§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
§ Motion made, and Question again proposed, "That 250,000 officers, seamen, and boys, Coastguard and Royal Marines be employed for the Sea and Coastguard Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1916."
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
I should like at once to correct a misapprehension into which the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth fell yesterday. I am quite sure that he will be the first to desire that the correction is made. The matter refers to the "Aboukir," the "Cressy," and the "Hogue." The Noble Lord complained that we paid no sentiment of respect to the memory of the officers and men who lost their lives. Let me read—in part, not the whole—the following:—September 25th, the sinking of His Majesty's ships 'Aboukir,' 'Cressy,' and 'Hogue.' The Secretary of the Admiralty authorises the following statement: 'The loss of nearly 60 officers and 1,400 men would not have been grudged if it had been brought about by gunfire in an open action, but it is peculiarly distressing under the conditions which prevailed. The absence of any of the ardour and excitement of an engagement did not, however, prevent the display of discipline, cheerful courage and ready self-sacrifice among all ranks and ratings exposed to the ordeal. The duty on which these vessels were engaged was an essential part of the arrangements by which the control of the seas and the safety of the country are maintained, and the lives lost are as usefully, as necessarily, and as gloriously devoted to the requirements of His Majesty's Service as if the loss had been incurred in a general action. In view of the certainty of a proportion of misfortunes of this character occurring from time to time, it is important that this point of view should be thoroughly appreciated.'I am quite sure that the Noble Lord must have overlooked that.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I am very glad indeed to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has just read to the House. I do not think that many of the relatives and dependants of those that went down could have seen it; I never saw it. Would the right hon. Gentleman make some arrangements by which the note and respect to the memory of those who have died should be conveyed to the relatives? That, I think, would be very satisfactory. Probably they never saw the public notice; I did not.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The statement I have read was issued in the way all our statements are. I can well believe some people did not see it. I will make a note of the suggestion of the Noble Lord. I turn to the men of the Fleet and I endorse with great pride all that was yesterday said as to their patient gallantry and devotion. I turn to say a word or two on a matter upon which inquiry has been made recently, amongst others by the Noble Lord himself—the questions of prize bounty and prize money. Those two awards are different and must not be confused. Prize bounty is an award for taking or sinking the enemy's ships of war. Prize money is an award out of the proceeds of the capture of merchant ships as prizes. As regards prize bounty, we propose to proceed pretty much on the lines of the past. Prize bounty is payable under Sections 42 and 44 of the Naval Prize Act, which provides that:If His Majesty by Order in Council declares his intention to grant prize bounty, then such of the officers and crews of His Majesty's ships as are actively present either at the taking or the destroying of any armed enemy vessel shall have distributed amongst them a sum calculated at the rate of £5 for each person on board the enemy's ship at the beginning of the engagement.We propose to ask for sanction by an Order in Council to proceed along those lines for the award of prize bounty, but we shall make a revision of the scale of distribution, because it does seem to us to call for some readjustment in order to be brought down to date. So much for prize bounty.
As regards prize money, our plans, which have been many times canvassed and discussed, have not yet assumed such definite form as that which I described as affecting prize bounty, but, at any rate, we have resolved upon one considerable change in the matter of prize money. In the past the net proceeds of a prize went to the crew of her actual captor in every case. This meant that the crews out on the trade routes came off in the matter of prize money better than those who were actually engaging the enemy. We, therefore, came to the conclusion that it would be more equitable to pool all the proceeds of prize, after due deduction for the cost of sales, and so on, and allow all those taking actual part in the naval side of the War to participate. That is the change we desire to apply as regards 1021 prize money. It involves a number of rather nice questions as to who is and who is not an actual participant in the naval warfare. For instance, there are men engaged to-day on arduous duties on shore in posts of danger. There are other men on shore duties which are not so exacting Modern conditions involve a variety of questions. There are the Reserves; there are those who have only joined for the War; there is the participation of the ships of the Royal Navy overseas. All those questions take time and care for their proper treatment, and to the solution of these and other questions we have given, are giving, and shall give close attention. Representations have been made to us that we ought to pay out advances of prize money periodically, and not wait till the close of the War to make this award. Of course, we sympathise with that, but I am afraid I can hold out little hope that this will be practicable. I have, I think, said enough to show how very difficult that would be, particularly under a system of pooling, to carry into effect. Therefore, I regret I can give no undertaking in regard to the proposal that we should from time to time pay out advances of the money which will be ultimately due to those taking part in the campaign.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
Would the case of representatives of men killed in action be taken into account?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
In the case of a man killed in action his representative would have a due share, just as if the man remained alive at the end of the War.
§ Mr. GERSHOM STEWART
With regard to old-standing accounts, will the right hon. Gentleman pay out the sums due to those who have been engaged in the Persian Gulf in the last few years?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That is not the question with which I am dealing now. It is a question in which the right hon. Gentleman has very much interested himself, and I will take care the question is looked into.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The same thing will apply: the representative of the man will get whatever is due in any case. But I hope there will be no delay in paying what is necessary with regard to the Persian Gulf.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Will the question of prize bounty be settled as soon as it can be? I see the difficulty of settling prize money, but the question of prize bounty does not seem so difficult. Will that be settled before the end of the War?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
It is quite true that the question of prize bounty is simple, and we shall immediately proceed to ask for an Order in Council to carry that out; but the Noble Lord must not take from that that we shall then be able to pay from time to time the proceeds of any particular action That I cannot give any undertaking about, but I will bear it in mind. I desire now to refer to the Royal dockyards. Since 4th August our employés in those yards, officers and men, have by their efforts most admirably seconded their brothers in the field. In the Royal yards, overtime, night-shifts, and Sunday work have been continuous since the War began. Consequently a great strain has been put upon all concerned, from the Admiral Superintendent to the yard-boy, and everybody has responded faithfully. Ships coming in for repair have been got out again with great expedition, and workmen have cheerfully gone out to ships, where it was not expedient to move the ships from their stations, and remedied defects at sea with the greatest coolness and promptitude. The Board of Admiralty has reason to be satisfied and more than satisfied with the way the Royal yards have answered the call of duty at this time. Now the Committee is aware that the Admiralty has a system—a very good system, if I may say so—under which once a year, if they so desire, all classes of men in the yards may present petitions respecting conditions of labour. These are heard in London and in the yards, and Admiralty decisions are subsequently promulgated as a result of this annual review and revision. Last year I had got through about three-quarters of the work when war broke out. I had visited Haulbowline, Pembroke, Devonport, Portsmouth, Chatham, Sheerness and Dover, and had also received combined deputations from all the yards representing the larger classes of the workmen—shipwrights, boilermakers, fitters, skilled labourers, labourers, clerical staffs, and Drawing Office staffs—at the Admiralty office in London. By that time I had received in all 345 deputations. But when war broke out the completion of this work had to be set aside. However, the Board 1023 of Admiralty took occasion to notify the men that whatever concessions the Board might make would be so dated as to secure that the men should not be prejudiced by the delay. I am now in a position to say that the full text of the replies of the Board to the petitions will be forwarded to each yard immediately. I propose to state now the principal concessions made. In the first place, to meet the pledge that the men were not to be prejudiced by the delay caused by the outbreak of war, the increases in time rates, omitting overtime earnings, which I shall now announce, will date as from October 1st last. These are the increases in time rates—
The estimated approximate annual cost on present numbers of these concessions is about £95,000, of that £40,000 or nearly will go to the lowest class worker, the labourer, whose pay up to the 31st October was 23s. per week, and now it will be 24s.
Shipwrights … Increase of 1s. per week. Joiners … Increase of 2s. per week (1s. 6d for establishment). Plumbers … Increase of 2s. per week (1s. 6d for establishment). Painters … Increase of 2s. per week (1s. 6d for establishment). Engine Fitters … Increase of 1s. per week on standard and predominant rate. Ship Fitters … Increase of 1s. per week on standard and predominant rate. Electrical Fitters … Increase of 1s. per week on standard and predominant rate. Ordnance Fitters … Increase of 1s. per week on standard and predominant rate. Boiler Makers … Increase of 1s. per week on standard and predominant rate. Coppersmiths … Increase of 1s. per week on standard and predominant rate. Founders … Increase of 1s. per week on standard and predominant rate. Pattern Makers … Increase of 1s. per week on standard and predominant rate. Smiths … Increase of 2s. per week on minimum rate (1s. 6d. for established men). Sailmakers … Increase of 1s. per week Ropemakers … Increase of 1s. per week on minimum for hired men. Riggers … Increase of 6d. per week. Skilled Labourers … Increase of 1s. per week on minimum rate. Labourers … Increase of 1s. per week
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
My hon. Friend can make the calculation for himself. It is going to cost £40,000, commencing from the 1st October last. I cannot carry the precise figure in my head, but the hon. Member can work it out. It is worth noting that labourers, the lowest paid of workers, were getting 20s. in 1905, 21s. in 1906, 22s. in 1912, 23s. in 1913, and 24s. in October, 1914. In Haulbowline dockyard they get 1s. less throughout.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
To some extent Greenock is on the dockyard scale, and the labourers will get 24s. There is a special class at Greenock who are not yet on the 1024 dockyard scale, but as far as the men are on that scale those increased rates apply. In addition to these increases for mechanics, skilled labourers and labourers we are granting improvements in wages and conditions of the yard craftsmen. Their petition is rather long outstanding, and they are a very deserving class, including civilian masters, mates, engineers, and seamen and stokers of the numerous tugs and vessels attached to the naval establishments. I need not go into the details as to the yard craftsmen, but the cost of the increased pay to them is approximately estimated at £13,000 a year. There is another class to whom concessions have been made, the storehouse staffs in the Navy ordnance depots and the victualling yards. The first grade storehousemen will get an increase of 1s. per week; the second grade an increase of 2s. per week on the minimum and an increase of 1s. on the maximum; the storehouse assistants get an increase of 1s. on the minimum and 3s. on the maximum.
These increases will cost approximately £4,700 a year. The estimated total annual cost of all these concessions with regard to pay on the present numbers is about £113,000 a year, including the £95,000 for labourers, skilled labourers and mechanics. This total increase in wages of about £113,000 is on the top of concessions made in 1913, which were estimated to cost £104,000. If you take the increases granted for the last ten years at the Royal dockyards it comes to this, that to-day, on the numbers we are employing, we are paying not less than £400,000 a year more in wages to our men than we should have been paying if these successive increases had not been granted. I think that is rather an interesting fact. There are several other matters which will receive further consideration. There is the case of the drawing office staffs, who have a petition before us now being considered, but I am not in a position to make any announcement at present, and I must not give any assurance because I am most anxious not to raise hopes that may not be fulfilled. There is one other matter in connection with the Royal dockyards. In 1913 we commenced an increase in the proportion of the men on the established and pensionable list. We continued that increase last year and we shall still further increase the proportion this year. And further, in connection with the established workmen entering our service before the age of 40, they 1025 are now eligible for transfer to the establishment and the pensionable list up to the age of 50. What is more, deductions from the age of entry will be made as regards the establishment so as to come within those limits in the case of men who have served satisfactorily in the Army or Navy or in other Departments of the Government service.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
We have given them all their due proportion of increase this year, and they will apply in due proportion to the Works Department. I will now leave the Royal yards, thanking all concerned for what they have done in this time of national emergency. Finally, I should like to say a word or two about a matter in which we have been very much interested and upon which questions were put to me yesterday from various parts of the House, namely, the question of separation allowances for wives and children and other dependants, pensions for widows and orphans, and pensions for partial and total disablement. I would remind the Committee that the several schemes of the White Paper of 9th November, which were adopted by the House when it last met, were an enormous advance on the provision previously made for the sailor, the soldier, and their dependants. The separation allowances for sailors' wives and children were entirely new. Before the 1st of October last the State had never made any provision for sailors' wives, and prior to that there was no separation allowance for them. The better pay and the greater opportunity for advancement to higher rating open to the sailor as compared with the soldier, I imagine, appeared to justify the absence of the allowance. Either by allotment or remittance from pay a very great majority of the bluejackets have voluntarily from their pay made some provision for their wives and children. It is very interesting to note, and I call the Committee's attention to it particularly, that the granting of a State allowance to the bluejacket for his wife and children and other dependants for the period of the war from the 1st of October last has by no means led the bluejacket to take his responsibility less seriously, but quite the contrary.
Since the War and the introduction of allowances the number of the bluejackets' own allotments and remittances from pay 1026 have greatly multiplied. Let me give one or two figures. On the 1st of August, 1914, we paid out 73,500 allotments for the month made by the sailors from their pay, and the amount so allotted was £165,000 for the month. On the 1st January, 1915, we paid out 183,000 allotments, two and a half times as many, and the amount so allotted from pay was £478,000 for the month, three times as much as on the 1st August. The remittances too have gone up. During August, 1914, we paid 12,756 remittances on behalf of the sailors, amounting in value to £112,858. During January, 1915, we paid 15,718 remittances, amounting to £158,689. Of course, the calling out of the Reserves will be responsible to a large extent for that great increase, but not by any means for all the increase. The new allowances have, as the Committee knows, been paid on the White Paper scale as from 1st October. We shall pay on the Select Committee scale as from 1st March, as announced just now by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply to a question. Further, early in April, we shall pay the sailor's monthly allotment to his wife in four weekly portions, so that on the same day in every week she will get not only her allowance but at one and the same time and in the same draft roughly a fourth of the monthly allotment which he has paid to her. The allowance and allotment, therefore, will now be paid weekly instead of the allowance weekly and the allotment monthly. I turn now to the pensions for widows and orphans. At the time of the Boer War for the lowest grade the widow's pension was fixed at 5s. per week, and the allowance for children at 1s. 6d. per week, both for the Army and the Navy. That scale came into operation on 1st April, 1901. It was introduced by Mr. Brodrick, now Lord Midleton. It was debated in this House on 29th March, 1901, and in the course of the Debate Mr. Brodrick said:—I really do not think that the provision which Parliament is asked to make for the widows of those who have fallen in the War is an illiberal one.Whatever view may be taken to-day, fourteen years after this it is quite clear that no one in any part of the House, so far as I can see, took any exception to Mr. Brodrick's proposition that 5s. for the widows and 1s. 6d. for a child was not illiberal. There is no comment in the Debate on the proposition that it was not an illiberal amount to fix. It was pressed upon Mr. Brodrick, however, that the soldier's wives who when married were not 1027 on the strength should have the pension if their husbands were killed just the same as the wives of soldiers who when married were on the strength. He objected to that, and the Boer War widow's pension was confined to the wives who were on the strength, an extremely small number.
At the commencement of this War there were 16,000 soldiers' wives on the strength and 1,100 receiving separation allowance, as against something like 750,000 now receiving separation allowance in the Army alone. He, Mr. Brodrick, objected to widows who when married were not on the strength getting the pension and said that their claims would be considered by the Patriotic Fund. Whatever credit there is for it belongs to all of us, to whatever party we may belong, but so far as the State is concerned the provision made to-day for widows and orphans is out of all proportion to the pre-War provision. It is out of all proportion as regards the numbers deemed eligible for it, and it is out of all proportion as regards the individual amount of the pensions received. In point of fact, in 1903, under the Boer War system and when the widow could only get a pension if she had been married on the strength of the Army, the number of widows receiving the State pension—I am not referring to the Patriotic Fund or any other contribution—was about 3,000 for both Services; and in that year I see that we put upon the Estimates £64,000 to meet the claims of those widows. We made a provision, when we fixed the Estimate for this financial year, 1914–15, twelve months ago, or a little earlier, of £43,000 for about 2,000 widows and orphans. The Estimates are necessarily speculative, but the Committee will realise at once that the cost of the White Paper scheme would have been many times that figure, and the cost of the scheme of the Select Committee would be at a still higher level. For the widow, without children and whose husband was of the lowest rank, the White Paper proposed 7s. 6d. per week with a possible 12s. 6d. if the woman were incapacitated from work.
