§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ 1. "That 400,000 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, 1918.'
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir H. MEUX
I should like, with the indulgence of the House, to make a few remarks on a subject raised by the right hon. and gallant Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill) to regard to what I consider a dangerous intrigue, I might almost call it a hydra-headed intrigue, to bring back Lord Fisher to a responsible position at the Admiralty. This suggestion seems to me to spring up in every sort of way. We even see it promulgated by means of a string of sandwichmen. I do not know what is the pay of those sandwichmen, but I am sure that any naval officer who sees the procession is filled thereby with the deepest shame. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman informed the House that he had read my speech with some regret. I am very unfortunate. I am afraid I have never completely gained the approval of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. On the same Vote last year, in the course of the discussion, I made remarks on this subject which probably equally failed to meet with his approval, and I am rather inclined to think that no speeches ever do meet with complete approval on his part except those made by himself. But the right hon. Gentleman might in all fairness have pointed out that I have never made any attack on Lord Fisher excepting when some one of his indiscreet friends has brought the matter before the public. In this case the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) brought the matter up, and if the House will forgive me, I propose to enter into a somewhat frank explanation. On the day following the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, which I had not the pleasure of hearing, probably the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee also did not hear it—and I have a sort of suspicion 1714 that he never takes the trouble to read these speeches, for if he did he would not be so unfair—on the day following the delivery of that speech I made a reply to what I considered the extraordinary—to say the least—injudicious remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton. Travelling down to the port the morning after the speech I had, as usual, all the papers with me, and I noticed that one of them—the "Daily Telegraph"—gave a report of the speech, which set up a very improper comparison between Sir John Jellicoe, Sir Henry Jackson, and Lord Fisher. But I will read the actual words of the speech from the OFFICIAL REPORT—No man has a higher admiration of Sir John Jellicoe than I have, or a higher admiration of Sir Henry Jackson: but to compare either of these two men to Lord Fisher is like comparing Bethmann-Hollweg with Bismarck.That was a very improper comparison. Sir John Jellicoe is a man who is now, with the assistance of our splendid new First Lord, endeavouring to cope with the submarines. It was a very long speech which was made by the right hon. Gentleman, but I only propose to read those parts on which I commented at a political meeting the same evening. I took the report from the "Daily Telegraph" in my hands, and made comments on it as I went along, because, not being a very good speaker, it is easier for me to have something to go upon in that way. The next sentence I want to quote is:It is said that Lord Fisher's methods were not liked in the Navy, Lord Fisher's methods were the methods of victory. I have been told, too, he is no gentleman. You do not want gentlemen to fight GermansI rather think we do want gentlemen to fight the Germans. We have always won our victories by gentlemanly means. Was not Nelson a gentleman, and Wolfe? Lord Fisher's father was an officer in a gallant Highland regiment. Does not the right hon. Gentleman call the son of a man holding such a position a gentleman1! I really cannot understand what the right hon. Gentleman means, and if we are to have the pleasure of hearing him after I have finished, perhaps he will kindly endeavour to explain. The right hon. Gentleman went on:I know he is not the favourite of fashionable society; fashionable ladies have no power over him.I am very surprised to read that statement, because a few years ago, until circumstances arose which made the Noble Lord—Lord Fisher—unpopular, there was no man better received in what they call "fashionable society" than he was. He 1715 was asked to every dinner party, and at every dance he might have been seen performing with ladies from dowagers downwards. The fact of the matter is that I actually refuse to treat Lord Fisher as a serious man. Then the right hon. Gentleman also said:The one man to save the situation, the one man who has shown vigour in dealing with it, is Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1916, col. 882.]That statement was a deliberate attempt to sow the seed of dissension in this country, and if the Minister for Agriculture were here I am sure he would agree with me that no farmer could hope for a more unpatriotic crop than did the right hon. Gentleman. If the House will allow me to do what I have never done before in my life—and I am over sixty—I would speak a little about myself in a very brief survey of what went on a few years ago, and I will endeavour to show how very wrong it would be to bring back Lord Fisher to the Admiralty. A few years ago—I think it was seven or eight—a good deal of discussion went on in this House, and I believe there was a Debate held on the subject of the Bacon letters. Those Bacon letters were the beginning and cause of all the trouble we have had in the Navy with Lord Fisher. The circumstances were very simple. Captain Bacon in those days was a captain in the Mediterranean, serving, like every other captain, under the Commander-in-Chief and the other admirals. Captain Bacon was a captain of one of the ironclads, Lord Charles Beresford was the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, and I was the Admiral of the Cruiser Squadron. We the admirals, had the misfortune for ourselves to differ with Lord Fisher, then Sir John Fisher, on subjects of policy. Captain Bacon wrote home letters reflecting and reporting on his two senior officers. This letter was published by Sir John Fisher. It was printed by his secret printers, and distributed to his friends. Hon. Members who were then Members of the House will probably remember the difficulty that the First Lord of the Admiralty or his representative had in explaining to and satisfying a bewildered House that it was necessary to have twenty-five copies of this letter for the First Lord's personal information. Perhaps I may be allowed to read a question and answer recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 1909. They refer to the letters, 1716 and I have to read them to explain what was going on:Mr. Brooke—I do not know who he was—asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, having regard to the statements alleged to have been quoted from a private letter of three years ago to the First Sea Lord, the Admiralty have ever regarded Vice-Admiral Sir Hedworth Lambton as an agitator in the naval service?Mr. McKenna: The Admiralty have never regarded Admiral Lambton as an agitator—I am very sorry to have to read this—His record is most distinguished, and the high appreciation in which his services, both in peace and war, held by successive Boards, is shown by his rapid advancement and long succession of important appointments. I may add that no statement in the private letter can be reasonably interpreted as an allegation that Admiral Lambton was an agitatod."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 10th May, 1909, col. 1621, Vol. IV.]Why do you suppose that that fulsome answer was given to the House? The reason is very simple. I was in China at the time as Commander-in-Chief. When I read the Debates on the Bacon letters in this House, in which my name was bandied about very freely as an agitator, I telegraphed home to the Admiralty to ask whether this was true, and I got what I considered to be a rather impertinent answer. So I telegraphed again to the Admiralty saying that my honour had been publicly impugned, and, unless it was publicly set right, I requested to be immediately superseded. What was the result of that? Down went the Admiralty on their knees to me. They telegraphed out. What was my surprise when the newspapers came to see no word about this. What had been done? This promise to publicly rectify me had been got out of by what I considered to be a very mean trick. Instead of the question having been asked, like questions are here, in an open way, it was hidden in the non-oral answers, which I believe nobody studies. I do not suppose that anybody has seen that question before. I was very much annoyed at this. I wrote home letters to the Admiralty, of really rather a violent character, to the First Lord of the Admiralty, to the Second Sea Lord, and to one or two other members of the Cabinet, in which I expressed my disgust at the way in which things were allowed to be carried on in England by the Admiralty, and that espionage should be allowed, and I expressed my determination that if the First Sea Lord, who was then Lord Fisher, did not leave the Admiralty in a short time, I should come home and make it my business to see that he did go. Of course, that 1717 would not be very likely to have any effect at all, but the fact remains that Lord Fisher did leave in a very few months. I came home for private reasons, and did not have anything to do with Sir John Fisher. Then, after a year or two, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee became First Lord. I think he will not deny—it is absolutely right—that during the whole time of his administration he was more or less in the pocket of Lord Fisher. He was quite right to consult that distinguished man. It was perfectly well known at the Admiralty. I think the results were extremely unfortunate for the Service and also for the right hon. Gentleman, because apparently he there absorbed Lord Fisher's peculiar ideas as to the proper way in which to treat officers. I say at once that both Lord Fisher and the right hon. Gentleman have two sides to their natures. They are perfectly delightful to people whom they like, and a little bit brusque, to say the least, to those of whom they are not afraid.
To come shortly to my point. I dare say hon. Members here can remember that the First Lord of the day suddenly got rid of Admiral Bridgeman. There was a good deal of discussion in this House. Everybody admits that one of the peculiar traits of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee is his love for theatrical coups. Unfortunately, they may come off in this country, but they seldom come off abroad. This theatrical coup, this sudden turning out of Admiral Bridgeman, which is all recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT, was not quite so innocent an affair as it looked, because it enabled the First Lord to bring in, without any opposition, a man who, obviously from our position in Europe, ought never to have been First Sea Lord—that was Prince Louis of Battenberg. However that was a fait accompli, and it was accepted without a word. Some few years ago there was a curious alteration made in the system of promotion of Admirals of the Fleet, which was never thoroughly explained by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. Of course, he knew nothing about it. There was only one reason why the regulations relating to Admirals of the Fleet were altered—that was, that under the existing regulations then in print it was quite impossible for Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg—I regret to have to mention his name—to become an Admiral of the Fleet unless at least two of the men senior to 1718 him were disqualified. Therefore this ridiculous regulation was brought in on the sly.
§ Sir H. MEUX
I hope that the present First Lord Admiralty, with his legal mind, will kindly go into that question before it is too late, because the next batch of promotions of Admirals of the Fleet does not come on until April, and he may save a great injustice being done to one of the most respected and best admirals in the Navy. The next incident that comes to my mind was the proposed massacreing or bombardment of peaceful towns in Ulster. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee has ever been candid enough to say—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would point out to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we are discussing the Estimates for the year ending 31st March, 1918. I do not think it is quite possible to spend too much time in reviewing the years that have gone by.
§ Sir H. MEUX
I will drop that at once. Perhaps it is the best thing to do. I will now refer to an incident which will show how little justification the right hon. Gentleman had for accusing me of hatred. A month before the War, in July, 1914, I was at a large garden party in this town, full of fashionable people and there I saw Lord Fisher walking about disconsolately. I said, "This is very sad. Here is an admiral who used to be so petted, and there he is walking about and no one taking any notice of him." So I called out to him, "Come here, you wicked old sinner! I must shake hands with you." The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill) thanked me a week afterwards—does he remember it?—for having done so, because it enabled him to bring Lord Fisher down to Portsmouth, which he had always refused to do till I made it up. Then the War came on very shortly afterwards, and in duty bound, as Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, I wrote to Lord Fisher and asked him if I might see him. I got a nice telegram back, "Will you lunch with me at Ritz?" I thought it rather an odd place for a First Sea Lord to see his Commander-in-Chief. But I went there, and we had a very excellent lunch. A short time afterwards I was informed that Lord Fisher was going about saying 1719 "it was a very odd thing that fellow Meux asking me to lunch." Knowing Lord Fisher, I was not surprised; but I knew that Lord Fisher paid for the lunch. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill) said he always had the submarine danger in view. Why, then, did it take three months to get Lieutenant Verney's scheme tried—the scheme which has been carried out, and has had millions of pounds spent on it? This scheme would never have come in at all had it not been for my persistence. To be fair to the right hon. Gentleman, I believe it was a private letter of mine to him that finally got the scheme tried. Does he remember that?
After this comes what is, in my opinion, a very discreditable affair. That was the manner in which the late Admiral Hood was removed from the Dover command. It shows how these two worked together. One day a retired admiral came to me at my office in Portsmouth in a great state of mind. He was nearer seventy than than sixty. He had just been kicked out of his job. I forget what it was, but it was a small job. A lot of these admirals have taken up unimportant jobs through patriotism. They have been very badly requited. This officer came to my office and said, "I have been disgraced. Without any notice at all, I have been turned out of my job at twelve hours' notice, and all my family will think I have done something wrong. Can you tell me what to do?" I said, "You can do nothing in war. No one will listen to you." He said, "Perhaps you are right. After all, I am not the only one." And he gave me a list of people who were proscribed by the First Sea Lord, and amongst them was the name of Admiral Hood. I said, "Nonsense! Absurd! I only heard from him this morning." His station adjoined mine. He said, "He is; and there are one or two others as well." I wrote to Admiral Hood and said, "I hear rumours that you are having another appointment." Of course, what I had in my view was what we call in the Navy an "appointment on the beach." I got a letter back telling me I was entirely mistaken. He had heard nothing of any sort or kind about going. So there was this officer, one of the most delightful, lovable and loyal officers in the Service, Admiral Hood, and it was known to the small clique that Lord Fisher always had around him that he was going to be turned out, and he was turned out at 1720 not more than twenty-four hours' notice. He never knew till the day of his death why he went, and neither did his wife. Is that the proper way for officers to be treated? It is that sort of treatment which has been going on for twelve years under Lord Fisher's regime, which the Navy is determined shall never come back again. What is the meaning of the intrigues which are going on? They are trying to bring back people who have failed in the past, who have been tried and been found wanting. And if there is one way of losing the War, that is the most certain. I will give one further reason why Lord Fisher should not come back. When he and the right hon. Gentleman fell out, and honest men came in, how did Lord Fisher leave his job? Did he wait to be relieved, or to hand over his work to his successor? No. He deserted like a traitor. If he had been a soldier or a sailor he would have been shot. Of course, I do not absolutely know, but I believe the late Prime Minister could give some information on the subject. This is the man that my right hon. Friends below try to bring back, and it is about time it ceased. We have had enough of it in the Navy, and I hope we have had enough of it in the House.
