Sir CHARLES SYKES:
(by Private Notice) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the criticism made by the Admiralty upon the facts and figures of the Geddes Report which deal with the Navy is admitted by the Committee on National Expenditure to be justified, and whether any representations have been made to him by the Committee on the subject?
I have received the following letter from the Chairman of the Committee:
My dear Chancellor,
Our attention has been drawn to a communication from the Admiralty which states that in our Report on Navy Estimates there are errors of fact and faulty calculation.
We do not pretend that in the whole course of our Report, covering such a wide and complicated field, minor errors may not have crept in, but we have scrutinised our Report carefully, and we cannot detect the errors alleged in the Admiralty statement.
If therefore you are in any doubt as to the facts which we have given in our Report on the Navy, or are unable to reconcile our calculations, we should be glad to give our authority for facts and to substantiate the calculations we have made.
Would it not be fair to this Committee, which the right hon. Gentleman set up, that all the adverse reports upon their Report should be sent to them, and that they should be asked to express their views upon them?
There is difficulty about following that course, for the reason that no Commission that has ever sat before has been subjected to such criticism. They have given their decision, and, so far as they are concerned, the matter is at an end. Of course, it devolves upon the Cabinet to inquire into the figures and the calculations they have made.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that, when aspersions are cast upon a Report of this very important Committee and are read by the whole of the public, it necessarily damages the Committee in the eyes of the public; and would it not he fair to them that, as these adverse reports have been published, they should be submitted to the Committee for their comments?
So far as I know, the Committee has no desire to publish any reply, but, of course, it devolves upon the Government to deal with the Report as they find it and to inquire into the information which has been given to them by the Departments.
[The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Balfour) entered the House, on his return from the Washington Conference. He took his seat on the Government Bench between the Leader of the House and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, greeted with prolonged cheers from hon. Members in all parts of the House.]