HC Deb 13 November 1917 vol 99 cc227-8W

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the number of new Government shipbuilding yards; whether estimates have been submitted of the cost; whether, in this new development of Government policy, the advice of practical shipbuilders and owners has been secured; and whether a Vote will be put down to enable the House to express its opinion on the venture?


Three national shipyards are being constructed, and it will probably be necessary to construct a fourth in order to bring the total shipbuilding capacity of the country up to the requirement. The construction of national shipyards was approved by the War Cabinet, and definite action was taken at once without waiting for estimates. Estimates have been prepared and are now under consideration, but the cost of land and compensation has not yet been settled. The estimates are, therefore, not yet complete. They will, as and when complete, be passed on to the Treasury.

My right hon. Friend is fully aware of the vital necessity to proceed with the utmost expedition in the provision of new merchant tonnage to make good the losses by enemy submarine. He knows that in order that this provision may not be delayed it is essential to short-circuit some of the traditional peace procedure. As I have already said, as soon as they can be prepared the estimates will be placed in the hands of the Treasury. As regards actual expenditure, the Comptroller and Auditor-General's officers are constantly checking expenditure as far as possible concurrently with that expenditure in this office. For the rest, sums drawn from the Vote of Credit are shown in the Appropriation Account, upon which the Comptroller and Auditor-General reports to the Public Accounts Committee.

As regards discussion in the House, it is not proposed to put down a Vote. The urgency of the whole problem—and no other consideration—makes that course inexpedient. I may, perhaps, so far reassure my right hon. Friend, in his very proper desire to see the public money used as economically and as profitably as possible, by telling him that in prosecuting this most urgent matter the advice of practical shipbuilders has been and will be secured.

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