§ Mr. GEORGE LAMBERT
At any rate, whether you agree with my hon. and gallant Friend or not, he speaks his mind, and I candidly confess that I enjoyed many of his speeches. Lest it be thought that my hon. and gallant Friend is a consistent leader of opinion, I should like to say, that, speaking last year on this subject, he said all was well. We have, in the present Foreign Secretary, thank God, a ruler who does not grate on our nerves, and more than that, we were; to put our trust in Admiral Jackson. The present Foreign Secretary is no longer at the Admiralty, and Admiral Jackson is no longer First Sea Lord. Now we are to trust, says my hon. and gallant Friend, the Admirals Jellicoe and Beatty. He is a little inconsistent. This is what he said of the late Prime Minister on 16th August last:Since I have been in the House there are two subjects which are on the tapis: one is that there is a large body, but, by no means a majority, of Members in this House who think the way to win this War is to get rid of the Solomon at the head of this Government. I say 'Solomon' because I do not think there is any hon. Member who will deny that he is by far the cleverest man in this House. But we must remember, when Solomon left this world, who succeeded him. It was Rehoboam, who broke up the old Hebrew Empire."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th August, 1916, col. 1958,. Vol.LXXXV.]1721 I have heard the present Prime Minister called a good many names, but never before Rehoboam. I seem to remember that my hon. and gallant Friend was the Gentleman who seconded the Address in the first Parliament of Rehoboam. But I pass that by. My hon. and gallant Friend has said that the submarine menace was never well in hand. He has said in his speech now, and he said it in his speech at Portsmouth. Here I wish to say, in vindication of my own statement, that we had a Report from Lord Milner, in 1915, from which I will read a word or two:—The Committee in their interim Report were only unanimous in suggesting a guaranteed minimum price for wheat on the hypothesis that there was urgent danger to our imported food supplies owing to the activity of hostile submarines. The Government have come to the conclusion that there is no danger from that quarter of sufficient magnitude to justify the adoption of our recommendations.That is not the case to-day. I want the House to realise that Lord Milner in October, 1915, on the advice of the Government of that day, declared that there was no need to fear the depredations of hostile submarines. The Report of Lord Milner recommended that there should be a fixed price of 45s. a quarter on wheat. The position is very different to-day, and I say now to my hon. and gallant Friend that the real reason why the submarine menace was grappled with then was owing to the energetic measures taken by Lord Fisher when he was at the Admiralty. My hon. and gallant Friend has not mentioned all his speech at Portsmouth. He made another charge then which was absolutely inaccurate. I was rather astonished Curiously enough that portion of his speech did not appear in the London papers. He accused Lord Fisher of being in command at the time that the "Hogue," the "Cressy," and the "Aboukir" were lost.
§ Sir H. MEUX
That arose through careless reporting. I was dealing with the submarine menace and said it had never been satisfactorily dealt with. I mentioned that in the early part of the War those three cruisers were sunk and within a few months the "Formidable" was sunk and Lord Fisher was then in command, which was true. I never said he was in command at the time of the sinking of the three cruisers. Everyone at Portsmouth, and I should have thought the whole world, knows who was in command when the three cruisers went down. I will not mention his name.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I withdraw at once. I will leave that portion of my hon. and 1722 gallant Friend's argument. There is one thing which I really think he is not quite justified in making this extraordinary statement in his speech at Portsmouth, that the real reason why people dislike Lord Fisher in society is because of his going about boasting of the number of officers he has ruined. I cannot help thinking that is a statement which could hardly be justified by one distinguished admiral speaking of another.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
On the 7th March last year my hon. and gallant Friend said, "Lord Fisher and I have been friends more or less for a great many years." I cannot understand that my hon. and gallant Friend would be the friend of a man who was capable of such odious action.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Now I go away from these things; but I think the Committee will realise that I am not animated in this matter by any personal motives. I have one single object to serve, and that is the good of my country. I have been a Member of this House for twenty-five years. I am not afraid to speak my mind, and I resent with very considerable animus the charge of my hon. and gallant Friend when he accuses me of intrigue. I have no desire but to do the very best for my country at this time, and I do not see why I should be accused of intrigue. When I simply come to this House to tell the House exactly what I think, based upon ten years' experience at the Board of Admiralty, I do think that I might be relieved of the charge of intrigue. I think, from the speech we have heard this afternoon, that we all know what is at the bottom of the hon. and gallant Member's mind. It is personal animus. In the words of the right hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill), we must keep our hatreds for the enemy. So much for that subject; but I do say that when we are at life-and-death grips with Germany we must leave Bacon letters out of the question, and we must leave the impertinent answer to China out of the question. Those really are not matters which concern us now.
Turning to the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, I thank him very much for the frank statement he made about the 1723 submarine losses. I would like to ask him whether the figures he gave include all submarine losses in regard to merchantmen, merchantmen engaged on Admiralty work, as well as merchantmen engaged in ordinary commercial enterprise. The First Lord did not in any way minimise the submarine menace. It is with us, and, as he said, it is grave, it is serious, and it has not yet been solved. I think the present Prime Minister put the finishing touch upon it when he said that the people of this country must not dwell on the pleasant and ignore the graver and the disquieting aspects of the situation. He stated thatour food stocks are low, alarmingly low, lower than they have been within recollection."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1917, col. 1598.]That statement was very directly emphasised when we had on Saturday 36,000 tons of Dutch shipping sunk very near the Port of London. It is no advantage to me, and I do not take any credit for saying "I told you so!" Despite what my hon. and gallant Friend behind me has said, the man to cope with this submarine menace is Admiral Lord Fisher. The nation has got to realise that a gigantic effort is necessary if this submarine menace is to be submerged—that is, if the submarines are to be adequately dealt with. It is no use our engaging in the pleasant anticipation that we are bound to win. We have to put forward very exceptional efforts on the part of the Admiralty. My hon. and gallant Friend said a word about Sir John Jellicoe. No one had a greater admiration for Sir John Jellicoe in his position as Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet than I had; and I say here, as my own personal opinion, that I regretted very gravely the withdrawal of Sir John Jellicoe from the Commandership-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet. It was like the withdrawal of Nelson a month before Trafalgar. I do not wish to say a word about his successor; I do not know anything, but I do say that where you have an admiral who is doing his work well—and we must not forget that Sir John Jellicoe was adored by the nation, and had the complete confidence of the Grand Fleet—to withdraw him was, in my judgment, a very dubious proceeding.
I want to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty a few questions as to the position he is taking up in regard to the submarine menace. I understand that there has been established at the Admiralty an 1724 Anti-Submarine Department, composed of very able men. In addition to that there is a Board of Inventions and Research which is presided over by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher. The First Lord said:I cannot for a moment imagine that a great and distinguished public servant, who has done so much in the past, as Lord Fisher has done, is not also giving to the Admiralty ungrudgingly the whole of his abilities and the whole of his services in trying to solve a question of this kind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1917, col. 1360.]I would like to ask the First Lord how many times he has consulted Lord Fisher, or how many times the Board of Admiralty have consulted Lord Fisher? I had a conversation some little time ago with one of the distinguished members of this Board, and he was complaining that the Admiralty were not supporting the Board of Inventions and Research. I think the House and country ought to know something about that matter, especially when it is stated that these distinguished gentlemen, Sir J. Thomson, President of the Royal Society, Sir Charles Parsons, and Sir George Beilby, headed by Lord Fisher—whom I regard as the foremost admiral of the day, and who is similarly-regarded by many others—have adequate power of dealing with the German submarine menace. That is absolutely contrary to fact. An article appeared the other day in the "Manchester Guardian." It was dated 19th February, and gave a very admirable survey of the work of this Board of Inventions and Research. The article said:A short time ago a leading article appeared in a London paper asserting that Lord Fisher had unlimited command of means and money, and hinting that if he had plans for the suppression of the U-boats, he could from Victory House control 'the damned crew' without any closer connection with the Admiralty.This body has no executive power whatever; it has not the power to order a single ship. It has not power over the design of any single ship, and it cannot order the carrying out of any of the numerous suggestions which it makes to the Admiralty. The article goes on to say:The Committee has no power to give orders for the construction of the necessary machinery to determine the scale of its use or the method in which it shall be used. The greater part of Lord Fisher's supreme qualifications is executive capacity, and his driving power is in this way wholly lost.I do say that when we have a body such as this, composed of the most distinguished scientists, and headed by an admiral of the distinction of Lord Fisher, that they should be consulted as to the best means of coping with submarines. I cannot help thinking that there must have been a grave 1725 dereliction of duty on the part of the Admiralty in the past that they have not consulted, or have not taken this eminent man (Lord Fisher) into their confidence. That is one of the reasons why the submarine menace has grown to its present tremendous proportions. I want to emphasise the fact that the Zeppelin, the mine, and the submarine have entirely changed naval strategy, and there is no man who has foreseen that to such an extent as Lord Fisher. I have here a memorandum which he wrote six months before the War. It was sent to the Prime Minister somewhere about January, 1914. In that memoradum he says:The submarine is a coming type of war vessel for sea fighting.He had to deal with critics like my hon. and gallant Friend, and he goes on to say:An ancient Admiralty Board minute described the introduction of the steam engine as fatal to England's Navy. Another Admiralty Board minute vetoed iron ships, as iron sinks and wood floats—.After other similar quotations, he says:What is it that the coming of a submarine really means? It means that the whole foundation of our traditional naval strategy, which served us so well ill the past, has been broken down.He prophesies, with extreme minuteness, exactly what a German submarine must do. It cannot take a ship into port; it can only sink it. I do say that when you have such a man, with his imagination, with his vigour, and with his determination, it is really wasting the great energy and abilities of that great man when, as I said the other day, you keep him as chairman of that chemist's shop in Cockspur Street.
Last year, about this time, the Germans commenced their attack on Verdun; they have now commenced their great push in an endeavour to cut the communications of Britain with the Army in France. I wish simply to reiterate what was said last year, that you cannot have a better opportunity for German submarines to act than in the three great expeditions which are going on at the present time in Salonika, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. We were all gratified at the announcement made to-day by the Leader of the House as to the fall of Kut, but I would ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether these expeditions are not putting too great a strain upon the naval resources of this country? There must be thousands of tons of transports going from here to Salonika, Egypt, and Basra. All these transports have to be protected by the Navy. They 1726 have to be conveyed through the Mediterranean, something like 2,500 miles. There must, therefore, be a great naval force in the Mediterranean. I am told there is something like 400 naval ships of all sorts in the Mediterranean. They have to be coaled and provisioned, and there must be an enormous number of transports engaged to take the necessary provisions, coal, and appliances to them. I ask that this question of our Eastern strategy shall be completely reconsidered.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman is going a little beyond the subject under discussion. The Vote before the Committee does not admit of a discussion of the whole War policy.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Surely the Admiralty is consulted when an expedition is going to take place as to whether they can give adequate naval protection for the troops that are to be carried?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman, but what I ask is whether these expeditions are going on? The very fact that we had a very grave announcement from my right hon. Friend this afternoon about a raid on the East Coast by German destroyers, has a bearing upon this subject. We have a very large force of naval ships in the Mediterranean which could cope with these raids, but they are engaged in convoying transports down the Mediterranean. With great respect, Mr. Whitley, I submit that this is an Admiralty matter, and it is a matter which really is at the foundation of naval strategy, because if the Navy have to protect transports two thousand five hundred miles away they cannot be-here protecting our own coasts. Still further, I think it is required to protect our own coasts, because we have got now a German base within fifty miles of our own shores at Zeebrugge, which is a veritable hornet's nest from which the Germans can send forth to raid our communications as they raided them a few months ago in the Channel or to raid our East Coast as we have heard this afternoon. Therefore, if it is not a question for my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, I must be allowed to express 1727 my opinion that they are straining the Navy to breaking point, and that the Navy cannot possibly convoy and protect all the transports required for these expeditions all over the world.
But it is an Admiralty matter in so much that I assume that before any expedition is undertaken or before any expedition is decided on the Admiralty has to be consulted as to whether it is straining its resources or whether it is able to afford ample protection. I do not say these words in any spirit of criticism of the Admiralty. I do not want to criticise in this matter, but after all we have got to look at the thing as a whole. We have got the submarines here and unless they are dealt "with they will put this country into a very serious condition. There is no use minimising it. We had reports—I think it was in the "Daily Telegraph"—that there were something like 200 German submarines at present ready to operate. This is a very serious menace. It has grown up, I agree, through the apathy and inertia which prevailed at the Admiralty for fifteen or eighteen months; but there it is, and though I do not wish to criticise I must point out that unless you do bring home your ships from the Mediterranean, and unless you do put forth a gigantic effort, in which I sincerely trust my right hon. Friend will engage the services of Lord Fisher, this submarine menace will prove to be a very grave peril to this country in future. The last thing I desire is to criticise the Ministry of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. We must all recognise that, whatever our political views, with the success of this Government is bound up everything which we hold dear, and I for one shall always give very warm support to the Government of the present Prime Minister, since if he fails it will mean that our country fails, and therefore whenever I criticise it is simply to put forward views which I hope will be considered by the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ Captain BURGOYNE
I beg to move, that the Vote be reduced by 100 men.
I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken will forgive me if I do not follow him in the line which he has taken. I have got my name down here for two Motions. One is to reduce Vote A by one hundred men, and another is to reduce Vote 1 by one hundred pounds. My purpose in moving a reduction of these Votes is to raise the question 1728 of the Royal Naval Air Service in its administration and its connection with the general air policy of this country. The Committee will remember that just prior to the last reconstruction of the Government a day had been fixed for the Debate of a Resolution that stood on the Paper in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Blackpool (Mr. Ashley). Circumstances arose of which we are all aware which prevented that Resolution coming on. Now on the first opportunity that we get for raising this question I find myself restricted in a variety of ways. In the first place, whereas on the former Resolution it had been the intention of those who spoke to deal with the Air Service generally that is to say, the position of the Air Board in its relation not only to the Royal Naval Air Service, but also to the Royal Flying Corps—now I cannot do much more than touch on the subject of the Air Board. I am forced by Resolutions of this House to leave the Royal Flying Corps alone altogether, and I have to devote myself to the Royal Naval Air Service.