The Select Committee makes the 7s. 6d. 10s., to be increased to 12s. 6d at the age of thirty-five and 15s. at the age of forty-five. The plan of increasing the amount of pension with advancing age is, I think, an improvement on our scheme, 1028 the White Paper scheme for which, with others, I was responsible. With regard to orphans, the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Hohler) last night said, "As the Select Committee makes illegitimate children eligible, what about step-children?" I think it is a very good question to put, and I will take care that it is put. I have no authority, but I should imagine that the Select Committee intended step-children to be included. The hon. and learned Member raised another question as to the payment of twenty-six weeks' separation allowances and allotments after the death of the husband. That was provided for from 1st October, when the separation allowances and allotments were introduced. The hon. and learned Member asked about continuing the separation allowance and allotment for twenty-six weeks in the case where the husband was killed before this thing came into existence at all, particularly in reference to such losses as the "Amphion," "Pathfinder," and "Pegasus." Our authority for payment of the twenty-six weeks' allowances after death is to be found in paragraph 6 of the White Paper of 9th November—The widow and children of any seaman, marine, or soldier who at the date of his death were in receipt of separation allowance will continue for twenty-six weeks after the notification of his death to receive the amount which was paid to them during his lifetime as separation allowance. If an allotment was in force at the time, they will also receive an amount equivalent to that allotment for the same period. The pensions commence at the expiration of this period.That is to say a widow who, at the date of the death of her husband, was in receipt of separation allowance. The White Paper did not go beyond that, and in the cases of the deaths in the "Amphion," the "Pegasus," and the "Pathfinder," those widows were not in receipt of separation allowances. But in those cases what we did was at once to pay the Greenwich Hospital scale which was further brought up to the White Paper scale, and will on the 1st March be brought up to the still better pension recommended by the Select Committee. But the point made by the hon. and learned Member is a good one, and I will undertake to make representation to the Select Committee, and I hope we may get definite proposals in regard thereto. Still, what we have done has been done strictly in accordance with the regulation I have just read.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I will make representations. Supposing they should have had twenty-six weeks' separation allowance from the death of the husband, if it is agreed by the Committee it is due to them, of course they will get that money, but I can give no undertaking.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The hon. Gentleman has, quite unintentionally I think, put his finger on the difficulty. We should have to assume an allotment in that case, and there was none, for the system of separation allowances was not in existence. The minimum allotment was compulsorily 5s. a week, and if we assume the 5s. it might be unfair as it would make the separation allowances probably less than the White Paper pension scale in some cases. The hon. Gentleman may be well assured we will try our best to solve this problem with consideration and liberality to everyone concerned. I turn for one moment to the allowances to the partially and totally disabled. Here again the proposals of the White Paper are on a scale far more generous than those obtaining before the War. The White Paper for the first time takes into consideration in awarding disablement pension, whether the man is single or married, and, if married, whether he has any children.
I cannot understand why, in all these years, that aspect of the matter has not been considered by the authorities. The disabled man received an allowance, such as it was, without reference at all to the question whether he had to maintain a wife and children after disablement. In favour of the White Paper it may be stated that the scale for the first time, both for the Army and the Navy, takes into account the question whether a man is married and has children. The Select Committee goes beyond the scale of the White Paper as regards partial disablement. I see a little administrative difficulty which I need not go into now, but upon which I shall perhaps make representations to the Select Committee. It is an administrative feature of their proposal. I do not know that I need rehearse the new scale. Hon. Gentlemen are familiar with it; but I will say this, it is not for me, although I was responsible with others for the rather less generous scheme of the White Paper—it is not for me, the son of a non-commissioned officer, to complain of the greater 1030 liberality of the Select Committee. But the Special Report discloses the fact that the Select Committee has followed in the main—I must say this if I may—the general foundations for the administration of assistance laid down by those responsible for the White Paper schemes.
As I said, and as will be seen by anyone who studies the Table of Comparison on page 5 of the Select Committee's Report, the Select Committee has made substantial advances on the scheme of the White Paper. In the first place, generally speaking, they have treated the children's provision on a more generous scale, and they have given some very useful information to the pension officers on the question of assessing the degree of dependence in the case of dependants other than widows and children. They deal with widows' pensions more generously and also advance the allowances to the partially and totally disabled. Although with others I was responsible for the scales of the White Paper I am very far indeed from being sorry that this matter has been reviewed by this Committee and touched with more generous hands, and since the Select Committee has thought fit, in all the circumstances, to take a larger view in these important particulars, it seems to me that those whose chief care and responsibility is for these men and their dependants are precisely those who may rejoice at the more generous treatment which the Select Committee, in the name of the State, thinks should be made. This White Paper, I am bound to say, was a great revolution on the past. Only those connected with the Service know how great the revolution is. But the Report of the Select Committee carries the revolution still further. I should be unmindful of old days and of old friends if I did not express pleasure at the work which has now been accomplished, and gratitude for the prospect which it unfolds. I do not forget the pension day that came once a quarter for the few and the long line of broken men and women outside, pathetically holding out basins into which their old comrades threw assistance with recklessly generous hands. I greatly rejoice that under this provision, the like of which there is nothing in the naval and military systems of Europe—I greatly rejoice that under this provision those days are gone for ever. I greatly rejoice at the spirit of cordial and practical sympathy for the soldier and sailor I and their dependants displayed by all 1031 parties in the House without any discrimination, and by all parties in the country since this War began. It is indeed a great advance on the past, and it reflects accurately a deeper sense of public responsibility towards those who fight our battles by land and sea. And anxious as this Committee most properly is to do the right thing by these people at this time, I think the Committee may accept the general scheme of the Select Committee, leaving it to the Departments concerned to work out the details, and feel satisfied that their duty and their obligation has been fairly discharged.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I think I am right in saying that although we are in Committee of Supply the Debate is to be a general one. That being so, I should like first to congratulate the Financial Secretary upon the very able speech he has just made. The right hon. Gentleman always has the sympathy of this House, and I think the House always has his sympathy. Speaking as one of the members of the Ports I can say I never brought a matter to his notice without his going into it with great care, and, as far as he could, he has always given a sympathetic answer. I shall have an opportunity later on of saying something in appreciation of the concessions which the Admiralty has made, and which the Parliamentary Secretary has just announced, in the case of the workmen employed in the Royal dockyards. But, before I do that, I wish to say a few words upon a more general question. Everyone in this Committee has the greatest admiration for the personnel of the Admiralty, and will naturally endorse all that the First Lord said yesterday as to the ability and efficiency of the Department over which he presides. In other respects the First Lord's speech calls for eulogy, especially that part of it in which he reminded us that the time has now arrived when, in view of the enemy's departure from the accepted rules of warfare, further and still more drastic pressure from the Fleet has become a necessity. There were, of course, mistakes in the speech, mistakes principally of omission. There were also points of disagreement; these were made obvious to the House yesterday by the speeches delivered by the Leader of the Opposition and the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Bereslord).
1032 I do not think I am speaking for myself alone when I say that the reference to Rosyth was singularly unfortunate. The First Lord said:—Rosyth is not finished, find will not be available for some time. Everything, therefore, required to keep the Fleet in being.… has to be not only carried but kept afloat in ships."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1915, col. 926.]That was a very important, statement, because it will be apparent at once to the Committee, as it was to the House yesterday, that Rosyth as a naval base would have been of the greatest advantage to the Navy to-day, and everyone must regret, as I am sure the First Lord himself regrets, that Rosyth is not now available for that purpose. I do not propose to go into the question of majorities in this House—a question to which the First Lord at the beginning of his speech last night paid somewhat close attention; at any rate, it seemed to give him unbounded satisfaction—but I do feel compelled to say, and this I say in no party spirit whatever, that the situation at Rosyth is in no way due to any parsimony on the part of the Opposition. Like the First Lord, I wish to let controversy stand over until after the War. Still, there are some things which ought to be and must be discussed, or, if not discussed, ventilated.
The Prime Minister in a speech he delivered in this House only a few days ago invited rather than discouraged criticism. I shall take advantage of that invitation and say a few words on one or two matters connected with Admiralty policy. Perhaps at the close of what I have to say on these matters I may say a few words on some points connected with the administration of the yards. First of all I should like to add my tribute, small as it may be, like the First Lord did yesterday and the Financial Secretary has done to-day, to the heroic and glorious work done by the officers and men alike in the Navy since the outbreak of War. One could have wished, and of course the Committee will be with me here, that it had been found possible to record in the daily Press some further details of the brave deeds of our sailors, many of whom have sacrificed their lives in the cause of duty. I suppose I may take it that the Admiralty are taking the necessary steps to see that these gallant deeds are preserved, not only to the present generation but to future generations. I should like the Financial Secretary to say something upon that point when he makes his reply. I am sure also, and the Committee 1033 will agree with him, that great praise is due to the men in the dockyards. What he said about the work these men have done was not praising them at all too highly. They have done heroic work. Both night and day the men have been working, and it is in no small measure due to their arduous labours that the process of construction as well as that of repairs to ships has been so speedily accomplished.
I pass to a subject which excited some little interest in the House yesterday. I have not noticed that the Financial Secretary mentioned it in his opening remarks. Perhaps I may have been out of the. Chamber at the time if he did so, or he or the First Lord intend to refer to it later. I allude to the subject of courts-martial. On this subject the First Lord had much to say. All who heard the speech will admit that the First Lord made out a very good case so far as he was concerned, but of course when you go into a Court of Law or come to this House for judgment you have to hear the other side, and when you have heard the other side sometimes you decide that the side you last heard is the right side. I think that after the Committee have heard what I have to say to-day they will come to the conclusion that the First Lord was wrong and that what I am going to say is right. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] If one does not say a few words in favour of oneself, no one else will. The abandonment of courts-martial without notice of any kind, the abandonment of this time-honoured custom is not likely to find favour either in the House or the country.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Or in the Service; Nor is the position assisted at all by the First Lord's statement in the House the other day—he did not exactly answer my question—the statement he made I will give in his own words. He said that:The Board"—that is, the Board of Admiralty—must exercise complete discretionary powers as regards Courts of Judicial Inquiry.I am not finding fault at all with those words, but I would point out that this announcement, coupled with the abandonment of courts-martial, practically places the Admiralty in the position of a dictator. Not only are our officers to be 1034 deprived of what has always been regarded as their special privilege and protection, but, in the absence of courts-martial—and this is a very important point to consider—the Admiralty will be able to cover up any mistakes on their part by blotting out any record of the transaction. It may seem to be rather a mean suggestion, but I assure the Committee that rumours are already going about that this is the end the Admiralty have in view. Personally, I do not attach any importance to such a suggestion.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Nor do I think it is at all likely to be the case. I repeat it because the very fact of anything like that being said in that way shows the evils that must invariably follow from autocratic action of the kind. I think the Committee, with their usual fairness, will admit that I have a perfect right to repeat it, considering that I have drawn a fair deduction from the repetition. The Committee may remember, and the First Lord called my attention to it only a few days ago, in answer to a question that Lord Crewe had stated in another place that the holding of these Courts was mere custom and that it carried with itNo statutory obligation.In this statement the Civil Lord—who I am glad to see in his place to-day—is apparently in agreement, but both Lord Crewe and the Civil Lord appear to have forgotten entirely the Naval Defence Act. That Act affirms the principle of courts-martial, and provides that—A court-martial shall be held pursuant to the custom of the Navy in such cases to inquire into the cause of the wreck, loss, destruction, or capture of the ship.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
The Noble Lord will remember that the Naval Defence Act embodies Section 91 of the Naval Discipline Act. That is what I quoted just now. Then let us look at the King's Regulations and the Admiralty Instructions. What do we find there? I turn up Article 177, which lays it down definitely that in the case of a ship captured, wrecked, or otherwise lost or destroyed—The captain and officers shall remain until a court-martial shall have inquired into the cause of the loss or capture.1035 Other articles in the King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions also refer to courts-martial, and ordain that certain disabilities must follow in the event of an adverse verdict being given. It is clear, from these Regulations and Instructions, that the holding of a court-martial is contemplated. If one order is to be set aside, why not another? In fact, of what value are the King's Regulations, or, for that matter, of what value is legislation? On whose authority have courts-martial been abandoned? That question was asked yesterday in the House and I repeat it to-day. We should like to know on whose authority courts-martial have been abandoned, and on whose authority the provisions of the Naval Defence Act and the Navy Discipline Act have been set aside. I was always under the impression that an Act of Parliament could only be altered by Parliament itself, but, apparently, if it happens to deal with the Navy, it can be amended by the First Lord or by the Board of Admiralty, a proceeding which is hardly likely to be acceptable to a democratic community. Again Lord Crewe gave the House of Lords to understand that the holding of courts-martial was obsolete altogether, yet in the House of Commons, in 1907, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, in answer to a question, said that the only exception to the custom of holding a court-martial as laid down in the Naval Discipline Act, which is embodied in the Naval Defence Act, since 1866 to date, was that of a Coastguard cruiser and a torpedo-destroyer, but in the latter case an inquiry was held. Why was the Civil Lord so anxious to establish the custom of courts-martial in 1907 if he now says that it has no statutory obligation, is a matter of no concern whatsoever, and can be abandoned at will? The two quotations I have made require some explanation. I think the Committee will agree that to abandon a custom of such great tradition as that of courts-martial should not have taken place without the representatives of the people having some say in the matter.
I pass from the technical part of my argument to certain examples. In the case of the "Goeben" a court-martial would have been far more satisfactory, both to the officers concerned and to the people of the country, than an inquiry, but a court-martial apparently was not held. After the loss of the "Cressy" cruisers no inquiry or court-martial was held, yet there were many points connected with the 1036 disaster which seem to me to call for examination. For instance, the patrol was a very dangerous one, and the ships were not equal to putting up a fight—at any rate supposing them to be attacked by a very strong force of the enemy. Then, again, they offered a very easy target for submarines. It is all very well for the First Lord to say that our energy ought not to be consumed in the discussion of incidents beyond recall, but that hardly meets the case of the public or of the officers, who have rights and privileges to be considered. He might just as well say about a railway accident that is beyond recall, and what is the good of making any inquiry? So you might say with regard to crime—murders and offences against the law. They are all past and gone. What is the good of inquiring into them? If you use that argument you might pursue it almost to absurdity. It is an impossible argument for the First Lord to use. If it is allowed to pass you might say that anything can be done just as the Admiralty like, and no criticism or discussion can follow at all. That is a most dangerous precedent to set up. But the worst case is the "Formidable." It is common knowledge that the "Formidable" and the other vessels accompanying her were going down the Channel at reduced speed and without a screen of destroyers. I should like to know whether that was in accordance with the Admiralty's instructions. The First Lord seems to be under the impression that the holding of courts-martial cast a slur on the officers concerned, he said it involved a criminal offence. Not at all. On this point I contradicted him yesterday. If any person feels the injustice of doing away with courts-martial it is the naval officer; naval officers to a man wish to see courts-martial retained.
I come now to another part of my case, and that takes us back a long way. It takes us back to when the First Lord of the Admiralty ordered my Noble Friend (Lord C. Beresford) to haul down his flag, presumably as a protest against his criticism of the right hon. Gentleman's policy. A Cabinet Committee was appointed to inquire into what the Noble Lord had said and written, and it is satisfactory to find that the Committee agreed with the Noble Lord that a War Staff should be appointed. A War Staff was appointed and we are all very gratified that that was done. If it had been appointed when the Noble Lord asked for it to be appointed the Navy 1037 would have been in an even better position than it is to-day. However, after two years of a War Stall we may congratulate the Admiralty upon a very great advance in their administration. It is, however, to the Noble Lord's remarks with regard to cruisers, destroyers and small craft that I should like to call attention. If the 154 cruisers and small craft which were abandoned in 1904 had been replaced with their equivalent we should not have been in the position that we are in to-day and that we have been in during the last six months. It is all very well for the First Lord to say what wonderful things have been done on the trade routes. It is very fortunate for us that they have turned out as wonderful as they have. It is not all due to us, although the Fleet have done wonderful things. Vessels like the "Emden" and the "Karlsruhe" wrought considerable damage amongst our merchantmen. That is not all.
The Prime Minister told us the other day that one of the reasons why the price of food-stuffs had gone up was the shortage of vessels. Seeing that half the vessels which are now being used are doing work which should be done by ships of war one can easily understand how the shortage has occurred. Again, the passing into the Naval Service of all available ships has entailed very large expense upon the country, and it appears to me that instead of ordering my Noble Friend to haul down his flag, the First Lord would have done very much better if he had listened to his advice, not only would the country have been saved financially a considerable sum but fewer lives would have been lost and fewer merchantmen would have been seized, and fewer ships sunk. I have here a question, which perhaps the Civil Lord will be able to reply to, with regard to unnecessary expenditure in the use of these ships. The "Aquitania" was a new ship when the Admiralty took her over. The inside was ripped out of her, and later on her bows were damaged, and now she is hardly in the same condition as she was when she was taken over. I have not seen her, but from what I am told, she will cost the country a great deal of money to put into order again. That is a most unfortunate matter. All these matters would have been avoided if the Government had listened to what my Noble Friend said. It is somewhat surprising to me that, at a national crisis of this kind, when expert experience is so 1038 much needed, the Government have not availed themselves more of the Noble Lord's assistance.
The system with regard to the disposal of prize money was, until recently, governed by an Order in Council passed in the reign of the late Queen Victoria. On 28th August of last year this Order was cancelled and another order was obtained on a Memorial to the King, stating that it was intended to substitute a system of bounties and gratuities. It was also stated that the reason why it was wished to give bounties and gratuities was that it was more equitable and that every man and officer in the Fleet should have a chance of obtaining some portion of the prize money, whereas before it generally went to the officers and men of the ships which took the prizes. That may be a very good plan—I do not say it is not—but meanwhile the Government set up a Committee of Claims. I believe this Committee of Claims has had a certain number of cases before it, but I am very certain that up to the present it has not considered the claims of the Navy. If that matter is deferred until the end of the War it will make a very great deal of difference, and I should like to know what is going to be done in the case of the officers and men who have lost their lives in the cause of duty. Are they or their representatives going to have an equal share in the prize money, because that is a matter of great importance to them and their dependants? A man who was in the Navy at the beginning should be treated exactly on the same footing as men who are in the Navy when the War is over.
