§ The promotion of Commodore Tyrwhitt to the acting rank of rear-admiral marked a departure from the previous practice with regard to promotion to flag rank, which has hitherto been governed by seniority, subject to a minimum qualifying period of sea and other service. The principle involved in this promotion has been one upon which, for some centuries, the British Navy has held strong and sometimes very divided opinions. With a preponderance of opinion hitherto in favour of promotion by strict seniority it was with a grave sense of their responsibility that the Board of Admiralty unanimously decided that the conditions of War demanded a change in the procedure, involving a recommendation to the Sovereign that he should on occasion exercise his prerogative for the purpose of special promotion to flag rank. I can assure the House that the Board of Admiralty has safeguarded the power of selection which they have found it necessary to recommend His Majesty to revive, and that every possible step is being taken to guard against injustice to deserving officers, and to eliminate any possibility of favouritism in the process of selection. It is also intended that no officer selected should be confirmed in flag rank until 1885 he has proved his undoubted preeminence as a flag officer afloat.
§ In order to meet to some extent the increased cost of living, increases of pay have been granted to the junior ranks of officers supplemented by allowances in respect of children. This has enabled us to consider still further the question of promotion from the lower deck, because it is hoped that in many cases it will remove the objection on financial grounds which might prevent men from the lower deck taking commissioned rank, and a Committee is now sitting which will deal with those questions with the object of facilitating such promotion as much as possible. Another Committee is dealing with the question of pay and promotion of warrant officers generally, and it is hoped that it will report shortly.
§ The utilisation of available man-power to the best advantage has received the constant attention of the Admiralty. The substitution of lower-grade or physically unfit men in order to release men fit for combatant duties has been carried on to a very great extent. The newly instituted Women's Royal Naval Service is now developing, and it is hoped before long that considerable relief will be felt by the introduction of women for work for which they are suitable.
§ I cannot conclude this summary of the work of the Fleet without paying public tribute, as I feel sure the House would wish, to the officers and men of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and Auxiliary Services, and last, but by no means least, to the Mercantile Marine. No work is more trying than theirs, and no body of our fighting men bears a greater strain. By day and night they are called upon to face the risks and dangers of war in addition to the ordinary perils of the sea. To the destroyers and escorting craft in particular a tribute is due because upon them the strain has undoubtedly been the greatest, owing to the submarine war. It is in these craft that our losses are greatest, and it is upon them that the greatest demand for watchfulness is made, and in this work the Fleet gratefully recognises, as I have already done, the assistance of the destroyer and escorting forces of our Allies. Abler tongues than mine have recently paid glowing tributes to the value of the services of the Royal Navy, and if confirmation were needed my recent tour to the Allied European countries and great naval establishments and centres abroad would have afforded 1886 it in the daily manifestation of faith, not only of our own people, but of our Allies, in the strength of the British Navy, and in the fitness of the term which has been applied to it, and which was never more true than to-day, that it is "the shield and buckler of the Alliance.''
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I am glad to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman once more upon the extreme lucidity and intelligibility of the statement which he has made to the House, and I dissociate myself entirely from any suggestion that he violated any Parliamentary convention. If he did, it is a convention which might well be in abeyance in a time of war so momentous that one should take care beforehand that what he has to say to the House is carefully and deliberately expressed. I confess, at the same time, that I am a little disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman did not feel it consistent with his duty to give us more detailed particulars upon the main points which interest both the House and the country—first, what is the extent of our losses from submarines and other belligerent methods of the enemy; and, secondly, what is the precise extent of the measures we have, taken and are taking to make them good. No one knows better than I do that the problem of how much you should disclose and how much you should keep back is, in time of war, a very great one, and does not admit of being solved by reference to any general, and still less to any universal, rule. But I think, myself, after a good deal of experience, that when you are in doubt about the matter, and when the balance of judgment wavers as between disclosure and reticence, it is better on the whole to come down on the side of disclosure. [Hon. Members: "No, no !"] Certainly. I know very well the arguments on the one side and on the other. I have myself used them very often in bygone days since the War began. On the one hand, it is said that if you disclose too frankly and too candidly, you give information which may afford encouragement to the enemy. On the other hand, it is said that if you are too reticent you depress and discourage not only our Allies, but our own people at home. I must say, from the growing experience of the War, that to the second of these considerations I am disposed to attach diminishing weight. I do not think the temper and spirit of the British people—and when I speak of them I think I can associate with them our 1887 Allies—is in the least degree in danger of weakening or discouragement by the fullest possible disclosure. On the contrary, all the experience we have had during over three years of war has, I think, tended to converge in this direction—whether the facts be palatable or unpalatable, whether they indicate for the moment glowing or gloomy prospects— the spirit of our people is more tempered and more stimulated by feeling that it is taken into the confidence of the Government.
But I agree that every specific case has to be considered upon its own merits, and in the case with which the right hon. Gentleman has had to deal to-day, I imagine, the difficulties which always embarrass the head of a great Department like this very well illustrate the risk, I will not say anything of the dangers, of one policy or the other. Take the question on which public interest, as far as the Navy is concerned, is for the time being concentrated—namely, the extent of the ravages which have been made in our mercantile marine, and thereby in the transport of our forces, and the supplying both of our Army and of our population with the necessaries of the War, and, upon the other hand, the extent of the compensatory provision which is being made to repair those losses and to reinstate the position. In regard to what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the efforts which the Navy are making, and have been making for the last two or three years, to deal with the submarine menace, on what I may call the technical side, he is perfectly right to be reticent. Nobody wants to know, or ought to know —neither ourselves nor the enemy—what scientific, mechanical, and strategic expedients the expert advisers of the Navy have resorted to and are developing, for the purpose of dealing with the submarine as a belligerent. What we are anxious to know, what we are quite prepared to take for granted, and what we know to be the fact, is that the best brains, the most developed technical knowledge, the highest scientific reservoir of research, and the largest practical experience are being, as they have been for years past, devoted to this problem; and if, as I am inclined to gather from what the right hon. Gentleman says, the results in that respect are growingly encouraging and satisfactory, I am quite sure that neither the House nor the country would be dis- 1888 posed to press him further, or to ask by what means these results have been obtained. That seems to me to be clearly a case in which reticence is not only expedient, but necessary.
I doubt, however, whether the same considerations apply when you are dealing with the figures of losses on the one hand, and new construction on the other. I am quite sure, as far as this country is concerned, that whatever those figures might show the public would be perfectly prepared to receive them, whether they were adverse or favourable, and to accept them with a feeling that they knew what at present they do not know—what is the exact situation. As regards the enemy, does anybody really think that anything that can be told us in regard to these figures of losses or of construction will be news to the enemy? I do not think it would be, but, if it were, I should be perfectly prepared to make them a present of the information. Let me just for a moment go back to our past experience in regard to this vital aspect of the matter. I am not going to use myself figures which are not accessible to the House and to the country generally. But, without using figures at all, I may say that up to the end of the year 1915 all our sea losses—I am speaking now not of the Navy, but of the Mercantile Marine—that was due to hostile belligerent action or to submarine activity had been made good by new construction. At the end of 1915 the balance on the whole was slightly in our favour. I say slightly, because on the whole we had more than made good by new construction the losses which we had then sustained. In the year 1916 the conditions were less favourable. I am speaking from recollection, but I think I am right in saying that at the end of the first nine months of that year, although the situation was less favourable, although the proportion of losses to replacement of losses was more on the side of loss than of replacement, up to the end of the third quarter of 1916 the balance was only very slightly the other way. Already in that time those of us who were acquainted with the facts, and responsible for the conduct of affairs, were well aware that we had to look forward to a large and probably most serious development of the submarine menace. For the last quarter of that year—I am 1889 speaking now of the last time when I was responsible for affairs, and I think only up to the beginning of December—for the last quarter of that year the figures were undoubtedly of a much more sinister and, indeed, menacing character. Corresponding efforts were being made and steps taken to increase both the rate and the volume of new construction. I believe it will be found that during the last quarter of that year I do not say that the amount of new construction balanced the amount of loss, but it was very considerably in advance of what it had been in the three preceding quarters. Then we came to the year 1917, when the menace, already serious and indeed dangerous, became with the month of February when the Germans declared universal submarine war, I do not think I am using an exaggerated term when I say it became threatening in the last degree and the Government very properly decided to push on by every means in their power as a supplement to the belligerent steps which were taken to defeat the submarines in their own waters —to press on by every means in their power both in rate and in volume our new construction. My right hon. Friend who has just sat down made a statement upon this subject when he addressed the House for the first time as First Lord of the Admiralty on 13th December in last year. He used this language in December, 1917:If we take the rate of output for the months of October and November—and it, is fair to take them, they are not abnormally high months—as a measure of what we have attained, the merchant tonnage completed is fully at the same rate as the merchant tonnage output of the record year 1913, and the output of all classes of shipping in those two mouths is 18 per cent. higher than the rate of the output for the record year of 1913, that is 1,920,000 tons.A little later on, supplementing that statement, he said:I am able to state that assuming the output for December is as good as the output, for November, the actual tonnage in war vessels and merchant vessels combined completed in 1917 will equal the output, of the record year of 1913."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1917, col. 1421, Vol. 100.]In the "record" year, as he calls it, the output was 1,920,000 tons of merchant ship ping alone. If naval shipping were added it would be considerably greater, but I am speaking of merchant shipping. I think we may leave out, for the purpose of comparison, naval shipping, because I do not suppose there was any very much larger output of naval shipping in that quarter of 1917.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I should like to know what it was. It is very difficult to argue without figures; but if it makes up the difference, be it so. The estimate which was given to us in December was that the total output for the year 1917 would equal the record of the year 1913, namely, 1,900,000 tons. The House will be- glad to know whether that anticipation was in fact realised, and if it was not realised, to what extent it was not realised.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I should like to have an explanation, but I am not making these points in any controversial spirit.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Perhaps I may explain the matter as I understand it. What I understood my right hon. Friend to say was that taking naval shipbuilding and mercantile shipbuilding together, and putting them on the basis of tonnage and the amount of work required for each, it would reach the record for 1913. As a matter of fact, from the figures before me that is true, within 100,000 tons.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am not going to give the figures, but in this table before me there is an estimate of naval and mercantile shipbuilding for 1913, and in the table for 1917 there are the same figures, and the total difference is less than 100,000 tons in the calculations.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I know, but I think it is very desirable these figures should be published. I cannot see what harm would be done to the country or to the Allied cause, or what information would be given to the enemy of the least value if these figures were published. I am speaking of the mercantile shipbuilding—I do not refer to the naval.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
We do not know the total I cannot see any reason whatever why the mercantile figures should not be published. I believe they would give great reassurance to the public, and in dealing with the real point to which I am now coming I think they are of the greatest value. After all, what has happened in the past is of comparative unimportance. The really important thing is what we are doing now. I only refer to all this as leading up to the real point. We have been told in the most solemn and emphatic language by responsible Ministers that since the month of December, 1917, there has been a serious downfall in the amount of production. I do not ask for the exact figures, but I suppose in the months of November and December it reached a higher point of production in regard to mercantile tonnage—again I leave out naval shipping—than we have ever reached, at any rate, since the War began. I rather gather from what my right hon. Friend says that as high an average rate of production per month as even in the year before the War was reached in the months of November and December. I am speaking of what is common knowledge; and may I say here parenthetically, it is not very generous, it is not very just, to blame my right hon. Friend (Mr. Herbert Samuel) who sits beside me for having argued, as he was obliged to argue, only upon the figures that were published.
§ Sir E. GEDDES
I said that, I said it was the responsibility of the Government that he had no other figures.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
They were the only figures that were accessible to him, which do not include foreign shipbuilding, a most important item in this matter, for we cannot take British shipbuilding alone. We must take, for the purpose of estimating, what is the available mercantile tonnage of the world, not only what is produced here, but in other countries other than enemy countries. My right hon. Friend had only one set of figures. He used those, and he was quite justified in doing so. But this is the point upon which I think the House unanimously, if it can at this moment, should make its judgment felt in the country. Though that high rate of production is reached—and I am glad it was reached—in the months of October, November, and December of 1917, in January it fell down. I do not know how February compares with January
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
§ Mr. ASQUITH
The Member for Black-friars (Mr. Barnes) said it was as bad, but I am glad to hear it was not. Whether it was as bad as January or not, it was not good, and that is the point I want to make, and what I want the whole House to realise. It was not good. I hoped we should have done better in the year 1917 than we did. It would be melancholy, discreditable, calamitous—I do not think I am going too far if I said it would be disgraceful—if in this crisis of the War, and in the matter of resources which we know from the actual experience of the last quarter of last year we could bring into being and make effective for the purpose of supplying that which at this moment is the one primary and essential element needed for the Allied success, namely, the continued and increased production of shipping, if we were to have a line of declension and decline at this stage of the War we should prove false to what is the paramount necessity. That is the real object. I do not go—not because they are unimportant —into all the other points my right hon. Friend raised about organisation. They are good things, and I wish him God speed in all the efforts he is making to increase the efficiency of the great organisation over which he has the honour to preside, and where I am sure he will fulfil his function as a patriot and a man. But that is not the point.