There are two other things make it a little difficult to tackle this question and which cause a natural diffidence in those criticisms which one would naturally like to make in reference to the Royal Naval Air Service. The first is that the Air Board has been reconstituted with closer representation upon it of both the Services, the Navy and the Army, with, in addition to, two representatives of the Ministry of Munitions, and since they have scarcely yet got into the saddle, one would desire to give them every opportunity to show what they can do before levelling criticism at them. The second thing that has happened that makes discussion on the point a little difficult is the appointment, which we all advocated and desired, of an additional Naval Lord, Commodore Godfrey Payne, to represent the Air Board upon the Board of Admiralty. If I may be permitted, I would like to associate myself with what fell from the First Lord in his admirable speech the other day, when he devoted one sentence to this matter of the Royal Naval Air Service. From what one can hear there is the utmost confidence in this new appointment, and the feeling that at last things may go on a little better. But since the pressing urgency for the discussion of the question has been in operation since the outbreak of the War, I certainly think that 1729 it is right now that one of the few opportunities presented, when nearly all the time formerly belonging to private Members has been taken by the Government, should not be wasted.
No one who throws his mind back to a date before the War would recognise in the Navy and Army of that time the huge naval and military forces which we possess now. Great as has been the expansion of the Navy and the Army, I submit that the expansion in the Air Service has in ratio been infinitely greater. When developments are of super-rapid order, when the problems to be discussed are divided among a variety of Departments, and when all these Departments have each their own rooted ideas as to the lines on which things should be worked out, the chances are that you get a series of chaotic cross currents which are likely to be detrimental to the progress of the Service. What I want to prove to-day—and my criticism is entirely friendly; and I may tell the Committee that prior to suggesting getting up in the House I discussed the matter with my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty—is that undoubtedly before the reconstruction of the Air Board and the construction of the present Government there were certain things taking place in the administration of the Royal Naval Air Service that required most careful looking into. My purpose to-day will be to prove that there was lack of focus in administration which led to loss of public confidence in that administration, and that there were inter-Service jealousies, Departmental frictions, overlapping, and lack of continuous policy. In former Debates, which I followed as closely as I could, I have noticed during the course of this War—it is not easy when one is soldiering to keep in touch with things—that speakers on naval and military subjects when criticising the policy or administration have usually found a difficulty in that they have been twitted with one or two things—that either, with the commendable desire not to convey information to the enemy, they have said so little that they have suggested facts and difficulties which they could not prove, or by their disclosures, they were, it has been suggested, unpatriotic. I may tell the Committee that for my part, rather than leave accusations unproven, I must risk being told that I am telling too much. Only one word more. Obviously I would not say anything in this House that I 1730 would not say outside, or go into circumstances which would be of advantage to the enemy, but if there are any seeming indiscretions I would ask the indulgence of the Committee when I tell them that it has all been most carefully calculated in advance.
First I want to deal with the question of airships. I shall certainly not take the history of the Admiralty in relation to airships up to too late a date, but it will be within the recollection of the Committee that about the year 1909 a Sub-Committee was appointed by the then Prime Minister to look very carefully into the subject of airships and to discover to what extent they were likely to be useful to the naval and military forces of the Crown. The Committee reported in 1909 that the dangers of airships could only be proved by possessing them ourselves, and that they would prove of great value to the Navy for scouting purposes. I would like these two points to be remarked by the Committee. These recommendations were considered so impressive that the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer in introducing the Naval Estimates that year, made absolutely no mention of aircraft in his speech, whereas Lord Haldane, in introducing the Army Estimates, said this—it is a curious commentary upon the attitude taken up at that time, when Germany already possessed several extremely effective rigid airships:The whole subject is. I think, very much in its infancy. I am never alarmed when reading of the progress of other nations in this matter. No doubt we are behind. So we were in other matters."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1910, col. 1186, Vol. XIV.]We carry our minds on to 1912 when another Sub-Committee was appointed. That Sub-Committee was referred to in full detail by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division (Brigadier-General Seely) in this House when he introduced his Army Estimates, but at that time he said that the Admiralty were very carefully considering the question regarding the type of airship, and it is of interest to note that one member of the Board of Admiralty, now the First Sea Lord, Admiral Jellicoe—and it is very pleasant to mention it in this connection—was so impressed with what the Zeppelins were doing then that with the permission of the British Admiralty and through the good offices of Captain Watson, our Naval Attaché in Berlin, he managed to take several trips in 1731 Zeppelins in Berlin. Then I come to 1913, and I must refer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, then First Lord of the Admiralty. He told us first, which is of interest, that the only aircraft possessed by the Navy then were five aeroplanes and four trained pilots, and he made an apology that there should be so few pilots for so many machines. He said:It is evident that the time has arrived when we must develop long range airships of the largest type.This was in March, 1913, one and a half years before the War broke out, and he goes on:First, a Naval Airship Section has been established arid live officers and fifty men have, by the courtesy of the War Office, been trained at Farnborough with the military airships. Secondly, two medium-sized non-rigid airships have been purchased for training and experimental purposes. One of these, the 'Astra Torres,' is almost completed, and will shortly be undergoing trials.Then he says:We also propose to enlist the services of some great British manufacturing firm in the construction of rigid airships, and negotiations are on foot which will lead to that result,In 1913 the Admiralty at last decided to enlist the services of certain reliable British firms in the construction of rigid airships. He says further:No reproaches are deserved by the Admiralty for any time that has been lost in the development of dirigible airships.And he continues:Before these vessels emerge from the experimental stage, before they become, within the restricted limits of their military action, really potent factors, we shall be provided both with the means of using the advantages which they offer and of combating the dangers which they threaten. Meanwhile, I do trust that we are not going to have any silly panic language used about the dangers we are supposed to run. If war breaks out to-morrow, foreign airships no doubt might do a certain amount of mischief and damage before they got smashed up, which would not be very long, but it is foolish to suppose that in their present stage of development, they could produce results which would decisively influence the course of events. The hon. Gentleman opposite made our flesh creep the other night by suggesting the dropping of bombs from airships on the House of Commons. If that event should happen I am confident that the "Members of this House would gladly embrace the opportunity of sharing the perils which the soldiers and the sailors have to meet,"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1913, cols. 1775–6, Vol. L.]Incidentally I may mention that since I spoke on that occasion an offer was made to me of a trip in the autumn on one of the airships when completed. When the rigids which I referred to were ordered I find that one was to be made at Vickers' and one at Armstrong's. Just before the War the Armstrong rigid was cancelled, and in February, 1915, six months after the War broke out, the order for the Vickers 1732 machine was cancelled on the direct instruction of the right hon. Member for Dundee. There was very good reason at that time for cancelling that airship; Messrs. Vickers did not feel disposed, very properly, to deal with an experimental machine at a lime when the whole of their energies were required to turn out things immediately wanted for the purposes of the War. What I do complain of is the delay which took place from 1909 to 1915, when we had not a single airship in the air. Then there came the Zeppelin attacks, and the knowledge that all the movements of our ships at sea were being transmitted by airships to the German Admiralty. Again, the matter was reconsidered in June, 1915, four months later, and a small programme of rigids was decided on, and on the day following that decision Messrs. Vickers recommenced their work on the ship. I do not propose to carry the history any further or I might give something away which would be unfair. I have made a statement as to the delay which existed from 1909 to 1915. In that period we had no airship, but now at least we have crews being trained in rigid airships, and there is a programme which gives something in the way of defence; but it is a misfortune that in the whole of that time there should have been contradiction, reversal, and mutation in the orders given.
It is a pleasure to turn to non-rigid construction, and I suppose that none of the combatants are so successful in developing small flying ships as the officers of the Royal Naval Air Service. That does not include the development of the rigid type, but they are dealing in a most effective way with a smaller class of vessel. I will now deal with two difficulties that arose between the two Air Services, one being concerned with aeroplanes and the other with seaplanes. A considerable time ago, getting on for a year, the Admiralty ordered a certain large type of bomb carrier which were notoriously slow in use. When they had been in use for a considerable time it was found that this particular type became slower, and so an endeavour was made to improve its speed. A large series of stream-line wires were ordered with a view to giving this particular type an extra speed of four to six miles more—£80 per set—and the total cost was £6,400. No sooner were the wires made than, to use the Admiralty term—I do not know on what theory it is used—the series 1733 was deleted, and the £6,400 was thrown away. Some, were handed over to the Royal Flying Corps, who burned the planes and took out the engines. I want to know whether the control which will be vested in the Air Board will apply to such matters as that to which I have referred, and which are not only detrimental to the Service, but costly to the country, which wants every penny it can get for much more vital purposes.
In the early days of the War a design for heavy gun carriers was put before the Board of Admiralty and was commented upon by a number of critics who had no knowledge of aircraft work. The design was that of a machine intended to carry a heavy but short gun to deal with the submarine menace. The design was criticised, laughed at, torn to pieces, and eventually turned down. At that time there had not been created the weight-carrying seaplanes of the dimensions effectually to deal with submarines. I was one of a large number of Members of the House who visited a certain naval air station, and I went up in one of the big seaplanes. I know that the lift of several machines has gone up to six or seven tons. Here we are to-day suffering from all the inconvenience caused by submarines, but if we had taken two and a half years ago steps to develop the seaplane which we are taking to-day we would have had a machine that would have been most advantageous in finding where the submarines were. Members of this Committee know perfectly well that it is infinitely easier to see objects in the water from a height than it is when you are upon the surface of the water. Anybody who has been in seaplanes knows perfectly well the immense value of the seaplane in looking for submarines.
Then there is the question of seaplane carriers. A year before the War broke out a well-known firm in the North prepared designs for a large seaplane carrier, and submitted these to the Admiralty, but all these designs were turned down as being absolutely unnecessary. When the War came we found that we had somehow to obtain ships adapted to the carrying of seaplanes, and we have now less than a dozen seaplane carriers in existence. I am not going into the question of the tonnage, which was largely drawn from the cross-Channel service. One of them was the "Campania," which has utterly ceased active sea work, and another the "Are 1734 Royal," the laughing stock of the Mediterranean. I do ask whether it is not about time that this matter was attended to, and dealt with on a more practical basis? This question of seaplane carriers is one of vital importance, and is one which should have been taken in hand years ago. Cases of friction arose prior to the establishment of the new Air Board. The Admiralty had recently power to bring under their control all labour and output which were essential for war purposes. In the case of the Flying Service, this power was divided between the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps, and a certain friction arises between these two wings, and it is quite possible to give instances where the Royal Naval Air Service have acted to the detriment of the Royal Flying Corps, and at another time the Royal Flying Corps have secured advantage against the Royal Naval Air Service. There are numbers of examples which could be given of this. While it cannot be suggested that the Rolls-Royce engine is the only good engine, it is certainly one of the best.
The Rolls-Royce is under the entire control of the Admiralty, and the Admiralty, out of the kindness of their heart, until a short time ago, at all events, used to allow 50 per cent, of the smaller power engines to go to the Royal Flying Corps, and two-sevenths of the higher power engines.
I would like to give hon. Members a case in which the Rolls-Royce engines were kept waiting for the Royal Naval Air Service, while the Royal Flying Corps was badly wanting engines to fit to aeroplanes which they had ready. I submit that engines should be regarded as for the purposes of the Air Service as a whole. This, then, is an example of which I have personal knowledge. There were orders to two factories to build aeroplanes, one series for the Royal Naval Air Service and the other for the Royal Flying Corps. The factory for the Royal Flying Corps had its planes completed long before the other factory, but could not get the engines. In the case of the Royal Naval Air Service, however, they had the engines ready, but these were piled up and were not being used at the very time that the factory working for the Royal Flying Corps wanted those engines. I should like to know to what extent the right hon. Gentleman considers the Royal Naval Air 1735 Service are entitled to retain in this way Rolls-Royce engines. I can quite understand myself keeping certain spare engines in readiness for planes, but the Royal Naval Air Service did not want them at that time, and the Royal Flying Corps was waiting for engines, yet those engines were kept for many weeks waiting to be used for the Royal Naval Air Service. Then comes the case of nuts and bolts ordered for the construction of aeroplanes for the Royal Flying Corps. When the order for these goods was completed they were commandeered by the Admiralty. That is the sort of thing which is going on, and, of course, it must cause friction. Again, orders were given for tool steel, and here again the Admiralty commandeered the lot when ready. I do not say that the Admiralty did not want them or did not use them; I am quite certain they did. But, on the other hand, the matter should be looked at from the point of view of the Royal Flying Corps, and that is the way, I think, the Admiralty should look at it. We are all out for getting command of the air, but if one branch of the Service finds that the other is to take what it requires from it, then it is apparent that there must be an Air Board with powers to settle all questions of that sort. Then there is one other point—that relating to stream-line wires. A certain well-known firm in Scotland has been the only one since the War making stream-line wires, but without the slightest warning the Admiralty took it over, to the detriment of the making of a considerable number of machines for the Flying Corps.
