Empire, with all the consequences which may ensue, and to make it at a time and in circumstances which will enable it to be challenged.

I can only appeal to the noble Marquess who leads the House to take these facts into his most earnest consideration, believing, as I am sure he will, that I am not pressing them in any kind of factious spirit, but that it is a matter in which I feel a peculiar responsibility, for I make no secret of the fact that if it had been decided in another sense while I was a member of the late Government, I should have left that Government immediately. I feel sure that he will recognise that it is not a matter that can be postponed indefinitely, and I hope he may be able to give some supplementary reply, even to-night, which may allay some of the apprehensions that I genuinely feel, and which disturb me more than anything I have heard in this House.


My Lords, if what I say may seem to bring down the discussion to a lower level than that attained by the extremely grave speech to which we have just listened, it is not my fault or the fault of those on whose behalf I propose to speak. I know we cannot build capital ships for the purpose of giving men employment, and that we cannot build capital ships such as those mentioned in the fourth part of the Question if it is against our Treaty obligations to do so. I understand that the building of these two ships is not only permitted but even in a sense may be required by our Treaty obligations, though it is not likely that we shall embark upon the building of two capital ships which are not required by national safety.

There remains the question of unemployment, which concerns certain great communities, the names of which probably occur to some of your Lordships. I know of one such community, where war conditions had the effect, in the interests of the Government, of bringing a large abnormal increase to its ordinary population for the purpose of making munitions. But that large temporary increase of population still remains in that community, and is reduces to a state of unemployment by the mere cessation of the war. I am told— and it was stated in another place the other evening—that in that large community at the present moment 167 persons out of every thousand are in receipt of relief of some kind, that is to say, money for which they do no work, because they must be kept alive; and that in that community, since the beginning of the operation of what was called the Trade Facilities Act, or, indeed, since the beginning of this specially created unemployment, no assistance of any kind has been given or promised from the Government for the relief of that unemployment. I hope that these facts will be borne in mind by His Majesty's Government whenever they come to a decision, and that, when they do come to that decision, they will give us an opportunity of discussing what they have done or not done, or what they propose to do.


My Lords, the noble Lord on the Cross Benches who brought this matter before your Lordships' notice may, I think, congratulate himself upon the importance of the speeches which have been delivered this evening. We entirely and fully recognise the spirit in which the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Lee of Fareham) has addressed your Lordships. Nothing was more gratifying than to hear him making the statement, in which we entirely concurred, that all these matters which belong to the welfare of the Royal Navy are outside ordinary political and Party considerations. That is absolutely the case. The speech which he delivered in that spirit was a very valuable contribution to the debate. He was afraid that there would be no opportunity of discussing this matter in certain eventualities, but I think the course which he took was the best one; having that apprehension, he made a sort of hypothetical speech at once.

I do not complain of it for a moment. He was able to convey to us many considerations which are of great importance, and which, I can assure him, will be very properly weighed by His Majesty's Government, and reported in the Office which he so lately adorned. He is quite right in saying that there is a necessity for an immediate decision under the Treaty. These ships must be begun, if they are to be begun at all, in the course of the present year. But he must not presume for a moment that there is any question of a doubt. What was said just now by the noble Marquess next me (Lord Linlithgow), whom I am very glad to welcome as a colleague on this Bench, is merely that the matter has not yet come under the consideration of the Cabinet. That is true. The noble Viscount was surprised that that was the case, and I could not help wondering what must have been the method of managing the business in the Cabinet to which he belonged. My experience is simply overwhelming in the very few weeks in which I have been in office. And in no matter is that more true than in this vital question of national defence. I have personally consumed many inadequate hours in considering it already, and have totally failed to get up to date, if I may say so, in the proper consideration of some of the most vital matters which affect national and imperial defence. And therefore it did not surprise me in the least that we have not yet reached the point of discussing in the Cabinet the question of these two ships.

But I hope he will not presume for a moment that there has been any adverse decision. Very much the contrary. My noble friend stated what was absolutely true. Though, of course, it must have been very carefully considered in the Department, it has not yet reached the Cabinet table for consideration. My right hon. friend the Prime Minister has answered a Question in another place only to-day, and he says a decision will have to be come to before the close of the present session; that is, within the next week. I enter into an absolute assurance to the noble Viscount that I will take care that he is informed at the earliest possible moment of when that decision will be announced, in order that he may take whatever course he sees fit, but I hope that he will not find that upon a matter of this kind there is any difference between any members of your Lordships' House as to what the national safety requires.


My Lords, I thank the noble Marquess very much for his reply, which, so far as it goes, is entirely satisfactory to me.


My Lords, I beg to thank the noble Marquess for the clear answer he has given. He has given information this evening which is of the very greatest importance, and which clears up certain matters which were obscure. But I confess that he has left upon my mind a rather depressing impression. If I counted rightly he told us that we had nine capital ships already disabled, and that ten more have been wholly scrapped. But I understand that the United States have not scrapped any ships at all. It does, therefore, seem to me that our large scrapping operation must have been somewhat premature. I assume, though the noble Marquess did not say so, that the United States have at least stopped further building on the ships they had on the stocks when this Treaty was made.

But the worst of it is that, as has been pointed out, if the Treaty is not carried out, the United States will have an enormous naval superiority over us—a superiority that we could not overtake, even if we desired to overtake it. Further, if the Treaty is not carried out, the Japanese, with ten post-Jutland ships to our one not very satisfactory "Hood," will have a more powerful fleet than ours. All that can be done is to build those ships. I am certain from what the noble Marquess has said that we shall get a decision from the Government very soon, and that it will be the only decision which to my mind it is possible for the Government to take.