HC Deb 04 April 1917 vol 92 cc1257-60

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that a Court of Inquiry was held in regard to deficiency of stores on H.M.S. "Satellite," and H.M.S. "Princess"; whether the assistant-paymasters were exonerated from blame on the ground of lack of experience; will he state the value of the stores unaccounted for; whether these assistant-paymasters were appointed from the Royal Naval Rreserve or from civilians; will he state whether the work of a writer gives the necessary experience; and will he, in the interests of economy, cause writers to be promoted to these positions?


Deficiencies of victualling stores in "Satellite" and "Princess" were the subject of Courts of Inquiry in August and November, 1916, respectively. In both cases disciplinary action was limited to an admonition by reason, partly, of the lack of experience of the accountant officers. In the case of "Satellite," the stores deficient were value at £100 18s. 2d.; in the case of "Princess," the deficiencies on some items were more than balanced by surpluses on others, resulting in a net surplus of £108 6s. 3d. The assistant-paymaster in the "Satellite" joined the Royal Naval Reserve in March, 1910, and the assistant-paymaster in the "Princess" was a purser before entry in 1915. As regards the last two parts of the question, the inquiry in each case related to victualling stores, and, as writers have no experience whatever of victualling work, the appointments could not have been filled by the promotion of writers.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether it was a recommendation of the Thursby. Committee to reduce the age limit for promotion to the rank of warrant writer from thirty-five to thirty: what are the grounds for neglecting to act on this recommendation and of postponing the consideration of the question till the end of the War; is he aware that since the War 1,200 civilians have been granted the warrant rank of assistant paymaster, and that it is proposed to grant the like rank to about 250 more civilians; is he further aware that not one commission has yet been granted to a regular service writer; and will he at once take steps to end this injustice?

10. Mr. FLAVIN

asked, in view of the recently promulgated decision of the Admiralty to promote to lieutenant rank a number of commissioned warrant and warrant officers, between the ages of thirty-eight and forty-three, of the engineering branch of the Royal Navy, whether a similar concession will be given to commissioned warrant and warrant officers in the accountant branch of the Royal Navy, whose duties are set forth in Article 1,338, Clause 6, and Article 1,602, Clauses 6 to 8, of the King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions as being similar to those performed by commissioned officers in the accountant branch of the Royal Navy?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part of the question, there is at present no object in reducing the age for promotion to warrant writer, as the number of candidates over the age of thirty-five who are eligible and recommended is quite sufficient to meet all requirements for warrant writers that may arise. As regards the third part of the question, the numbers of assistant paymasters, R.N.R. and R.N.V.R. respectively, entered since war broke out, are approximately 1,000 and 100. About seventy of the 1,000 R.N.R. assistant paymasters were permanently entered, as were all the 100 R.N.V.R assistant paymasters.

As regards the last part of the question —and here I will, if I may, answer at the same time question No. 10, standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for North Kerry—we are now seeking authority to open commissioned rank to the writer class. We propose to grant five commissions to the rank of assistant paymaster, R.N. with two stripes—that is to say, with the relevant rank of lieutenant, at once and then one each year until a total of ten is reached.


May I ask when that authority to promote these writers to the position of assistant-paymaster may be expected? Will it be immediately given?


We are awaiting the Order in Council, and all steps have been taken.


I suppose it is reasonable to expect it in a week or two?


I cannot imagine it would be longer.


Is it not time a small beginning should be made, and is not this beginning quite insufficient to meet the necessities of the case?


My hon. Friend will see from my reply that we are making a beginning.


It is about time!


Can the right hon. Gentleman say quite categorically that there is no intention of promoting any Admiralty clerk of military age to these posts?


I gave an assurance the other day. The hon. Member asked if 200 Admiralty clerks would be made assistant-paymasters, and I answered in the negative.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, with reference to the statement made in this House on the 22nd November, 1916, to the effect that further promotions to warrant writers would be considered next year, 1917, whether consideration can now be given to the desirability of increasing the established number of warrant writers to permit of such promotion being secured at an earlier age than has hitherto obtained?


The age at which chief writers reach warrant rank has already been considerably reduced since the rank of warrant writer was first instituted, and it is regretted it does not seem possible to reduce the age much further except in very special cases of outstanding merit.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, in view of the fact that entries into the seaman branch of the Royal Navy can obtain warrant rank after seven years' service from date of entry as boy and entries into the engineer branch of the Royal Navy can obtain warrant rank after eight years' service, he will explain why entries into the writer branch of the Royal Navy cannot obtain warrant rank until after seventeen years' service; and whether, in view of the official intimation that equal opportunities for advancement would be given to all ratings in all branches of the Royal Navy, he proposes to take any action in the matter?


I do not think the analogy between the seaman and engineer class on the one hand and. the writers on the other is altogether complete. In the military branch it is desirable to obtain warrant officers at as early an age as possible in the interests of the early inculcation of the sense of responsibility and command. The argument does not altogether apply to the writer class. What is wanted in a warrant writer is experience and trustworthiness in clerical work. As regards the last part of the question, it is perhaps sufficient to remark that, taking the numbers of seamen and writers who were in the Service when war broke out, the present number of commissioned writers and warrant writers bears a higher proportion to the writers than the present number of lieutenants promoted from commissioned warrant rank, commissioned warrant officers, and warrant officers, bears to the number of seamen.