What association is there now between the Royal Naval Air Service and the Air Board? If we could have had a wide Debate on this subject and a day when the salaries of the members of the Air Board could have been discussed, it would have been infinitely easier to bring in the two branches of the Service representing the flying services of this country as part of the Air Board. I have to reverse the process and get at the Air Board through the Royal Naval Air Service, owing to the fact that we are discussing a Navy Vote. There was a time when, shall we say, the members of the Admiralty and the Air Board did not see quite eye to eye. There was a certain instance I know of where the Admiralty ordered material for aircraft to the extent of a little under three millions of money for general aircraft work. The Committee will realise that you could not place orders in this country 1736 for three millions pounds of work without a certain amount of disorganisation going on. Why I mention this is because the Air Board only heard of that accidentally, and the Royal Flying Corps only heard of it through the trade; There was no communication to the makers of aircraft machinery, aeroplanes, etc., and yet they suddenly found that their output must be restricted or congested. My point is that this was done without consultation by the Royal Naval Air Service. Nothing would please me better than to be told now that that is all gone, and that such a thing could not happen in the future, and that the members of the Air Board would be able to prevent such a thing being done, and, in effect, that the representatives of the Navy and of the Army and of the Ministry of Munitions will all be consulted prior to any general upset of the trade.
We then come to lather more picturesque examples of Admiralty administration. I have got one example at which I was present myself and made inquiries on the spot. Another one was where a Zeppelin hovered over an East Coast town for twenty-five minutes, and nothing in the way of an attack took place. It was discovered afterwards that there were but two pilots there and four "dud" machines, to use a word which is very well understood. The other one, of which I was a witness myself, was where a Zeppelin came to a well-known coast dockyard town, quite unexpectedly it must be added, and did no damage. It was consequently not much reported. It is curious to know that the military officer in charge, who should have been the one to set the wires going for attack on this airship, was never called at all, and the naval officer who took the initiative, perfectly properly under the circumstances, was hauled over the coals for going over the head of his senior. One aeroplane went up, and by that time the Zeppelin was reported seventy miles away. Then we had another instance at Cranwell. It may be asked why I bring up these incidents at all. In the first place, I do so because we have not had a general Debate on this question, and the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that hundreds of people know of these things and that they cannot be kept secret. At Cranwell no warning was given. It was said that bombs were heard exploded and that it was taken to be night gun-practice. Then there was the case of a 1737 pilot of the Royal Flying Corps who was sent down from Adastral House to Brook-lands. Going round the sheds there he saw a machine being hurriedly covered up with tarpaulin, and was told it was a new design for the Royal Naval Air Service, and "they were hanged if he would see the stunts they were putting into it." After all, we are out to win this war, and I should have thought that the very first thing the designers of that new machine would have wished would have been to hand over any new idea for incorporation, if worth while, in the machines ordered and designed for the Royal Flying Corps. If you have two flying services criticising one another and running, not on parallel, but on diverging lines, you can scarcely expect that loyalty and intercommunication which is necessary. Two months before Christmas there was a difference of £40 in the fee paid for the training of pilots, between those trained for the Royal Flying Corps and those trained for the Royal Naval Air Service, and that, despite the fact that training in these days leads to many hundred per cent, more smashes than ever it did in the old days, when men largely flew for sport.
Some of these cases may seem a little petty, but I do not think they are, in the light of the line of criticism adopted. These are only eight or ten of many scores of similar examples which I could have given if I had spoken four or five months ago. We have now got a reconstructed Air Board, and we have got a new Government. We hope much from both. I shall be glad to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary how he is going to start his vast new domain. It would be interesting for us to learn whether the whole staff is to be transferred from Adastral House, if the offices are large enough, or is the work too large for the home he has now got. It would be interesting also to know to what extent the staff of the Royal Naval Air Service are being transferred from the Admiralty. If we are to get entirely united services we ought to have them under one roof and under one master. There is no doubt that as far as the Royal Naval Air Service is concerned it was the Cinderella of the Admiralty. They did not like the airship coming in, objected to it, did not believe in it, and said so bluntly. There were men who were perfectly capable of taking charge of the Royal Naval Air Service quite by itself, but they were controlled by senior men who never had anything to do with 1738 the air. Men were placed in control who had to change their whole ideas and take charge of something they did not understand. It was a very rare thing to find a man suited for his job, and if you did the chances were that he had been selected because of some entirely unnecessary qualifications he did not possess. If the best man were only twenty-five years of age I would have given him the job. That was not the attitude adopted by the Board of Admiralty.
I believe that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty will find immense relief when the whole of this service is taken out of his hands and placed in charge of the Air Board. It is not the Admiralty's job. Under the now scheme, as far as I have been able to grasp it, it is proposed to divide the experimental and inventions staff, and for some time at least the Admiralty intend to retain the command of the airships. I stand open to correction on that point, but let us see what that means if it is so. The analogy of the submarines is advanced as a very good argument, but I see none whatever. The submarine cannot get out of the water and an airship can go as much over land as over water. I wish to know whether they are prepared to hand over the whole thing—lock, stock, and barrel—so that we may see in the combination of the Royal Flying Corps and of the Royal Naval Air Service the genesis of our central Air Service. There are a number of other points, but I think I have taken the matter far enough, and I do not think that anybody who has taken an interest in this matter will deny that these services have now become so large that they ought to be treated as a new and altogether independent service. We want it to be taken out of the hands of those officers, from whom we cannot expect the same enthusiasm in the new developments of these services as from the younger men, who have a full appreciation of what it means to the country. We are likely to see the expenditure after the War as large upon air services as was spent in pre-war times upon our Navy and upon our Army. It seems a perfectly fatuous thing that we should have that expenditure split up, and that we should have to arrange Debates in this difficult manner, for I can assure the Committee it is not an easy thing to keep within the subject before us. Obviously we must come to the time when the Air Service 1739 will stand by itself. The Board of Admiralty have got ample to do in carrying on the sea work of the War. Let them look after their job, and let the Army look after its job, and let the Air Board tackle the Air Service. I do not suggest that the Air Board should dictate in matters of strategy and tactics as to what the Naval share of the Air Service is to do or as to what the Army share of the Air Service is to do. Those are matters for the experts in that particular line. But at least let us concentrate the control, the administration, the early days of education, and the ordering in one department. I feel sure that if we do we shall get more interrelation and combined effort, and a big advance on what has taken place in the past.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think, before we proceed further, it would be as well if I intimated to the Committee how far the subject of the Air Services is relevant to the Navy Votes. I understand that there is to be a separate Vote in the Estimates for next year for the Air Board which was set up by legislation at the end of last year. Therefore that is the occasion for any general discussion of the administrative work of the Air Board. It was, of course, quite in order to ask, as the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Burgoyne) has asked, how far the Navy has handed over, or proposes to hand over, functions which it previously exercised to the Air Board. To that extent only, I think, the Debate on this subject can proceed.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
I will reply at once to the very interesting and highly-informed speech of my hon. and gallant Friend, as to the tone and temper and spirit of which no possible exception could be taken. As regards the Air Board, apart from the proscription to which you, Mr. Whitley, have called attention, my hon. and gallant Friend knows that the constitution of that Board was set forth by an Order in Council of 6th February, and of course he knows also that in the Press the next day there appeared a statement which gave the personnel of the Board. I was very glad to hear his reference to the Fifth Sea Lord and the confidence which he rightly felt in him. To the Fifth Sea Lord is assigned the general responsibility for the administration of business re- 1740 lating to the Air Service, and he represents the Board of Admiralty upon the Air Board, and also undertakes the immediate supervision of the Air Department in his capacity of Director of Air Services. In that capacity he is responsible for the efficient performance of the duties of the Air Department, and as long as he remains with us he follows, of course, the financial and other rules laid down for the conduct of Admiralty business. Either in person or by a deputy, it is his business to arrange visits to the various air stations with a view to taking care that the technical training of the personnel is being carried out as it should be, and that the station is efficiently organised and equipped for thoroughly efficient service. As Director of Air Services, he communicates direct with the Air Board, the Directorate of Military Aeronautics at the War Office, and the Ministry of Munitions. In those circumstances, my hon, and gallant Friend will see that in the person of the Fifth Sea Lord and Director of Air Services we have the most complete assurance that there will be all necessary cooperation and co-ordination between claims which otherwise might presumably be competitive. I need not, I think, go into the history of the airships.
As far as I have listened the hon. And gallant Gentleman reported it quite accurately, I think, and a good deal of it is, of course, past, history. All possible progress is being made, and I think I may fairly say actively made, along the lines which until we come to the end of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech, I am quite sure he would wish. My hon. and gallant Friend made a charge of hoarding material on the part of the Admiralty—hoarding engines, nuts, bolts, tools, steel, and so on. Certainly that is not correct to-day, and I am emphatically assured that there is the most complete co-ordination, good will, and co-operation between the two arms of the Service. And so there ought to be. This is no time to be fighting battles on the White hall front. The front is in other directions, and there is full scope——
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I was saying that there is full scope on the other fronts for all possible activity and energy. As regards the last proposition of my hon. and gallant Friend as to handing over to the 1741 Air Board the whole question, not only of the supply of material and so forth, but of the personnel, I rather gathered from his comments that he had in mind at any rate a common training from the early stages, and then ultimate specialisation—after the common training of the personnel given under the Air Board—specialisation either by joining the Royal Naval Air Service on the one hand, or the Royal Flying Corps on the other. He called our attention also to the future developments of war in the air, and the place which it may possibly fill in relation to war on land and sea. That is an extremely enticing field even for a person with no very vivid imagination, and undoubtedly it is stimulated by the rapid and striking advances which the last two or three years, and even the last few months, have seen in the matter of aeronautics. It was on the 25th July, 1909, that M. Bleriot startled the world by flying across the English Channel, and that is less than eight years ago. I very well remember how the newspapers were full of it. But already that feat is a commonplace, and does not even command a paragraph in the papers, which fact itself is an illumination of the rapid advances which have been made; while I have no doubt that the possibilities of warfare in this third element are hardly yet realised. As I say, the theme is very enticing. But I say also that what we have to do to-day is to apply ourselves for all we are worth to the successful prosecution of this War.
To that end we need to set this Service into its right place. My hon. and gallant Friend would hand all training establishments to the Air Board. He had in mind, I think, tile idea of having a common training in the early stages and specialising afterwards. But I think you could not possibly dissect that part of the training establishment of the Royal Naval Air Service, which might fairly be called elementary, even if there were no other reason, and hand that over. It could not be done. It would mean dislocation, and it would be putting the thing into the melting-pot; and I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman would agree with me that this is not the time to do that. I am not sure that his proposition of specialisation after a common entry and elementary training for the two arms, the Royal Flying Corps and the Naval Air Service, is in this case possible. I will not dogmatise. But for the immediate 1742 prosecution of the War, using this warfare in the new element to the utmost advantage and exercising all possible expedition in our development of it, I do not think we can entertain the proposition that the personnel should, either in its early stages or entirely, be handed over at the present time to the Air Board. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, I very well remember, in a debate on 17th May last year, summed up all our debates and all the many views on the whole matter in a very striking way, if I may say so, in four simple words. They were: Speed up without interruption." That seems to me to be our duty at the present time, and therefore I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend's proposal can be entertained. It does not help. It would mean dislocation and interruption, and it does not help the prosecution of the War at the present moment. For the rest, I was very interested to hear his many comments, and I can assure him that he may have the most complete confidence that there is thorough co-ordination and unity of purpose and aim between those responsible for the two arms of this Service at the present time.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I will not intervene for more than a single moment, and I do not propose to continue further the very important subject raised by my hon. and gallant Friend opposite. But I would like to take advantage of this opportunity of asking for a little further information than has yet been given us with regard to one or two important points connected with the administration of the Navy. I join most cordially with hon. Members who have paid compliments to the present First Lord of the Admiralty for the frank statement which he gave us the other day. There were many things which, were left unsaid, but I think we can say that he took this House and the nation more into the confidence of the Government than any previous First Lord has done. For that we are supremely thankful. But I would like to ask my right hon. Friend if he could throw a little more light on one or two subjects which were then touched upon. I would like here to say that I think we ought also to keep in mind that the present First Lord of the Admiralty is not responsible for the administration of the Admiralty previous to the new Government corning into power, and therefore I think he is only called upon to answer for his acts since he assumed office. I would 1743 like, therefore, to ask, with regard to his statement the other day on the submarine question, in relation to the forty encounters which we have had with enemy submarines during a specified period, whether that meant that destroyers had had encounters, or did he include in that estimate our merchant ships? I think it will be of some importance for us to know. Did "encounter" mean, for example, that a submarine may have run ashore? Do the forty encounters mean that our destroyers were in direct touch with enemy submarines in forty cases?
I would like to ask my right hon. Friend, also, if he can offer any explanation to this House as to the delay which has taken place in the arming of our merchant ships? He told us the other day that in eases where our mercantile marine are armed—indeed, we have known it for the last year privately; the Press have been told it all the last year, but this is the first time it has been stated in this House or published in any way that in the case of merchant ships being armed the percentage of losses is very much lower than where the ships are unarmed. I think, so far as I recollect the statement made by the late First Lord many months ago, about 20 per cent, of casualties occurred to those unarmed; therefore that is a very important matter. I want to put a question to my right hon. Friend which I hope he will be able to answer. What the man in the street cannot understand, after all the money which the Admiralty has spent, after all the men voted, after everything that the people of the community has done in response to the appeals of the Government, why it is that, two and a half years after the War commenced all our merchant ships are not armed, or have not been armed some time ago? It would give great satisfaction if we could really have an explanation of this matter.