The point to impress upon this House, and upon the country, is that you must have more ships, you must have them in larger volume, you must have them at a more rapid rate of construction. It is not a question merely of munitions, not a question of equipping the Army with guns and with all that is necessary to supply it, it is a question of making the whole Allied organisation alert, alive, effective for the prosecution of the great cause in which we are engaged. It is a question of enabling the population of these Islands, and the populations of the Allied countries to be put in a position in which each man, in the different sphere of life and activity to which he is allotted, can do his duty to his country and to his cause. It is not desirable to try to allot praise or blame or responsibility, or say whether the defect 1893 is due to this cause or to that. At this moment the less we say about that point the better, but we want to bring home to the minds of all those who, in greater or lesser degrees of responsibility, are concerned in this matter, that the greatest service, the most essential service, that can be rendered by this country at the present moment in the cause which we do not intend to desert—and which, whether the weather be fair or foul, we shall ultimately bring to triumph—is to bring to bear, and to concentrate upon this supreme necessity all the energies and all the efforts which we as a country can.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I am sure that all parties and all sections of this House emphatically agree with the concluding part of the speech of the Leader of the Liberal party. Shipping is the sinews of war for all the Allies by which they stand or fall, and for that reason I cannot help regretting that so important a question as shipbuilding should have been piled upon the Admiralty, bringing an atmosphere of material into a Department which has to bend all its best energies to the conduct of the War. It could have been much better done by a separate Department altogether. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has made a speech which everyone will agree reflects great credit on himself personally, as also does the general success of his administration. There are some directions, one of which I have just hinted at—the conduct of the War—which still stand in some need of improvement. I would like to ask whether a state of affairs still exists as that which happened in November, 1016, when a great military Council took place which was to decide the future offensive of the Allies? Could such a conference again be held now without a responsible naval adviser taking part in it? At that conference, referred to in Sir Douglas Haig's dispatch, one of the alternatives in regard to any future offensive was the driving away of the enemy from the submarine bases of Zeebrugge and Ostend, and had a naval adviser been present I feel sure that the departure from the original plan in February, 1917, to which Sir Douglas Haig refers, might never have been taken, and we might now have those two great submarine bases in our hands. I want to make sure in connection with the Versailles Council and the Inter-Allied Naval Council that there is such co-ordination, 1894 and that responsible military decisions are not taken without the highest naval advice at the same time.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Naval Council itself. I would like that Naval Council to be not merely a deliberative body which prepares evidence for the various chiefs of the Naval Staffs, but a body which gives executive decisions and on which the leading voice shall be that of the very best British admiral. If we can get that, then I think the right hon. Gentleman's naval arrangements will take a decided turn for the improvement. He mentioned the Mediterranean, and said that it was under a French officer. He also said that the Adriatic was under an Italian officer. That French officer gets his directions from the French Admiralty. We have no single control, dictating all the naval movements throughout this War. The result is that you get unfortunate incidents like the raid of the "Goeben" the other day, when she sank two monitors. That incident would not have occurred if there had been single naval control. My right hon. Friend spoke of his visit to the Mediterranean. He had no need to explain that visit. Everybody in this House, except a very few, agrees that the First Lord of the Admiralty should make himself familiar with all the naval arrangements, and it is very essential that he should visit the Mediterranean. In a House of 670 Members, of course a question may be asked by one or two Members. We have that sort of thing asked all along the line. The great bulk of the House, possibly 660 Members out of 670, agree that the First Lord of the Admiralty was doing a great public service in visiting the Mediterranean. The only question I would like to ask him about the visit is whether he was accompanied by one of his naval advisers on the War Staff and on the Board of Admiralty? Could I have an answer now?
§ Commander BELLAIRS
It would have been much better if my right hon. Friend had followed the old precedents of First Lords of the Admiralty and had been accompanied by one of his War Staff, or by one of the members of the Board responsible under the War Staff. The 1895 First Lord of the Admiralty, a civilian member, should have with him a member of his Board who has the responsibility of giving executive decisions. Strictly speaking, according to the constitution of the Board, the right hon. Gentleman could not have transmitted a single order from the Mediterranean, because an order has to be given by at least two members of the Board. It used to be three members, but now it is two. Therefore, both on constitutional grounds and on the grounds of efficiency, he ought to- have been accompanied by a naval officer belonging to the Board. I do not know that he was.
§ Sir E. GEDDES
At the Conference at which we took a vital decision, a member of the Board was present, but I had with me my naval secretary, a gentleman of great experience.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I am glad to have that statement. There has been a demand made by the Leader of the Opposition that there should be less secrecy in the future, and that more information should be given. I emphatically agree. We never get dispatches with regard to naval actions. In the case of the Jutland Battle it was only after a long interval and much passing to and from the Board of Admiralty and the Grand Fleet that the dispatch was published. We never got any dispatches with regard to the Dardanelles. We never get any dispatches with regard to various incidents. We simply have Admiralty statements, and they leave very much to be desired. I will take, for instance, the statement that we have had in regard to the loss of the first Norwegian convoy. The Admiralty statement was that both in going and coming the enemy took advantage of the long nights to pass our patrols. Everybody is aware that in a journey of about 500 miles out and 500 miles back again no vessel on earth can steam at such a speed that she will not have to go through considerable areas by daylight. That is one incident. Later on we had an incident in the Cattegat. The Admiralty statement referred to the Cattegat as "enemy waters." Surely my right hon. Friend would not call the waters lying between Denmark and Sweden enemy waters. Yet that is the way these Admiralty statements are framed. I take another incident. On 22nd December we lost three destroyers. The German morning papers of 24th December had the news, but our news- 1896 papers never got it until 29th December, and I can say from my knowledge of the facts, on which I have, got to maintain secrecy, that we never got the whole of the facts in regard to the loss of those three destroyers. I do not mean that there were any more vessels lost, but we had information and there was bad co-ordination in passing that information on. If it had been passed on, I doubt whether those three destroyers would have been lost.
I now come to an incident into which I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman inquired when he visited the Mediterranean. I refer to the recent "Goeben" sortie. I differ altogether when the right hon. Gentleman says that the loss of the "Breslau" amply compensated us for the loss of the two monitors and the submarine. Can my right hon. Friend say, in regard to the no less than live or six Admiralty statements on this incident, that they give a picture which any naval historian can use in the future if history is to be based on facts? I doubt it. The "Goeben" and the "Breslau" came out from the Dardanelles, so my information goes, and found no mine-field blocking them in. They found no scouting to detect their presence. They came out, and they found two monitors at anchor seven miles out, utterly unprepared. The monitors never fired a gun. They were taken by surprise, and they were sunk in two salvoes. The newspapers give an account of aeroplanes being used and forcing the "Goeben" and "Breslau" on to a minefield. You will not get a single naval officer in this world to believe in such an absurdity as an aeroplane forcing a ship with an armoured deck on to a mine-field. What happened was that the "Breslau" got on to a mine-field which was laid over two years ago, and which everybody believed had been blown away by gales. That caused the loss of the "Breslau." They had accomplished their mission. Then the "Goeben" returned. I do not think the First Lord of the Admiralty himself thinks that she herself ever hit a mine. Yet we are informed that the "Goeben" did hit a mine. She ran aground inside the Dardanelles. Then arose the question how to destroy her? Nothing was ready. There were two submarines, but they had not got enough oil. By emptying the oil from one submarine to the other they got enough oil for one to go up the Dardanelles, and she was lost on a mine-field. The "Goeben" was aground for several 1897 days, and there was nothing to attack her. What can aeroplanes do against a battleship with armoured decks? There was a British battleship forty miles away. She ought to have had steam in an hour. It was some hours before she had steam. Then she went off in another direction to join a battleship 150 miles from the Dardanelles. The result was that the "Goeben" got away altogether.
There does appear to be a necessity for some great strategical brain controlling all the movements of the great fleets of the Allies, so that we are not faced with these incidents again. Had the "Goeben" been destroyed out of this War, who can tell what would have been the effect upon Turkey? My right hon. Friend, on his visit to the Mediterranean, must have visibly felt the necessity of even greater co-ordination than he has succeeded in achieving. I did hear that Admiral Calthorpe was appointed some eight months ago, and that he was going to control the whole anti-submarine operations. Now we know that he has only just been put in control of the whole of the anti-submarine operations. Why cannot we say to the French, "We give you a virtual ascendancy on shore by giving the control of the reserves to General Foch. We have the experience and preponderating power at sea; let us control all the naval operations at sea, so as to bring about co-ordination." Then let the control be exercised through an Inter-Allied Naval Staff under a British admiral. If you cannot do that, then say so to America. I know America would welcome it with open arms, only they would ask, as they have the right to do, that their distinguished officers should be leading members of your War Staff, of course, under a supreme British officer. So far from finding fault with my right hon. Friend for going on an inspection tour, I may say that I myself urged him once before that he should get the best men he possibly could to act as inspectors in different directions. However efficient I believe the Navy to be, it is not purely a naval question, but also a port question. There is scarcely a direction in which an improvement cannot be brought about if you send the right men to inspect the different submarine control areas and bases and the different naval and mercantile ports. You have not got unity of direction at those ports. I hope that you will have. There are the transport officers, and the naval officers, and the preponder- 1898 ating voice in the movement of shipping is military. I do not know what is the case to-day, but I know that, when. I spoke last, in the East we were still carrying on the War as if that were a war area. Ports were closed at night, ships had to wait outside swept channels, and a vast delay of shipping took place. What has the East to do in this War? There was the visit of the "Emden," and there was one raider which laid mines off Bombay. Since the "Emden" was cleared out in the early part of the War, that has been the extent of any operations in the East. It seems to me you are doing simply what the enemy wants you to do, which you ought never to do, namely, close up your ports at night and keep the shipping waiting outside when the port is right outside the war area. I do not know whether that state of affairs has been improved since, but I feel sure that my right hon. Friend, who has shown such a progressive spirit in his administration, has only to investigate these matters to order a change to be brought about.
The Mediterranean, as he said, is responsible for 30 per cent of our losses. There is a necessity, as I have urged again and again in this House, for a "Safety first" campaign in the mercantile marine, such as my right hon. Friend knows an American railway carries out. It is no good writing Admiralty Memoranda to the various mercantile captains. What you want is to have a face-to-face talk with them and try to teach them what to do. I know that something of that sort has been done since I spoke about it in the House about two years ago, but it has only touched the fringe of the subject. My right hon. Friend speaks, for instance, about the exhibition of lights. That is a case in point. You have issued Memoranda which have not been attended to. You should send naval officers, men who are good comrades and who will not lecture the men, to have a face-to-face talk with them and point out the dangers. This loss does not always occur because of the action of the mercantile marine officer. It is.sometimes ordered by the naval officer. Ships in convoy have sometimes been ordered to show their lights in the Mediterranean, to my knowledge. In some cases the transport captains have been the first to protest. If the showing of lights is necessary to enable the convoy to watch the ships, surely you could show screened lights towards the convoy. Ship after ship has been torpedoed off St. Catherine's 1899 Point. Has it not been ordered that ships should show their lights off St. Catherine's Point, and is that not the reason why ships have been torpedoed at night off the Isle of Wight? Another point is that no merchant ship ought to be abandoned until she is known to be sinking. Merchant ships have been ordered to be abandoned. There are at this moment derelicts floating about the Mediterranean because the ships were abandoned. There is one point in regard to the Mediterranean to which the House should have its attention drawn. I will not mention the name of the ship, because the Admiralty object to it, although I see no objection. It was a ship built in 1913, of 13 knots. It was a brand new ship, attached to a convoy only capable of doing 7 knots. It was torpedoed. That ship came into my mind because she is one of the ships no one ever saw sink. The officer in charge ordered her to be abandoned. A very large ship was torpedoed 20 miles off Malta. It took three torpedoes to sink her. Surely the defence resources of the port could provide that ships should be escorted, at any rate, more than 20 miles off Malta, which is a natural converging point for ships coming in and going out? But she was not escorted.