An hon. Member yesterday mentioned the question of Antwerp. This is hardly the moment to discuss a matter which is so closely connected with military policy, but, apart from all that, I am sure the Committee would like to know why so many young men without any training were sent to do duty in the trenches at Antwerp, why they were sent without any knowledge of rifle firing, and why were they not properly clothed? I believe there were men in the trenches at Antwerp who had no overcoats and who had never been provided with overcoats. This has nothing whatever to do with military strategy. This has to do with naval policy, and the First Lord is answerable for the naval policy of the Government, and therefore he is answerable for these matters to which I have called attention.
1039 I desire to say a few words about naval pay. In some cases the Admiralty have been very generous, but there is the pay of the naval officer yet to be considered, especially the pay of midshipmen and of men of warrant rank These men correspond to the rank of sub-lieutenant in the Army, and a man on promotion to warrant rank from the lower deck is, as a rule, married, and with prices reigning as they do to-day it is a very difficult thing for that man's wife and children to keep up a proper position. Take the case of a boatswain who is raised to warrant rank from the lower deck. Pay begins at 6s. a day. He can allot £6 a month, and he has to pay 30s. to £2 for his messing. The allotment of £6 per month would give his wife and children 30s. a week to live upon. That is hardly sufficient money for a naval officer's wife and children to carry out the position in which they have been placed by the country.
Another question of naval pay which I have never yet heard brought to the notice of the House is the question of the pay of naval chaplains. There is no branch of the service which appears to have been so overlooked. The earliest age at which a chaplain can enter the Service is twenty-five, when pay starts at £210. After twenty years he receives £328 10s., and then his pay increases by a shilling a day each year for four years until he reaches a maximum of £401 10s. He may be retired at fifty-five or may be kept on till sixty. If you compare that with the pay of chaplains in the Army it does not compare very favourably. The Army chaplain gets, with home allowances, after a probationary period. £273, and rises in twenty years to £515. He can reach a maximum of £560, with home allowances. I wish to suggest that naval chaplains should receive 12s. per day for the first four years instead of the first five, then rise 2s. a day, instead of 1s., for every three years up to nineteen years, and then 1s. for every two years until at the end of the twenty-seventh year, when a maximum of 30s. a day would be reached. This, of course, would be extra to the ordinary shore allowances. I do not know whether the Financial Secretary is aware that naval chaplains' pay has not been increased since 1870. Since that date the pay of every other rank and rating in the Navy has gone up considerably. It must be remembered that in the olden days a large proportion of the naval chaplains 1040 were also naval instructors, and that this enabled them to earn a considerable addition to their ordinary pay; but that jointure has long since been abolished. Again, many chaplains are married, and there has been an increase in the cost of food since the present rate of pay was fixed. It may be asked. "Is this the time to bring up the question of the pay of naval chaplains? Leave it alone until the War is over." I consider that this is the time to bring it up, because of the extra expense which falls upon the chaplains for the support of their wives and children. I hope I have made that point clear to the Parliamentary Secretary.
I wish to ask a question with regard to-allowances. The right hon. Gentleman told me some time ago that separation allowances to the wives and children of warrant officers would be considered. Has that been done? I understood him to say that the matter was under consideration, and that he hoped the Admiralty would see their way to make the same allowances to them as in the case of the Royal Marines. There is another matter in connection with our naval policy to which I should like to call the attention of the Committee, namely, the question of Navy boots. It seems almost incredible that our sailors up to the outbreak of the War were compelled to wear German boots—that is to say, boots made with German leather. I say that deprived British workmen of work which ought to have been given to them. It has been given to foreign workmen. The right hon. Gentleman told the House that the sole of the boot is always required to be of British manufacture, and that the manufacturer may use either foreign or British leather for the upper. The right hon. Gentleman is correct theoretically, but no British manufacturer would make a boot with the upper of English leather, because it has a different appearance to German leather, and therefore it is utterly impossible to make the upper to have the same appearance as the German sample given to him. Where does the equal opportunity come in for British and foreign workmen? The First Lord of the Admiralty says. "Oh, they can do it; they can so manufacture their leather as to give it the appearance required." I am not going into that technical point. I need not point out to the Committee that the Germans are not likely to let a trade like this go by and hand it over to this country. Therefore they were quite prepared to sell their boots 1041 practically at cost price, which, of course, means placing the English manufacturer in a very bad position.
In 1912 the Admiralty instituted a wearing test in relation to English and German boots. One would naturally suppose that an answer would be given shortly in regard to that test, but two years elapsed before they were in a position to give an answer. They said that the test was "somewhat inconclusive." These are the words which are used in the statement which I have before me. What the British manufacturers want is an all-British specification, and that is what the Admiralty refuse to give. What the Admiralty say is, "We will give you a specification that the leather must be British or other suitable leather." Now, that will not do. The Financial Secretary said he could not change it just now. Do I rightly understand him to say that when the War is over the Admiralty intend to take up the matter? That may or may not be so, but, at any rate, the argument which the Financial Secretary uses is not sound, because British manufacturers are in a position now to supply all the boots for the Navy and to make them of English leather, and therefore the Admiralty need not trouble at all about the scarcity of leather or anything of that kind. British manufacturers are prepared to make boots of British leather. The Financial Secretary says that will cost us more. Not at all. I believe I am correct in saying—I am speaking from information which has reached me from a reliable quarter—that British manufacturers can guarantee to produce British boots provided that they get an all-British specification, and provided also that the Admiralty say that they shall have the opportunity not only of making the boots all through the War, but when the War is over the Admiralty will not revert to the old German specification.
I must say a word in connection with the dockyards. The Parliamentary Secretary has certainly made a most interesting speech, and I am afraid that he has taken the wind out of my sails. I had intended to dilate somewhat at length about the grievances of the dockyard men. I had intended to make a reference seriatim to the claims of the workers who have received concessions. I am very glad to find that nearly all the workmen in the different branches at the dockyards have had their claims considered. I have ventured to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman from time to time during 1042 the past three or four years cases which had not received the attention which they merited. I am afraid that the Parliamentary Secretary is a little jealous of our Committee.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Since we started to bring the claims of the men before the Admiralty, many changes have been made in the administration of the dockyards, and one cannot help feeling that the Dockyard Members Committee have had some share in bringing about these results. I am very pleased to find that the Financial Secretary proposes to continue the policy of receiving men in London. That practice, I understand, is not only to be continued, but probably extended. It is a good thing to know from him that this is not going to be stopped. The smiths and the riggers have been putting their cases before the Admiralty for a good many years, and one is glad to see that they have come in at last. As to the shipwrights, I think they are most deserving of the rise in wages which they have received. It will be greatly appreciated, and it is a thing which certainly ought to have been done. As to storehousemen, I am afraid our Committee have rather worried the First Lord and the Financial Secretary. We have presented their case over and over again in the form of letters stating that we considered that some rise in wages should be given to them. It is exceedingly gratifying to know that the Board of Admiralty find themselves in a position to give this rise. No workman desires to find fault with the Financial Secretary. All who know him like him. They all believe what he says, and they are willing to trust their case in his hands. At the same time they desire to have their claims brought forward also by the Dockyard Members Committee. In that way they have two strings to their bow. What has been done in the case of the labourers will give very general satisfaction. A rise of a shilling has been given all round. The men at Haulbowline think that they also should have 24s. Personally, I should like to see them get that pay. Still I am quite satisfied with what has been given. Not long ago the Secretary read a letter to the House showing how little could be done with 22s. On that letter he based the rise to 23s. I had intended to urge to-day that it should be 24s., but that has been done, and nothing 1043 remains for me except at some future date to propose a rise from 24s. to 25s. I am satisfied that what has been done has been done on the whole very generously. I readily admit that the Board of Admiralty, acting on the advice of the Financial Secretary, have taken into consideration all matters connected with the yards, and have dealt with the men in a very proper and a very liberal manner.
I am sure that the House has listened with the greatest possible pleasure to the statement of the Financial Secretary, especially when he was giving his testimony to the vigour with which the men employed in the dockyards have performed their work. If there is one thing which is likely to be encouraging to the men who are following their avocations so strenuously it is some meed of acknowledgment, from those who are in a position superior to them, of the efforts which they are making. These men have made very great sacrifices by putting in such an enormous amount of time at their work, in many cases without any break, and I am rather inclined to think that there is a danger, in connection with Government as well as private contracts, that a great deal of sickness may result. But so far as I have come in contact with the men, they have shown the greatest readiness to perform their part of the work in such a way as to enable the various Government Departments to supply the Army and the Navy with everything essential to bring forth success. The statement of the Financial Secretary with regard to wages seems to have given an enormous amount of satisfaction to the previous speaker. I cannot follow exactly in the same strain. I happen to have a considerable connection with men employed by firms outside of Government employment. I will give a recent indication of what has happened. In the London area alone practically all the skilled workers within the past few weeks have received an advance of 3s. per week, while the labourers have received an advance of 2s. per week. I would remind the Financial Secretary that in Coventry, at least three years ago, labourers were in receipt of 27s. per week; so I think that he will begin to see, despite the blandishments of the last speaker, that the labourers are still a long way off from heaven as far as dockyard work is concerned. The only excuse which may be given for what, after all, is a very 1044 small advance in wages, particularly to labourers, is that possibly this question has been hanging over for a very considerable period, and it may be that the considerations that exist now have, to some extent, been overlooked in considering this question.
I know that these matters, numbering hundreds, must take time, and that since the advent of the War, and the greatly increased cost of living, there are many new questions which have arisen since the consideration of the major part of these matters was before the Financial Secretary, and probably they have come after he had fixed in his own mind the amount of the advance that could be given. It is obvious that there will have to be a further consideration of this question. All sections of manufacturers in this country, in most cases without dispute, even in cases when the men and the employers have been bound by agreement, are showing a willingness to face the fact that the cost of living has increased beyond all reason and expectation, and the employers themselves in many cases have given what is termed a bonus of 2s. per week to the employés over and above the amounts fixed by the agreements, which may have been signed twelve months ago. I mention that because I am not complaining particularly of the advance given on this occasion. One can say, "Here is another bob for the labourer to get a shillingsworth of joy and ginger, if he can." The thing that amazes me most is that it is always a bob. It never seems to strike the imagination of those who consider these matters that surely they might on some very rare occasion spring a little more than a shilling. A couple of shillings would be a very welcome advance for these men.
After all, there is room for just a little more sympathy with the man who is at the bottom. I do not question the sympathy of the Financial Secretary, but there should be just a little more consideration given to the man who, after all, has the hardest time wherever he is, whether working for a private firm or for the Government. He is the man who has the hot end of the poker all the time. He is the man who has the most difficult problem in the country to face, even when he is getting 24s. per week. I am sure from my own experience that it is not the things which the 24s. will buy, but the things that the 24s. will never buy that give him the greatest concern. I hope that 1045 when this matter comes up for further consideratioii—and it must do so before very long—the Admiralty and those who consider it will try to get out of the rut of a shilling, and see if they cannot spring the labourer a little more than a shilling when they make the next advance. At any rate there is no getting over this fact, that the advanced cost of living, as it exists low since the War, is very much greater than is represented by the shilling advance which the labourer is getting. Despite the fact that their wages go up the condition of these men is really worse, because the cost of living is rising much more rapidly than their wages. That is a consideration that is not grasped as fully as it ought to be by those who consider the matter. In the main these men get a magnificent testimonial and a microscopic advance of wages. Even though this advance is given, I think that the wages are still a shilling below what the men are getting at Woolwich. I suppose that there are reasons for the difference, but I think that the Admiralty would have excelled themselves if they had jumped up to the Woolwich range and given a nudge to the whole Department that it was time for them to move. But I suppose that it is beyond all reason to expect that the Admiralty are going to show any great degree of advancement on these lines.
There was another point which struck me forcibly when the Financial Secretary was reading the rates of wages—that was the advance of 6d. to riggers. Is this an advance of 6d. per week or 6d. per day? If it is an advance of 6d. per week, how does the Financial Secretary expect that these men will ever spend all this wealth? It seems to me to be such an insignificant advance that it is almost a waste of time to offer it. In all my experience I never heard of an advance of less than one shilling per week, and it is very often a great deal more. The Financial Secretary tells the House that as much as £90,000 in one year is given in advances of wages to the men employed on production by the Admiralty—I am only taking his own division—but it would have been very interesting if he had given us the total number of men concerned. It is difficult to grasp what the effect of the advance is unless one gets the two sets of figures. I suppose that these figures seem to the Admiralty to be vast sums of money. I should like that the Financial Secretary would get to know what the advance of wages which has been recently 1046 given to the railway men will amount to. This advance has been given, I understand, by all the railway companies of this country, and I hope of Scotland, and it he can ascertain by a little inquiry what the advances given by private employers amount to, I think that he would share my view that the Admiralty is a long way behind the large employers in this country. The right hon. Gentleman tells us the gross total of the advance of wages that has been given by the Admiralty. I hope that when his next statement is made we shall at least have the number of men affected.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is the position of the artificers. I understand that they have received the same rate of pay for at least thirty years on end. I do not know whether that matter has escaped the attention of the Financial Secretary or whether it is still under consideration, or whether there is any hope of improvement so far as these men are concerned. I think that a case has been established for some special consideration for them. If he will consider this matter in conjunction with the grievances of the chaplains, and raise the artificers up to the chaplains' level, I am sure that the artificers will be overjoyed at the result.
§ 5.0. P.M.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty in his speech made the remark that it should be remembered when criticisms are made, that we are at war. I am a profound admirer of the splendid work which has been done, and I shall say nothing at all by way of finding fault with the Admiralty, but rather with a view to urging that the Admiralty should have even more power put into its hands than it has now. Another remark which the right hon. Gentleman made in his speech was this:We have not prevented neutral ships from trading direct with German ports. We have allowed German exports in neutral ships to pass unchallenged. The time has come when the enjoyment of those immunities by a State which, as a matter of deliberate policy, has placed herself outside all international obligations, 1047 must be reconsidered. A further declaration on the part of the allied Governments will probably be made which will have the effect for the first time of applying the full force of naval pressure to the enemy.We were all pleased to hear that statement from the First Lord, though I have to say that his statement was a little tardy in being made. Some of us feel that an even more stringent attitude should have been taken up with regard to the matter of contraband and conditional contraband. The Committee know that in time of war all supplies going to the enemy are divided under three headings: "Contraband," "Conditional Contraband," and the "Free List." There is not much argument with regard to contraband, but there is a great deal of argument with regard to conditional contraband. If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty should be able in his reply to answer one or two points it will relieve the whole of our minds with regard to several matters. As I understand the matter of conditional contraband, food is free unless it is understood and believed that the final place of deposition where it is agreed to arrive is not for the forces of a Government against which we are fighting. The question, however, has to a certain extent been settled by the German Government openly stating that after a certain date they will control all the grain in their country. I want to ask—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that this is not the occasion on which to raise the subject with which the hon. Gentleman is dealing. It is a matter for the Foreign Office, or for the Prime Minister. The Admiralty, as I understand, only carry out the orders of the Government with regard to definitions of contraband, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, I take it, would have no authority to answer questions of the character raised by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
The Foreign Office in a matter of this kind may be the authority, or have the final voice, in regard to some questions that I would wish to put, and I desire it to be understood that I make no protest against the Navy for having allowed so much to go through our lines in the way that has been permitted hitherto. I would observe that whereas our Navy has allowed certain vessels to pass through its lines with charter parties and bills of lading, permitting the cargoes to go to 1048 certain ports, it does not seem to me, speaking as an Englishman, that the duty of a neutral party or a neutral country has been followed when those goods have gone from that neutral country into the enemy's country. I shall not under the ruling be allowed to carry that point further, as I had intended, but I should like to make a statement to the right hon. Gentleman, and to put two questions which call for considerable comment. One has reference to the steamer "Kym," the vessel which the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce took cognisance of, and I believe sent word to the Admiralty that, in their view, if that vessel was allowed to pass it would be a breach of neutrality on the part of the Danish Government. The Admiralty had orders to stop that cargo, and I understand that it is now warehoused in Ncw-castle-on-Tyne. It would be interesting to know why the Admiralty, having slopped that one particular cargo, did not continue the policy or action which they took in reference to this vessel, and extend it to other steamers carrying similar cargoes. A statement was made to the country by the Foreign Secretary with regard to the quantity of food which the Admiralty allowed to pass through the lines, and in reference to Denmark the figures were extraordinary. In the month of November, 1913, the value of the goods allowed to pass through was 558,000 dollars, whereas in last November the quantity of goods passing through from America alone to Denmark was 7,101,000 dollars.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must again point out to the hon. Member that the Admiralty have no responsibility in this matter, except to carry out instructions, and the responsibility in regard to the position lies with the Government as a whole, in these matters mainly represented by the Foreign Office. It is on the Vote of the Foreign Office that the hon. Member should raise his various points.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
In regard to the points I desire to raise, I quite see that they are mixed up with matters pertaining to the Foreign Office as well as the Admiralty, and perhaps it will be better that I should defer what I have to say until the Foreign Office Vote is before the Committee.