I see the reason suggested is that there was an outcry about the Zeppelins, and that therefore all the guns we had to spare were devoted to them. I venture to think that my right hon. Friend will not put that plea forward! What we ask is, why it is that the first Naval Power in the world, two and a half years after the War commenced, are rushing about to get guns for our merchant ships? If there is any explanation to be offered I should like to know it. Or is it a case of pure neglect on the part of somebody? We have had many statements made in 1744 the course of debate. I should like to ask whether my right hon. Friend can give any information to the House as to why we are not more prepared to-day than we are to deal with enemy submarines? Why is it? We are told to-day that millions are being spent on inventions to deal with enemy submarines—this in connection with inventions which were turned down before the War, and have since been turned down periodically. I assert that the majority of things put before us to-day are things that have been turned down for the last, two and a half years, and I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is not the case—indeed, we know it is the case—that six months previous to the outbreak of the War the Admiralty and the Government were informed on the highest naval authority that not only ships should be armed, but that immediate provision should be made to deal with the whole question of enemy submarines. Is there any explanation why, with all our wealth of resources, we have not been more fully prepared than we have been? Everyone is prepared to make allowance for the first six months or year, and it may be longer, but to say at the present time that the naval men are just beginning seriously to think of this matter—because that is what I understand the statement of the First Lord the other day to mean—sounds strange. I do not say that the subject has not been under consideration by various Boards of Admiralty. My right hon. Friend has, I know, been devoting his time to the matter, and probably he will be able to tell us something. Put we must judge by results!
What are the results at the present time? That there is a tremendous, a feverish, anxiety to prepare against the submarines. I assert that had the Government and the higher authorities made proper use of the inventions put before them, and the advice given to them, there ought never to have been a submarine difficulty at all, and consequently no food crisis. I want to ask a little information about the Board of Inventions. Lord Fisher is Chairman of that Board. There seems to be a difficulty of understanding whether the Admiralty and the Navy are going to apply to Lord Fisher for his ideas in regard to inventions which may deal with the submarines, and many other important naval matters, or whether Lord Fisher's Committee is to communicate with the Admiralty at Whitehall. I hope 1745 there will be no delay, because of the order of their going in this respect. I think the public are getting nearly tired of these personal discussions which are taking place. At the same time, it is getting almost disgusting, I think, in view of the great and important crisis through which we are passing. I have my own views—and they are very strong—in regard to the personal matters which have been raised to-day. For my part, however, I am going to be no party to continuing these personal matters, in view of the graver questions we have to consider. I want to ask, therefore, whether the Board of Inventions presents an annual Report. It seems to me that the Board, which we have set up since the War began to deal with these very important matters, ought to present a Report to Parliament. Has one been prepared? Has the Admiralty had an annual Report? It ought to be a quarterly Report. Will these Reports be available for Members of this House? If they are not I hope my right hon. Friend will give the matter his attention and see if we cannot have some indication of what the Board is doing. As I understand it the Board must be costing a very considerable amount of money. I am not complaining of that. I am speaking in complete ignorance as to the amount spent. I understand the members of the Board are paid. I should like some information upon that point. The House, I think, ought to have been given some kind of information by my right hon. Friend as to how the money is being spent, and as to what may be the result of the operations.
I do not know whether we might ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can explain the tender manner in which Zeebrugge has been dealt with during the last year; why for many months at a time, naval airmen were prevented from making a general air attack, and what was the cause of the delay? That also would be information valuable to the public. Why also was there no naval attack for twelve or eighteen months on Zeebrugge. My opinion is that our naval men would have been much better employed there than they were in the unfortunate Dardanelles expedition. One of the most important questions we might discuss, so far as policy is concerned, relates to Salonika. We are entitled to ask, when we are voting wages to the men in the Navy, that the representative of the Admiralty should explain as to the extent he proposes to employ the 1746 men for whom we are voting salaries in transports for Salonika. This is a matter which is pertinant to the Vote. I would say, as a supporter of the Government, the sooner they take the people of this country more into their confidence than they have in regard to Salonika, and all connected with it, the stronger will be the Government. My right hon. Friend cannot be expected without notice to give any statement on this point, but I beg of him to bring the suggestion before the notice of the proper authority. There is only one point more upon which I should like to a little information. It was suggested to me by the speech of ray right hon. Friend who has just sat down. In it he said that "The War was not being carried on from the Whitehall front." That was a most excellent phrase, for which I thank him. I am glad to think that that is so. But I would ask him to give us any information he can as to the number of young men who are entrenched at the present time not very far away from the Whitehall front. My right hon. Friend will agree that in the Return that we had some time ago the Admiralty and the Treasury were the worst offenders in this respect. I trust he will be able to tell us how many young men, under thirty years of age, are being employed, and how many he hopes to relieve within the next two or three months. So far as I am concerned the First Lord of the Admiralty gave an assurance that he personally was going to look into the whole matter. I was perfectly satisfied with that assurance, because I was sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman would bring a fair and just mind to the consideration of the question.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel) asked a question about the Board of Inventions and Research. I also asked a question the other day about that that Board. What I want to know now is whether the Board of Inventions and Research not only hand over completed inventions to the Anti-Submarine Department, but whether they also hand over inventions which are submitted to them without regard to what the Board of Inventions and Research think about them? From my information the Board of Inventions and Research do not hand over these things until they have perfected them. I think that is very inadvisable, because the young submarine officers who constitute the Anti-Submarine Department are the 1747 very best qualified men in the world to deal with anti-submarine warfare, and therefore they ought to have every idea submitted to them at once. What makes one more anxious in regard to the Board of Inventions and Research is the very remarkable reference which the First Lord of the Admiralty made a few days ago. He said that he could not imagine that Lord Fisher had not also given ungrudgingly of his abilities and services in trying to solve a problem at this time which strikes at the very existence of this country. A good many other people are asking that question because it has been industriously put about that Lord Fisher has a plan. It he had a plan he was put upon the Committee as Chairman to devise plans which to a great extent were to lay the submarine menace, and the country would naturally expect him to submit that plan to the Board of Admiralty in order that they might judge whether or not it was a good plan. Otherwise, if a plan is not submitted, it would be a reasonable inference that this secret plan is all humbug. Like the secret of Madame Humbert's safe, it really does not exist!
I do not wish to refer again to any of the subjects to which I drew attention the other day when Mr. Speaker was in the Chair, but I wish to raise a few further questions. The First Lord of the Admiralty is a man, as we all know, of great strength of character, and able to hold his own with the other Departments. He is also accessible and has sympathy, qualities which may go far, and will I am sure go far, towards restoring that comradeship between the Departments which ought to have existed throughout the whole of the War. He has already by his reforms in regard to the administration of the Air Service done much to restore the comradeship between the Naval and Military Air Services. I think he could show towards the Shipping Controller, on the part of the Navy, a very much greater degree of comradeship than there is at present. My own belief is that there are numbers of ships of which the Navy has got hold and which it is retaining simply and solely because they are useful. The Shipping Controller is asking for ships because they are vital to bring supplies to this country. What the First Lord of the Admiralty must ask of his advisers when he looks round is, "Are these ships required for vital purposes or are they not?" If they are required merely for utility purposes, 1748 he at once will say, "There is another Department which wants them for the vital purpose of bringing supplies to this country."
I will give my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Admiralty a concrete instance. There are a number of ships around these Islands which are used as stationary hospital ships—not as transport hospital ships. I am informed on trustworthy authority that there are three in Scapa Flow. If the First Lord of the Admiralty goes to his advisers and asks if these three ships are required for vital purposes, or for nothing more than useful purposes, they could not possibly reply other than in the second sense. The obvious alternative, then, is to build huts on shore, as the military have built huts for hospitals. Straight away, then, you will release the services of those hospital ships for the service I have mentioned. That is one direction in which the Admiralty can show a spirit of comradeship towards another great Department of the State. Now there are directions in which the Treasury are not manifesting proper comradeship towards the Navy. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill) made his famous apologia in this House on quitting office, he congratulated himself and Lord Fisher on having been free from Treasury control with regard to the great output of shipbuilding for which they were responsible, and for which in many directions the country is greatly indebted. But Treasury control is still manifested in regard to a much more important thing than material, and that is brains. If the Chief of the Staff or the Director of Naval Intelligence wishes to get the services of some special naval officer, or even a civilian who is temporarily an officer of the Navy, the Admiralty has to go to the Treasury for permission. In these days when sweepstakes are encouraged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and I think rightly encouraged—I would be prepared to make any bet that was considered fair that it takes a very long time indeed to get sanction for a naval officer's services from the Treasury.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think the hon. and gallant Member is wrong there. Immediately war broke out, an Emergency Standing Committee was set up, between ourselves and the Treasury, and official sanction was given to us day by day and hour by hour in the ease of urgent matters. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman is 1749 referring to the ancient practice of getting Treasury sanction, he is right. But from the beginning of the War we set up a system under which we go to the Treasury hourly, and the delay to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring does not exist.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I cannot agree with my right hon. Friend. Will he state to the House now that the Chief of the War Staff or the Director of Naval Intelligence has never had to wait during this War, and recently, any length of time if he applied for the services of a naval officer whom he thought useful, while the question is being discussed with the Treasury?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I will meet my hon. and gallant Friend quite frankly. I have got, as my right hon. Friend said, a very long experience. I could not complain seriously of the Treasury. If they have not invariably met us at once in every respect, I am bound to say they have shown a desire at all times to be expeditious, and they met us at once with the suggestion that: there should be this Emergency Committee, so that there should not be this delay. Of course, if my hon. and gallant Friend asks me to say whether there has ever been a case when the appointment of a naval officer by the Director of Naval Intelligence or War Staff has never met with a suggestion or comment, I could not say that has not been so. But I do not think it could be said that there has been very serious objection on the part of the Treasury, or waste of time in consequence of their action in these matters.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I am afraid I must stick to what I said. I am afraid the civilian element at the Admiralty pulls in too much with the Treasury. I have not only complaint of the civilian element at the Admiralty on this matter, but also in regard to control over men in the dockyards. I would submit to any reasonable demands in the way of a fine if I were to put in some cases, and it was not found that the delay which occurred is as much as three months. That is my information.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I dare say the right hon. Gentleman will have some-cases after this Debate submitted to him, 1750 in view of what he has said in speaking for the Admiralty. What I contend is that what the late Lord Salisbury said was perfectly true, namely, that the control of the Treasury regulating the great departments of war is not in the public interest. If that were true in regard to peace, it is a thousand times more true in regard to war. It is inconceivable to me that, when in regard to the brain of the Navy the heads of one of these Departments puts forward a demand for the services of a naval officer, there should be one day's delay. They constitute the brains, and they ought to be able to obtain and regulate the service of every naval officer under them. That is not the only direction in which the Treasury is standing in the way. Tile Treasury insists on a certain list being maintained and not exceeded of admirals and captains. That was the list of peace. How is the Board of Admiralty to encourage able young officers if they are not allowed to promote them beyond the usual list? At the present moment there is something like stagnation in the promotion of naval officers. To have only fifteen commanders promoted in the Inst batch, and only two batches a year, is utterly beneath what is required. I would also venture to make a fresh suggestion, in addition to those I made the other day to my right hon. Friend and the Board of Admiralty, with regard to shipping. I think night to conduct a campaign amongst merchant service officers very much like an American railway conducts the "safety-first" campaign among the staff and among the passengers. Many of these merchant service captains have never been taught what a periscope looks like. Many of them, although they have instructions given in regard to the signals, do not know the signals, and that is not their fault. It is the business of the Admiralty to teach them, and also in regard to their behaviour in convoys, supposing they part through storm from a convoy, and so forth. They have also their complaint that very often they have to pursue a fixed route, as in the Mediterranean, where, I think, the arrangements are bad, which exposes them to very much greater danger, and I hope that question will be looked into and improved. The Mediterranean has never been well run, and I hope it will be better run in the future. I know at the Admiralty they are taking steps, and I hope those steps will result in success.
1751 I listened with great interest to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. G. Lambert). If he will allow me to say so, he would do much better, in urging the claims of Lord Fisher, to remember the practice of the Roman Catholic Church, that a man is not canonized until a hundred years after his death. His speech struck me as a speech of faith, hope and charity. He has unbounded faith in Lord Fisher. Unfortunately he has not the same unbounded faith in any other sailor, not even Sir John Jellicoe. He has the hope that ho will pilot us to victory, and he has the charity to forget past mistakes and to forgive all the errors associated with the Dardanelles. He spoke of the energetic efforts of Lord Fisher, and nobody would bother about praise of Lord Fisher if it were not coupled with disparagement of everyone else. He spoke of the apathy and inertia which have existed for the past eighteen months, which corresponds with the period which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton has himself been out of the Admiralty, and he makes a demand, or what is a virtual demand, for the expulsion of the present First Lord of the Admiralty and of Sir John Jellicoe, because it must be obvious that if Lord Fisher is imposed on the Admiralty, the right hon. Gentleman, who is now First Lord of the Admiralty, will go out as well as Sir John Jellicoe. He would never submit to having Lord Fisher forced upon him by an agitation. I have been at some pains to study what has occurred in the past in reference to this matter, and let me say, in regard to what my light hon. Friend the Member for South Molton said of the gallant Admiral of the Fleet who represents Portsmouth, that there is no man who is less actuated by personal animus. He charges him with personal animus. That I do not believe for one moment. I believe the gallant Admiral of the Fleet, whatever may be thought of what he said, has the best interests of the Service at heart, and has no personal animus whatever.