I come to the question of losses which was raised by the Leader of the Liberal party. It is not necessary to violate any confidence when I mention what our losses were in 1917. If the American account is true, it says that the United States and the United Kingdom between them built just over 2,000,000 tons in 1917. The account went on to say that our losses, British, Allied and neutral, were three times as great. That would make them coincide with a private estimate given to me—not a confidential estimate, but one made by a private individual who has every claim to be relied on—that the losses for the British, Allied and neutrals were 6,250,000 tons for 1917. That fact was revealed in the American newspapers. If you add your navigation losses of 500,000 tons for British, Allied and neutrals, you have total losses of 6,700,000 tons for 1917. Leaving out navigation losses, it works out at a loss of 120,000 tons a week. Such estimates as can be made by private persons show that British, Allied and neutral losses during January have been at the rate of 70,000 tons a week. It went up in February to 80,000 tons. It is right to draw atten- 1900 tion to the shipbuilding effort. The official answer given in this House has been that our shipbuilding effort was 56,000 tons for January. That compares with a total British, Allied and neutral loss of 70,000 tons a week—that is to say, the British shipbuilding effort for January is far below the total loss of British, Allies and neutrals for a single week. Therefore, this question of building becomes of overwhelming importance. Supposing the average British, Allied and neutral losses amount to 75,000 tons a week, which is the average of January and February combined, we shall have lost at the end of the year 3.900,000 tons of British, Allied and neutral shipping. Add to that 500,000 tons of navigation losses, leaving out all repairs, and you have a total of 4,400,000 tons. The publication of figures like that and their use throughout America and this country would most certainly stimulate the men to increased exertions; it would shame them into increased exertions if they are not doing all they possibly can.
My right hon. Friend has exhibited a diagram in this House. In the past he has often spoken of that diagram. I should like to paraphrase the saying of Thucydides, "War is the last thing in all the world to go according to diagram." I would venture to say to him that his diagram is misleading. The losses are inflicted on a constantly diminishing quantity of shipping. The. Admiralty has told us that practically our British shipping available for cargoes has diminished by 20 per cent. in a year It is perfectly certain that neutral losses are greater than our own. I do not know about the Allied losses. We are quite safe in saying that the losses in January and February were inflicted on 20 per cent. less aggregate of shipping. Therefore that correction ought necessarily to be applied to the. diagram. There is also this limiting consideration to be named: I know that my right hon. Friend and the Shipping Controller are great believers in convoys. I, too, believe in convoys as a temporary measure, but not as a permanent measure. The risk to convoys is an increasing one. As some proof of that, I take the statement which the First Lord of the Admiralty made on 1st November that we lost in convoys one in two hundred. Since then we have drawn from the Shipping Controller in this House the statement that the losses in convoys arriving in September and October were six in two hundred—that is, 1901 six times as many —and in November four in two hundred. That points to an increasing loss. I believe that only last week, in the Irish Sea alone, we lost six vessels in one day.
The truth of the matter is that the advantages of convoys are considerable. You get absolute secrecy as to route; you also get the fact that if a submarine shows and torpedoes one ship the rest can spread, and the chances are they escape. But it was always certain, from what the Germans did in past years, that in the month of February they would try new methods and try to torpedo convoys, and the indications are —I have only outside evidence —that their new efforts are in the direction of large submarines for the ocean routes, armed with 6-inch guns — which do not appear, so far, to have scored any conspicuous success unless it be in the Mediterranean, if they are there — and using the submarines in groups of six or seven. It might go very hard indeed with a convoy if a submarine group of six or seven turned up and started letting loose torpedoes among them. The convoy system was undoubtedly better than the system which existed before. Of course, in making a comparison between the present time and the months of January, February, and March of last year, my right hon. Friend is making a comparison with the Navy which existed under the patrol system, which is hardly fair. There is no doubt a gain by adopting the convoy system as against the patrol system, but I think we are going to make a greater gain still by means of the more offensive barrage system, which my right hon. Friend has seen to be a success in the Straits of Dover, as he told the House to-day.
I was responsible to some extent, with others, for drawing attention to the Norwegian convoy losses. I wish to disclaim the idea that they were of any intrinsic importance in themselves, as I had no opportunity of saying so. It was only in so far as they were symptomatic of future attacks on convoys that they had any importance. In fact, so little importance had they by themselves, that if the losses which I gave just now of four in 200 —the official figure for convoys generally in November —had been inflicted on the Norwegian convoys they would have lost 104 vessels in a year. They have only lost fifteen in those two attacks. The Norwegian convoys have been extremely well run with the forces at the Grand Fleet's. 1902 disposal. The tonnage loss in those two attacks to which we drew attention was only 16,000. They were small vessels, probably altogether equivalent to one 10,000-ton ship; therefore, the things were of no intrinsic importance in themselves unless they were symptomatic, and that was my fear, of future attacks on convoys, and that we had to face the possibility in the future of devising a still better system, more based on the offensive, such as the barrage system which has been adopted at Dover. In fact, I think had my right hon. Friend not taken the measures which he took in regard to Dover our losses from submarine attacks on commerce would have been very much greater to-day than they have been. I very much welcomed the announcement that we were going to have revelations in regard to loss of tonnage, because every day's delay is bad. I should like to ask, Is the delay due to the fact that we have to get the permission of our Allies?
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Can my right hon. Friend say we shall get a decision from them within a very short period of time, because the question is so absolutely acute?
§ Commander BELLAIRS
If that comes soon it will be very satisfactory, because I am perfectly sure it would cure the situation in regard to shipbuilding. My right hon. Friend very truly said that numbers of submarines went through the Straits of Dover. That was not the view of the Admiralty during the last summer and autumn, because some of us were pressing on them that the evidence appeared to be that numbers of submarines went through the Straits of Dover. I will not refer now to the knowledge which has come into the possession of many hon. Members that submarines did go through the Straits of Dover to a very considerable extent, probably at the rate of at least ten a week, and that that has now been stopped. We are dealing with a situation in which no good can be got out of recriminations about the past, so I will not refer to the matter any further, but I wish to emphasise that what has been done on a small scale with a barrage —I have not the least idea as to its length, but, say, twenty to thirty miles —can be done on a large scale. The difficulty with regard 1903 to the naval mind in this War has been to get it to think on a big scale, partly because they have never had a really great War Staff. My right hon. Friend has formed a War Staff. I think he will have to have one more change, and get in still more ability among the junior officers of that Staff. He will have to reinforce it from time to time, and I think he has hampered his chances of complete success, as I said before, by bringing in all that material question of shipbuilding under one Board. There ought to be two distinct Boards, one dealing with the conduct of the War, and the other with material. We have got the body of a War Staff, we have got the soul of a War Staff in the offensive spirit of the officers, and all we have to do now is to perfect the brain, and when they come to think on a big scale I am certain they will see no impossibility in laying down barrages, extending, perhaps, for hundreds of miles, blocking the North Sea exits altogether, blocking the Baltic exits, and blocking the Adriatic and the Dardanelles. When that is done, with barrages well patrolled, I feel confident that the forecast which Lord Jellicoe gave the other day, that the submarine menace will be completely killed by August, will be realised.
I should like to add one word in regard to the prevailing pessimism about the situation in Europe. I can see no grounds whatever for pessimism in regard to the Allied Armies in Europe at all. Let me add this: Even if all the. Allies were to drop out of this War, and we had to fight Germany alone, this country could carry the War to a successful conclusion. It might be, of course, that Germany, trading with a large number of adjoining neutrals, would be able to feed herself, and we could no longer look to starving her, but she would carry on her trade under such disadvantages that the rate of exchange would mount up and up against her, and the prevailing discontent in Germany with the prolongation of the War would rise and rise, and bring it to a successful conclusion from our point of view. We ourselves, withdrawing all the great expense to which we have gone for the sake of our own and the Allied Armies in Europe, would wage the War infinitely cheaper with the Navy alone.
§ Mr. FRANCE
The hon. Gentleman concluded his speech with a picture of this country waging war alone. I think he 1904 should have added that that would only be possible if the Government can keep always in their minds, in the very front place, the sea as the foundation and the basis of all successes in this War, and merchant shipping as the very centre of the life of this country and the first of all elements in the fighting force of this country. The First Lord, in his interesting survey, gave us to understand that he hoped he would soon be able to issue figures of tonnage, and that we were trying to obtain the consent of our Allies to this course, but I would point out, in a spirit of friendly criticism, that the effect of the interesting charts which he from time to time displays to us is all to try to show us, and through the Press the public, that, after all, this evil is not quite so great as we thought it was, and the diminishing curve which we are constantly having impressed upon us ought to be considered in relation to all the facts of the case. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Commander Bellairs) has referred to one but I think there is another. We do not know whether it is a curve of gross losses or whether anything is taken into account in its preparation of increases either from building or from enemy ships.
§ Mr. FRANCE
That only clears up one point. In considering that curve it ought to be borne in mind that neutral ships, which are included, are now less and less going into the war zone, and by arrangement are being deliberately kept out of the war zone. They all, therefore, have their effect on the diminishing curve, just as the fact which the hen. and gallant Gentleman mentioned was in that direction. But my point is that the presentation of these curves suggests that things are very much better and are improving, whereas in the latter part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman impressed upon the country the very grave and serious position in which we are placed. With regard to the disclosing of facts and figures with regard to tonnage losses, it is sometimes urged that they will help or encourage the enemy, but the First Lord told us to-day that the enemy are constantly exaggerating the losses, and month by month give their own people figures which are grossly incorrect on the exaggerated side. Surely to give the correct figures would be to correct the 1905 impression in enemy countries and bring it more into accord with what is really the fact. The one thing to my mind which will help the enemy more than anything else is that we should close our eyes to facts, and everything which helps us to open them is not in the enemy's interest, but all against the enemy. I am glad to hear that the convoy system has proved successful. In offering any criticism to-day I should be excused if I referred to the fact that. I very strongly urged that the convoy system should be prepared for in this very Debate a year ago, and my right hon. Friend (Dr. Macnamara), who in all the trials and changes of this mortal life continues to shed his effulgence from that bench as the representative of the Admiralty, told me that it was not a practical suggestion. I am very glad to think, whatever weight was attached to my words, that in a few months that suggestion was carried into effect and good has resulted.
But in my opinion the words of warning which have been spoken to-day by the Leader of the Opposition do not go to the root of the matter. I cannot expect the First Lord to agree with what I am going to say. I can hardly even expect that he will take a note of it, and convey it to the Prime Minister or to any member of the War Cabinet. Therefore I must trust, though it is rather a forlorn hope, that some member of the War Cabinet will read the point I very strongly wish to make with regard to merchant shipbuilding. To my mind this is a question as vital for to-day as the question of munitions was two years ago. It is a question which could only be solved by the Prime Minister himself giving the whole of his driving force and energy to the reconstruction of the Department which deals with the whole question of this shipbuilding programme. Last year the Prime Minister made speeches which fully demonstrated to the country that he regarded this question of shipbuilding as one of the most vital necessities of the War, and yet since then the programme has not been carried out as he expected or as any of us expected, and we have these disappointing results in January and February. There is some difficulty in quite reconciling the figures for January and February. I do not say this in any spirit of carping criticism but simply with a desire to ask what are the facts. We were told in a very serious speech a few days ago by the Minister of Labour that 1906 only half the estimated quantity of tonnage for January and February has been realised. January and February-were equalised in, that statement. We are told to-day that January realized 58,000 tons. These figures are very alarming. They are not only alarming from the point of view of work; but from the point of view of estimate, because if twice the 58,000 was the estimate made for that month, I think the House will realise that even that estimate is far below the necessities of the case. To my mind, and I think in the opinion of many others who have considered this subject of merchant shipbuilding, the whole trouble arose when the merchant shipbuilding of this country was placed entirely under the control of the Admiralty. The Admiralty, as the hon. Member who has just sat down said, do not seem to be fitted in their organisation or experience to manage the merchant shipbuilding of this country. I should have much preferred to see this programme left in the hands of the capable Shipping Controller who has managed so well the control of shipping itself, and that a Department should have been organised with some such head and manned with those who really understand from practical experience the needs of the tramp shipping business of this country. What is the Department of the Admiralty? We have the First Lord, whose time is taken up with all the responsibilities of the great office of which he is at present the civil head, and under him we have as the head of this Department a gentleman with great experience in liner business, who has done very useful work during the War, but who is experienced in the ownership and management of liners, and who has no practical experience in regard to tramp steamers. We have under him, as the second, a gentleman who has been very energetic in his experiments during the War, a gentleman I think of railway experience, who has initiated a very interesting experiment on one coast, and is now said to be very interested and very much concerned in a great vast undertaking of national shipbuilding yards on the other coast. How much of his energy is really directed towards the needs of the shipbuilding programme of the moment when he is thinking a great deal about the shipbuilding programme of two years hence, a programme which will probably only materialise when the War is over or 1907 settled, is a point which those who know this subject best will be able to decide; but this Department of the Admiralty, presided over by these two gentlemen, who have neither of them any practical experience of merchant shipbuildng, does not appear to me to be the way in which this vital problem should be tackled. I, therefore, appeal with all the strength that I can command, to the Prime Minister to look at this problem as he looked at the munitions problem in 1915, to consider the men and material, to see if the ridiculously small number of men engaged in merchant shipbuilding in this country, not only skilled but unskilled, cannot be increased, and to put that as the first item in the programme of manpower. The First Lord has made the burden of his speech upon it, and it lies at the root of all military effort.