§ Mr. HOUSTON
I trust the House will forgive me if in my remarks with reference to the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, yesterday, I call attention to one or two mistakes which he made, and 1049 endeavour to remove one or two impressions which I fear the right hon. Gentleman has unintentionally caused. I do not rise to criticise, and, including the First Lord of the Admiralty, I do not yield to anyone in my admiration of the fighting men in our ships, proved to be inspired and animated by the spirit of Drake and Nelson, and to be as capable of making heroic sacrifices and performing heroic deeds as their forefathers did in the spacious days of Elizabeth, when the foundations of our Empire and supremacy of the sea were laid. The First Lord of the Admiralty, quite unintentionally I am sure, conveyed a wrong impression with regard to shipowners when he said:—At the beginning of this War shipowners were only too glad to get their ships taken by the Government, owing to the uncertainty of the naval situation, and the possibility that ordinary cargoes would not be forthcoming. But now a change has taken place. …. The Admiralty rates are half or a third below the market rates.My only reason for referring to this is that there has recently been a campaign directed against shipowners, who have been accused of unpatriotic and greedy action, and of thinking of nothing but gain. The facts are that at the beginning of the War no steamers were chartered by the Admiralty on behalf of the Government, but were requisitioned, very often causing great inconvenience to the shipowners. Again and again a ship on a point of sailing had its cargo turned out, and it remained there a considerable time.
§ Mr. HOUSTON
I am finding no fault, I am speaking with no hostile feeling, I am directing no hostile criticism towards the Government, and my only reason for rising now is to defend the shipowners from the charges which are made. The shipowners have very few spokesmen in this House, and the few who are here, if I may say so, are workers rather than talkers, and are prepared, as a rule, to treat with silent scorn the attacks made upon them rather than to defend themselves. But in this particular case the words spoken by the First Lord of the Admiralty bear very great weight and might convey a very wrong impression to the British public. The right hon. Gentleman is quite aware that by instructions from the Admiralty, and in combination with the principal shipowners of the country, mostly liners, that the Admiralty Transport Arbitration Board was formed, with Lord Mersey as chairman. In Sep- 1050 tember the freights were abnormally low, due to the dislocation of business throughout the world—financial difficulties, and difficulties of exchange. Freights being very low, the Board agreed to a certain rate for various ships, and the Admiralty at that time did not accept it. It was a very moderate rate indeed, based on these very low rates. In December the rates were booming. The British shipowners, as represented by this Board, did not, I believe, in any individual case ask for a single rise, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will confirm me that they accepted the rate, which was agreed as being a reasonable rate, on the 22nd September.
§ Mr. HOUSTON
I am defending the British shipowner accused of unpatriotism and of greed, and, as I have said, the shipowners, the owners of liners, were subjected to the very greatest inconvenience and to some considerable loss. The First Lord of the Admiralty stated, and stated correctly, that the rate of hire which many shipowners are receiving at the present moment is half to a third below the market rate, and yet those very shipowners, to carry out their obligations and their contracts, are saddled with the chartering of tramp tonnage at market rates, in some cases many shillings above what they are receiving from the Admiralty. They are not complaining, but I do submit that the British shipowners ought not to be considered unpatriotic. The First Lord of the Admiralty also made a very grave error which will, of course, be used as an argument by the critics and opponents of the shipowners. He says the losses cannot, of course, be covered by recourse on the part of the shipowners to the Government's insurance scheme, the rates of which are now one-fifth of what they were at the outbreak of war. We all admit that the First Lord of the Admiralty is a genius and a brilliant genius, but he suffers from a defect which is common to geniuses, and that is not giving sufficient attention to details. The rates are not one-fifth on ships, but they are now three-fifths on ships, and within the last day or two the underwriters outside of the Government insurance scheme to whom shipowners have to go in many cases, are now charging very high rates. The rates have gone up very considerably, and I dare say the right hon. Gentleman will find out if he takes the trouble to 1051 inquire. At the beginning of the War on hulls the flat rate for one voyage was 25s. per cent. or one and a quarter, and 50s. for the round voyage of not more than three months, which worked out at £10 for the year. Those rates are now 15s. for one voyage and 30s. for the round voyage not exceeding three months. What the First Lord of the Admiralty was referring to was probably the rate of insurance on cargo, which was £5 at the beginning of the War and is now £1 per cent. That, however, has nothing to do with the shipowner.
It has been stated that the shipowner is now getting his insurance for one-fifth what it was at the outbreak of War, and, as I have pointed out, that is entirely inaccurate, and he is now paying three-fifths of what he was paying at the beginning of the War. At the beginning of the War by the Government insurance scheme, the Government underwriting 80 per cent., the value of any one ship was limited to £75,000. The owner could not insure any ship for more, though it might have cost him £150,000 or £300,000. Several ships at the outbreak of War upon which this limit of £75,000 was placed by the Government scheme were sunk by enemy cruisers, the owners losing all the difference between the £75,000 and the actual value of the ship. I do not even propose to criticise the Transport Department of the Admiralty or the gentleman who is described as one of the discoveries of the War. All I have to say about it is this, and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to contradict me, that a small Department of the kind with the few individuals who are now in it, and remember I have the greatest regard and respect for them, and they have done wonders, would find it absolutely impossible to attempt to do anything in the control or management of shipping without the active co-operation of shipowners in this country.
§ Mr. HOUSTON
I think the First Lord yesterday, in belauding his own Department, rather damned the shipowner with faint praise. Afterwards he attempted to apply some salve to their wounded feelings by a few compliments. I do not want to weary the House by quoting extracts from the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but I say again that the Transport Department of the Admiralty would be absolutely helpless without the co-operation, the active 1052 co-operation, of the shipowners and of the officers and men of the mercantile marine. In that connection the Admiralty are receiving, and rightly so, the heartiest co-operation and assistance from everyone, so far as I know, connected with the ships that have been taken for transport service. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, will agree that the shipowners are divided into two classes—the liner class and the "tramp" class. It is the liner class which has suffered the greatest inconvenience and loss by the dislocation of trade. In many cases the liner owner's business has been reduced to a state of chaos, and he has a heavy list of contracts which he has to carry out. The conditions are not so with the "tramp" owner, whose ships have been taken by the Admiralty.
I do not agree altogether with the instance put forward by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I think it was rather a weak case, because the collier attending on the Fleet must be in attendance at all times. The conditions are entirely different with the Expeditionary Force ships and the armed merchantmen and the transport ships which have been carrying troops, material, etc. The First Lord yesterday spoke in unqualified terms of praise, and rightly so, of the transport of troops from all directions—from New Zealand, from Australia and Canada, aye, and across the Channel, where I think the greatest feat of all was performed. What would the Admiralty have done, or the Navy have done, in that transport work without the merchant ships? We all have the greatest admiration for the Navy, and the ships carrying troops, material, provender, and all supplies where, we all admit, safeguarded by the Navy, were it not for which this country would not be in existence at the present time as a free and independent nation. If it were not for the Navy our Empire as such would cease to exist; but the Navy would be helpless without the co-operation of what I may describe as the Cinderella sister service, the mercantile service.
I speak not only for the shipowners, but also for the officers and men of the mercantile marine. I hope that at the end of the War, or perhaps long before it, when the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary and the First Lord are at liberty to speak, that the deeds of the heroic seamen will be related. I could relate many of them at present, 1053 some of the details of the merchant seamen and the men of the Royal Naval Reserve who have been put in command of cross-Channel steamers as patrol boats, and who have done good service amongst the German submarines. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will shortly be able to tell the world at large that, in addition to our Navy, for which we have the greatest regard and esteem, the mercantile marine have also done good and heroic service. I do not for one moment wish to criticise any Department of the Admiralty. The First Lord of the Admiralty was entitled, and in fact it was his duty, to defend the Admiralty against any attack. But, in defending the Navy from attacks, which I do not know were altogether well directed, I think he might not have disparaged the British shipowner as he did, especially with such remarks conveying to the world at large that the British shipowner is thinking more of profit than of patriotism. I am quite sure that the First Lord, when he comes to read his own speech, will see the impression he might convey, and it was because of that I have ventured to address the House.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I desire to call attention to a question which has figured very largely in the public eye, and that is the question of the loss or destruction of His Majesty's ships and the necessity of holding courts-martial into the causes. This question was raised by my Noble Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) last night, and so far there has been no reply on the part of His Majesty's Government. I regret that the First Lord is not here, because I think it is a question which would really merit his attention. I trust we shall have an adequate reply to-day upon a subject which is exciting great attention in the public mind. The first point to notice in this connection is that there has been for the last two or three hundred years or more an invariable custom in His Majesty's Navy that whenever one of the ships of the Navy was lost or destroyed or captured, that there should be an inquiry into that by court-martial. But, more than that, that custom has been recognised in repeated Acts of Parliament for the last two hundred years. Let me quote to the House an extract from a book of considerable authority upon Naval Law. It is the "Manual of Navy Law and Court-martial Procedure," by Messrs. Stevens, Giffard 1054 and Smith, published in 1912. On page 156 you will find this:As far back as the Navy has existed it has been the custom in every case to hold a court-martial when a vessel was lost or captured.That custom was not confined to peace. It is a custom which has prevailed in war time as well as in peace. I said that the custom was recognised in Acts of Parliament.By the Act of 1745 (18 Geo. II., c. 35), it was enacted that when a ship was lost the Articles of War should remain in force until either (1) the crew were regularly discharged; (2) were transferred to another ship, or (3) a court-martial was held "pursuant to the custom of the Navy in such cases to inquire into the causes of the loss of such ship.Similar expressions referring to the existence of this custom were found in Acts of Parliament relating to naval discipline in 1747, 1860, 1864 and 1866. The Act of 1866 (the present Navy Discipline Act), Section 91, enacts:—When anyone of Her Majesty's ships shall be wrecked or lost, or destroyed or taken by the enemy, such ship shall for the purposes of this Act be deemed to remain in commission until her crew shall be regularly removed into, some other of Her Majesty's ships of war, or until a court-martial shall have been held 'pursuant to the custom of the Navy in such cases to inquire into the cause of the wreck, destruction, or capture of the said ship.'So that I do not think anyone can dispute that that was the invariable custom and has been ever since our Navy has been in existence. If that be so we ask why should that custom be broken. It never has been broken until the last two or three years. It was first broken by His Majesty's present Government, and indeed the First Lord, speaking last night, seemed to feel himself under some embarrassment, and not unnaturally, because while admitting the existence of the custom he endeavoured to excuse the holding of an inquiry into the loss of such a ship as the "Formidable," which resulted in most lamentable loss of life, by saying that he refused to hold an inquiry because, as he stated amongst other things, the circumstances of modern warfare are different from the conditions of ancient warfare. Why, have not the conditions of warfare been changing almost every year or every few years for the last three or 1055 four hundred years? Let me ask the right hon. Gentleman, have not the circumstances of warfare changed very materially since His Majesty's Navy was established? Were they not changed by the introduction of steam and the introduction of ironclads? Yet until the other day no one ever suggested that these changes in the character of naval warfare were a sufficient reason for departing from the invariable custom of the Admiralty of holding courts-martial. The First Lord gave another reason why a court-martial could not be held in a case such as that of the "Formidable." He said:—Losses by mine and submarine must frequently be placed on the same footing as heavy casualties on land. They cannot be treated as presumably involving a dereliction of duty, or a lack of professional ability.The suggestion was that unless there was some dereliction of duty or a lack of professional ability we should not hold a court-martial. That reason will not hold water for one moment, because if the right hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to read the Admiralty instructions in this connection he would have seen that Article 662a expressly contemplates the very case where a ship is lost and no one can be said either to have been lacking in professional ability or to have been guilty of a dereliction of duty. In such a case the Admiralty instructions say that there must be a preliminary inquiry to find out whether anyone was or was not to blame. If no one was to blame a court-martial is to be held in one way; while if someone was prima facie to blame a court-martial is to be held in another way. So the fact that no one may be held liable to blame is no reason whatsoever for not holding a court-martial. But I do not wish to deal with the matter merely as a question of law and custom. I say that, even if there were no unbroken custom on the subject, in a case such as that of the "Formidable" it would be the absolute duty of the Admiralty to hold a court-martial. There are several reasons why I say that. In the first place it is unfortunately not the first case of the loss of one of His Majesty's ships under circumstances very similar to those which attended the loss of the "Formidable." What we in this House, and what the public desire, is that the causes of losses of that sort should be inquired into, and, if they are avoidable, that they should be avoided in future. From that point of view a court-martial is absolutely essential.
1056 It is alleged that in the case of the "Formidable" there were two contributory causes, if they were not the only causes of the loss. It is said, in the first place, that there were no torpedo-boat destroyers accompanying this squadron of cruisers going down the Channel, although it was in a sea known to be infested by submarines. Another special circumstance alleged ill this case is that the squadron was going at a very slow rate of speed. If a court-martial were held, we should know whether those two causes existed, and, if so, who was responsible. We should also be able to take care that such causes did not lead to disasters in the future. There is yet, another reason why I think a court-martial should be held in such cases. It would in a large measure restore the confidence of the public. When disaster occurs, it is not publicity that shakes the public confidence; it is concealment. I believe that the people of this country are able to bear the news of disaster, but it is difficult for them to bear its concealment. It is in the interests of the public, who are interested in the successful prosecution of this War, that these cases should be inquired into. It is certainly in the interests of the officers and men of the Fleet. They are entitled to know what has led to these disasters. They are still more entitled to have steps taken by those responsible at the Admiralty, so that any avoidable causes of disaster may be avoided with the utmost care in the future.
There is yet one other reason that I may give. It is only just that we should relieve of all blame men who have not deserved blame, but unless an inquiry is held it is difficult for the public to know where to apportion the blame, and whom they ought to relieve from blame. If these inquiries are held we should be able to relieve those who ought to be relieved from blame, and, if anyone was to blame, we should know on whose shoulders the blame ought properly to fall. It may be said that if courts-martial were held it might be necessary to take evidence which it would be detrimental in the public interest to have made public. As regards the procedure of courts-martial, there is ample provision made for avoiding any such danger. The court has full power, if evidence is about to be given which it is not desirable to make public, to cause that evidence to be taken in private, so that the persons to whom it might be 1057 dangerous to communicate it shall not be informed of it. Furthermore, at a time like the present, the Press Censor has considerable power, and if there were anything in the course of a court-martial which it might not be desirable to communicate to the public, the Press Censor has ample power to prevent its publication. Therefore, I say that, notwithstanding the reasons against the holding of courts-martial given by the First Lord last night, there is a strong public desire and a strong public necessity for the holding of courts-martial into such disasters as those to which I have referred, in order to ensure, so far as it is possible, that such disasters may be avoided in the future.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I had rather hoped that the Attorney-General would have replied before I spoke, as I should have liked to have heard his statement. I feel that this is a matter of very great importance. I am not at all criticising the absence of the First Lord. I know how tremendous the claims on his time are, and I recognise that it may be quite impossible for him to be here. But it is one of the misfortunes of the time that he should not be here to deal with what is really, in my judgment, far more a question of naval policy than a question of law. I am not going to say a single word on the law on the subject. I do not think it matters twopence whether or not technically, on a fair reading of the Statutes, the Admiralty should have held these courts-martial. I do not think that any Statute could compel the Crown—because, after all, when we speak of the Admiralty it means the Crown—to summon a court-martial. Whether they have broken the letter of the Statute or not, does not seem to me to make a great deal of difference to the issue we are now considering. The First Lord, in dealing with the matter yesterday, put forward several arguments, some of which have been dealt with by my hon. and learned Friend, and about which I need not say much. I need not deal with the proposition that there would be a difficulty in securing the personnel for a court-martial—or for the three or four courts-martial which would be all that could possibly be summoned in this War—without interfering with the operations of the Fleet. I cannot think that that is really a serious difficulty at the present time. There are several officers who could be assembled for such a purpose 1058 without interfering with the duties of the Fleet. A more serious argument was that if you had a court-martial on every naval disaster you would interfere with the morale of the officers, because they would say, "If we lose our ships we shall be court-martialled," and that would make them, to use the First Lord's words, "play for safety." With the greatest possible respect to his knowledge on the subject, I cannot bring myself to accept that view. After all, the practice of the Navy was always to hold a court-martial on an officer who lost or hazarded his ship. That was the practice in the time of Nelson, but I do not think there was any lack in the morale of the Navy at that time.