I have been struck very much with this: That whenever disaster occur, as disasters must occur in every Navy in war, at once a demand is made for Lord Fisher's services. Is that fair to the Board of Admiralty? There was not one single action into which Lord Nelson went, from St. Vincent to Trafalgar, where he did not have disaster prior to victory. The 1752 strength of squadrons resided in his brain. Take Copenhagen, for instance. A quarter of his ships went aground, and were out of action before action commenced, and they never fired a shot, yet he pulled it through to complete success. If, whenever a disaster occurs, the demand is made that the present First Lord and First Sea Lord should be replaced, inevitably you lower their prestige and authority, and inevitably also their capacity for being useful to the country. Now we have a submarine crisis, and the demand is again put forward for Lord Fisher to be placed in charge. I have always recognised that we owe a great deal to Lord Fisher. We owe the introduction of oil fuel to him, and the introduction of turbine engines. He has shone as a ''materialist." On these grounds alone he is entitled to the gratitude of the country. He has also made great mistakes, and we are bound to notice them when a demand is put forward that he should be made First Sea Lord. It is paradoxical enough that his reputation depends upon one of his greatest mistakes, and that was this, that he scrapped a great number of foreign dockyards and he scrapped about 150 ships ill the year 1904. Let me illustrate what I mean when I say that was a great mistake. Of those ships which were nominally scrapped, every single one that had not been broken up, and on which the Board of Admiralty could lay their hands, has been since brought forward, commissioned into the Navy, and has been doing splendid work in different parts of the world. That is thirteen years after they were pronounced to be useless. There is not a single one of the foreign dockyards that were dismantled, there is not a single one of the foreign establishments, there is not a single one of the foreign hospitals that were dismantled which have not been revived in this War. And yet among the great statesmen of the day up to a very recent period Lord Fisher's reputation was of the very highest. His scrapping was described by the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs as "a masterly stroke of the pen," and that accounts for a good many mistakes made subsequently by Lord Fisher, because the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs so absolutely believed in the judgment of Lord Fisher in regard to material that he backed everything he did. I was wrong when I left the impression on the House—and I freely acknowledge it—that Lord Fisher ordered 1753 all those 550 patrol boats. The great bulk of them were ordered subsequently by the First Lord of the Admiralty, the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. But in doing so it was represented to him we were in a sudden submarine crisis. The submarines had suddenly appeared in the Mediterranean just prior to Lord Fisher leaving office, and he had to deal with them, and it was represented to him that these boats had the approval of Lord Fisher. He thereupon gave an order for 500, whereas Lord Fisher's order was only for fifty. But, Sir, the big issue in regard to Lord Fisher is that his five months' term of office was determined over the question of the Dardanelles. I wish to say one or two words in refer-once to that expedition. The discussion about the Dardanelles, which was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, took place in December. 1914, and about 13th January there was a Cabinet Council, at which the matter was considered. On 25th January Lord Fisher submitted a Memorandum, in which he stated, according to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, that he objected to the use of ships for bombarding purposes except in conjunction with military operations, and that was sound naval strategy in accordance with historical teaching. On 19th February commenced the great bombardment, and between that and the final bombardment no fewer than three Dreadnoughts the "Lord Nelson" and "Agamemnon" were hazarded in those operations.
If Lord Fisher meant that Memorandum of 25th January as a vital Memorandum, it was Ins duty to resign. I think even the tight hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee would freely acknowledge that if Lord Fisher had put his foot down the operations could not have taken place. I would draw the attention of the Committee to what Napoleon said to the effect that "every general who undertakes to carry out a plan he thinks bad is a criminal." On 18th March three battleships were lost, and the "Invincible" was badly injured by a mine though she was able to creep back to Malta. Then the Admiralty issued an official statement. They did not publish the naval dispatches, but issued instead one of the most extraordinary documents ever sent out to the public. They said that there was a new danger of drifting mines that would have to be prepared for. The Chinese used 1754 drifting mines, and they have constantly been used in the past. There was a three-knot current through the Dardanelles into the Mediterranean, and it was an absolute certainty that drifting mines would be used. But that was not the worst part of this document. The Admiralty stated that ample military forces were on the spot. Why disclose to the enemy five weeks in advance that it was our intention to land men? I think that showed instability of thought. On 25th April the landing took place, exactly three months after Lord Fisher's Memorandum saying that the bombardment should not be undertaken except in conjunction with the military forces. On 13th May the "Goliath" was lost by a Turkish destroyer.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
The point now being dealt with by the hon. and gallant Member does not seem to mo to relate to the Estimate before the Committee. It seems to me to be a matter that might take up the whole evening, and it does not seem to have any relation to the proposal which the Admiralty have laid before the Committee.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
What I am leading up to is that a new danger came into being just at the time Lord Fisher resigned, and that was the submarine menace. On 14th May Lord Fisher quitted office.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If the Naval Estimates before the Committee are to be utilised as an opportunity for reviewing all these past events, which happened certainly eighteen months or two years ago, it seems to me that it will be of no practical use laying them before the Committee at all if the time is to be taken up in that way. The hon. and gallant Member must come to subjects of capital interest which affects the proposals of the Admiralty now before the Committee.
§ Mr. DILLON
Is not the Vote under discussion one upon which, by long-established custom, the whole policy of the Navy can be discussed? Earlier in this discussion two hon. Members discussed this matter at great length, and they were ruled by the Chairman to be in order on this very question.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is not in order to discuss questions of policy that happened eighteen months ago under a previous Administration. If you are going 1755 to raise such questions, I do not see how you are going to deal with the matter before us in the Estimate. I do not know what ruling has been given, but that is the ruling I give now.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I wish to point out that just at the moment when Lord Fisher resigned from the Board of Admiralty the only new question which was coming into being was that of the German submarines appearing in the Mediterranean, where they are now, and hardly one had been sunk in that sea. On 14th May Lord Fisher resigned his office, and the only new factor was that of which the Admiralty had had warning in "November, 1914, that German submarines would be sent overland in parts and put together in the Adriatic. On 25th May the ''Triumph" was sunk and on 27th May the ''Majestic" was sunk, and Lord Fisher quitted his office the moment the menace came into being and left others to face a less severe manifestation of the very submarine danger with which my right hon. Friend is now called upon to deal.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
I would suggest to the hon. and gallant Member that it would be far better to wait for the Report of the, Dardanelles Commission. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why did you raise the question of Lord Fisher?"]
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I will accept the advice of my right hon Friend. Sir John Jellicoe has borne the burden and heat of the day. He has been at the helm; he is now the pilot at the Admiralty, and it is not fair play that we should come forward in this House with proposals to substitute another man for him.
§ Mr. WING
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench for sonic guarantee as to the distribution of honours to certain classes who are taking part in the War, and to which they themselves have called special attention. There is no part of the community which does not thoroughly appreciate the eulogium which has been passed upon the minesweepers, the men who have done so much towards clearing the mines in the North Sea, and who also were exceedingly successful in chasing submarines in the North Sea. I rise for the purpose not of criticising or saying anything to the Admiralty in a critical mood but rather to encourage them, because I feel that the Admiralty have quite enough critics, and what they want is a little more encouragement in 1756 regard to the great questions they have in hand. I want an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that the men now coming under the rule of the Admiralty will get proper treatment in regard to honours. I know there has been a certain distribution of honours in the way of V.C.'s and other decorations, and whilst the men have had very fair treatment as far as their pay and care of their dependants is concerned, and have very little room for complaint, still there is a feeling amongst the community in regard to what distinguishing mark you are going to grant these men who have not received these various decorations. Are they going back into the community as deep-sea or inshore fishermen without anything to show that they have really taken so important a part in this great War?
§ Mr. WING
Thank you. There is a general feeling that our deep-sea fishermen and lifeboatmen should be better cared for in the future than in the past. In regard to the late Battle of Jutland, Admiral Jellicoe, in his dispatch, made this statement, that every ship that took part in that battle exceeded in speed its past previous record, which means that every fireman was not only at his post but did his duty. I want to ask, are the honours which have been distributed amongst those who took part in that great naval battle being equally distributed, are so many going to one ship, or are there individual ratings receiving so many honours as is thought right? There is a public feeling that requires to know whether these men who have little of the glory of war who hear the giving of orders and feel the recoil of the guns, and have no idea of the scale of operations they are going through, whether they are having an equal share of the honours with those who took part in the great battles. Seeing now that the mercantile marine are so much under the control of the Government, is there any means by which the ordinary able seaman may know in the future that he took part in this great conflict in running the blockade of the U-boats and of standing at his post and doing his duty daily, or is he going to pass into civilian life without any evidence that he took part in this great combat? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be willing to give the general public some information on those three points upon which I can assure him there is a good deal of uneasiness in the public mind. These men 1757 are largely out of sight and they may be overlooked. The general public have no desire that they should be overlooked and that they should have all the honours to which they are justly entitled.
§ Mr. C. DUNCAN
I desire to deal with the question of the men in the Navy who are known as engineer-artificers. Two-thirds of them are drawn from the industrial workshops of the country, and many rise to superior and officer positions. Many of them have served their time to various trades and are thoroughly competent men before they join the Navy. I am anxious to draw attention to one or two points in connection with their pay, which, especially under existing circum stances, merit the attention of the Admiralty. Engine-room artificers start at 5s. 6d. per day, and, after a certain length of service, rise to 7s. 6d. per day. It is as long ago as 1883 that the wages of these men were fixed, and the standard rate then prevailing in London for men of the type of those who were taken into the Navy as artificers was 36s. per week. It is obvious that there has been a great and wide and ever-increasing margin between the rates of wages existing in 1883 and the wages paid since. I believe that the wages paid to-day in London would be more nearly 48s. than 36s. There are, moreover, in the engineering shops of this country an enormous number of highly-skilled men earning very much higher wages than that. Yet these men, possessing exactly the same degree of skill, and many of them probably even higher skill, start at 5s. 6d. and range up to 7s. 6d. per day as chief petty officers. The cost of living, as everybody knows, has appreciated enormously—between 80 and 90 per cent. Many of these men are married and have wives and families to look after, and it is time now that some consideration was given to this question. I am sure in the various naval engagements which have taken place these men have displayed as high a degree of heroism as any section of men in the Navy. One must remember that they are stowed away in the lower parts of the vessels, looking after the engines, the boilers, and all the rest of it, and they have not very much chance of escape if the ship is sunk. They take all these risks quite cheerfully, and they are prepared to do their duty to the best of their 1758 ability. They have always displayed the greatest possible loyalty to their King and country, and I have no hesitation in saying, seeing the difficulties that they have to face, that there is really an exceedingly good ease for the Admiralty giving some consideration to the question of their wages.
There is no need to overstate the case. The mere fact that thirty-four years have gone by since consideration was last given to the question is an indication that there is a good deal of leeway to be made up. The difficulty existing to-day must be obvious to all. A constant appeal Is made to the men in the workshops to join the Navy as artificers. Obviously it is rather a big question to put to a man, and with the wages as they exist to-day, compared with those prevailing in the workshops of the country, he cannot possibly do justice to himself and those dependent upon him. These men have every wish to do their duty to their country, and many of them are anxious to get into the Navy, but it is too much to expect that they should join as willingly as they otherwise would if the conditions in the Navy were such as to appeal to them. I desire to impress as strongly as I can upon the Admiralty the desirability of giving attention to this matter. For a number of years now the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) and myself have drawn attention to the question of the introduction of mechanicians into the Navy. These men are stokers to-day, and they are being specially trained to some extent to take the place of artificers. The artificer did not look with pleasure upon this particular move, but the scheme has been in operation now for a good many years, and, instead of continuing their opposition and resentment to the introduction of the scheme, they think if attention were given to the question of their wages that it would to a very large extent meet their particular complaint.
There is another matter with which I should like to deal, but I do not quite know whether it comes within the scope of this discussion. It is the question of the wages of the workmen in the dockyards. Many men employed in the dockyards to-day have a very keen grievance regarding existing conditions. Shortly after the outbreak of the War there were many industrial disputes in the country, and an appeal was made to the trade 1759 unions to close down these disputes and to accept a scheme whereby all these questions of difference might be laid before what is called the Committee on Production. The trade unions almost unanimously closed down all the disputes that were in existence when the War broke out. My own union had no less than twelve different industrial disputes existing at the time, and within a fortnight all of them had been closed down. All the trade unions desired to have no disputes at all, but to have the opportunity of stating their grievances to some impartial tribunal with power to come to some understanding and to give an award which should in some measure cover the question in dispute. Since then the Munitions Act has been passed, and the result, so far as the controlled firms are concerned, is that where any dispute arises between the workpeople on the one hand and the employer on the other there is a proper legal method whereby the case, whether it affects wages, conditions of labour, overtime, or any of the thousand-and-one things which are of interest to the men in the workshop can be argued out before a tribunal composed of three impartial persons appointed by the Government to take notice of and settle these disputes. The Act applies practically to all the principal firms in the country, but so far as I have been able to glean, the Admiralty take up the position that they are exempt.
I want to deal with the question of the craftsmen. There has been a considerable amount of correspondence on the matter, and the question affects many dockyards in the country. The men complain very strongly about their position. We desire to bring their case before the Committee on Production, but so far the Admiralty have stood in the way, preventing us from having the matter inquired into in a proper and businesslike way and getting a settlement. They are acting as judge and jury in their own case. I am quite prepared to admit that the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty does his best to give fair and reasonable consideration to these matters, and he has shown not only a willingness, but an agreeability to meet me on many of these questions with satisfaction both to the men and I hope to the Admiralty. There are some questions upon which, however, we fail to agree. I want to suggest to him and to the Admiralty 1760 that wherever a legitimate difference exists it should be allowed to go before the Committee on Production, to give the men an opportunity of stating their case, and that, after all, is all that they ask. It may be that they will succeed and it may be that they will fail. If it succeeds, all right. If it is a failure, at any rate they will know that everything has been done to state their case in a fair and reasonable manner, and they will have no complaint to lay to the charge of the Admiralty. I have put several questions in the House on this matter, some of them to the late Prime Minister, and I am rather inclined to think his view was that these matters really ought to come before the Committee on Production. I may say, further, that recently a tribunal was set up which we had anticipated would cover the cases of a considerable number of these workmen in the Royal dockyards, but we find that a certain limitation has been imposed; it is only to apply to men in clerical employment.
