HL Deb 21 February 1922 vol 49 cc162-4

My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government the Question of which I have given Notice—namely, what steps are being taken to dispose of the various portions of the dry dock taken over from the Germans, now lying in the fair way of the river Medway, near Chatham. I believe this huge dry dock is one of the largest in the world and has been lying there for some time. It was capable of taking the largest German liner and is, of course, capable of taking the largest ship that exists. That is my information. I should be glad to ask the noble Lord who is going to answer whether it is not a fact that an offer was made to buy this monster and it was not accepted. What can be the object of letting this huge and splendid dry dock that must have cost millions stop in the fair way of the Medway below Chatham? Surely the taxpayers have a right to say something about that matter, because it is very important that this sort of case should be got rid of and as soon as possible. If I am wrong, it seems to me an extraordinary thing that no attempt should have been made to dispose of this most valuable dry dock. I think it will be almost better to sell it hack to Germany than to let it go to pieces here.

THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (LORD LEE OF FAREHAM) My Lords, the sections of this dock referred to are those of a 40,000-ton floating dock in six sections which was handed over by the Germans as part of the German harbour material transferred to this country under the Protocol of January 10, 1920, in compensation for the sinking of the German ships at Scapa Flow. The dock is the property of the Government and the Admiralty can make use of it for naval purposes, or transfer it to a Dominion Government for similar purposes, or, in the event of its not being required for such purposes, dispose of it by sale for commercial use. With regard to the actual policy proposed, it is contemplated that three sections will be required to extend another ex-German floating dock of 40,000 tons which is required for naval use. That is to avoid having to complete far more expensive dry docks on land.


That is, three sections out of six.


I know; I will come to the other three if the noble Earl will give me time. The remaining three sections will be offered for sale to enlarge the 46,000-ton floating dock which is now at Hamburg and which is also due to transfer to this country under the terms of the Protocol but which has not yet been delivered. Negotiations have, it is true, been in progress between the Admiralty and certain shipping companies for the sale of this latter dock extended as proposed, but the offers so far made have not been considered adequate. I may perhaps assure the noble Earl with regard to the condition of these docks. They are not rotting at all. They are in quite a satisfactory condition, and we are of opinion that the interests of the taxpayer will be much better served by endeavouring to dispose of them in this way as a complete and practical concern rather than to dispose of sections which would be of no use to anybody.