Just consider, if you really press such an argument as that: a court-martial was held in the course of this War upon the action, or the want of action, that resulted in the escape of the "Goeben" and the "Breslau." The officer applied for a court-martial, and he was honourably acquitted. If any charge was suggested by the court-martial, it was one of want of vigilance or of want of vigour. Might we not just as well argue that if you hold a court-martial into such a case you will encourage rashness in the officers of the Navy? I am bound to say that it appears to me that our naval officers are much more likely to suffer from rashness than from cowardice. If you are to have any such consideration in mind, which I myself deprecate, I should have thought that it told equally against a court-martial in such a case as that as it would against a court-martial dealing with a disaster. I, personally, altogether disregard that consideration. I do not think it would have the slightest weight with an officer in command of a ship or an admiral in command of a squadron if he knew that some action of his might or might not lead to a court-martial. There is something far graver, something far more insistent, than any idea of that kind could possibly effect. The officer would do his duty as he understood it, whatever the consequences were likely to be in regard to a court-martial at the conclusion of the action.
Let me state what appears to me to be the great advantages arising from a court-martial. In the first place, it means an authoritative ascertainment of the facts accompanying a disaster. That seems to me a matter of very great importance. If we are ever to learn by misfortunes we must know exactly what happens. The 1059 second thing is perhaps even more important. I think it is vital that we should take steps to dissipate any misconceptions that may possibly arise in reference to a disaster. I do not pretend to be a judge, as my Noble Friend (Lord C. Beresford), of course, is, as to the circumstances of any particular event in the naval warfare of the last few months. We heard from him yesterday the view which he takes of the disaster to the "Formidable." It may be right or it may be entirely wrong. It is his opinion. But it is freely stated; I did not hear it yesterday for the first time. With reference to other disasters which have taken place, every Member of the House knows that there has been considerable criticism passed, not on particular individuals, but on the general conduct or general theory which underlie the circumstances that produced the disasters. Either that is true, and in that case it is very important that we should know it, or it is untrue, and then it is at least of equal importance that it should be authoritatively disproved.
My Noble Friend told us yesterday that the disaster to the "Formidable" was produced by the fact that she was going at too slow a rate, and did not have sufficient protection from destroyers and smaller crafts. Is that a fact? I do not know at all. How am I to know? But is it not very important that we should know of this important naval proceeding? It may be said, "Oh, but the Admiralty know." While I quite agree that it is of far more importance that the Admiralty should know than that the public should know, after all we do still live in a popularly governed country, and it is important that the people, too, should know this matter. I cannot help feeling that if it is true it should be known. I am quite certain that if it is not true it should be immediately disproved, for the thing is producing a very unfortunate impression. If it is true somebody—I do not in the least know who—is clearly to blame. I am quite sure that Ministers themselves will recognise how very unfortunate it is that any such impression should go abroad that somebody is to blame for a very serious disaster, and that nothing has happened in consequence of it.
I then turn to a matter which is of equal importance, and really it is a corollary of what I have tried to say. I think it is vital that the officers concerned, if they are not guilty, and are really merely 1060 victims of an inevitable accident—which, knowing nothing about it, I think the most probable fact—it is clearly important that that should be made clear before their fellow countrymen. They ought to have the opportunity publicly of being exculpated altogether from any possible charge. Lastly, I personally attach great importance to complying with the established custom and practice. May I try, merely as an outsider, to state what I understand to have been done? I shall be very glad to be contradicted if I am wrong, but I understand it to have been the established custom and practice of the Navy down to at least the year 1906 that whenever a ship was either lost, or, I think they went so far as to say, hazarded—
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
If the captain hazarded his ship then there was a court-martial as a matter of course. It was not a question of any charge against him. A court-martial was held if he lost or hazarded his ship. I think that is a very valuable thing. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to say that new conditions had come into warfare and that it was not the same thing that it used to be where the loss of a ship implied the surrender of a ship, and he suggested to the House that the foundation of the practice in regard to courts-martial was that there was necessarily a prima facie case against the officer. There was a fact to be cleared up, and that was the cause of the court-martial. Is that right? I cannot think it. I am informed, and I believe it to be a fact, that if the ship was lost by shipwreck there was a court-martial, and obviously there was no prima facie case against the commander of that ship. I venture to assert that it is of the greatest possible value that such a practice should exist. There is another observation which I should like to make and which I hope very much will not be misunderstood.
There is a complete difference in this respect in the practice between the Army and the Navy. If I understand the matter aright, you cannot have a court-martial in the Army unless you are going to make a charge against an officer. You cannot have a court-martial merely into an incident. That may be perfectly right in principle. But we all remember, not in this War, but in the Boer War, certain incidents which took place and we all, or most of us at any rate, thought that it would have been very desirable if it had been possible, without throwing a 1061 slur on anybody, to have had a public inquiry into some of these cases. I think it is of enormous value that you have in the sister Service the fact that it is the custom when a disaster occurs automatically to have the inquiry. There is no suggestion against anybody. You had, I say, this inquiry until this Government unhappily changed the practice. You had an automatic inquiry to sift the facts and set at rest once for all doubts which might arise—an inquiry which would acquit the officers or condemn them, and would throw the blame, if there was any blame, where it ought to lie, and, if there was no blame, would exculpate. That is enormously valuable in practice. I trust, though the First Lord is not here, someone will make it his business to convey what some of us have tried to say in this House. We do very earnestly press this matter. We wish no attack upon the Government or anything of that kind; it is merely because we really do believe that in the interests of the conduct of the naval part of the War it is of vital importance that we should return to the older practice of allowing courts-martial to be held. I am informed that the officers of the Fleet are as strong as anybody in their desire for such a return to the old practice. I am sure that the man in the street, who, we all know, is interested in these matters, would favour such a return, and I, therefore, do very earnestly beg that the Government would very seriously consider whether they cannot alter their policy and practice in this respect.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir John Simon)
The Committee will feel there is no reason to complain of the temper in which criticism has been put forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman on this point, and by the Noble Lord who has just followed him. I make no complaint at all about it; but I have one or two observations to make to the Committee, and I want hon. Members, when I take or suggest a different view, to understand that there is no sort of resentment at this question being raised and pressed in the very fair way in which it has been put before the Committee. It must have struck anybody who has listened to the two speeches that, though they resemble each other in being powerful speeches, they dealt with two quite different matters. The hon. and learned Gentleman who first spoke alleged, and sought to prove, that there has been something 1062 illegal done and something contrary to the Statutes which he quoted.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
May I explain? I did not suggest there is anything illegal in not having a court-martial, but I do say it is contrary to the invariable custom, which has been recognised and referred to in Statutes.
§ Sir J. SIMON
We will get this out of the way. It is agreed there is nothing illegal about it. I do not know whether the Noble Lord who is next to the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree, because in the speech that he delivered yesterday he asserted in round terms that it is entirely contrary to law.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am not in the least trying to chop straws about it, but only noting that obviously there are two points.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Without any disrespect to my profession, they are two different points in order of importance. I do not take the view that the legal point is anything like so important as the larger question of policy. Having looked into the matter, and having had the help of the Judge Advocate of the Fleet, who has spent a very large proportion of his professional life in the administration of this branch of the law connected with the I Navy, I assert roundly that there is nothing whatever contrary to the law in the course which has been taken. I am not for the moment making any suggestion about policy. There is nothing whatever contrary to the law in what was being done. Not only so, but the real fact is that the Noble Lord has gone very much beyond what is quite right and quite fair when he alleges that what has now happened is something which has happened owing to changed practice, and that it has never occurred until this Government unhappily introduced it. That really is not so. I will show the Committee in a moment that it cannot be so by testimony which we shall all readily accept. What is the allegation? The allegation is, I think, that this new practice has been instituted in the lifetime of this Government, and that before, as a matter of I course, all questions and disputes in regard to any ship which was lost or 1063 hazarded was subject to a court-martial. The Noble Lord yesterday gave us one of his reminiscences which we always hear with so much pleasure. He told us that in his own experience, on a certain occasion, through no fault of his own, the ship for which he was responsible was hazarded, and that the Admiral, knowing the circumstances, did not want a court-martial. The Noble Lord pressed with his well-known vigour that there should be one, and ultimately he got one. Is not that incident in itself quite sufficient to show that it is not true to say that up to the time of this Government, always and as a matter of course, without question and without request, a court-martial was held when every ship was hazarded? It was not so.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I am very anxious that this thing should be stated accurately. Does that apply to a ship that was lost?
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am going to deal with that. The Committee will understand that I am not saying all this out of any knowledge I possess, but after having made special inquiry. It may very well be that what I am saying has got to be most carefully examined before, it is accepted as precisely right. At any rate I have done my best, and what I thought it right to do, after the question was raised yesterday, was this—to communicate with the Judge Advocate of the Fleet who, I happen to know, has made a most careful historical investigation into this question, and what I am saying I am saying as a result of the inquiry which he has been good enough to give me the advantage of. Let me say this at once, quite fully and fairly. I believe it to be substantially true to say from the records—and it is certainly the impression in Parliament—that it has been the general custom, subject to exceptions, in the past for courts-martial to be held when a ship was lost or hazarded. I hope nothing I am saying will be thought to be an attempt to contradict that clear proposition. Really, however, if that is treated as a custom which had no exceptions it is going much too far. In the eighteenth century, so far as records are available, there were certainly cases when no courts-martial were held. The occasions on which? exceptions obtained from the general custom increased in the nineteenth century. I have had only to-day some figures which illustrate that point. There was a 1064 Report made to this House some years ago of all the ships of Her Majesty's Navy which had been lost otherwise than in action with the enemy over a long series of years.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I assure the Noble Lord if he will wait a moment he will see that point has not been forgotten. There were cases in which there was no court-martial. In the course of twenty-five years in the earlier part of the nineteenth century there were no less than twenty-one cases in which, so far as any record goes to show, there was no court-martial. In some there was no survivor to be examined. Out of these twenty-one cases there were six ships which disappeared and were no more heard of. There were no survivors and nobody to put before a court-martial; but there is not the slightest reason in thinking that was so with regard to the others. The fact, therefore, appears to be, though the exceptions have not been numerous-certainly I shall not claim the exceptions as anything more than exceptions—the rule has been—and I think the Committee may take it that it is fairly right—that there really have been over a very long period of time exceptions, and just as undoubtedly, it is not, and I believe never has been Statute law that there must be a court-martial, so the limited number of exceptions are quite exceptional as compared with the large proportion of courts-martial. I quite agree that courts-martial have recently not taken place. Let me give the Committee as clearly as I can—always being subject gladly to correction from the Noble Lord from his practical knowledge if I make a mistake—what I believe to be the methods which may be followed, because it is important to distinguish them. That Section which the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Butcher) quoted. Section 91, is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, except in cases where it is thought desirable to have a court-martial, but where at the same time the naval authorities are satisfied that there is no blame attaching to any survivor. If they think there is blame attaching to a surviving officer or somebody subject to naval discipline, and if they decide-on a court-martial, then the King's Regulations lay it down that they must not have that court-martial under that Section 1065 at all, but they have to make a charge under some other Section in the Act of Parliament. That is not only good and clear law, but good and obvious common sense. If you want to have a court-martial, but your inquiries go to show that no one is to blame, then proceed under Section 91. In that case you do not level a charge against anyone's head, and I think it is possible then, so to say, to have all the surviving members, officers and crew, before the Court at the same time. But if the inquiries that the authorities make go to show there is a reason for making an accusation—be it cowardice, be it treachery, or unwillingness to fight—against the responsible officer, or some other officer, then they must make that accusation, and that individual is court-martialled under another Section of the Act of Parliament. There are, therefore, two procedures, and you cannot use cither of them whenever you please. Each is regarded as appropriate for a particular class of case. I hope the Committee will think it worth while having that pointed out, because it is easy to get into confusion about these things, unless one looks very closely into them or is familiar with them. Be that as it may, the history of the matter goes to show that, as time has gone on, in an increased degree there have been exceptions allowed to this general practice, and there has been no court-martial where it has been thought unnecessary to have one, cither under the one head or tinder the other.
Consequently, in the end, we come down to a matter of policy. It is sometimes thought in this House that the qualification—if it be a qualification—of being a lawyer is a necessary disqualification for making any observation on any matter of policy, and certainly I do not claim any particular authority to offer an opinion about the matter. But I will point out one or two considerations that occur to me, and may occur to any Member of this House, for what they may be worth. In the first place, surely it does not necessarily follow that that which may be a very proper and almost automatic practice in times of peace, when, at any rate, there is no special pressure upon the Service for immediate fighting purposes, that that practice, which has been automatic and almost invariable, is to be followed in precisely the same way in times of war. If that practice is departed from in order to conceal something which ought to be known, then it is wrong to depart from it. 1066 But if the reason for departing from it genuinely is that, in the opinion of those who have the best means of judging, there are good public reasons, good national reasons, for making an exception, or, at any rate, having a postponement, then I submit to the Committee it is not really a good criticism of such a position to say, "Ah, but the tradition over long periods of peace, the recollection of the Noble Lord and others, is all to the effect that there ought to be an immediate court-martial." In looking through such papers as I have been able to lay hands on to-day, even in the time of Nelson there was a case of a court-martial as to a ship which had come to grief, I think in 1809, not taking place until 1814, and I can understand the criticism, if it were urged, that if you have good reasons for not holding a court-martial now, ought you not, at any rate, to keep your hands free to hold a public inquiry if you finally so decide?
Then there comes the second consideration. I am not sufficiently expert to offer an opinion of my own which is worth anything on such a point. But it is obvious to every one of us, though we may be children in all matters of naval strategy and naval development, that the situation that arises to-day, when one of His Majesty's ships unfortunately comes to grief through a mine or a torpedo, does differ in obvious and very material respects from any disaster such as happened at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. In old days, when a ship was lost in the course of a war, the strong probability was that she was lost after having been engaged with the enemy, by striking her flag, giving up the fight, running away or getting driven on shore, things which involve, after all, a series of actions and decisions in the face of the enemy at a time when the responsible officer had a duty to fight the enemy to the end. The case of the sinking of a modern man-of-war by a mine or a torpedo is different. I do not say that is a reason in itself why there should never be an inquiry, but I press it upon the Committee—not as experts, of course, but as sensible citizens—the conditions are so far different that if people who are expert say those differences ought to vary the practice now, are we in the House of Commons prepared to say that the differences are quite unimportant and irrelevant? There is one other question.
Modern warfare proceeds at such a rate and involves such sudden events, the I report of which reverberates through the 1067 world, that in the interests of efficiency itself—although, no doubt, that word is often abused and taken merely as a means of protecting one's self from inconvenient positions—may it not well be that that which could be very conveniently and automatically done in the old days is a very much more difficult thing to do in this present case? I am told—and I can only take the information of those who have very great reason to know and speak with authority—that in the case of the "Formidable," if a court-martial had been immediately decided upon, it would necessarily have involved a substantial interference for the time being with those in the Navy who were urgently needed to carry out their duties from day to day and hour to hour. And, therefore, from the point of view of the ordinary man who does not claim to be an expert, is it not clear to all of us that there are great differences in fact between modern conditions and old conditions? And, if so, are we really prepared to say that the expert judgment formed at the Board of Admiralty as to the expediency of a particular court-martial at this time is a judgment which ought to be rejected and denounced? In the middle of a struggle like this we have to do that which a democratic country always finds it difficult to do—we have to put a degree of confidence in various branches of the Executive, to withhold criticism, and to believe that they are acting for the best, which in times of peace is quite unnecessary.