Sometimes people are apt to say that naval shipbuilding is very important, the provision of men for the Army is very important, munitions are very important, and then as a last thought in their minds they think of merchant shipping as being necessary for the food of this country. They do not remember, and I am afraid that even the Government sometimes seem to forget, that merchant shipping is a most important fighting force in this War, and that without merchant ships one of three things must happen in this War. We should come to that point and that line below which there is disaster for us, either with regard to food or with regard to raw material for this country, or with regard to the fighting force of this country. When we go below that line one of these great efforts of the country will have to be withdrawn to some extent. I leave it to the House to realise what it would mean if we have to go any lower with regard to the food question in this country, and whether the temper of the country and whether the working capacity of the people would be likely to stand any great reduction in the matter of food, or in the supply of industry both for war and civil purposes to keep the life of the nation going. Therefore a third factor must come into operation, and that is that if the quantity of ships is not increased the fighting force of the nation is reduced by the withdrawal of military effort.
I can hardly expect the First Lord of the Admrialty to listen very sympatheti- 1908 cally to an appeal which would cause him to advocate that his Department should no longer be responsible for this work, but I do very strongly urge, and I know I am not only speaking my own opinion, but the opinion of many others who have considered this question of shipbuilding, that the Admiralty would do much better to be concerned with the duties and matters which have hitherto appertained to them, and in regard to which I wish to pay an honest and sincere tribute to them, and that this great and vital matter of shipbuilding should be put into the charge of a special department, into which should be brought men of practical and active experience, not merely as a consultative committee whose opinion may or may not be accepted, but as a vital control in the heads and officials of the Department. I would ask the House and the First Lord of the Admiralty not to blame the-workers too much, not to blame the employers too much, not to blame the weather too much, but to look within and see, after all, if, as business men, they are absolutely satisfied with the organisation of this Department as a business effort; and I would ask the War Cabinet and the Prime Minister to look at this Department in that way, and with that searching gaze to see whether or not the Department is of sufficient intrinsic merit in itself to produce the result which the whole House regards as a vital and essential part of the conduct of the War.
We do not want to blame the Navy or the men or the employers or the weather, and least of all the Navy, because I think we all wish to pay to those in the Navy our tribute of admiration for the efforts that are being made in all branches of the Service to fight the submarines and other devices of the enemy. But I think we should not forget in this discussion the man who has done so much to prepare for, and to arrange for, the devices which are at the present moment fighting the submarine —the man who handled the Fleet from the very first moment of war, who protected it when there was very little protection for it in any base, who protected it from enemy destruction and device and organised it into an effective and great fighting force; who has been working constantly throughout the War in every branch and capacity of service; who has been responsible for devising many methods of attack against the submarine and who has constantly, in and out of season, warned the Gov- 1909 ernment that the mercantile marine was at the base and at the bottom of naval and military effort. This is the man who has been relieved of two important posts, and who is at the moment under a cloud —a cloud which time and fresh air will, I believe, disperse, and which consists, I am sorry to say, partly of the miasma of poisonous gases, concocted in secret and personal safety by certain sections of the Press —a man whom I am quite sure this House and the public will always hold in great regard and admiration. They will always remember the name of Jellicoe as one who has done in his person more than any other, perhaps, to secure the safety and guardianship of these shores.
I would like to say one word about the personnel of the mercantile marine. The First Lord paid a great tribute to them to-day, but no more than they deserved. Before the War an admiral whose words have often been recorded made three prophecies. Sir Percy Scott prophesied that the submarine would beat the "Dreadnought" That prophecy was not true. He made another prophecy, that the enemy would use the submarine against merchant vessels. That prophecy has proved true. He made a third prophecy, that if the enemy did use the submarine against the merchant vessels, in less than three weeks the food supply of this country would be held up, and we should be beaten. He went on to say that "trade is timid" In that, much as he may have known about the Navy and Naval Service, he did injustice to the great merchant service of this country. Trade has not been timid in that respect. The merchant seaman has never failed in the test which has been put upon him, and we owe more than this House could possibly say or recognise to the bravery and gallantry of the merchant seamen. A book has been published lately giving an account of the adventures and exploits of merchant seamen in this War, and, if I may be allowed to do so, I would like to read a few lines from the introduction to that book, which sums up the position of the merchant seaman better than anything I have ever read:When war was declared it was the duty of the merchant seaman to carry supplies of men and munitions across the sea. Upon his faithful discharge of that duty all depended. The merchant seaman must sail at the hazard of a deadly peril, which might come unawares, and against which he was at first utterly defenceless. He must navigate unlighted channe's, amid unlighted ships. He must steer new courses and learn the 1910 art of war. He never failed nor flinched; but, beginning unarmed and helpless, stumbling over mines, attacked by raiding cruisers, torpedoed or shot to pieces by submarines, sent adrift to go mad, or drown in open boats, still sturdily going undaunted about his business and gradually becoming a wary and valorous fighting man. He is the same merchant seaman who-but three years since was the drudge of commerce, and who now in his own right is entered of the chivalry of the seasWe owe much to the merchant service-Its existence is a vital necessity, and at the base and foundation of the success of the Allies in this War, and I appeal to the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet to see to it that this matter is put in the forefront of all their work and of all their interests, and that they should regard it as seriously as any matter over which they have control at the present moment.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words "the rates of separation allowances now payable to wives and dependants of petty officers and men of the Royal Navy and to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Royal Marines should be so readjusted as to equal the rates in force for the wives and dependants of warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Army"
The object of the Motion which stands in my name is to ensure that the allowance to the wives and children and dependants of petty officers and men of the Royal Navy, and the corresponding ranks of the Royal Marines, shall be raised to the same level as that of the allowances provided already for the wives, children, and dependants of men of similar rank in the Army. I know that I shall have the whole-hearted sympathy of this House in seeing to it that this House gives the fullest and amplest reward in its power for the immeasurable services which have been rendered in this War by the Royal Navy. It would be impertinent of me, after the most interesting and reassuring speech which we heard this afternoon from the First Lord, to attempt to describe or emphasise the debt which this country owes to these brave men. When we speak of men of the Royal Navy we do well to remember that, great as the perils of naval warfare are and always have been, those perils have in this War been intensified tenfold by the unrestricted use of those new deadly inventions of mines, submarines, and aircraft, and when we speak of the men of the Royal Navy and 1911 their heroism and gallantry I add my tribute most gladly to that which was uttered this afternoon by the First Lord of the Admiralty to the officers and men of the mercantile marine. The last speaker referred to them in eloquent terms and paid a tribute which I am confident no one in the country would say was too high or in any way undeserved. Let us realise, both now and when the War is over, that had it not been for the officers and men of the mercantile marine we should long since have been starved into absolute submission and humiliation. The work of the Navy is to a large extent secret and removed from the public eye. Every now and then the veil, or a corner of the veil, is lifted, and we read of deeds of unsurpassed gallantry and heroism of the men of the Navy and mercantile marine. But even so we do not hear anything but an insignificant fraction of the services which these men have rendered, and we may rest assured that if it had not been for the work of the Navy in this War, supported as it has been by the heroism of the mercantile marine, we could not have borne the strain of this War for a single month and this country would now be lying prostrate and bleeding under Germany's heel.
With regard to the subject of my Resolution, there are two broad outstanding facts, undeniable and undenied. The first is that the scale of the allowances for the petty officers and men of the Royal Navy and Marines is substantially lower than the scale of allowances which has been conceded to men of corresponding rank in the Army. The second outstanding fact is that there is a marked difference between the allotments of pay which are required from the sailor to secure those allowances and the allotments of pay which are required from the soldier to secure those allowances. Up to quite recently, as a condition of his wife and dependants receiving the allowances, the soldier had to allot out of his pay 3s. 6d. a week, and the man in the Navy had to allot 5s. Now, as a result of a recent concession, this 3s. 6d. has been taken over by the State and the soldier has to allot nothing at all out of his pay in order that the allowance should be granted, while the sailor has to allot a minimum of 1s. 6d. a week out of his pay. I will give a few illustrations of the differences between soldiers and sailors with respect to this matter. Take, first, the case of the ordinary seaman in the Navy, on the one hand, and the corresponding 1912 rank, private, in the Army, on the other. If there, is a wife only, the wife of the soldier gets 12s. 6d. a week, and the wife of the man in the Navy only gets 9s. 6d. If there are a wife and two children, the wife of the soldier gets 24s. 6d., and the wife of the man in the Navy only 20s.
Take another case, that of the petty officer in the Navy, on the one hand, and the corresponding rank, namely, sergeant, in the Army, on the other. If there is a wife only she receives in the case of the soldier 15s. 6d. a week, and in the case of the sailor only 10s. 6d. a week. If there are a wife and two children, the allowance is 27s. in the case of the soldier, and in the case of the sailor only 20s. The last illustration which I w ill give —because there are many illustrations which could be given, but the same difference runs throughout the whole scale —is that of a chief petty officer of the Navy and the corresponding rank, namely, colour-sergeant, in the Army. If there is a wife only, the soldier's wife gets 16s. 6d. per week, and the sailor's wife only gets 11s. 6d. If there are a wife and two children, the allowance in the case of the soldier is 27s., and in the case of the sailor no more than 20s. That is a difference which, on the face of it, it is very difficult to explain or understand. If you look into the question of dependants the inequalities appear to be very marked there also, because you find that in the case of dependants, such as the father, mother, or sister of a soldier, the dependant's scale is the amount of the dependency which existed previously to the man joining, while in the case of the sailor the dependants get only a sum dependent upon the amount of allotment, and never get more than half the total amount of dependency. Upon that point my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Reading (Colonel L. Wilson), who has taken a deep interest in this subject, will give further details. I have given the figures as regards the soldier and the sailor, but the figure as regards the soldier and the Marine show similar inequalities. What justification is there for these undoubtedly serious inequalities?
I hold in my hand a paper which was issued by the Admiralty in September, 1914, in which they candidly admit, as they were bound to admit, the inequalities and seek to justify them. The main ground on which they seek to justify them is this: They suggest that, speaking generally—they do not even make it of universal application —the seaman is in a 1913 better position financially than the soldier of corresponding rank. I have studied this paper with some care, and I confess that the result of my study has not been to convert me to the View of the Admiralty. There may be better reasons than those given on the paper. I have not heard them, but if the reasons given on this paper are all that the Admiraly can say to justify these inequalities, then I submit that those reasons are totally inadequate, and do not justify this very serious differentiation. Again, upon this subject, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Reading will speak somewhat more fully. But I may say this generally, that this differentiation is something which is beyond the comprehension of the persons primarily concerned. It has been incapable of being understood by them, and it naturally creates, or is calculated to create, considerable discontent and dissatisfaction.
Take the case of the wife of a soldier and the wife of a sailor living in the same street, or, it may be, in the same house. How is the wife of the sailor to understand why she should get so substantially less a sum of weekly allowance than the wife of the soldier? Their husbands are both fighting, both risking their lives, both, it may be, doing great acts of gallantry from day to day, yet the wife of the sailor finds herself in this position, that she gets something like 20s., it may be, very often, as compared with the wife of the soldier who is getting 27s. That is a position which must inevitably create discontent among all those who are concerned. I suppose that no one would suggest that the allowances now made to the wife, children and dependants of the soldier are in any way excessive. These allowances from time to time have been increased, with the full approbation of this House and of the outside public, and it may very well be, if the cost of food increases, that those allowances will require further revision in future. What I suggest is that we have a differentiation between the allowances given to the wives and dependants of soldiers and sailors which ought never to have been made. But having been made it should be remedied as soon as possible. I beg the House now to do an act of justice, and to bring the allowances in the case of the sailor up to the same standard as now exists in the case of the soldier.
§ Colonel LESLIE WILSON
I beg to second the Amendment.