If the Munitions Act is not acceptable to the Admiralty, some tribunal should be set up to deal with these cases. At one time there was an arrangement whereby these men were entitled to send in petitions annually. I agree it would be very difficult in these strenuous times to go through the whole business in connection with the hundreds of petitions that are sent to the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty. It would be too great a strain upon his time for him to inquire into all these matters. If the questions could be sent to the Committee on Production it would save him an enormous amount of work, and at the same time it would afford great satisfaction to the men. It would get rid of an enormous number of what may appear to be trifling complaints, and it certainly would provide a way out of the existing impasse. These men feel that they are labouring under very great difficulties indeed. They keep sending complaints to their respective trade unions. Some of these questions have been banging on for eighteen months or more, but I see no way out of the difficulty so long as the Admiralty prevent them using the Munitions Act to bring them to a settlement.
After all, it is not quite fair to these men that the Admiralty should take every advantage of the Munitions Act in this sense. Under the Munitions Act a man cannot leave his employment, although 1761 many of them could easily get far higher wages in private employ. But they cannot leave their unemployment under the Admiralty unless they are content to remain out of work for six weeks, and even then they might have considerable difficulty in securing re-employment if the employer found out what had transpired. It is not quite the right thing, therefore, that the Admiralty should seize all these advantages conferred by the Munitions Act and at the same time deny to their men in the dockyards the only privilege which the Act would confer upon them, of stating their grievances before a Committee which has been specially appointed by the Government for the purpose. At present the Admiralty has it both ways, whereas it is only right and reasonable that each side should have the same chance when questions affecting wages and conditions of labour arise.
I think I have said sufficient to indicate there is a very real grievance in this matter, and I trust that the Financial Secretary may be able to give us some assurance that a way will be found out of the difficulty, whether by bringing workmen in the Royal dockyards under the Munitions Act or by creating some special tribunal to which their grievances can be submitted. It matters not which, so long as there is a method whereby men with grievances can secure some kind of remedy. They would appreciate that very highly. No one will deny to-day that these men have, during the whole of this War, worked all possible hours. They have worked without the slightest stoppage of labour, they have worked unending overtime, and they have been a real credit to the nation and to the dockyard. Workmen in private employ have a direct and speedy remedy for their grievances. The men in the Royal dockyards have practically none. I trust, therefore, some attention will be given to this question, and I assure the right hon. Gentleman if a remedy is found he will earn the thanks of the men in the Royal dockyards, who, after all, only desire fair and reasonable treatment.
Mr. SHIRLEY BENN
I do not intend to pass under review the deeds of the Royal Navy, or to criticise the action of the Admiralty, but I wish to support the remarks of the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Wing), who pointed out that our fishermen and short-voyage men have done marvellous work during the War. I am confi- 1762 dent that, without their aid, the Navy would never have achieved the success which has attended its operations. I hope the Admiralty will see that, in the days to come, these men receive proper recognition of their great services to the country. I often wonder whether or not the Admiralty does take care to see that their men do get proper recognition. One has only to remember the four great sea fights, the one off Heligoland, the battle of the Falkland Islands, the cruiser fight in the North Sea, and the Jutland Bank fight, and one cannot help wondering whether proper recognition has been given to the men who fought those battles. Remember that each ship is a unit in itself; one might describe it as equal to a battalion. Certain honours are given, but are the men's actions properly recognised? Take the Falkland Islands battle. I have a photograph of the "Invincible" steaming into action. What recognition was given to her crew? Or taking the battle of Jutland Bank. What recognition was given to the crew of the "New Zealand"? I put these points to the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty in the hope that he will give them due consideration and see that proper honours are awarded to these men.
The second point I want to raise is in regard to the building of standardised ships. I have always been heartily in favour of building these ships, but I want to know are they being provided with proper platforms for guns? Are they being built so that they will be able to defend themselves? Or are you going to leave the provision of defensive arrangements until after the ships have been built? Our merchant ships in the olden times used to be armed, and the captains were always told to defend them. I have statistics showing the number of guns on our ships in the first year for which there is a list given, in 1701. England and Wales then had 3,281 ships, with a tonnage of 261,000 tons, carrying 27,196 men, and 5,660 guns. In those days it was considered the proper thing for our merchant ships to defend themselves if attacked by an enemy. I hope the Admiralty will go on building the ships, taking care that they are fitted for armed defence at once instead of leaving that as a matter of subsequent arrangement. I asked a friend of mine, one of the ablest masters of tramp steamers, what he thought of the standardised ships. He replied, "I have been arguing in favour of that for years, and I 1763 made the remark when the Ford cars came out that if we could only standardise our ships it would have the same effect on the tramp carriers of the world as the Ford cars have had on the American motor industry—which they have revolutionised." I hope the Admiralty will build as many standardised ships as they possibly can.
§ Mr. HOHLER
It is very difficult indeed to adequately express one's admiration for the conduct of our Navy. We do not know much of what the Admiralty is doing, but we do believe it is doing everything that is needful in this great crisis. I confess, however, I should like to hear more about our Naval Air Service, and as to the nature of the work it does. Is it doing service on land, or is it confined entirely to service at sea? From time to time it breaks out, for instance it has recently made a useful raid on Bruges, but otherwise we hear nothing about it, except that there is considerable expense attached to it. I should like a little information about its proper sphere of action. I know there has been an improvement in regard to certain abuses to which I called attention a year ago, but there are other matters which call for inquiry, and one is as to whether the officers, or the temporary officers, of the Royal Naval Service are carrying on their work in that service at the same time as they are engaged in their other business, and if the country really gets value for the money it is spending? I would ask the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty to look further into this matter to see if the money is being well spent.
I wish to say a few words in regard to the men of the Royal Navy, and especially on behalf of those who have been recalled to the Service while enjoying their naval pension. Has the Admiralty yet devised any scheme by which these men are to get additional remuneration? There are two classes of men concerned. There is the class who have completed their period of long service—twenty years—and who have been retained in the Service under existing Acts of Parliament, or by the Act passed in 1915, and then there are the men who have already retired and have been called back. Pension has always been considered part of a man's pay, although it is deferred until the termination of his service. Take the case of a chief petty officer who has retired on a pension of 3s a day. He has been called back to the 1764 Service. His pay is 5s. 6d., but if you deduct the pension which he has already earned and which he was enjoying, then he is only getting 2s. 6d. There, I think, he suffers a grievous injustice, and it is rendered the more unjust for this reason: that in the case of men in the Civil Service who have joined the Army or Navy, with the consent of the heads of their Departments or have been called up—you give them the difference between their civil pay and their military or naval pay, as the case may be. Why do we differentiate as against men of our Navy who ought to be drawing pensions? It is obvious that these men are entitled to pensions. In some cases they have earned one of 3s. a day, yet when they are called up that pension is lost to them, although it is money earned. They may lose their lives. They are risking their lives in a magnificent way, for which we are so greatly indebted to them, yet all they get by way of a pension is 2s. 6d. or 3s. That is entirely wrong. The miserable additional pay of 2d. a day, or some ridiculous sum, might have been adequate fifty or a 100 years ago, but it is quite out of proportion today. I trust that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty is going to do something for those men who are still serving, although they are entitled to a pension.
Another class of men about whom I wish to speak are the petty officers. I do not hesitate to say, nobody will deny it, that the potty officers and chief petty officers are really the backbone of the Navy. I brought to the notice of my right hon. Friend some time ago the question whether he could not do something for the petty officers. Under existing conditions it is practically impossible for the majority of the petty officers to rise to the highest rating of chief petty officers; firstly, owing to the limited number of appointments and the very long intervals that must elapse before a man is recommended for a petty officer, and, secondly, because after becoming a petty officer, he has to go through the years of service necessary for the recommendation to chief petty officer. I suggested to my right hon. Friend some time ago that he should create a new grade of chief petty officers called "chief petty officers, second grade." That would improve the prospects and position of these men. I should like to know whether the matter is still under consideration, and whether there is a prospect of some- 1765 thing being given to this magnificent body of men. My hon. Friend below me (Mr. C. Duncan) referred to engine room artificers, chief artificers, and artificer engineers. I shall not repeat what he said, because I concur in his remarks. But there is another branch of men in the Navy who deserve some consideration at the hands of the Admiralty, namely, the carpenters. They are really shipwrights, because they are no longer workers in wood but workers in iron, yet because of some obstinacy, for some reason unintelligible to me except that I am told that "carpenter" is the time-honoured name upon which the Admiralty still insist, they will call them carpenters when they ask to be called shipwrights. That small concession the Admiralty do not grant them. I also desire to draw attention to their pay. They receive on entry 5s. a day, and they work up by certain stated rises to 10s. a day. There is one very grave injustice from which they suffer. When they have done fifteen years service as carpenters, they automatically rise to the rank of chief carpenters. What I cannot understand is while those engaged in similar ratings—the gunner and the boatswain, and so on—have a periodical rise at the end of every five years of Is., and when a man comes to the fifteenth year of his service in that position, if in fact he is not promoted, there is still a further rise of one shilling, in the case of the carpenter who, like the others, is automatically promoted, there is no rise for him at the end of his fifteenth year of service. I contend that that is absolutely wrong. The carpenters feel it acutely. A shipwright or carpenter enters the Navy as a skilled man at his trade at 5s. a day; on the other hand, the gunner and boatswain enter at somewhere about 3s. The result of the scheme adopted by the Admiralty is that the gunner and boatswain, although they enter at 3s., ultimately rise to a rate of pay equal to that of a chief carpenter when they attain the rank of chief gunner and chief boatswain. That is an ingenious device for levelling down the carpenter, but it is quite wrong, and some consideration ought to be given to the matter.
In conclusion, I trust that the Admiralty are now alive to the great need of keeping our dockyards fully employed. It has been a matter of complaint on several occasions, and up to a time we wholly failed to get any improvement. The result was 1766 that in some dockyards that one knows the ships and plant were left absolutely unused and idle, whereas if they could have been used as they might have been, and if work done outside could have been done in the dockyards there would have been a considerable body of labour set free for building merchant ships, of which we stand in so much need. There is one matter which creates dissatisfaction in regard to which I have had complaints from various parts of the Empire. It is with regard to the men who have been called up from their dockyards and from various employments, and who, by the promise given, should have entered the establishment in the yards as and when they were recommended for it. Notwithstanding that, there are cases of men within my knowledge who have been recommended, but that promise, which I clearly understood had been made, has not been carried out. It is to be deferred. I hear constant complaints from the men that there is a want of loyalty to the promise given which creates a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest in their minds. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give me some assurance and statement on these matters.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Perhaps I may be allowed to reply to the points raised. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel) referred to the forty encounters mentioned by my right hon. Friend the First Lord in his statement on Wednesday. My right hon. Friend said:The fact that we have got to grips with them—that is submarines——forty times in eighteen days is an enormous achievement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1917, col. 1370.]My right hon. Friend asked whether that only involved destroyers or whether other craft were employed? It involved patrol craft, destroyers and merchant vessels, and was not at all confined to destroyers. Of course, the merchant vessels were acting in self-defence in those cases. My right hon. Friend also asked why the merchant vessels were not all armed long ago. I think he suggested that it was pure neglect on somebody's part. That really will not do. My right hon. Friend knows that the demand for guns on all fronts, for all sorts of purposes, was far more than could be met in such a way as to meet every demand for the quantities required.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Yes, I think my right hon. Friend is fully aware of that. To say that somebody has been guilty of neglect is quite beside the mark. With regard to defence against submarine attack, the effect of his comment was that somebody at some time or other had not been active enough in dealing with this matter. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill), in dealing with this question on the introduction of the Estimates on Wednesday last, made this comment:Many of the methods which are adopted to combat the enemy submarines, it is, of course, impossible to speak of. Some are of very early date—My right hon. Friend must not imagine that the activities of the Admiralty have begun this year——
Sir H. DALZIEL
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee was responsible?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That is perfectly true. He went on to say:some have been developed in the lime of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, for many valuable lines of inquiry were pursued in his tenure of office."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February. 1917, col. 1376.]That statement is perfectly true, and to suggest, if not in specific terms by inference, that because an Anti-Submarine Department was not established a year previously, therefore somebody has been wanting in pursuing this matter, is unfounded.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Is it true that you are now dealing with an invention that was turned down before the War and after the War?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That I cannot say. If my hon. Friend will give me notice I will make inquiries. With regard to the Board of Inventions, Lord Fisher is paid for his services and the members of the permanent staff are paid, but the Board of Technical, Scientific, and Expert Advisers, including men like Sir J. Thomson, Sir Charles Parsons, and Sir G. Beilby, are not paid. My right hon. Friend asked whether we could issue a Report of the work upon which they are engaged. That work is partly highly confidential. I gather that he wants a statement for Parliamentary purposes as to their proceedings so far as they can be disclosed, either quarterly or annually. That is a suggestion well worthy of consideration, and 1768 consideration will be given to it. I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend for calling attention to what is quite inelegantly called "combing-out," particularly in the Department in which I am associated. I want to have a few words with him on that. I understand that he made no criticism, but simply asked a question. I am very much obliged to him for doing so, because it enables me to state the facts. All the. Departments in the Admiralty on 1st November, 1915, were called upon to forward lists of their staff, divided into three classes, those classes were: first, those whose services could be spared on replacement by women' or by men ineligible for military service: second, those whose services were not absolutely indispensable but who could" not be dispensed with without serious inconvenience to the work; and third, those whose services were absolutely indispensable. We got them all classified in those three classes and made arrangements that all those in Class A should be released directly, and many of those in Class B should be also released, and that others should pass into Class A and join the Colours where it could be done, or, if it should prove that they were absolutely indispensable, they should pass down into Class C. As a result of these steps we were able to release. 640 by 1st April, 1916. That is a number equivalent to 42 per cent, of the total pre-war staff of the Admiralty, and the gradual release of men under that system went on throughout 1916 up till October, by which date it had reached 842 men.