For my part, I am bound in the end to be content with this; that it is not the decision of some particular Member of the Cabinet, or of the Cabinet as a Cabinet, that there should or should not be a court-martial. That is the decision of the Board of Admiralty, and I am not prepared to give any encouragement to those who say, "The Board of Admiralty contains great sailors, great seamen, and we are in the midst of a terrific war, but I still claim that my judgment in this matter is much better than theirs, or, at any rate, I am at liberty to develop a judgment on this point." I am perfectly conscious that an explanation of this sort is always open to the criticism that you try to shield yourself by quoting the authority of other people, but there is no other way in which these matters can be decided in the midst of a great war than that persons who are giving their devoted attention to them should form a judgment and announce it, 1068 and that that judgment should be accepted. While I make no complaint whatever of the tone and temper in which this matter has been raised, I would ask the Committee whether the considerations I have pointed out, which merely present themselves to my mind as a plain man without any expert knowledge, are not those which require the House and the country to say that they must accept for the time being the decision of the Board of Admiralty in this matter. Obviously nothing illegal has been done, obviously there have been exceptions from this general practice, and must we not wait for happier times before embarking on a controversy of this sort?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The right, hon. Gentleman has actually suggested that, though a Member of the Cabinet, because he was a lawyer it might be considered out of place that he should speak upon policy. Why? They are all lawyers—they are nearly all lawyers. If you go to the War Council which is carrying on this War, I suppose the majority of them are lawyers. We have got to make the best of it, and we have got to assume that because of, or in spite of, that fact, even they are doing the work as well as we can expect it to-be done. I said yesterday, when I put forward briefly, I think, all the arguments I can put forward, that I did not wish to be dogmatic about a subject I did not fully understand. I said at the same time that, as far as I could judge, there were no good reasons for the course which has been adopted. That was after listening to the reasons given by the First Lord. We have now had the advantage of the application of his brain to-day of another Member of the Cabinet, and the fact that he belongs to a profession to which I have alluded does not make it probable that he will make less use of the arguments there are in favour of the course adopted. I ask the House to consider, not general statements, but the weight of the arguments themselves which have been adduced. The right hon. Gentleman said, quite correctly, that there is no legal necessity to hold these courts-martial, but we know what the custom is, and I should not ask any better statement of that custom than has been given by him. That statement is, I think, as admitted by him, that it practically has been a universal rule, with few exceptions, in times of war as well as in times of peace, when a ship was lost from any cause, or surrendered to the enemy, that a court-martial should be held. 1069 I think that is so far as regards the custom. On the face of it I should have thought that in this country where democratic institutions are now much more established than they were, and where the people have got a much larger share in the Government of the country, a rule in regard to publicity which was found necessary and advantageous in Nelson's days, might be considered as more necessary and more advantageous in the time in which we are now living. I listened to the arguments of the First Lord yesterday, and I have listened to those of the Attorney-General, and what do they all come to? I think the arguments of the Attorney-General are far more powerful than those of the First Lord. They come to this, that people who ought to know, say we are better without courts-martial, and therefore we ought to be content with that. That is the sum and substance of the case which the right hon. Gentleman has presented to-day. Within limits I am prepared to bow to that view; but, after all, I should, at all events, like some reasons that seem to carry conviction to the ordinary mind in favour of the view just held by those who are in authority. The right hon. Gentleman says we must remember that we are at war, and that what is necessary in time of peace may not be necessary in time of war. The great bulk of the precedents upon which courts-martial were held occurred in the time of the Long War. Then they come as a matter of course, and none of these disadvantages were really found to exist.
What are the disadvantages which the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out? He says that modern conditions are different, and that the mine is quite a different thing from a ship surrendering to the enemy. That is quite true; but does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that in the later and better precedents we have in time of war of ships that were lost by running carelessly aground there would never have been a court-martial. Of course there would. Obviously, it is just as much in the interests of the Service that a man commanding a ship should exercise proper care in navigation as it is that the ship should fight properly. In either case if the commander does not do this the ship is lost, and the country suffers. As I strongly believe and stated yesterday, if it be true that proper precautions can do away with or diminish the risk of accidents from submarines, this makes it really more necessary that a full examination into the facts of each loss should be held so that 1070 we should find out whether proper precautions had been taken, and then the people can judge as to whether such precautions were taken. What is the other argument? The First Lord said yesterday that if a sailor knows that he is liable to court-martial he will be inclined to play for safety. I thought that was a very poor remark, and it is poor for many reasons. In the first place he runs the same risk now. Nobody suggests that the loss is to be passed over. The view of the right hon. Gentleman is, not that it is to be passed over, but that the fate of the officer is to be decided not by an open court-martial, but by the arbitrary decision of the Admiralty. That is no advantage to him.
But there is another consideration which makes it impossible that that argument can hold good. No sailor can play for safety in that way. They have been court-martialled in the past quite as much for what they have not done as for what they have done. Take the case of Admiral Byng, who I thought was badly treated. He was playing for safety, or at least that was the case against him, but it did not save him from a court-martial. Then we were told yesterday that to make a charge of that kind seems unfair to the officer, but there is nothing in that argument. I attach, myself, the greatest possible value to the argument used by my Noble Friend behind me that the custom in the Navy of having inquiries by court-martial automatically is a tremendous protection to the officers that command our ships. My Noble Friend quoted a case where an officer in the Boer War tried to get a court-martial and could not get it. The Navy, however, have this advantage, that in these cases the question does go before a court-martial, and if the officer is not to blame nothing happened, he is exonerated and his honour is protected almost automatically. This, at least is certain, and I think it is one of the worst features of the new departure of the Government that the practice in the Navy will soon correspond to the practice in the Army. You are holding courts-martial so seldom that it "will become obvious that when you do hold them it is because you think the man brought before a court-martial has done something which makes him prima facie liable to have a court-martial. I think that is a great disadvantage, and a serious loss to the sailors themselves.
Let me put another case. Everyone knows that in a great service like the Navy there is apt to grow up a charge of 1071 favouritism. We all know that that constantly happens, and, if I may be pardoned, I may say that I am in favour of favouritism, or what is called favouritism, that is, a passing over people who have the natural right to promotion on the ground of seniority and selecting those who are better fitted for the job, especially in time of war. I consider that one of the most difficult tasks that the head of the Army or the Navy has is to exercise that power ruthlessly in the interests of the nation. It is easy enough if a man is obviously incompetent, but if you have a man who does his work pretty well and yet you know somebody else who would do it better, I say there is no duty more incumbent on the head of the Army or the Navy than to put aside all consideration and put the best man there. Just consider for a moment what the effect of this policy has on the possibility of unfair treatment. Obviously the Admiralty mind is not going to overlook these disasters or these accidents. It is going to judge them itself without any court-martial, and it is going to judge whether or not the captain was to blame.
What will inevitably happen? Human nature being what it is, if the Admiralty without a court-martial thinks somebody is not fit for his ship and takes him away from it, however much he is to blame, the head of the Admiralty will not make him suffer in the ordinary advancement of his profession, and they will very likely give him some other job, perhaps more valuable than the one from which they take him. What is the effect of that? By making such an appointment you are giving to a man who does not deserve it a post which, when the War is over, ought to have gone to one of the men who deserved it by distinguished service. How is that to be avoided? The position in which we are all placed brings us back to this: We have got to accept as unanswerable the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. We cannot press this or any other question to a division, and we cannot set ourselves up against the authority which is really carrying on this War. All we can do is to put our case as strongly as we can, and I wish to say to the right hon. Gentleman for myself that from the beginning I have thought a good deal about this subject. I have discussed it with my colleagues, and we all feel—I am speaking of my colleagues on this side of the House—that so far as we can judge this is a bad departure, and 1072 we would like to see a reversion to the older practice. Having said that, we can say and do nothing more.
§ Colonel YATE
I wish to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty two small questions upon which I hope he will be able to give me some information. The first is whether the Admiralty are taking any steps whatsoever to further the construction of the Firth of Forth and Clyde Ship Canal? At Rosyth, in particular, we have not heard of any steps which have been taken to further the completion of those works, and I should be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman whether this policy is to be taken in hand by the Admiralty and pushed forward or not. My second question is whether the. Admiralty will now withdraw the objections which they formally held to the vessels of the Royal Indian Marine being armed with guns? This matter has been inquired into of late years. We all know the magnificent service done by the Indian Navy in the old days. Some twenty or twenty-five years ago I was aboard the Royal Indian Marine ship "Lawrence" in the Persian Gulf and it was then armed similarly to His Majesty's ship "Sphinx." Subsequently, when I went on board that ship, I was told that the Admiralty were so jealous of any other force having guns that they had ordered the removal of the guns from that vessel. The Royal Indian Marine is a fully commissioned service all through, and I would ask now if the Admiralty have withdrawn their opposition and have decided to permit these vessels to be armed. They do splendid service policing the Persian Gulf, and I trust that these vessels will be armed and that the Royal Indian Marine will be recognised as a fighting service. Those are the only two questions touching on policy about which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some information.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
I wish to ask a question with regard to the new rule about prize money. I am not going to make any criticism upon the change which the Government have made with regard to prize money, but I do think the right hon. Gentleman will find, as indeed he himself anticipated, that in working out the provision they are now going to make for prize money he will be faced by very great difficulties. I put a question on this point, which has been very courteously answered to the effect that the prize money which is to be "pooled" to the end of the 1073 War is to be awarded in proper proportion to the representatives of those who may unfortunately lose their lives before the War is over, and that they will lose nothing by the death of the sailor during the War. I suppose that when the prize money comes to be distributed all the latest Naval recruits will also have to have their share. If the War lasts longer than we all hope it will, there must be a great many young sailors who perhaps will join many months even from the present date and a very long time after the outbreak of the War, and they, I suppose, will also have to have their share. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that a very difficult point which the Admiralty will have to consider is how the proportions are to be allotted between these various men and what principle is to be adopted, because mere length of service will not be a satisfactory test of those who are to obtain the larger or the smaller share. You will be faced by the old difficulty which has come down to us from the days of Holy Scripture. It is the difficulty of distinguishing between those who have borne the heat and the burden of the day and those who come in at the last moment. We know that in the original parable they all received an equal share of the prize money, but I think the Admiralty will find, if they adopt that sacred example, that they will not be following a very satisfactory course in the present instance. The question will surely arise, seeing the great number of men and representatives of men who will have to have a share of the prize money when the War is over, whether it will go round, and whether the amount to be divided will not show that same sort of extraordinary progress we became accustomed to in connection with the land taxation of this country till we come to a minus quantity. Will the awards which will go to some of our sailors not work out at a minus quantity? I ask this question because I think it is a matter in which the House and the country will be deeply interested when the actual method of working comes to be disclosed, and I venture to express the hope that the Admiralty will find the solution, which certainly does not appear on the surface of these matters, and that they will be able to give satisfaction to all concerned.
It struck me when listening to the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty yesterday, that there was no part of it which was received with greater satisfaction, and no part, I believe, which was received with 1074 greater satisfaction in the country when it was read to-day, than that in which he described the bulwark of public instruments by which our enemy has hitherto been protected and which he said would now have to reconsidered in the light of the conduct which our enemy has adopted towards us. It is legitimate in that connection, at all events for us on this side of the House, to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the restrictions, for they are restrictions, upon our freedom of action, and therefore upon the efficiency of our sea power in some particulars at least, are restrictions against which we for a long time past have made a very sturdy protest. We contended, for example, against the Declaration of London. I could not help thinking, when listening to the right hon. Gentleman yesterday on that point, that even in these days and in this great stress of war we may all say, "Thank God we have a House of Lords." The same line of criticism applies—although to pursue it at the moment would not be prudent—to other public instruments by which we are bound. The Declarations of Paris and of The Hague Convention have all been passed at different times by the influence of the military powers in Europe to the detriment of the naval power in this country. I mention them now because I think if we bear these things in mind at a time like this, when their effect is prominent in the public mind, it may probably do something, when the right time comes, to prevent our reforging these shackles upon ourselves. We are, for the moment, only too thankful to hear that those instruments are likely to be cast aside, as we can cast them aside with a clear conscience in view of the conduct of the enemy.
I have not been able, unfortunately, to hear the whole of the Debate to-day, and I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman opposite has really made any detailed reply to my Noble Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beres-ford). So far as I have heard the remarks from the Government Bench, no detailed reply has been given to the case he made in some of its particulars. I refer particularly to such incidents as the loss of the cruisers, the battle in the Pacific, and matters of that sort. There was one incident in which I have perhaps more particular personal interest than any of the others, and to which I do not think any allusion has been made in this Debate. I refer to the loss of the "Niger." Listening to my Noble Friend when he spoke of 1075 unfortunate incidents which are avoidable, or ought to be avoided, I could not help thinking particularly of the loss of the "Niger." If I refer to it, it is only in the same spirit as my Noble Friend, and in the hope that any criticism which we may temporarily advance with regard to past events may tend to make their recurrence less probable. The information I have with regard to the loss of the "Niger," which went down within a few yards of the shore of my own Constituency, is that she was torpedoed by an enemy submarine, and that the disaster was not only rendered possible, but in the view of many who knew the circumstances, was rendered certain by the orders received from the Admiralty to remain at anchor. The fact, at all events, is that lying off the coast of Kent, I think in or near the Downs, she was at anchor for a very considerable period. Her position was perfectly well known, and there was a large number of neutral vessels, or so-called neutral vessels in the neighbourhood, which, so far as my information goes, were not subjected to any stringent examination.
The sailors on board the "Niger" of course, were unavoidably in communication with people on shore. You could not keep them absolutely from saying what was in their mind, and I was told at the time that the language used by the sailors on the "Niger" was that for days past they had been asking for it. I am told when the torpedo was discharged at the "Niger," it was perfectly visible. The "Niger" was at anchor, and it would have taken half an hour to get her under steam. Those both on shore and on the vessel who knew the circumstances, say that the loss of that ship was absolutely and entirely due to that fact, which I suppose we must assume was owing to orders received from the Admiralty. I cannot believe that the commander of the ship himself would have remained at anchor in such a situation and under such danger, and, if so, the responsibility rests with the Admiralty for not having taught him a wiser course. Does not the same sort of criticism apply to that most unfortunate action which took place off the coast of Chili? My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Falle), in an interesting speech yesterday, asked that the instructions sent to Admiral Cradock should be made known—I do not know whether the Admiralty intend to do so either now or at some future time—and that the communi- 1076 cations received from Admiral Cradock should also be made known.
It seems to me that those are the more important of the two, and the House and the country ought to be told—I do not say at this moment, but certainly at some time—whether or not Admiral Cradock, knowing the size of his own squadron and the strength he was called upon to meet, sent any representations to the Admiralty with regard to reinforcements, and whether those requests, if made, were complied with or not. And whether that is so or not, the fact remains that the Admiralty knew perfectly well the exact strength of the German squadron which might be concentrated against Admiral Cradock. They knew the vessels which were at that Admiral's disposal, and therefore they must have known exactly the chances which he had of victory if he came into conflict with the concentrated German Fleet. We know from what subsequently happened that consistently with the strategic requirements elsewhere the Admiralty were able to dispatch to the South Atlantic, and, if that had been required, to the Pacific, at least two very powerful cruisers which entirely turned the scale and were able fortunately to avenge the less. Why did not the Admiralty send those two cruisers in order to prevent the loss rather than in order to avenge it? It was a catastrophe which they could have prevented as they avowed by their own subsequent conduct, and it has at all events taught us a lesson which it is to be hoped the Admiralty will take to heart.
Last night a very interesting speech was made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Hohler), and on one of the points contained in his speech the right hon. Gentleman gave a reply this afternoon. There were one or two points which he raised which the right hon. Gentleman has put entirely on one side, and I would like to say a word or two about them I refer in the first instance to the expedition to Antwerp. I am not going to indulge in any criticism as to the policy of that expedition. It is fairly understood now that there are a great many people in the country—there are certainly some of us on this side of the House—who hold a very strong opinion with regard to that expedition. The time may come when we shall be free to say what we think, but for the moment I am only concerned with the point raised by my hon. and learned Friend with 1077 regard to the quartermaster-sergeants. Those quartermaster-sergeants sent over there acted during that expedition as officers. When they came back to this country, having had, I should say, a terrible experience, an experience which must have been very instructive to those who survived, they found themselves superseded by young and inexperienced officers who were put over their heads. My hon. and learned Friend asked, and I repeat his question: Why was that injustice done to these men? It is not merely a question of injustice to these men, though that is bad enough. There is a much higher ground for objection to it than that. There is the objection that to supersede those men with young and inexperienced officers is not for the advantage of the Service.
It is really the same question applied to the Navy as that which was raised with respect to the Army not long ago by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long). The only answer suggested, as I understand, is that after the War you would have a great number of officers of a certain rank on your hands and you would not know what to do with them. I really do think it is absurd that, in this enormous War in which we are now engaged—by far the greatest so far as the magnitude of the forces employed is concerned—we should allow our procedure in these matters to be guided by the normal rules which would apply in the case of an ordinary war, when an Expeditionary Force of two or three hundred thousand men might be engaged in India or elsewhere. We are now dealing with millions of men, with a force such as we have never had before, and we ought to treat the occasion as unique, to fight the War right to the end, and to make the best use we can of our resources, without thinking of what is going to happen afterwards. When this War is over we shall have all sorts of unprecedented circumstances to deal with, and we should not allow such considerations to govern our conduct of the War itself.