1914 My hon. and learned Friend has dealt with this question from the broad stand-point. I do not wish to delay the House, and I shall deal with some rather technical details in connection with this question. As the right hon. Gentleman (Dr. Macnamara) knows, it is a question in which I have taken a very considerable interest, but it is also one on which I have disagreed thoroughly with the Admiralty point of view. As my hon. and learned Friend has said, it does seem extremely difficult to justify the state of affairs which exists at the present time. When you have soldiers' and sailors' wives and dependants living in the same street, and possibly in the same house, and the sailors' wives and dependants are receiving considerably less than the wives and dependants of the soldiers, one naturally asks the representative of the Admiralty what is the justification for this position. I desire to put this case absolutely fairly and honestly. I feel myself that the case is so strong and so overwhelming in favour of the Motion that it only needs to be stated clearly to carry conviction. It has been acknowledged in the House several times lately, when the matter of the separation allowance has been brought forward, that it is none too large at the present time, and it has been suggested by several hon. Members that it should be increased. If that be true of the soldiers, then, where a considerably loss allowance-is given to the sailors, obviously the case of the latter must have considerably more weight The first point which I wish the House to clearly understand arises on the question of allotment. Until the recent concession the sailor had to pay 5s. a week out of his pay, but now, under the advanced pay concession, 3s. 6d. a week is granted, though the sailor has still to pay at least 1s. 6d. a week out of his own money, while his wife and dependants receive considerably less than the wife or dependants of the soldier. My hon. and learned Friend has quoted certain figures comparing the allowances as between the Army and the Navy, and the Admiralty has accepted those figures as correct. I am dealing with the case of the dependants, because the majority of cases arc those of men called up from civil life. When a man joins the Navy, he leaves behind him his wife and dependants, and it was always the intention of Parliament, where men are taken from their homes, that the amount of the separation and dependency allowance should be such that 1915 the wife and dependants should be no worse off because one of the bread-winners had been taken from that home. That is the ground on which the dependency allowance was granted, but that view of it has never been carried into effect.
The question is a complicated one. In the first place, the Admiralty have decided that there shall be two separate rates, one for short-service men and one for long-service men. For some inscrutable reason the long-service men, under the arrangements which have been made, are far worse off than the short-service men. The short-service man is enrolled for the period of hostilities, and the long-service man for twenty-two years. To take an example, let me assume that the Pensions Committee have assessed the amount of the allowance at 15s. a week for the dependants when a man is called to the service of the Navy. The Regulations under which this has been done are certainly not in the White Paper, to which allusion been made. The Admiralty laid down certain Regulations, and in regard to the separation allowance to dependants, in the case of a short service man, he will contribute,an equal amount with the Admiralty, 7s. 6d. each a week. Then there is the concession of the 3s. 6d. out of the 7s. 6d. recently paid by the Stats, and the consequence is that the man has to contribute 4s. before his borne gets the 15s. which it lost by his being called up. I would point out that whereas in the Navy a man has to pay 4s., in the case of a man in the Army the whole 15s. is paid for him, and he does not himself pay one penny. Take the long-service man in the Navy. The Admiralty only gives half the amount of the dependency allowance, and limits what it does by not giving more than half the amount of the allotment. What is the result? Take the case of an ordinary seaman whose home has lost to the extent of 15s. That man has to pay out of his pay at least 11s. 6d. before the Admiralty gives 7s. 6d. The man has 1s. 3d. a day, and he has to pay 11s. 6d. out of his pay. It is impossible. Of course, the, home never can receive the full amount of the dependency allowance, which was assessed by the Ministry of Pensions, and agreed upon by the Admiralty. Take the case of the Royal Marines. They partly come under the Army Regulations and partly under the Navy Regulations. 1916 A recruit who enlists in the Royal Marines comes under the Army Regulation allowance; he then goes on the ship's books, which is a very expansive term, and as soon as he gets on the ship's books he comes under the separation allowance of the Navy, with the result that his home finds itself suddenly reduced several shillings a week, for no reason that the dependents can understand. After all, the man gets no more pay.
§ Colonel WILSON
He has the afloat allowance after three years' service, and therefore is not better off when he goes to sea; at any rate, the separation allowance was a dependency allowance, the intention of which was that the home should receive what it had lost by one of the breadwinners being called to the-Service. As I said, the result is that when this reduced amount is received, the people do not understand, and cannot understand. There is confusion of thought in every home and in all Government offices. I submit that it is absolutely impossible to defend the situation. I shall deal with the justification of the right hon. Gentleman as put forward in the White Paper, issued in 1914, of the differentiation in the rates of separation allowance as between the Army and Navy. In the second paragraph of the White Paper the Admiralty proceed to give their reasons for the separation allowance fixed for the wife, and children of the seamen. I take it that this Paper will be used by the right hon. Gentleman in the defence he may be going to set up in regard to this matter. The document states that, in the first place, the seamen is, "generally speaking, in a better position financially than the soldier of corresponding rank" The men who join the Navy in the lower ranks —and it is the lower ranks that are interested in these Regulations as drawn up —are mostly for the period of the War. It is the men in the lower ranks who are interested in the separation allowance, and far from their being better off than corresponding ranks in the Army, they are worse off. At the present time the pay of the private in the Army is 1s. 6d a day. The ordinary seaman who joins the Navy gets 1s. 3d., and the Royal Marine 1s. 2d., so that after all these men get less pay than the soldier. We 1917 then come to the case of the man after six months' service. The soldier gets 1s. 9d. a day, and I take it that the ordinary seaman, as is generally the case after six months' service, is advanced to the rank of able seaman, and gets 1s. 10d. a day, a penny better than the soldier, and the Royal Marine 1s. 9d. a day. The ordinary seaman who joins the lower ranks receives lower pay than the man of corresponding rank in the Army, and it is only after he has reached one certain rank that his pay is a penny better than the soldier receives. Then there is the subject of non-substantive pay in the Navy —torpedo pay, gunnery and signalling; but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that there is non-substantive pay also in the Army, where it is paid just as in the Navy. The Army Service Corps, and various other Services, get non-substantive pay, and there is no justification for bringing forward non substantive pay in the Navy in regard to this question of pay to seamen, when non-substantive pay equally exists in the Army at the same time. A further paragraph of the White Paper states that the seaman has "open to him a better prospect of promotion at higher ratings than the soldier" That may be, and probably is, or was, true before the War. At the present time, however, owing to casualties and other causes, the prospects of promotion in the Army are very good, and I do not think there is any justification for saying that the opportunities of promotion are better in any way in the Navy than they are in the Army. A further paragraph of the White Paper deals entirely with the question of allowances. It says:Then, in considering the question of granting separation allowances, it is appropriate to take into account the fact that the great majority of married men already send their wives, under a long-established system, regular allotments or remittances from their pay month by month. Ordinary seamen, of whom there are in the Fleet between 6,000 and 7,000, and who are in the main single young men of about nineteen years of age, are entitled out of pay to allot to dependent relatives up to a maximum of 25s. a monthBut it is their own money; surely they are entitled to do what they like with their own money, and what is set forth in this paragraph can be no justification why the Admiralty should not give them separation allowance, because it allots a certain amount out of their pay. I quite agree that the men of the Navy and Royal Marines do allot a very large amount out 1918 of their pay; they have had to do it in the past, and I suppose they have to do it in order to keep their homes going. The right hon. Gentleman says, also, that a very large majority of the seamen make regular allotments or remittances ranging up to about 10s. a week —I think that is the sum. I do not accept the figure, though it may be somewhere near it —but I submit that it is impossible, out of pay amounting to 8s. 9d. a week, to allot anything like approximately 10s. a week. The White Paper also sets forth that no hardship is involved in the suggestion that seamen of the rating of A. B. should continue to make monthly allotments which work out at about 10s. per week, but I would point out that this sum of 10s. would leave the seaman exactly with 1s. 8d. a weak. It is surely not the intention that such a man should be left with 1s. 8d. per week with all the hardships he has to endure. It does not afford the possibility of any luxuries, and although the life, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, has moments of excitement, yet it has many days, if not months, of considerable boredom. The remainder of this document lays down the rates for wives, but those have been considerably altered. It did not deal in any way at all with the question of dependency.
I have tried to put the question of dependency in order that the House might recognise how very badly, at least in my opinion, the dependants of the sailors and marines are treated. I do not consider that it was the intention of Parliament when it granted the separation allowance for the Navy that the will of Parliament should have been interpreted by the Admiralty in the way in which it has been. I know that the right hon. Gentleman will say that the Board is responsible, but, as a matter of fact, it is not, because it could not deal with individual cases of this description. The Department which is responsible is the Accountant-General Branch of the Navy, which acts as judge and jury in each of these cases, and if the wife or dependants appeal it is the Accountant-General's Branch which acts as a court of appeal. Surely that cannot be satisfactory, since it is not going to take up the position of saying that its own decision is wrong. I do think it would be very advisable that there should be some other court of appeal to which cases of the kind could be taken. As my hon. and learned Friend who preceded me said, it is an act of justice that this should be 1919 done —tardy justice, no doubt, and that the separation allowance should be equalised for the Navy and the Army. I have had no opportunity of exactly ascertaining what the cost of this suggestion would be. I recognise that the cost to the State would be large, and from the materials I have at my disposal I have tried to work it out, and, roughly, I believe it would be somewhere between two and three million pounds. I am not one of those who think that at the present time we can talk lightly of millions, and I am of opinion that every shilling should be looked after, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that this is a case which is felt very strongly right throughout the whole Navy and the Royal Marines. They recognise that their wives and dependants are not being treated on an equal basis of those with soldiers, and they see no reason why they should not. They are not getting better pay than soldiers, and they maintain that they have every right to get the same amount of separation allowance which is granted to the soldier. I hope it will not be necessary to speak on this subject again, and that the right hon. Gentleman will do everything he possibly can to impress the case on the Treasury, in order that it shall be accepted. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has always done everything he could for the benefit of the lower deck, and if he uses his influence and his many years of experience in this matter for the benefit of the seamen and Marines he will be doing an act of justice and will, at the same time, be adding to that high reputation which I know he appreciates very particularly.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The request which now confronts us creates in me the sense of embarrassment which I always feel when asked to do more for the men of the Fleet and their dependants than we are doing. We are responsible for the men of the Fleet, and when people like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Mr. Butcher) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Reading (Colonel Leslie Wilson), pressing the matter with such zeal and earnestness, deliberately say, "You ought to do more," it is not easy for us to say "No," and if we must say "No" we must have complete justification. With these general observations, let me look in detail at the facts. It is quite true that the Navy separation allowances both for wives and children 1920 have from the very beginning been fixed at a lower rate than those for the Army. Prior to the 1st October, 1914, there was no separation allowance at all in the Navy, and the men maintained their wives and children out of their pay, and so far as the sailors are concerned I have never tired of paying a tribute to the loyal and devoted way they have always met the obligation resting upon them in respect of those who are dependent upon them. The allowance was fixed as from the 1st October, 1914, at a lower level for the Navy than for the Army for two reasons: First, because the sailor is generally better paid than the soldier. That has been challenged, and I shall show presently that it is true that the sailor generally is paid more than the soldier. Secondly, because he has open to him now, and he certainly had before the War —that is not challenged -greater opportunities of promotion than the soldier. I may say at once that whilst in the Army only 15 per cent. of the men are above the rank, or relative rank, of private, the percentage of men above the relative ran of private in our case is over 30 per cent.
Moreover, it is the fact that in addition to the ordinary pay the sailor can, and many do, earn non-substantive pay in addition to their ordinary pay. I may say that, roughly, about 85 per cent of our leading seamen and 66 per cent. of our able seamen are, in fact, in receipt of non-substantive pay. In the Army, for the great bulk of the Service, there is no such thing as non-substantive pay. It is quite true that the Army Service Corps, the Army Ordnance Corps, and the Artillery get corps pay, and that the Engineers get engineers' pay, but for the great bulk —that is to say, the Infantry —nonsubstantive pay is unknown. The House will remember that we took that fact into-consideration, of course, in the concessions which came into operation on the 1st of October last year The Navy separation allowance was fixed at a lower level than the Army, as I say, because, generally, of the higher pay and greater opportunities of promotion.
