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Surplus Landing Craft (Houseboats)

Volume 438: debated on Wednesday 4 June 1947

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66.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that large numbers of landing craft are being disposed of by his Department to firms intending to convert them to houseboats; that these craft were sold with the understanding that the necessary materials would be made available for their conversion, but that applications to his Department for permits for timber and other materials have been rejected; and if he will make a statement.

Yes, Sir. Sales of surplus Government small craft by the Admiralty were begun shortly after the war ended, and the conversion to houseboats was one of the uses suggested for minor landing craft. No direct undertaking was given that materials for conversion would be made available, but, until the beginning of this year, the Admiralty authorised the issue of timber for this purpose from the quantities allocated for merchant shipbuilding and ship repair. I regret, however, that recent reductions in the amount of timber available for shipbuilding and ship repair has since compelled the Admiralty to withhold further issues for houseboats. Minor landing craft are still sold to individual applicants, but although no restriction is placed by the Admiralty on the use to which they are put, it is made clear to such purchasers that no supplies of timber or other materials for conversion can be made by the Admiralty.

In view of the fact that a great many people, including a number of ex-Servicemen who have invested their gratutities in these undertakings, were given to understand that timber would be made available, and were also given designs from the disposal board at the Admiralty for the conversion of these craft, are not the Admiralty under an obligation to provide the timber, and, if not, to compensate the people concerned? If a private firm—

If a private firm carried out such a transaction, it would be looked upon as fraudulent. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to do anything about it?

I am afraid I cannot remember all that was said, but I can say that no definite undertaking was given to anybody at all with regard to the supply of timber for the conversion of these landing craft to houseboats. I should be glad to receive from the hon. Gentleman the number of ex-Servicemen who are losing their gratuities as the result of investing their money in this way.