There is one other point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham yesterday to which no reply has been given. It is the case of the quartermaster-sergeants of Marines who have joined the Royal Fleet Reserve with a definite, unmistakable undertaking from the Admiralty that, if called up for active service, they shall go back to the rating 1078 which they held before they left. These men have that pledge, which was given by the Admiralty in writing, in their mind. They have, however, not been called back to the rating of quartermaster-sergeant as before, but have been employed as colour-sergeants, with that status and pay only. There is a similar and analogous point in the case of the National Reserve men who are joining the Marines. The men were promised that when they did rejoin they should receive in Class 1 a grant of £10, and in Class 2 a grant of £5. That promise has not been kept, and I would impress on the right hon. Gentleman that these undertakings to the Reservists, whether with regard to their status or pay or bounty, should be borne in mind. It may be that these things apply to only a limited number of men, and that they have been overlooked by the Admiralty, but such incidents cause great dissatisfaction; they are talked of as breaches of faith on the part of the Government to men serving the country. They have a bad effect on recruiting and on public spirit in the places where the facts are known. I hope, before this Vote is taken, we shall have from the Front Bench opposite some definite assurance that these matters will be looked into and a remedy applied to the grievances of which we complain.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
I should like to mention two points, one of which has already been dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. It relates to the badges or tokens to be issued to those who are employed in our big industries in connection with Admiralty contracts. I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his statement this afternoon that it is the intention of the Admiralty to recognise all men who have been asked to remain at their duties in our big steel works and shipbuilding yards, and who have been prevented offering their services to their country in consequence of the demands made on them by those industries. Every one of us feels there are many skilled workers who are really rendering greater service to their country by remaining at their work, and it is not fair that they should be exposed to any form of criticism on account of the fact that they have not along with their fellows joined the Army. I am glad to know that the Admiralty are undertaking to give them a form of recognition which they deserve, and I trust it will be made perfectly clear that there will be no discrimination 1079 against any workers engaged on Admiralty work, and that they will all have the recognition direct from the Admiralty, although it may be given them in the form of a badge handed to them by their employers. There are many such employés in the Constituency I have the honour to represent, and there is a strong feeling among them that it should be made perfectly clear that they have been asked to remain at their work, and that they have done so notwithstanding the desire on their part to give their services in the field.
The other point I desire to touch upon relates to those who have been recently thrown out of employment on account of the War in the fishing districts throughout the country. I had the honour formerly to represent a constitutency in East Fife, where there are a great number of fishermen engaged, and their experience has not been peculiar in any degree. It has been the experience of fishermen all over the country that, owing to the necessary restrictions placed on them, many have been thrown out of employment and are in great distress. Indeed, many have been seeking employment in different parts of the country and have had great difficulty in finding it. I know the Admiralty are sympathetic towards this class of men. I believe they have endeavoured to utilise their services in connection with Admiralty work. Many are doing magnificent work with mine sweepers. We, as a nation, ought especially to recognise their services in that respect. Others again are using their experience as seafaring men to man coal ships and store ships, and otherwise assist the Admiralty. I would like to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the placing of some Admiralty contracts in those districts which suffer most. There are many men who, on account of their age, are unable to serve in the Navy. There are many industries dependent on the fishing industries which have been seriously affected, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might see his way to place one or two Admiralty contracts in districts which have suffered, such as East Fife and St. Andrew's Burghs. There are many men fitted to do good service for the Admiralty in connection with the gear required. They could make kit bags for the Navy, they could work on sails and other fishing gear. I know the Admiralty have done something to meet cases like that. It has shown the greatest sympathy 1080 for fishermen, but it might be able to do a little more in the way of placing local contracts with those fitted to undertake them, so as to relieve this highly deserving class in their sore trouble. I am sure the Admiralty is desirous of doing everything in its power to meet these cases.
§ Mr. PETO
The First Lord of the Admiralty yesterday mentioned how he had been able to meet the demand for men for the Fleet, and he went further and called the attention of the House to the fact that we had been able also to man an enormous number—several score—of armed merchantmen which had been taken up and had played an important part in our arrangements for the control of traffic and trade. The right hon. Gentleman might have gone further and pointed out that the enormous amount of work which is being done auxiliary to the work of our Navy by merchant seamen in various capacities. The hon. Member who last spoke referred to the work of mine sweeping. If it were not for the fact that we have men in the Royal Naval Reserve, and a very large number of volunteers for Commissions in the Royal Navy during the War, who have undertaken these duties, we should undoubtedly not have carried on the War as far as we have gone, with a success which has hitherto attended us. I do not think either the public or the Board of Admiralty have really recognised the great sacrifices and great services which have been rendered to the State by our merchant service. I was pleased to see in a leading article in the "Times" to-day, that attention was called to this matter, and that in speaking of the silent watch of our Fleet, the "Times" said:—We must think, too, of all the officers and crews of our mercantile marine now called upon to face new and unfamiliar dangers,and it went on to point out that:—the extraordinary threats of the enemy have given the British mercantile marine an unsought-for place in this War.I want to ask the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will consider, with more sympathy of a practical kind, the case of the officers of the Royal Naval Reserve. I want also to know whether the increase in pay recently granted to lower grade naval officers, particularly to lieutenants—a rise of 1s. per day for every two years of service—applies to officers of the Royal Naval Reserve. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider in relation to this question of pay whether it is not time to take some action in the direction of promotion for those who have 1081 only the rank or rating of sub-lieutenant and whose pay, of course, is very much less than that of lieutenants in the Royal Naval Reserve. This applies, I believe to a good many men who are officering our mine sweepers. Are they in receipt of the increased pay of sub-lieutenants. It has gone up from 5s. to 7s. 6d., but, surely, 7s. 6d. a day for work of this kind, considering the responsibility and danger, is inadequate. It is a little over £2 a week, and is considerably less than is earned by the casual carpenters engaged in erecting soldiers' huts in our camps. When doing this very difficult work, surely £2 per week cannot be considered to be reasonable remuneration.
There are other ways in which these officers who have given up their ordinary work in the merchant service in order to take on these naval duties are positively worse off than before. Officers of the Army and Navy who wanted to insure their lives had special arrangements made for them with the great insurance companies, instead of the very large additional premium which was first asked for. That has been held to apply to officers in the Royal Naval Reserve. But officers who are commanding our transports, and do not happen to be officers in the Royal Naval Reserve, are called upon to pay a very large premium for any policy they may want to take out. They have also to pay a very large premium if they want to effect a policy of insurance on their kit, and this means a very considerable deduction from their pay in consequence of the work they are doing. If an officer wishes to insure his life for £200 he pays £6 for premium alone, while if he wants to insure another £100 upon his kit, that adds a further £4 to the premium, representing a deduction of £10 per year from his wages in the shape of premiums for war risks alone. In the case of the raids on Scarborough and other coast towns the Government have already taken a responsibility in respect of the civil population for the loss they have sustained through the bombardment of our coast. I do not wish to go into that as a matter of policy, although I think the Prime Minister was very wise in saying when he replied to an hon. Member yesterday, that there was no general rule and that each case would be considered on its merits. But I ask the Financial Secretary to consider that if it is reasonable for the Government to repay the loss to an ordinary 1082 civilian who is undertaking no special duties in connection with this War should he suffer loss through the bombardment of a coast town, that officers who are undertaking these essential duties on our transports, colliers and other auxiliaries of the Fleet, if they lose their kit, and are lucky enough to get off with their lives, as was the case with those vessels which were torpedoed off the Mersey the other day—is it reasonable that the Government in those cases should not give them something to repay them for the loss of their kit? There is an actual loss due to the action of the enemy, and it is the loss of a man to whom that means practically everything. The sextants and other instruments, uniform and the rest of it, often run in the case of a marine captain up to £100 or £150 in value, and their loss is a very serious one indeed. It is extremely hard, whereas the insurance companies have been approached by the Government with a view to their charging no special war risk in the cases of officers in the Army or Navy, that nothing is done to meet the case of life insurance policies and insurance policies to cover kit of those officers who are serving on the auxiliary ships of the Fleet.
I want to touch on another question closely connected with this. The officers in command, and the other officers on our transports are not given any special position of authority with regard to the crew, and they are not allowed to wear their naval uniform, even when they are officers of the Royal Naval Reserve. The Committee will remember the name of one officer, Commander Rostron, who was the officer in charge of the Cunarder, which rescued the survivors of the Titanic disaster. He is not vested with that authority over the crew which is so essential for the maintenance of discipline on this very important service, and he is not allowed to wear his naval uniform, because these are not appointments which are given to officers of the Royal Naval Reserve. Fifty-three of these officers signed a representation to the Director of Transports pointing out that the want of discipline on these transports was a very serious matter indeed. I have asked, and some other Members have asked, whether something cannot be done in the way of giving them commissions in the Royal Naval Reserve, as if they were officers of the Royal Naval Reserve who were taken on for naval duties, and giving them the right to wear 1083 the uniform as well. The answer was that it would not effect the purpose of giving them any special control over the crew, because those crews were not under the Naval Discipline Act. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will not carefully consider what has been the actual state of affairs on frequent occasions on these transports with battalions of our soldiers on board. They have had to put to sea when practically the ship has had to be run by the officers themselves and one or two apprentices because, owing to the lack of discipline, the crew were not in a proper condition to navigate the vessel.
This is a matter which must be viewed from two aspects. These officers are not gaining anything in respect of increased pay. On the contrary, they are put to increased cost. They are told by the companies, who, in many cases, own the ships which have been chartered by the Government, that all questions of promotion must stand over during the War. They are not pressing that, but they do ask that they shall be given proper authority to enable them to carry out the responsible duties entrusted to them. I should like to read to the right hon. Gentleman a short extract from a letter written by an officer of one of these vessels. He says:—I notice that we are popularly credited with receiving some kind of war bonuses, some say £1 per month, and others 15s., on wages, and I beg to point out that this statement (with regard to ships in this company at least) is entirely false, no consideration whatever having been given us so far; and, in fact, we are in many respects losers by serving in a transport.All forms of promotion in the company, we are informed, must be overlooked during the War.The Government will give none of us commissions in the R.N.R. or employ us in the pilotage.Leave of absence is entirely stopped, and any facilities for seeing anything of our homes or families during the past nine months have been absolutely denied to us.That letter was written on the 10th February. It describes the actual condition which for eight months service has obtained in this responsible service. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, as regards pay, that as the question of war bonuses was settled, as was pointed out by the President of the Board of Trade at Question Time yesterday, between the men and the shipowners themselves, by mutual agreement in the early part of the War, and as no such representation has been made on behalf of the officers, that it is really for the Admiralty to see that a reasonable war bonus is given to the officers who are undertaking these duties. I do mot want to give the Committee the 1084 impression that it is any question of grousing or grumbling. Whatever decision may be given, the officers of the merchant service will be proud to carry out whatever duties are entrusted to them. Whether, in meeting the increased risks due to the policy announced by the enemy, or whether in acting as auxiliaries of our Navy, they will not be found wanting, but it does behove the Admiralty to use the influence they can use to see that services of this kind are recognised in a reasonable manner during the War, and that when the War is over some special form of State recognition, showing that the country appreciates the services they have rendered and the risks they have run, shall be given to these officers and men in every case.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
I should like to join in the appeal made by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, that captains of ships who are in the Royal Naval Reserve should be allowed to wear their uniform. They are entitled to that honour at any rate. I wish to call attention to another matter in respect of which I have written to the right hon. Gentleman, namely, the discharge of joiners from the Portsmouth dockyard. I have been under the impression for many weeks past that the Royal dockyards could not get sufficient men, but now I have received a complaint that during the past four weeks some fifty joiners have been discharged, while men engaged in another trade and who do similar work to which joiners generally do have been kept on and paid a subsistence allowance of £1 per week in addition to the ordinary wages to which they are entitled. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that that is not fair to the joiners and that it is bad economy on the part of the Admiralty. I only make this statement in order that the right hon. Gentleman may inquire into it. I have verified it as far as I possibly could by writing letters to individuals who have communicated with me, and I have done my best to ascertain whether their statements are correct. I am told that there is any amount of work in the Portsmouth dockyard which is really joiners' work and that this work is being done by men who get the special subsistence allowance of £1 per week—such work as fitting up bookcases, cupboards, screens, and shelves. I am also told that this is joiners' work pure and simple. Complaints have also reached me that a considerable amount of work 1085 has been put out to contract which could be done in the dockyard. I am told that in the stores department work could be done but they have not the money to do it. When they have applied to the construction department they have been told, "Oh, we have no time to deal with that!" I suggest that there should be a proper understanding between the various departments in the dockyard, in order that the work should be done in the dockyard and should not be put out to contract. I am told that recently the stores department wanted work done in respect of tables, bookcases, screens and other articles, but were told that the money for the stores department was practically exhausted. When they applied to the other department they were told that they could not do anything in the matter, and the work was put out to contract. I have also complaints from the dockyards that work in connection with the trawlers and drifters used for mine-sweeping is also let out by contract, whereas if there were proper co-ordination of work in the dockyard the work could be done there.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
The fitting of them, I believe. I am told it is let out by contract, and that in some instances the cost of doing the work in the dockyard would be about £80 per trawler, whereas it has actually cost from £300 to £350 by being let out. It is not let out on contract, but I understand it is arranged that commission is paid, as in the case of the huts that have been built for the Army. I am told also that a good deal of the work upon transports, hospital and prison ships could be done in the dockyard, whereas it is often let out to shipbuilders and repairers. To give a case in point, the "Soho" was estimated by the dockyard authorities to cost, for fittings, etc., some £5,000. It has been done by employers who have received commission, and it has cost £13,000. On the mine-sweeping kites a considerable amount of work has also been done by joiners which was nearly all given out to private firms. The cost was considerably more than if it had been done by the dockyards themselves. I suggest, with the object of keeping fully employed the whole of the workmen connected with Portsmouth Dockyard, and other dockyards if necessary, that the fitting referred to should be given to the joiners or shipwrights, and that so far as possible the 1086 work of each individual trade should be given to the members of that trade. I have heard very strong charges of favouritism made against the management of the Portsmouth Dockyard. I do not suggest that there is favouritism shown, but there may be unconscious bias in favour of a certain trade, and I should certainly suggest to the Department that it would be wise, in connection with the various trades in the shipyards, if each trade had a manager or superintendent who was in a position to take on the men himself, instead of their being taken on by a general manager or superintendent. Without the least doubt there is a considerable feeling of irritation at present amongst the men engaged in joinery work in the shipyard, and in the interests of the Admiralty and of the nation it is not wise that men who receive a subsistence allowance of £1 a week should be kept at work whilst men who are only receiving the ordinary rate of wage are discharged. Therefore I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should make inquiries into the matter with the object of rectifying the complaint I have made, and if the statements I have made with regard to wages and subsistence, and also certain trades working almost night and day, while other trades are only working ordinary time, are found to be correct, they should try to allocate the work in such a manner that the grievances complained of will not occur again.
§ Mr. FALLE
I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his opening statement to-day, and to thank him for his efforts on behalf of the poor men who are working in the dockyard—efforts which has been so successful. We all know there is not a man who has the interests of the worker more at heart, or has done more for them, than the right hon. Gentleman. The first point I want to bring forward is the question of the retired and pensioned officers of the Royal Marines. They are not quite rightly treated, more especially in these generous times, when everyone seems to think he has a right to get everything that is due to him. The Army officer, retired and pensioned, who returns to service during this War receives his pension and his full pay. The Royal Marine officer on return to work loses immediately, ipso facto, his pension, and receives full pay. It is the more curious because his non-commissioned officers and his men all receive their pensions as well as their full pay. He is the only one who 1087 does not receive pension, but full pay. I have many cases, but I will take the case of one who is a major. His retired pay and pension is £225 a year. He loses that and comes back to serve his country and receives, as full pay, £275 a year. That is, he is serving his country for £50 a year. His bombardier is receiving £56 a year; so this officer returns to serve his country and shed his blood, if necessary, for a smaller sum than is given to a non-com. It seems to me that the matter has only to be stated to show that it is not quite right. It is fair to say that he is given for each year he serves a bonus of 25 per cent. You can calculate a bonus of 25 per cent. on £275, and even then he is working for very little indeed. The Navy man, I admit, suffers under exactly the same disability. On return to the Service, if he is a pensioned officer, he loses his pension for the time being and receives his full pay. But the retired officer of the Navy continues to take steps in his profession. If he retired as lieutenant he may be made a commander or a captain, or may even rise to admiral, and, of course, his pension naturally moves with him. The Royal Marines should have that privilege. If an officer is not to have his pension during the time he is serving, he ought to be allowed a step, or two steps, as the case may be, according to the time he serves, so that the matter may be in a measure equalised.
There is another point, that of apprentices in dockyards. This is a matter which, though it concerns only a very few, is, I consider, of very considerable importance. These men, of course, are very highly educated, and they rise, in many cases, to be designers of our ships. There is an examination once a year, and the last examination ended on 10th August the year before last. In the case of Portsmouth dockyard there are three young apprentices who were allowed by the Admiralty to join the Territorial Force in June, and immediately War broke out they were called up to their units. If these men had been allowed to wait five days in the dockyard, if they had not been good-plucked ones, or even if they had gone sick, they would have been fully qualified men on 10th August, but because they had lost five days they are still rated as apprentices, and they must return after the War is over to complete five days in the dockyard before they receive the wages of a man. They are now with their regiment, and they are receiving the dif- 1088 ference between soldiers' pay and the pay of apprentices, which is, of course, a very small sum. This, it seems to me, is a matter which should be looked into and rectified. It can only occur once every year, and it can only affect a very limited number of men, or rather boys. In five days these apprentices could have completed their time and been accepted as men, and, in these generous times, it seems to me it is ungenerous not to give them their five days.