In October, 1916, the Man-Power Distribution Board addressed a circular to all Departments asking for special steps to be taken to release as many men as possible who were fit for general military service, and who were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five. On receipt of that letter we appointed a special committee in the Admiralty over which the late Civil Lord, Lord Lytton, presided. Their duty was to review, individually, every case which fell within the area to which the Man-Power Distribution Board called out attention, and to release all who could be spared within the space of three months. The only section of the civil staff which was specially excepted from that operation consisted of trained, constructive and engineering staff, and we considered it impossible, under any circumstances, to spare men belonging to this 1769 class for military service, and certain reservations were made as regards members of the special staff handling the secret code arrangements and so on which passed between the Admiralty and the Fleet at Sea. We do not want that to pass through too many hands, and we do not want new men to be taken on to learn it. This review took place, and out of 260 men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five it was found possible to release 135, and these releases have taken place accordingly. The Committee went further. It recommended that, in anticipation of the need to consider the cases of men of thirty and under and unmarried men up to thirty-five, steps should be taken to arrange for medical examination of all men of these ages in order that when it had been ascertained which were fit for military service the question of providing suitable understudies for those for whose release it might appear possible to provide in due time might be continually kept in view, and reports of progress in that direction rendered.
Then we come to the recent order of the Director-General of National Service for the release of all men between the ages of eighteen, and twenty-two inclusive. That order affects eighty-nine men who, in the opinion of Lord Lytton's Committee, would not be released—at any rate without a considerable interval being allowed to provide for an understudy. However, we are going to do what we can to meet that, though we may have to make representations to the Director-General of National Service in regard to a certain number of men, because of the very specialised character of their work. These are the lines on which the matter has been dealt with, and the result of what has been done, as shown in actual figures, is this If I take the total civil staff, excluding messengers and cleaners, it was 1,502 on the outbreak of the War. It has increased to 5,180 at present. The number of women included in this staff was nil at the outbreak of the War and is now 1,752. The number of men released since the outbreak of the War was 640 up to 1st April, 1916, after the first review. The number was increased to 842 in October last, and after the releases arranged for as the result of Lord Lytton's review it will have reached 1,049. The number of men of military age on the outbreak of the War was 988 out of a total staff of 1,502. On 1st April, 1916, excluding medically rejected men, the number had risen to 1,417 out of a total 1770 staff of 3,918. We had reduced it to 1,192 out of a total staff of 4,688 by October, 1916, and we have now brought it down to 993 out of 5,180. We do not want to shelter anybody behind the badge of indispensability, unless he is indispensable, but very important work is done in that office, and we must have some regard to the efficiency of the work, which is highly complicated and technical. For the purely simple work in an office like ours we do our best—I mean work for which experience is not necessory—with women and boys and old men who are not fit for military service.
Let my right hon. Friend notice this very curious fact. It is suggested that you can get a capable staff quickly by merely going outside and bringing in people outside the military age. Nothing can be further from the truth. Since the War began we have entered as temporary clerks, have partly trained and have then lost the services of 1,484 men and 550 women, some of whom were probably inefficient. Lord Lytton's Committee, consisting of himself, Rear-Admiral Parry and the Assistant-Secretary to the Admiralty, made this final recommendation:That as the sole question of release or retention of men is being and must be dealt with solely with reference to the needs of the Admiralty, and without regard to the wishes of the men concerned, every opportunity should be taken in justice to these men of making the position clear to Parliament, and the public and of shielding them from the unfair attacks and insinuations which have lately been current.I strongly concur in that recommendation. We say to a man who is eating his heart out to go, "You cannot go, you must stay here." I do not want to harbour any men of military age who ought to be sent. We say to these young fellows:My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, after careful review of the needs of this Department with the object of releasing all men who can be spared to join the Army, have decided that your services cannot, be dispensed with. It is your duty therefore to remain at your post, at the Admiralty. By command of their Lordships.We ought not to say that unless those men are absolutely indispensable, but having said it, is it not a little hard that men anxious to go should be attacked, not here, not by my right hon. Friend, but in the Press as hiding in the funk-holes of Whitehall?
Sir H. DALZIEL
We were told about six months ago that all the men who could be spared had gone. My right hon. Friend tells us now that a thousand more have been allowed to go. The men are not to blame. It is the Admiralty itself.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I never said six months ago that every man who could be spared had gone. I have said we have to train others to take the places of those who can go, but these people cannot be trained at a moment's notice. Of course, we must not screen these for our own selfish ends or to make life easier for us or for the permanent Civil Service, but having determined that these men are indispensable, I say again it is rather hard lines for a young fellow, who is just as anxious to go as the men who have gone before him and who have this order in their pockets, "You cannot go; you must stop here, to be insulted, as I think, by the suggestion in print and in comic pictures that they are hiding in the funk-holes of Whitehall, and on their behalf I resent it. In order that I might say that which I have felt very strongly for some time, I am deeply obliged to my right hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity. As regards Treasury control, I do not think I could fairly criticise the Treasury for obstructing or causing delay in requests made to them. I explained earlier the system of Emergency Standing Committee, with which my right hon. Friend (Mr. McKenna) is very familiar. That has been of the utmost value to us to secure expedition, and although I do not deny that the Treasury may occasionally have sent to us and said, "Why do you not take action in regard to a particular matter?" or "Why do you not look into this more closely?" I could not, after very long experience of the matter, say that the Treasury had raised any question which involved delay which would otherwise be avoided.
References have been made to men engaged by the Admiralty on the various Fleet auxiliaries, trawlers, and fishing boats, and I have been asked whether these men will in due season be eligible for whatever decoration is awarded to men of the Fleet for gallant action at sea and whether at the end of the War they would share in the awards which would be made to men of the Navy proper. As regards decorations, these men have in the service of the Admiralty, and whatever is open to men of the Fleet will also be open to these men. As regards war medals or awards, I can only repeat the answer which I gave my hon. Friends (Sir H. Norman and Mr. Peto) a year ago:The Board of Admiralty cordially associates itself with the tribute which my hon. Friends have paid in 1772 their questions to the services rendered in the one case by the Channel packets and in the other by the ships serving as Fleet Auxiliaries and requisitioned by the Admiralty for war service. I gladly tike this opportunity also of acknowledging their inestimable value to the Empire of the services rendered by the mercantile marine generally. I need hardly assure the House that these services will be adequately recognised at the proper time"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1916, Vol. LXXX.]8.0.P.M.
With regard to the wages of engine-room artificers the pay of the men of the Fleet was increased by £337,657 a year in December, 1912. I am not going to say that they got a lot of that because they did not, but if I remember rightly, they came in for some small consideration, it that time. As regards their wages, the figures I am going to give are exclusive of extra pay, and so on. A chief petty officer of the engine-room artificer Class D gets 5s. 6d. to 7s. 6d. a day, and when he reaches the rank of warrant officer his pay is 8s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. a day. If he reaches the rank of commissioned warrant officer his pay is 11s. 6d. to 13s. 6d. a day. They have opportunities to some extent of reaching these higher commissioned positions. The hon. Member compares these men with men occupying similar posts outside. When he puts these men in juxtaposition with engineers in workshops outside he must remember that these men get rations. They get a first issue of their kits, and they get an allowance towards their kit if promoted to warrant rank. In addition, if they have long service they get a pension, which is a consideration. All these things have to be taken into account before you can compare the pay of the men in outside works tops with the total pay and emoluments of the engine-room artificer men in the Navy. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Hohler) referred to tie case of a pensioner who was detained for service during the War under war emergency conditions. I think he is slightly wrong in his facts. If the man has been discharged on pension and is called back to service the pension is not withheld from him, but he continues to enjoy it. Therefore, I think my hon. Friend is wrong. On the other hand, if the man reaches the pensionable age while he is still serving, under legislation which war emergency has made necessary, he is not discharged then, but he continues to work and does not get the pension which would otherwise be due to him at that moment, but he gets 2d. a day detained pay. He will 1773 get his pension, if ho lives, at the close of hostilities. In the meantime, he will have enjoyed his full pay.
§ Mr. HOHLER
No. Supposing his full pay is 5s. a day and his pension is 3s., he is giving his services for 2s. a day.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I accept that, but he gets his pay increased by 2d. a day, and when the time comes to get his pension the pension will be enhanced because of the service he has given. In the meantime his wife is getting separation allowance. She would not have been getting separation allowance, and he would not have been getting his pay, with 2d. a day added to it, if he had got his pension when his time expired. I do not think there is ground for complaint on the whole. I have looked into the whole matter. It seems to me that as the wife is getting separation allowance, and he is getting increased pay during the time his pension has been deferred, it is not such a bad arrangement after all.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Yes, in respect of additional service. Further, his pension is secured to him, unless, of course, he commits a very grave offence. It is assured to him for all ordinary purposes.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
It is according to scale, but I do not make very much of it. Coming now to the question of the pay and conditions in the Royal dockyards, particularly of yard craftsmen, I want to pay a tribute of sincere thanks to the men and the women in the Royal dockyards for the loyal and devoted service which they have rendered during the last thirty months. They have met all the demands made upon them with little complaint or question. They have seen set aside, because it is not physically possible to carry it out during the War, the operation of a piece of machinery which is of great importance to them. We have a system, and a very excellent system, under which the men and women can submit their petitions annually to the Board of Admiralty for an annual review of their position in regard to rates of pay, pension contributions, and the rest of it. These things have been set aside because they cannot be carried out during the War, and they have seen them 1774 set aside without complaint. I desire, on behalf of the Board of Admiralty, to pay a sincere tribute to these men and women for the way they have met us during the strain of the War. Not only have these men and women met us so well in regard to their direct personal efforts, but they have made little fuss about the setting aside of demarcation rules, or about the introduction of dilution and substitution. At the present time we have shipwrights and shipwrights employed together. We have joiners employed with shipwrights doing work which the shipwright formerly claimed as exclusively his own. We have plumbers and shipwrights doing work which the coppersmith previously regarded as comprised within the scope of his trade. In other cases we have shipwrights doing work which ordinarily is carried out by plumbers. As regards dilution, the number of women employed in the Royal dockyards before the War was about 400; to-day it is about 3,300, and we shall want more, in my judgment—many more.
The hon. Member (Mr. Duncan) seems to think that we repudiate the obligations of the Munitions of War Act. The last thing we should wish to do would be to exploit the patriotic impulse which has led these people to agree to these modifications, extensions, dilutions, and substitutions. We desire as regards the Royal dockyards and naval establishments to carry out fully in the spirit and the letter the undertaking given by the Government, with which all these war emergency changes have been accompanied. Demarcation rules, trade union restrictions, and so forth, have been set aside in order to allow semi-skilled men and women to come forward to help us in the emergency of the War. We are keeping a record of all changes in customs and practice which the emergency of the War has rendered necessary. We have fully accepted the assurances of the original Treasury agreement, and the same are now posted, for the better information of the men and women, in all our yards. As regards yard craft conditions, which is the gravamen of the charge made by the hon. Member (Mr. Duncan), I should be very glad to go through the whole conditions of the yards, I have gone into these matters with him before, with mutual advantage. I would now appeal to the Committee to give us these two Votes.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Certainly. I do not want to create the impression that we wish the men to agree to dilution, substitution, etc., and at the same time we are to set aside all sorts of assurances and protection. That is not so.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
They have been before the Committee and they got their war bonus from the Committee. As regards the details of the organisation and conditions of the yards, I shall be very glad to receive a deputation.
§ Mr. BOLAND
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has not referred to a case which I brought to his notice in regard to the wireless operators on board Admiralty ships. I know of the case of a young fellow who joined at the beginning of the War and he was posted to a ship. Since then he has not been promoted to a shore station, although he has made several applications for it, while men who have joined since he joined have been put to shore stations first. It is only fair in the case of these wireless operators that those who joined at the very beginning of the War should be given an opportunity of getting a position on shore in preference to those who joined at a later date. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into the case of these wireless operators. I am particularly interested in the matter because in my own Constituency we have one of the most important wireless colleges in the United Kingdom, where a number of young men are being trained week after week to take up this very arduous and necessary work for the Navy. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to agree that men who joined at the beginning of the War should have priority for positions at shore stations.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
My hon. Friend has communicated with me about this matter with the usual courtesy which characterises him when he has cases for consideration. The naval authorities cannot undertake to say that any man, because he has been so long afloat, shall therefore necessarily go to a shore station. The exigencies of the Service will not permit of that being done. Nevertheless, I shall be very glad if the hon. Member will come with me to the 1776 Admiralty and state his case to the naval authorities. We cannot say that sea service shall necessarily qualify for a billet ashore. If the naval authorities say that this case cannot be met in the way the hon. Member suggests, I am quite sure my hon. Friend will be perfectly satisfied with the answer which they feel bound to give.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.