§ Colonel WILSON
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the figures I quoted about the sailors are incorrect?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The case has been put forward with such force and enthusiasm that I do not wish to question any particular point. A. Parliamentary Paper was published and issued on the 1921 22nd September, 1914, justifying for what it is worth the lower separation allowance. Let us compare the lowest ranks of the two Services; that is, ordinary seamen, able seamen, and leading seamen in the Navy and that of the private and corporal in the Army. I do not think we need go higher than that, because by common consent the pinch of differentiation, if any, would be found in the lower ranks. In the first place, the allowance to the wife of an ordinary seaman, able seaman, leading seaman, is 3s. per week less than to the wife of a private or corporal in the Army. The minimum allotment in the Navy out of pay is 5s. — I mean before the concession —and in the Army 3s. 6d. That wipes out half the difference.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Since the 1st October last year the State has shouldered 3s. 6d. of the allotment. I do not wish to touch that in this connection at all, because, of course, a man may reduce his allotment by that amount, and if he does the differentiation remains, and, for the purposes of this discussion, it would not be fair to assume that the man continues his present allotment, giving his wife the benefit of the additional 3s. 6d. As regards children, the first child in the case of a Navy family gets a shilling a week less and the second child in the case of the Navy family sixpence per week less, and for the third child the amount is the same in the Army and Navy, and for the fourth child the Navy child gets a shilling a week less than the fourth Army child. Thus, for the classes I am discussing, a Navy wife with four children would get 5s. 6d. a week less in separation allowance than an Army wife with four children. These differentiations, as I have said, were considered to be equitable, mainly because of the higher pay in the Navy. Just let me point this out to the House: It was first stated in the House quite frankly and fully —as, of course, it ought to be —on the 22nd September, 1914, in a Parliamentary Paper. It was again issued in a Parliamentary Paper —the original White Paper —on 9th November, 1914. That second Paper was fully discussed by the House on the 18th November, 1914. It was referred, with the other matters in it, to a Select Committee, of which the Prime Minister was chairman, and the present Leader of the House, the Chancellor 1922 of the Exchequer, was a member — a very strong Select Committee. That Select Committee, in its First and Special Reports, recommended that the children's allowances made under the first White Paper should be increased both for the Army and the Navy as from the 1st March, 1915. That Committee, however, made no comment whatever about this differentiation as between the Army and the Navy. The Select Committee's Report was accepted by the House after a full Debate, which I very well remember, on the 18th May, 1915. Again and again the various matters in the Report have been the subject of discussion in this House, as both my hon. Friends know, and, so far as I remember, in these discussions, this particular question which they are now raising, and as to which I make no complaint, has never been raised. Mr. BUTCHER: Has not the matter been very fundamentally altered since the soldier's pay was raised to 1s. 6d.? Does not that make the inequality more pronounced?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think the differentiation between the allowance of the two Services, to which both my hon. Friends object, has not been the subject of criticism or discussion during all this long time. What has happened is this: There have been thirteen or fourteen questions on this point in the course of the War, and the great bulk were asked by my hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Mr. MacCallum Scott), whose anxiety had particular reference to the case of the ordinary seaman and the man in the Royal Naval Division, and if he were here he would admit that we have done our best to meet his contention. There have been three or four questions on the general question of the differentiation now raised. One, I remember, was by Lord Beresford, one by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Billing), one by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), and one by my hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Mr. King). That is all. I put those facts for what they are worth. So far as State allowance, plus minimum allotment, is concerned, this is the position: The wife of a man in the lower ranks of the Navy is 1s. 6d. a week down if without a child; 2s. 6d., if with one child; 3s., if with two children; 3s., if with three children; and 4s., if with four children. As against that, take the pay. The ordinary seaman gets 8s. 9d. a week. If 1923 he is in the permanent Navy he is, as a rule, a young fellow under nineteen, single as a rule, and with every prospect of being rated up to able seaman after about eight months' service. I really do not think there is any hardship in the case of the single young fellow in the Navy who joined to make the Navy his career, because he can be rated up after eight months, but I admit there have been during the War a great many older men who have joined the Navy for hostilities only —men with families —and in their case there is the pinch of the differentiation. Now it is very hard for them, I admit at once, to make the 5s. allotment out of their pay of 8s. 9d. particularly with canteen prices what they are now; but by increasing the messing allowance as from 1st October, 1917, and by the State shouldering 3s. 6d. of the allotment, that point has been met so far as the man is concerned. But, so far as his wife and children are concerned, they would still remain with 1s. 6d. on the credit side, and on the other side 3s., 4s., 4s. 6d., or 5s. 6d., according to the number of members of the family. Having admitted that the case of the ordinary seaman, married, is a hard one, we could not, of course, leave it there, and what did we do? We made special provision by arranging that the local pensions committee, out of public funds —of course, out of no charity —should be empowered by the Pensions Ministry, through its Special Grants Committee, to make additional allowances in these cases to bring them up to the soldier's allowance, and therefore in that case the differentiation does not exist.
§ Colonel WILSON
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that is a direct Instruction to the Pensions Committee, and that they are bound in every case to do it?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
If any ordinary seaman's wife came and said it left her 3s., 4s., 4s. 6d., or 5s. 6d. down, they are; empowered —I do not want to carry it too far, but the hon. and gallant Member had better put a question as to whether they are not compelled to bring it up to the level of the soldier's allowance, and, if I do not say it is so at the moment, it is not because I think it ought not to be so — but undoubtedly it is our desire certainly that the differentiation should be wiped out in that respect from public grant, through the local committee. As regards 1924 the able seaman, his minimum substantive pay is 12s. 10d. a week, but he has open to him, and the Infantryman has not, the opportunity for earning non-substantive pay. He may earn 1s. 9d. a week for seaman-gunner or torpedo-man and 3s. 6d. a week for gunlayer or leading torpedo-man. He may, therefore, make his 12s. 10d a week 18s. 1d. a week. That is not true of all of them, but two out of three of the able seamen do earn some non-substantive pay, and, if they do, I hope I do not put it too high when I say they could fairly do more for their wives and children than a private in the Army without that pay at all. If such a man cannot, then again the local pensions committee is empowered to make further allowances for his wife and children from public funds administered by the Special Grants Committee of the Ministry of Pensions. The leading seaman's minimum substantive pay is 16s. 11d. a week, but he, again, may, with non-substantive pay, bring his total to 28s. a week. As I have said, 85 per cent. of leading seamen do earn some non-substantive pay. The corporal's pay is 14s. a week, and, therefore, I think, I may reasonably suggest that the leading seaman can do more than a corporal. I do not carry the matter higher in rank than that, because, by common agreement, the effect of differentiation, if it does exist, does not exist there.
As regards the Royal Marines, in point of fact, if the Marine is on shore strength he does get separation allowance on the Army scale, and, therefore, no question arises here. He gets separation allowance on the Navy scale when on ship's books, but in the latter case the generally earns more pay than when borne on shore strength. I will give the pay of a private and corporal, Royal Marines, on ship's books and on shore strength when they are paid at Army rates. The Army separation allowances for a private is 8s. 2d. to Us. 1d. a week. Now, the same man on shore pay —with ship's books —gets 9s. 4d. to 12s. 10d., with Navy separation allowance. A corporal, Royal Marine Light Infantry, on shore strength, has 16s. 11d. a week, with Army separation allowance, and on ship's books 16s. 11d. to 19s. 3d. a week, with Navy separation allowance. For a corporal, Royal Marine Artillery, it is 22s. 2d. a week on shore strength and 22s. 2d. to 24s. 6d. on ship's books.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
When I say to 12s. 10d. to 19s. 3d. and to 24s. 6d. it is quite true they would not get it until after three years. The afloat allowance is 3d. a day for a private and 4d. a day for a corporal, but it is not paid, I agree, to Royal Marines going afloat unless they have been three years in the Service. But here again the local pensions committee is empowered —to take the case of a private, Royal Marines —to bring the allowance up to Army allowance if it is below that. Therefore it comes to this: In the lowest grades of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, where the higher pay does not fully counterbalance the reduced allowance, the local pensions committee is fully entitled to make up the difference from public funds. I will endeavour to get the point cleared up as to whether this is a matter of discretion, or whether they must make up the balance. So much for the wives and children. I am sorry to be so long, but it is only fair to my hon. Friends opposite, and those for whom they are pleading, that this matter should be fairly and fully handled. Now as regards the other dependant relatives —which is the case, I think, to which my hon. and gallant Friend mainly devoted himself —here again our system is different from the Army, and for the same reasons I have already indicated. Allowances to other dependant relatives are restricted by the amount of dependence; by the amount of the allotment, and by the amount of allowance that could be granted upon the wives' and children's scale to a household consisting of a like number of persons.
As regards the permanent Navy, the allowance is fixed at no more than half the amount of the allotment —my hon. Friend was very strong upon that — whereas for Reservists and men entered for hostilities only, the allowance, subject to the other restrictions, may equal the full amount of the allotment. The principle underlying the differentiation here is this: that whereas the Reservists and hostilities men had completely to alter and break up their method of living upon joining the Service, the man in the permanent Navy was simply continuing the life he had marked out for himself as a professional career. That is the scheme. But I go this far: I think that the scheme, particularly as regards the permanent men, might me looked at again. I think I have taken up all the points which have been raised. My hon. Friends will have gathered that we cannot concur in the plea 1926 which they put forward. That may seem ungracious on the part of a representative of the Board of Admiralty —for, after all, it is the Board's duty, and privilege, to take care of the interests of the men, and of their wives and children. But I do not really think we can go further, because I think that in practice —whatever may be the theory —the differentiation is already wiped out where it would press hardly, if at all, by the authorisation which has been given by the Pensions Ministry to the local pensions committees.
Still, I do not want to turn this down unless assurance is doubly assured that in every respect justice and equity is satisfied. I, therefore, make this suggestion: There has been at work, during the late summer and autumn months, a very strong Committee —I hope I may be allowed to say that although I was a member of it myself —under the presidency of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson), which has patiently examined matters relevant to these issues, and very sympathetically indeed. Their decisions have been placed before the War Cabinet. Without giving any undertaking of any sort, simply that another hand shall be upon the matter, and that we should not be the judges of our own cause too completely, but that someone else will look at it to see that matters arc fair and just, I should like to suggest that this, without prejudice, should be referred to that Committee. Part of my speech may now have prejudiced the case, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University will be very glad indeed, I doubt not, to continue his services as chairman, if the War Cabinet think well, for the purpose of examining the proposition now before the House. I do not know whether that meets my hon. and gallant Friend and my hon. and learned Friend, but I suggest that they might take that undertaking for what it is worth, and allow this Amendment to be negatived. Then we can get the Motion carried, "That Mr. Speaker leave the Chair"; then on Votes A and 1 we can take up in Committee the general discussion on the whole question of the Navy.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
In view of the undertaking which the right hon. Gentleman has now given, and which I understand means that all these facts which have been brought before this House shall be referred 1927 to the Committee he suggests for consideration, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I think we all listened this afternoon with very considerable interest to the statement made by the First Lord of the Admiralty. It was a very clear and a very lucid statement. So far as possible, it gave the policy of the Government concerning very vital and very important matters connected with our sea warfare. I do not think it would be proper to endeavour to criticise the general policy which was put forward this afternoon, but I should like to say a word or two with regard to the labour problem. The First Lord of the Admiralty made the confession, which, I think, was, in the interests of the country, a most unfortunate confession to have to make, namely, that some 50 per cent., or nearly 50 per cent., of the output of ships which it was anticipated would take place last month had not so taken place, the reason being because labour did not come up to the scratch. Owing to strikes and various other matters connected therewith, labour had not done its duty. This is a most unfortunate and a most regrettable fact. I sincerely trust that the Government will take every opportunity to bring home to the skilled men of this country the necessity of doing everything they possibly can to increase the output of our shipping. On that output being increased rests the question of the supply of food for this country, of food for the Armies at the front, and on all the fronts, and rests also the supply of men for all the fronts. In a word, upon that output really rests the question of victory or failure. I sincerely beg the Government to use every means in their power to instil into the minds of these men the necessity of further strain and stress in their work. I am sure if the facts are brought home to them, and they are made to recognise the real crucial points of the whole question, they will do the best they can, and show us next month that they intend to repair this disastrous state of affairs.
I would like to refer to one or two points connected with the interests of the lower deck, points with which I feel the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Dr. Macnamara) is quite familiar. I have 1928 no doubt that he will be able to answer them. The first point I should like to put before him is the question of the naval schoolmasters. I am very much obliged to him on their behalf —I have represented their cause on more than one occasion in Committee and in the House —for the concession that after six months' satisfactory service, provided they are recommended for advancement, they get it. That is a distinct gain. Unfortunately, this change of status is not accompanied by increase of pay. The right hon. Gentleman is aware that in many cases improved position means a loss. That is a fact in civil life. So it is in naval life. A warrant officer must incur more expense than a chief petty officer. Moreover, the increase of pay is only reasonable because to-day the naval schoolmasters are becoming more and more responsible for the conduct of the ships' schools. I do not know that I need press the point any further, except to ask the right hon. Gentleman to make some representation to their Lordships, and endeavour to see if he cannot obtain for these naval schoolmasters some further addition to their present emoluments.
