§ MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON (Lanark, N.W.)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty how many of the Channel Fleet battleships were in dockyard hands for repair on 21st October; and whether in withdrawing vessels from the fleets for repairs during the winter, he will take steps to secure, in compliance with Admiralty memoranda, that not more than two battleships from the Channel Fleet and one from each of the other fleets shall be withdrawn for repairs simultaneously.
§ MR. MCKENNA
The answer to the first part of the question is four. With 57 regard to the second part, I desire to take this opportunity of stating that in August last, the Admiralty informed the Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet that in view of the great strength of the naval forces always now in home waters, we attach less importance than previously to the limitation of the numbers of ships of the Channel Fleet which are under repair concurrently. The previous statement to the effect that not more than two battleships were to be undergoing refit at the same time, may therefore be regarded as superseded; but it is intended that refits of these vessels shall be distributed as evenly as possible throughout the year. The special repairs to be undertaken this winter in accordance with the Prime Minister's statement of 21st October will not increase the number of ships absent from the Channel Fleet.
§ MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON
Then are we to understand that during the winter four of the battleships of the Channel Fleet are to be absent on repair?
§ MR. MCKENNA
No, Sir; I said four were absent on 21st October, and added that the special repairs to be undertaken this winter would not increase the number of ships absent from the Channel Fleet.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Croydon)
If it is proposed to substitute another rule for the salutary one that only two ships shall be absent at one time, will care be taken to frame the new rule so that the public may understand it?
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)
Is this supersession of the old rule to apply only to the Channel Fleet?
§ MR. BELLAIRS (Lynn Regis)
In view of that communication, of which today we hear for the first time, may I ask if the Commander-in-Chief will be given 58 an opportunity of exercising all these ships in home waters?