Another point to which I desire to refer is the position of ships' stewards. It will be generally admitted that the lower deck as a whole suffers from not being in the limelight. The soldier is in the limelight, and any brave deed he may accomplish is immediately reported on. But the sailor, and in a less degree, of course, the ships' steward, serves in what you might call a watertight compartment under the observation of one officer only. In fact, they do not fight as they did in olden days, on an open deck, where the whole of the crew and officers could see them. That is naturally a disadvantage. There was a Committee—the Thursby Committee—which was to report on these ships' stewards, but the finding of the Committee has been deferred, and the consequence is that these men are in the position they have been in for a good many years, and they think—and I think they have a strong case—that they ought to be moved forward and upward. They think they ought to be allowed to be advanced to flagships, to naval bases, to depot ships, and to the Royal Naval Division, and I do not see and have not been able to find any reason why they should not. They do not see why they should not be employed at the Crystal Palace, for instance, as quartermasters. At the Crystal Palace at present there is a schoolmaster from an industrial school. No doubt he is a very able and very exceptional man and is qualified for his post, but he is there as quartermaster and these men who have served in the Navy all their lives think they have the first call on such posts. There is a petty officer in the R.N.V.R. there as an assistant-paymaster. The ships' stewards think they have a greater claim to be made quartermasters than even a petty officer in the R.N.V.R., and I entirely agree with them.
These men, in my opinion, and in their own, would have made better assistant-paymasters than even the men whom the Admiralty has taken on for temporary 1089 service, however good these men may be. The examination for writers and for ships' stewards is exactly the same, and it takes place at the same place and on the same day. Both were instituted at the same time, and warrant rank was given to both at the same time. There were twelve warrant officers among the writers and ten among the ships' stewards, but quite recently fifteen new warrant officers have been made among the writers—not undeserved, I am quite sure—but not a single one has been given among the ships' stewards, and the consequence is that now there are twenty-seven writers who are warrant officers and there are only ten ships' stewards, as there were before. They think it may be that because a great number of them are at sea the Admiralty forgets them. Here I do not agree with them. The Admiralty's eye is big enough and intelligent enough to follow a man even when he is at sea. But that is what the Service feels. That is what the ships' stewards think, and they think that higher ranks should be open to them, they should not be shut off, and they should receive augmentations of pension, not only for themselves but for their widows. They have not received augmentation either for themselves or for their widows for a very considerable number of years.
There is one other point that I have frequently discussed with the right hon. Gentleman, and that is the separation allowance to warrant officers. It is the most difficult subject I have touched, but I should be very glad if he would give us any information on that subject. I do not refer to the older warrant officers, but I think the warrant officers of the first five years might be included in the separation allowances, for they have for the first five years very considerable expenses—new expenses—and they are in very responsible posts. A Friend of mine, who has been obliged to leave the House, has asked me to put to the right hon. Gentleman the question of the prize money in the Persian Gulf. It is not the amount of prize money as it arises after the new Resolution, but the prize money between 1910 and 1914. That money has in many cases not yet been paid. I shall be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman if he can give us any indication when that prize money is likely to be paid.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I regret that I was not present when the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty 1090 replied to the speech I made yesterday. I was unavoidably absent and did not expect that he would reply to soon. I understand that the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) thinks that the case of a stepchild should be considered in connection with the pension scheme. I understand that the scheme deals first with married men and unmarried men. It deals also with widows and their children and the dependants of unmarried men. It is obvious that a stepchild is not the child of the soldier or sailor; consequently a stepchild does not come into that branch. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman is going to look into the point and make it clear.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I quite understand that. The only other point on which I desire to say a word is travelling allowances. I desire, on the part of the men of His Majesty's Navy, to acknowledge the concession which the Admiralty have made. They appreciate it enormously. It is of very great value. I wish to ask whether the Admiralty will consider its extension. Roughly stated, the concession given is that if a ship comes into a port which is not its own port, then travelling expenses are given, or a free pass is given to the man who is going to his home. A further concession is given. If a man comes from action he gets a free pass; if he comes from action on land, which, of course, would apply generally to a Marine, he gets a free pass. Obviously these are very great advantages, and the men greatly appreciate them. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether, in the stress and emergencies of this War, the concession could not be given to those going home on leave. I have in my mind the case which I think the right hon. Gentleman has before him. It is the case of a youth from London. His ship came to Plymouth, and I believe his port is Portsmouth. I have a letter from his father to the effect that the lad in coming home to see his father in London had to pay 18s. 8d. for his return fare. His wages are 4s. 1d. per week. It seems to me that the Admiralty might in a liberal spirit consider whether they could not extend the concession so that when a man comes home on leave to see his parents he should be entitled to do so at the expense of the country. I think it has been largely done in the case of 1091 soldiers from the front. I think we should extend a similar concession to the men of the Navy. You never can tell but that the visit may be the last, and I think that if something could be done in the way of giving this concession, the Admiralty would earn the gratitude of the whole of the men in the Navy.
I wish to refer to an impression that is very widely held all over the country, and which has been expressed in many communications to the Press, namely, that the commerce of this country is suffering by reason of the large number of ships that have been commandeered by the Admiralty for the purposes of the War. I should like to quote the most authentic figures than can be obtained on the subject. The figures I have are from the report by Sir Norman Hill to the Liverpool Steamship Association. They are figures which, I believe, have been supplied to the Government, and which the Prime Minister relied upon when he made his speech the other day. The overseas trade of Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Belgium which has all ceased now amounts to 22 per cent. of the world's trade; but the trade of some neutral countries has increased, and the trade of some other countries of the world has decreased. In the result Sir Norman Hill finds that the overseas trade of the world has decreased by 30 per cent. In regard to the ships of the world which have to carry that trade, the ships of Germany, Austria, and Hungary form 14 per cent. of the world's shipping. The Admiralty have taken in British ships 10 per cent. of the world's shipping (i.e., 20 per cent. of British shipping). Therefore there are 24 per cent. fewer vessels available for the world's trade, while that trade has diminished by 30 per cent. Allowing for the ships taken by the Admiralty there are sufficient left to carry the present commerce of the world. The value of the imports into this country during five months to the end of December has decreased 20 per cent. and the exports have decreased 41 per cent. Therefore it follows, I think, that there are plenty of British ships to carry on British shipping, and there are certainly sufficient ships in the world to carry the whole commerce of the world. Without in any way trenching on the Debate which is to take place to-morrow, I would only say in a sentence that apparently the shortage of ships in the world is put down to the 1092 Admiralty taking the ships. It is not true. The truth is that British ships at this moment are carrying cargoes of foodstuffs to Italy and Sweden, leaving their own country in the cold. These cargoes are getting into the country of the enemy. The shortage in ships carrying to England is not caused by the Admiralty but by the British shipowners carrying foodstuffs and cargoes to neutral countries instead of to their own country.
§ Sir J. HARMOOD-BANNER
I wish to refer to the prohibition on the export of wire, which I think has been done to a considerable extent by the Custom House authorities beyond what was intended by the Admiralty when they put on the prohibition. With regard to anything which the Admiralty themselves require for the purposes of the Navy, it is perfectly correct to put on that prohibition and to carry it to its greatest extreme. The manufactures of the country should be at the command of the Admiralty. But the prohibition which is now being carried out has gone so far as to prevent the export of wire to Portugal, for the purpose of making sardine box openers. It is a very large trade, and yet the export of this wire to Portugal is prohibited. The effect of the prohibition will be that there will be no sale. The Admiralty will not buy the wire and customers will not buy it, so that men will be put out of work. The effect will be that if the Admiralty want the wire there will be no men to make it. Unless the Admiralty want the wire, I ask them not to put on the prohibition. I do not mean the prohibition to any countries which are not playing the game and which might supply Turkey, Austria, or Germany. Put on the prohibition as much as you like to these countries, but as regards our Allies, the Argentine and the East Indies, there are certain qualities of wire which might be exported. Do not let the Admiralty say, "We will neither buy the wire nor allow it to be exported. If they take that line the effect will be that the wire will not be made at all, and the people who are now employed in making it will be turned out of work.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
If I dwell very briefly on the points which have been raised in the Debate, it must not be assumed that I have not taken note of the views expressed or that they will not be looked into so far as possible. The hon. and gallant Member opposite asked if I 1093 could tell him what has been done in regard to certain matters. He always asks his questions so courteously that I am sorry that I have to tell him I can give him no information as regards the arming of the vessels of the Royal Indian Marine. I understand that this matter has been under consideration for some time between the Home Government and the Indian Government. I think the hon. and gallant Member understands that when the Indian Navy was given up at the end of the 'sixties the Royal Navy was made responsible for naval defence, and that the vessels retained in the marine were vessels required for Indian transport and for the policing of the waters. As to whether we shall over get any further with these matters I cannot give any undertaking. The hon. Member for East Kent made an interesting comment on the difficulties that confront us in reference to the distribution of prize money, and made a comparison with the adoption of the much simpler method of awarding the proceeds of capture to the captors. We shall have to do our best to solve these difficulties, and we do not underestimate them. The hon. Member referred to a question which was put yesterday by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Hohler). The hon. Member for Chatham said:—A number of quartermaster-sergeants were sent to France with the Royal Marine Brigade and the Royal Naval Division and there acted as officer. They have been brought home with the Royal Naval Division, and now a number of young fellows, without any experience and little or no training, have been put over their heads with commissions.As I understand it, there was a member of the Royal Marines who went out with acting-warrant rank?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Then I must look into it a little more. Do I understand that sixteen of them received acting warrant rank?
§ Mr. HOHLER
Sixteen of them are now acting as officers, but have received no commissions, while a number of young fellows from public schools have been placed over their heads.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
They got acting-warrant rank, but other people have got commissions. Is that your point?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
It is quite impossible that I should be familiar with the 1094 whole of the details of the administration, but if there is anything in the contention of the hon. and learned Gentleman I will look into it. My attention was called also to another point raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman, as to the status of quartermaster-sergeants, Royal Marines, discharged to pension—Royal Fleet Reservists. The suggestion is that in the pamphlet we undertook that they should return to a certain rank, and that as an actual fact we broke faith?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Then I will send the copy back with my comments. I think that the hon. Gentleman will find this, that Royal Fleet Reservists, according to the pamphlet, have to be paid according to the rank in which they are enrolled. But all who are enrolled above the rank of colour-sergeant will be enrolled as colour-sergeants. That is the meaning of the pamphlet. However, when so clear-minded an hon. Member misreads it, I can well understand other persons, quartermaster-sergeants themselves, misreading it. The point is that all who join above the rank of colour-sergeant are enrolled as colour-sergeants. However, that matter is receiving our consideration with a view to seeing whether there is any injustice being done in enrolling quartermaster-sergeants as colour-sergeants. Then I was asked by the hon. Member for East Wilts (Mr. Peto) to consider the question of the pay of the Royal Naval Reserve officers. I do not suppose that he expects me here and now to give any undertaking upon this matter or to raise hopes that may not be fulfilled. I will look into the matter. Then with regard to life insurance policies, I gave an answer the other day, and said that the Government were considering the question of making representations upon the subject. I have not lost sight of that. The hon. Member asked whether officers in the Royal Naval Reserve or the Royal Volunteer Naval Reserve should not be given some distinction in order that they might exercise greater authority over their crews. I do not know whether that was the sole reason. If that was the sole 1095 reason I pointed out the other day that it would have no effect, because these crews were not under the Naval Discipline Act.
§ Mr. PETO
I ask that considering the nature of their service they should be put under the Naval Discipline Act.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I cannot give an undertaking as to that. I would merely point out that a badge or uniform or commission would not give them any greater authority, because the crews are not under the Naval Discipline Act. I understand that the hon. Gentleman thinks that they should be. I cannot undertake to do more than consider the matter, and neither can I do more than consider the proposition that there should be a war bonus paid. All these points I have taken down for consideration. The hon. Member for South-East Lancs (Mr. Tyson Wilson) raised a point as to a number of joiners being discharged at Portsmouth, and suggested that the work had been done by others at lower rates, so low apparently that he seemed to think that it was worth our while to give them a subsistence allowance of 20s. a week. I shall be very glad if the hon. Gentleman will give me particulars about this. I imagine that it is the old question of demarcation of work between the joiner and the skilled labourer. I imagine that the skilled labourers are being asked to do rough joinery, the knocking together of crates and so forth, which is common in the dockyard organisation.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I can say that we do not want any real tradesman's work to be done by other persons than tradesmen. When it comes to the rough work of joinery and so forth, it can be done by the skilled labourer, and I rather imagine that that is the sort of thing which my hon. Friend has in mind, though I doubt very much whether we should be paying a sub-sistance allowance of 20s. a week to a number of skilled labourers brought from a distance, and certainly I do not think that it can be correct to say that we deliberately brought skilled labourers from a distance and paid them 20s. a week in order to turn them on to rough work. And for this reason, that it would be financially unsound. The skilled labourer doing 1096 joinery might be getting from 24s. to 28s. a week, and the 20s. subsistence allowance would bring the total amount paid up to from 44s. to 48s. per week; whereas the joiners who would be dismissed to make room for the men brought from a distance would certainly get nothing like that. I forget for the moment the rate for the joiners. It is certainly not from 44s. to 48s. So, if the suggestion is that we send joiners away and bring skilled labourers from a distance and pay them a subsistance allowance, that would be an unsound operation from the financial point of view, because we should have to add the skilled labourer's wage to the 20s. a week, which would bring the total amount above what would be paid to the joiners. My hon. Friend referred to our putting trawlers in private yards for repair work, and seemed to think that more of that work should come to the Royal dockyards. The same thing was said about contract work which is put out. There, again, the exigencies of the Service must control our policy. If there should be a trawler, or maybe some other craft, near some port or other where it might be difficult to get it down to one of the Royal yards, and she is put into a private yard, the mere fact that there was a desire to put her into a Royal yard would not justify a long journey, and perhaps a dangerous journey, to get her into Chatham or Portsmouth. I do not think that either of the hon. Members who represent those districts would make that claim. I am familiar with the contention as to the Royal Marine pensioned officers when called up for service. I am familiar with the contrast made between their treatment and that of the pensioned Army officer, and even the pensioned Navy officer. Again I regret greatly that I cannot undertake to do more than continue to consider their case. I cannot give any undertaking that we shall be able to make any change. I am familiar also with the case of the apprentice who has only got a week or two to close his apprenticeship when he joins the Colours and who then receives his civil pay as an apprentice, minus 7s. a week, his soldier's pay. If he had joined five days later in the case stated, or some weeks later in cases which have come to my knowledge, he would be rated as a man, and he would get his pay as a civilian at a man's rate, and the difference between that and the 7s. would be a great deal more than the difference between 1097 his pay as an apprentice and the 7s. I do not deny that that is a rather hard case, but the hon. Member for Portsmouth will realise that there will be all sorts of cases of a similar kind in the Civil Service where men are on the verge of promotion, and would have had promotion if they had stayed on in their office for some time longer, and he will see, on reflection, that he raises a much bigger question than he imagines.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The hon. Gentleman is raising a larger question than he imagines, though the case he quotes, I admit, is a hard one. However, it does not lie in my hands. He will recognise that there are other Departments concerned in this, but I will take note of the representations which he makes. With regard to ships' stewards, I have noted very carefully the point which he raises; and with regard to the separation allowance for warrant officers, the White Paper provides a separation allowance for the warrant officers, Marine, and for chief petty officers, and equivalent ratings. I understand that the hon. Gentleman asks separation allowances for commissioned warrant and warrant officers in the Royal Navy, and Royal Marine gunners. But again I say I cannot give any undertaking. With regard to free passes, the hon. Member for Chatham said that we have shown a considerable amount of generosity in the treatment of that matter, and he suggested that we should still further extend our system of giving free passes. I took a note of the case which he mentioned about a boy paying 18s. 6d., though his pay was much smaller than that. That is again a matter which is not entirely in our hands. There are three Departments concerned—the War Office, the Admiralty, and the Treasury. All I can do is to consider carefully the representations which have been made. Then there was the question of the export of wire, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Everton (Sir J. Har-mood-Banner). I will look into that, although it had not been brought to my notice until he mentioned it. I am not quite sure that we are the only Department responsible for that, though I am sure that those who have made the prohibition 1098 are well advised. I think that I might now ask the Committee to give us the Vote.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
In regard to that matter we have very largely widened what is known as the Admiralty list, and we are very much in touch with the Local Government Board and the Board of Trade to ascertain where unemployment and hardship are likely to arise, so that we may act as effectively as possible. It is said that these fishermen have lost their employment and that, as they have had good training, something might be done to give them employment. I am not sure that something has not already been done in that direction to some small extent, but at any rate I will consider whether anything can be done.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The question of pay is a very complicated one, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put a question on the Paper.
§ Question put, and agreed to.