I come to my second point. Upon this point we have had many conferences. I refer to the question of the naval writers. It is a question which raises some difficulty for the Admiralty. Still, it cannot be denied that the policy which is now pursued by the Admiralty with regard to naval writers is raising, and has raised, considerable dissatisfaction amongst the lower-deck ratings. In this War we have heard a good deal about promotion from the lower deck. If I remember rightly, the First Lord this afternoon himself took credit to the Admiralty for all they had done in regard to the promotion of officers from the lower deck. But what about the promotion of naval writers? What has been done in their case? That is the point to which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give his attention. Their complaint —and it is perfectly justifiable —is that men are entered from shore as commissioned officers whereas they have no chance of becoming commissioned officers. These men who are entered from the shore are trained by petty officers and trained to perform the duties of naval writers. Yet the petty officers themselves are not eligible for promotion, even to warrant rank. I will come to that presently, but, as I think, the right hon. Gentleman will 1929 have something to say on that point I will endeavour to anticipate. Doubtless he will say that it is because the petty officers are active Service ratings, and that they would be in excessive numbers after the War. That is not a sufficient answer. Let us go a little further into this point. Over a thousand commissions as assistant-paymaster R.N.V.R. have been given to outside men up to the present time. These assistant-paymasters have had to be trained by the naval writers themselves. You very often find an efficient naval writer training an inefficient officer, and that an inefficient man is responsible for the books being kept correctly while the efficient man is performing the work. Surely that is not the right principle to go upon. I remember the right hon. Gentleman telling me that ten more writers had been promoted to warrant rank. That is so, but the age of the youngest man is forty-one, and it is not possible for these ten men to enjoy the same benefits as those which are enjoyed by the other classes who have obtained promotion at the average age of thirty, seeing that the conditions as regards pensions are precisely the same in all cases. It is, in fact, the question of pensions which is mainly at stake, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to give that point his very serious attention. It is no use saying that the Board of Admiralty has promoted ten more writers to warrant rank if they are not going to have any considerable benefit from that promotion. Let us consider the number of ten. In order to allow a reasonable chance to obtain promotion, the number should not be ten, but forty.
Then there is the question of hospital stoppages. I have often argued this question in the House, and I was very pleased to hear that they were to be done away with; in fact the whole country was gratified with that announcement from the Front Bench. But what do we find? Not that hospital stoppages have been done away with. Nothing of the kind. We find that they are only to be suspended or done away with during the period of the War. Why this restriction? Surely everyone in the Government is against hospital stoppages. Everyone from the top to the bottom in the Navy, from the highest to the lowest rung of the ladder is opposed to hospital stoppages, and yet the Financial Secretary told me in answer to a question a few months ago that these hospital stoppages, instead of being done 1930 away with once and for all, were only to be done away with for the period of the War. That is not what the country asked for or what was intended, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to represent to their Lordships the point that I have made.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
The right hon. Gentleman is correct, he had better ask the War Cabinet, if they cannot see their way to do an action at once generous and liberal, and do away at once and for all with this illegal system of hospital stoppages. Then there is the question of equivalent ratings. This may not appear a very important subject, but it raises a very important principle. Three pence per day was given after three years' service to able seamen, stokers, and privates in the Royal Marines. We were all very grateful for that, and very pleased, but everyone expected that it would be extended to equivalent ratings such as third writers, cooks' mates, carpenters' crew and coopers' crew; but these men are not included. I submit that the only fair way of dealing with this matter is to give the 3d. a day to all equivalent ratings to that of able seamen after three years' service. I do not want the equivalent ratings to receive, more pay or be placed in a better position than the able seamen. I ask that they should be placed on the same equality, and that there should be no difference between one and the other. That is a very small request, but it will please a very considerable section of men of the lower deck if it is granted.
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the question of the concession granted last October in the matter of additional instructors of cookery. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he was waiting for the reports. I would like to know whether those reports have come in, and if so, when the the names of the men selected will be announced. I think it is a long time from October to February to consider the question of selection, and I would like to press the right hon. Gentleman for an answer on that point. I asked the other day whether the First Lord was aware that if a man became an officer in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve or obtained a temporary commission in the Royal Marines and meets his death on the battlefield, that man's relatives receive no gratuity, as is the case with officers 1931 who enter the Army from the Territorials or those who have undergone cadet training. I do not think it is necessary to lay stress upon a matter of this kind, for it must be ever present to the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. In this case I was told that the matter was being considered
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
About three or four weeks ago. I was then told that the matter would be put forward without delay, and I feel sure the right hon. Gentleman would like to take this opportunity of saying whether he has put it forward, and assure the House that what he said three or four weeks ago has been carried into effect. Perhaps he will press the Treasury and the Admiralty to carry out the wish which he expressed three weeks ago so earnestly. It seems to me to be almost unnecessary to pursue the subject, and I may remind him of the point in order that he may put both Forces on the same footing in this respect. Another question which seems to me to need a little attention is the subject of the good conduct medal, which is only given after fifteen years of continuous very good conduct, and they must be consecutive years. In the war men unfortunately are killed. Casualties occur every day, and you find a man who would have been eligible for the good conduct medal had he lived only six months or three months longer is struck out altogether from obtaining that medal. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to recommend to the Admiralty the advisability of reconsidering the question of the good conduct medal, so that if a man dies within a few months of completing fifteen years' service, that medal shall be given, together with the emoluments attached to it, to his widow or children?
Then there is the question of the naval ratings and Royal Marines who are prisoners of war. The right hon. Gentleman said that question was considered early in the year, and it was decided that the matter should stand over until the end of the War. This question affects not only these men, but also their wives and dependants. The right hon. Gentleman tells me that the advancement of boys to man's rating on reaching the age of eighteen is permitted, but that is not sufficient. I want the right hon. Gentleman to go 1932 further, and do what I ask, that is to say whether he will reconsider the decision recently given with regard to naval ratings and Royal Ma lines being deferred until after the War. The reason I ask for this is because the decision penalises the wives and dependants of prisoners of war. I was somewhat surprised to notice that the First Lord of the Admiralty to-day was careful to avoid all questions connected with the Royal dockyards, and why he did so I am utterly unable to understand. It is a fact that no mention was made in the interesting speech of the First Lord of the Royal dockyards. We heard nothing about torpedoed ships being repaired in a wonderful shortness of time and ships being built there very rapidly. Nothing was said about the men working day and night and the employment of women in the dockyards. We heard nothing about the very large amount of labour working daily and hourly in the Royal dockyards. I think that was a mistake and was not intended, but it is casting a slur upon the work of the Royal dockyards, and no doubt the First Lord presumed that the Financial Secretary would deal sympathetically with the desires and wishes of the men employed in the dockyard.
I want to bring before the right hon. Gentleman the case of the charge men of trades. The duties of these men are highly responsible; they require to possess considerable technical knowledge, and yet their remuneration, including allowances for an apprentice, is only two shillings a week above that paid to hired mechanics, while the men they supervise receive about 20 per cent. in wages more than they do. This is an anomaly which I can hardly suppose the Financial Secretary is aware of. It does seem absurd that men who have to look after other men and have to superintend their work, to deal with them from day to day, should receive a lower payment than those whose work they supervise.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Yes, but the charge pay does not amount to the sum which the men of whom they have charge are receiving from the Government. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman that when charge men were introduced the pay of the mechanics was 30s., and the charge pay was fixed at one-fifth of that amount, 1933 or 20 per cent. of a mechanic's pay. But since that time the pay of the mechanics has nearly doubled, but the charge pay, except in the case of those who participate in the extra 3s., remains the same. No doubt a number of charge men do participate in the extra 3s., but it works out at only 33.3 per cent. The figures are very instructive, and if the right hon. Gentleman will do me the honour of considering them I think he will agree there is a good case for granting an advance to those charge men. I suggest that, instead of the present weekly payment of 6s., with the additional 3s. in certain cases, charge men, after working continuously for three years, should advance automatically by annual increments of £5 until the maximum in their respective classes is reached. I have every reason to know that if this concession is granted it will give the charge men the status they desire, and will satisfy them entirely, because it will enable them to maintain their position in the yards. After all, it must be the desire of the Admiralty to see satisfaction in the dockyards among all classes and all ratings.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me anything about yard-craft rates, and whether a further increment becomes due after three years? That is another matter which the right hon. Gentleman said he had under consideration. He said that two months ago, but still we have no information on the point. Meanwhile we have had information with regard to carpenters in the Royal Navy, and I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the concession he has given them. For a long time I have endeavoured to urge on him the necessity of altering the name "carpenter" and giving the rating, and I was grateful for the statement he made a few years ago to another hon. Member that both these concessions had been made. I have only one other point, and that deals more particularly with the Treasury. But the Treasury cannot move unless they are inspired by the Admiralty. The question I refer to is that of dockyard pensioners. This matter affects a great number of men, a great number of families, and a great many other people who are dependent on pensioners. It must be pushed further than it has been up to the present time. The only answer I have been able hitherto to obtain from the Financial Secretary is that it is a matter entirely for the Treasury, and that it would in- 1934 volve a very considerable expenditure of public money, because, if the concession were made to the dockyard pensioners, it would have to be made to other pensioners in the Civil Service. But let me ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware that bonuses are now being given up to 75 per cent. in many cases of civil employment, and why are they given? Because of the extra cost of living. What is the basis of pensions? They are based on the wages earned by the man when he was in the yard, and these wages are based also on the cost of living at that time; consequently, you find that the pensioner with £1 or 10s. a week is now being compelled to live upon 10s. or 5s. weekly, providing he has no other work, and many men are too old or too infirm to undertake other work. I think it is a scandal that men should have to live on 5s. a week —men who have helped to build the ships which are now being used for the defence of our country, and for securing our War aims. Yet it is a fact which cannot be denied, that men are receiving pensions which, at the current value, are not worth more than 5s. or 10s. weekly. We may be told by the Treasury that they can make no change in this matter. I, however, would remind them that they have made a change in the case of old age pensioners to whom they have given a half-crown bonus, and if that can be done in the case of the old age pensioner, why should not the dockyard pensioner be also granted a similar bonus? It is only a question of degree, and I do suggest that in all cases of pensions of £50 a year a bonus should be granted for the period of the War. The cost is really not a matter which is worth considering in view of the enormous expenditure now being indulged in. It is absolutely necessary to give higher pensions in these cases. All I ask for is that pensioners whose pensions only amount to £l a week, or £50 a year, should be given an additional sum by way of war bonus.
There is another matter with regard to these pensions. If a dockyard pensioner obtains work, and if his wages, combined with his pension, exceed the amount he was earning when his pension was granted, he is compelled, for some reason or other, to suffer a proportionate reduction from his pension. There might have been some argument for this policy in prewar days, but it altogether falls to the ground now that we are at war. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me why there 1935 should be a distinction made between dockyard pensioners and naval pensioners? No deduction is made from the naval pension, why should any be made from the dockyard pension? Again, if the deduction is to be based on the pay of the rating on which the man was engaged when he obtained his pension, surely if you are going to deduct the pension from the man's present wage the basis ought to be the present rate of wages paid to the rating in which he was engaged when he left the yard! If that were done there would be no question arising with regard to the deduction, because the man would be earning three or four times what he was when he left the yard and the position would be altogether different. My own opinion is that there should be no deduction from a man's pension. The time has come when deductions from dockyard pensions should be abolished altogether. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that when the question of pensions arising during the present War was under consideration the point was made in this House, and I myself pressed it, that no deduction whatever should be made in a man's pension if he had earned it, and the Government took credit to themselves for their action in the matter. They said, quite properly, in regard to pensions in the present War, whatever wages a man might get in any employment after he had got his pension no deduction should be made from that pension, and I submit for the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman that if this is done, and it is done quite rightly in regard to pensioners in the present War, it should also be done with regard to dockyard pensioners. I would like to conclude by citing one example of this iniquitous system. I call it iniquitous because it is a system which falls very hardly on the men. Only the other day a dockyard pensioner came to me and told me —
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I know the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to anticipate me, but I intend to take advantage of this opportunity of making the case public. A dockyard pensioner came to me —he was an old man —and he said "Look here, Sir. Here am I, an old man, unable to do 1936 any manual work, but an employer here says, 'Well I am doing war work. I am very hard pressed for a man to superintend my labour. Will you come in and help me with the work?'" The man said, "I am not able to do much manual labour" The employer replied, "I only want help to superintend my labour'' The man replied, "All right; I will join on" That man, from purely patriotic motives, undertook that work, and what happened? His pension of a few pounds a year was taken away, deducted; when he went to the Dockyard Paymaster he was told, ''You cannot have it; you are earning too much money" This man was in very unfortunate circumstances, because he had had two serious operations and was suffering from an infirmity which necessitated his spending practically £10 a year for medicinal purposes. This was known, or should have been known, to the Paymaster, and yet it was necessary for this man to approach the Admiralty, and, hearing nothing from the Admiralty, to approach me, and for me to write to the Admiralty. After all that was done, as the right hon. Gentleman said when he interrupted me, the Admiralty made a great and glorious concession, and they said the whole thing was a mistake.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I grant you it was a mistake, but that mistake could not have possibly occurred except for the fact that this iniquitous principle is in force. The man who made the mistake naturally supposed that this was the same thing as he had always had, that the man's pension had to be deducted. It was a mistake; I am very glad it was; and in one respect it was a good one because it has enabled me to bring the case before the House, to show how the Admiralty deal with an old dockyard pensioner, how they cut off his pension on every possible occasion if —whatever the work the man may be engaged in, war work, work in the dockyard, or any work whatsoever —he is earning more than when he left the yard. It is a very wrong principle, and it is a very great scandal. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, with all the force I can, to see if it is not possible at the earliest moment to do away with this scandal, and to give the dockyard pensioner the possibility of earning as much money as he can without having deductions made from his pension.
§ Mr. WATT
There is only one point I desire to bring before the right hon. Gentleman, and I will seek to do so as speedily as I can. It is the point I have raised before in the form of question and answer, and, unhappily, the answer was not as satisfactory as I desired. In pursuance of the policy of the Admiralty, enormous contracts are placed for shipbuilding, and a large proportion of these shipbuilding contracts are, of course, placed upon the Clyde. It follows necessarily from the size of these contracts placed with shipbuilders there that they sub-contract for a large part of the work that has to be done. A Committee dealing with wages was appointed by the right hon. Gentleman to go into that question and to find out whether advances should be paid to the workers generally in the shipbuilding yards and sub-contractors places, and that Committee came to the conclusion that advances should be paid to the workers notwithstanding that contract prices were largely arranged, not only with the shipbuilders but with the sub-contractors. These advances had, of course, to be paid. They were paid to the workers in the shipbuilding yards, and they were also paid to the workers in the sub-contractors places. The shipbuilding yards had no difficulty whatever in getting the advanced prices paid to the workers from the Admiralty, but the sub-contractors, with whom the Admiralty have no direct dealing, have had enormous difficulty in getting repaid to them the money that was paid, on the instructions of the Committee, in advance of what has been paid.
The right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, understands the question quite well. The Admiralty, having no relations with the sub-contractors, could not deal with them direct, and the sub-contractors were instructed to go to the contractors, the shipbuilders, and to ask them to pass on to the Admiralty this demand. The shipbuilders are refusing to do that on behalf of the sub-contractors. They say they have nothing to do with these sub-contractors' advances, and will not carry to the Admiralty the demand for the money. That is the serious disadvantage which the sub-contractors are under at present. On the instructions of the Department of the right hon. Gentleman they paid their workers the advances, and are now in the position of being out of pocket to the extent of the money which they have paid to their workers. I am not aware whether the higher prices paid by the Admiralty 1938 to the shipbuilders are now in the shipbuilders' pockets, but in the meantime all the sub-contractors working for the right hon. Gentleman's Department are in that position of not being able, by reason of the fact that the shipbuilders will not carry the matter to the Department, to get the money. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take measures of some sort or another whereby these demands will find their way to his Department because I think that if they do they will be met as demands usually are in this Department. He is cognisant of the point, and I hope ho will indicate some means by which the sub-contractors may get the money to which they are entitled.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The first point raised by the hon. Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) was with regard to naval schoolmasters, and in regard to that I have to say that we took steps in October, 1917, to improve the status of this class, and acting warrant rank without pay —which was the point made by the hon. Gentleman —was granted for the duration of the War to all naval school masters, permanent and temporary, on completion of six months' satisfactory service. The whole scheme is quite temporary, and the future of the branch is under consideration at the present time. As regards the writer class —which is the next point to which the hon. Gentleman referred —there again he objected to the fact that we have given direct commissions to so many accountants and others outside to the prejudice of this class. We had no alternative with the expansion of the Navy but to avail ourselves of the services of these Gentlemen, because if it had been possible to promote the writer class to these commissions we should have been in a position of having a hopeless block in promotion at the close of hostilities, and the only way to have met that would have been to have disrated persons to whom we had given commissions for the time being, and that would be a very objectionable policy to pursue. I do not know that I need go over the whole ground of the writer class, but promotion to warrant rank was established by Order in Council of the 18th of October, 1909, to commissioned warrant rank by Order in Council of the 12th August, 1915, and to commissioned rank of paymaster and staff paymaster by Order in Council of the 14th of April and the 13th of June, 1917 —the promotion to staff paymaster being automatic after eight years' service 1939 as paymaster. At the beginning of the War there were fifteen posts as warrant writer open to the writer class —fifteen posts of warrant rank. At the end of 1914 twelve additional posts were created, which made twenty-seven in all. In 1915 five promotions were made to the then established rank of commissioned writers, and at the same time the number of warrant writers had increased to thirty-five, which number in May, 1916, was further increased to forty- seven, and since the institution of commissioned rank six promotions to paymaster have been made, and an additional promotion is to be made annually until the establishment reaches ten. Finally, in November last, one commissioned writer and ten warrant writers were added, and there are at present six paymasters, six commissioned writers, and fifty-one warrant writers, as compared with fifteen warrant writers at the beginning of the War. I ought also to explain: that there is a Committee now sitting on the whole question of the pay and pro motion of warrant officers, and, of course, any proposals which would affect warrant officers would affect the writers so far as they are warrant officers. I do not think I can carry the matter further than that at the present time. As regards hospital stoppages, the hon. Gentleman, not for the first time —and I make no complaint of that —called attention to the fact that that concession was for the period of the War. That is true of all the concessions which came into operation on the 1st of October, 1917, both as regards the Army and the Navy, and that is not singular. It is the decision of the Government, and of course it is not for me—
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That is perfectly true; it was not in the Prime Minister's letter to the Press, but I think the hon. Gentleman may take it from me that it was the decision of the War Cabinet. I cannot, of course, give any undertaking about the matter, but obviously the situation as regards this and other matters would naturally have to be reviewed at the close of hostilities, and we cannot but imagine that it would be reviewed as regards these men —Army and Navy —with sympathy. I am certainly entitled to say that, although I have no right to give any undertaking as to what will become after the War of these various concessions —I 1940 give no undertaking, of course —which are, as the hon. Gentleman says, for the period of the War. As regards equivalent ratings, as the hon. Gentleman says, the concession was 3d. a day extra to able seamen after three years. Before that it had been after six years. The hon. Gentleman asked why the equivalent ratings have not got it. So far as they are equivalent ratings they have got it. The equivalent ratings in question to the A.B. are the signalmen, the telegraphists, and the first-class stokers.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think I am right in saying that the original 3d. a day to able seamen was granted after six years. The equivalent ratings at that time were those I have stated —the signalmen, telegraphists, and first-class stokers —and when we came on the 1st of October, 1917, to give 3d. a day after three years instead of after six years, the same equivalent ratings got it as got it in the original case. If my hon. Friend thinks there are others who ought to be included, he will remember that it is an extension of the original equivalent ratings which were set forth when the concession was made. He spoke of the need of additional instructors in cookery, and he said that he had been promised that a report about the matter would be forthcoming. At the end of last year we increased the establishment to ten. I do not know whether he remembers that fact. Before that the establishment was only three. At the same time we introduced a commissioned warrant rank, and three of them have been instituted. The pay of the instructors in cookery was raised to 7s. per day, 8s. after five years, and 9s. after ten years. I am not quite sure, but I think that is the report to which he said that I promised consideration.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
You told me that there were reports coining in, and that selections would be made.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I have told my hon. Friend what we have done. Up to the end of last year we had increased the establishment of cookery instructors to ten, and we had introduced a commissioned warrant rank with the title Commissioned Instructors in Cookery. The pay to these on promotion is 10s. per day, 10s. 6d. after two years, 11s. after four years, 11s. 6d. after six years, and 12s. after eight years.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
All that is very interesting, but the right hon. Gentleman told me three weeks ago that certain reports were coming in and that selections were being made. What is being done? I do not want to know what was done up to the end of last year, but what has been done during the last few weeks.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I did not think my hon. Friend knew what I have just told him, but, as I understand it, he was promised three weeks ago that some steps should be taken on some reports?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I would advise my hon. Friend to put another question down. I have told him what had been done up to the end of last year, and so far as I know that is all for the moment; but if he will put another question down, I will see how the matter stands. He referred to the question of gratuities to temporary officers. There are gratuities to temporary officers in the Army, but not in the Navy. The matter has been under the consideration of the Board of Admiralty. I think my hon. Friend was one of those who raised the matter by -way of question in this House.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
It is now a matter of consideration between ourselves and the Treasury. I cannot carry the matter beyond that. All I can say is that we have not delayed in examining the problem since the date when I told him we had taken it under consideration. It would not be right to say what the proposal may be. My hon. Friend suggested that great hardship was caused to a man who did not get a Good Conduct Medal because he failed to satisfy the Regulations by a few years.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
At any rate, I understand the hon. Member's point. You have really got to draw the line somewhere, and wherever you draw it there are bound to be cases of hardship. 1942 I cannot hold out any hope that we shall grant this medal in any case where the qualification has not been satisfied. If you depart from the qualification laid down, I do not know where you will end.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am afraid that we must stick to the Regulations. We cannot treat it as if it were an elastic affair. He referred to naval ratings who may be prisoners of war, and pointed out that they do not get promotion during their imprisonment. That is true. It is the same rule as for the Army, but I think I am right in saying that the War Office at the present time are giving some consideration to the problem. I cannot say, but they may take a fresh decision. I will certainly keep the matter before me, and if there is any modification by the Army Council the hon. Member may be certain that our Board will take it under their consideration as regards its application to the Navy. He said the First Lord of the Admiralty had not made any reference to the Royal Dockyards. That is true, but the omission was obviously quite inadvertent, and my right hon Friend would be only too glad to say, what I now say on behalf of the Board, that during the War our employeés in the Royal Dockyards have borne the strain of war with the greatest loyalty and with the greatest devotion. I seize the opportunity of thanking them in the name of the Board fox the way in which they have supported us. They know how fully we appreciate the way that they have performed the task that the War has placed upon them. My hon. Friend said that cases arise where even with his charge pay the charge hand is not getting as much money as the operative on piece-work. Such a case might arise. Chargemen, of course, get charge pay. My hon. Friend suggests that they should have automatic increases so as ultimately to bring them up to the minimum of inspectors of trades. I will have the matter looked into. I cannot give, any undertaking, but I am fully seised of the point, which has not been put for the first time to-night, and I will consider it. My hon. Friend must not imagine that, as a result, it will be agreed to. He called attention to certain questions concerning the yard 1943 craftmen. There are certain questions affecting the yard craftmen being discussed, and if he will put down a question or speak to me about any matter affecting the conditions of the yard craftmen serving in the Royal Dockyards, I will see exactly how the matter stands. He also called attention to the question of dockyard pensioners. He said the pension was very small, and that the value of it was not now what it was. He asked whether we could not add something to the pension in the same way as has been done with regard to old age pensions It is not a matter for us, as he knows We have represented the views of the Dockyard Committee, of which my hon. Friend is Secretary, and I am not quite sure that we did not commend it to the Treasury for their consideration. I rather think that we did. He knows that the Treasury have taken the view that if you add to the pensions of Civil employés under the Superannuation Act you really open a very large question indeed. There, I am afraid, the matter must be left. But. I will say this: Some of the men to whom ray hon. Friend refers are able to engage in work outside. My hon. Friend him self some time ago drew a picture of, I think he said, hundreds walking about the streets of Devonport.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Oh, well in all the dockyard towns. I accept all the hon. Member says. Even taking the lot together, I think it is rather an exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of ex-dockyard established men on pension who are walking about dockyard towns in a state of penury. I do not think it is so. Many of them are able to engage in work. The last word of the Treasury is that this increase or war bonus to established servants who are now superannuated, if granted, could not be confined to the Royal dockyards merely, because there are vast numbers of other employés who would have to be considered. The Treasury, as my hon. Friend knows, are not prepared to give consideration to the matter. He also referred to deductions of pay of the re- employed dockyard pensioners. That, again, is not a matter for us, but for the Treasury. We have gone into it very fully, and we have stated cases to the Treasury very fully. The course generally followed, both with regard to them 1944 and to those who are receiving compensation for injury, is that no more can be paid than would bring the workman's present earnings up to his earnings prior to his leaving or receiving the injury. With regard to superannuation, that is under the Superannuation Act, and with regard to a man who is receiving an injury allowance, again the Treasury is the final arbiter. That, I think, covers all the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport. My hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Mr. Watt) raised a complaint about sub-contractors not being able to get back from us certain payments which they had made to their men in respect of increased wages. Perhaps I can best meet his case by explaining to him fully and completely how that matter stands, because I do not think I need detain the House with regard to it. If it is a case where any hardship appears to have arisen, I will have the case gone into very fully. I think that now I might ask the House to give us the Motion and to go into Committee.
§ Question put, and agreed to.