§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
A. "That 156,000 Officers, Seamen, and Boys, Coast Guard, and Royal Marines be employed for the Sea and Coast Guard Services borne on the books of His Majesty's Ships and at the Royal Marine Divisions for the year ending on the 31st day of March. 1921.
§ Major-General SEELY
I beg to move, "That the number to be employed be reduced by 100."
I desire to call the attention of the Committee to one very important aspect of these Estimates. On the general question, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. G. Lambert) is far better qualified to speak than I am, in view of his long experience at the Admiralty, but this is a matter of general, and, indeed, of vital importance. In his statement, a lucid statement, to which tribute has been paid by speakers on all sides of the House, the First Lord of the Admiralty referred in one phrase only to the possibility of there being one Minister responsible for Defence, and he said with emphasis that it was a proposal which the Board of Admiralty would resist by every means in their power. That is a definite declaration of policy which I hope does not mean that the right hon. Gentleman and the Board of Admiralty are going to oppose what seems to be of the most urgent necessity in the matter of defence, namely, some form of co-ordination between the three Services. I said the other day that the lack of co-ordination had already cost us millions of money. I am sure that is so, and some way must be found, as it was found before the War, to ensure that there is co-ordination. If the proposal were to extend, the present system, to which exception has been taken in many quarters of the House, and under which the Secretary of State for War is also Secretary of State for another Department, and the First Lord of the Admiralty also, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be a ridiculous 2442 plan. The Navy would never stand it, and the country would never stand it. When the right hon. Gentleman says that he will oppose it, I hope that it does not moan that he will oppose some system such as that which prevailed before the War, and which shall secure, when it is a question how we are going to prevent the massacre of Armenians, how we an: going to cope with a possible menace of a much greater character, or how we are going to defeat the mad Mullah, that all three Services shall be forced to consult together and not work in water-tight compartments, as I regret to say they have tended to do since the War.
Before this War the need for this coordination was found. The Committee of Imperial Defence, of which I was a member for many years—I suppose, technically, that I am still a member—of necessity worked in secret, but it did work of a most valuable kind. We are often told that we were unprepared for war. I think the German phrase that we were a nation who, while talking peace, prepared for war and were more ready, within the limits which we imposed upon ourselves, than any other nation is more near to the truth. It is the fact that under the guidance of my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), assisted, of course, by the present Prime Minister, and, in one most important matter, by the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council (Mr. Balfour), we did make plans for a possible outbreak of war which worked better, and I say this without fear of contradiction, than the plans of any other Power that was engaged in the late War. Within the limits which we imposed upon ourselves, we were more successful certainly than Germany or any other of our enemies, and I think than any other country that took part in the War. In all our wide-flung Empire no single hostile foot was put upon British soil, except a few poor halt-drowned Turks who swam the canal. The command of the sea was obtained and maintained and ensured but for the submarine menace which was combated only later in the War, and the forces which we designed to take part in European warfare arrived at the critical moment, with the help of the Navy, where they were required with greater certainty and with greater effect upon the issue of the War than the corresponding forces of any 2443 other Power. It may be said that different plans ought to have been made, or that we ought to have made them on a much bigger scale—that is another question—but within the limits which we imposed upon ourselves we were better prepared than any other Power. Why? I say it was because the Committee of Imperial Defence had been patiently working for years trying to think out the different problems, naval and military, and, as it turned out, thinking them out not entirely without success.
The Air having come into the picture, the problem is much more complicated, and yet there is no co-ordinating body now in existence. The Committee of Imperial Defence has not been set up and is not functioning. The Prime Minister, the only co-ordinating authority, cannot possibly have time to do it, seeing that he is our representative on the Supreme Council and must of necessity often be absent even from this country and, of course, constantly absent from any such deliberations as those of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I believe that our proper course, and I press the right hon. Gentleman, if I may, to say that the Board of Admiralty would not oppose such a course, would be to revive the Committee of Imperial Defence in a better form, giving it wider powers, with a Vice-President who would be responsible for seeing that the different views of land, sea, and air were properly accommodated before any action was taken. The failure to do this has been very expensive to us. I said the other day that the neglect of the Air Arm in its application to the navy was scandalous, and I regret to say that I can only repeat that word. It is scandalous, and I say that, although I know perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman himself holds the strongest views, for he has expressed them, as to the necessity of keeping an open mind and very widely open eyes as to the future possibilities of the air. Indeed, in this Memorandum which he has issued, the best and clearest Memorandum issued with the Navy Estimates that I have ever read, there is much with regard to co-operation between the sea and the air with which we must all agree. The statements are admirable; it is the practice that has been at fault.
I will just give two instances, and only two. Take the first. The dropping of 2444 torpedoes from the air is a most difficult business. There is no secrecy in the matter, because this has been referred to openly, both in this House and outside. It was only a short time ago that the problem was solved. It is now quite easy to drop a torpedo from the air with as great accuracy as you can discharge it from a ship. No man can foresee what the effect of that must be upon our naval future, but that the change is enormous and vital must be apparent to all. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, although it is not a matter of which I can speak with any expert knowledge, that it does not follow that the capital ship is doomed. That would be a ridiculous thing to say. It certainly is not doomed now, because the things are not there. We can say, however, that it has profoundly modified not only tactics, but even strategy, and from all that I have been able to learn, and this also is a matter of common knowledge, the Air Ministry have practically ceased to experiment in this most vitally important question in all departments of our naval, military and air activities, owing, I believe, to the lack of some such body as the Committee of Imperial Defence, over which my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley presided. Owing to the lack of some such body, each Department, in response to urgent appeals for economy, has pursued the most uneconomical course. They have stopped practically all fresh development—this applies less perhaps to the Navy than it does to the two other Services—and have continued to spend money on all the old-fashioned things. Except for the right hon. Gentleman who, although he was at Harrow, told us that he was uneducated—and yet has shown more signs of education than any of his colleagues, one of them being two-headed—they have sold themselves, on questions of National Defence, to the reactionaries. Would it be believed that this most vital invention, profoundly altering all our strategy, has not been pursued with any vigour; and that, indeed, the experiments were recently completely stopped?
The other instance brings us nearer home, not nearer in the sense of these shores, but nearer home to our thoughts and minds. It has been truly said that the effect of Air Power joined to Sea Power is to increase the range of your guns from 20 miles to 300 miles. In the 2445 course of our recent troubles with the Turk, troubles which are still continuing, we could without doubt have made short work of any trouble with Mustapha Kcmil whom we now know, from the speech of the Foreign Secretary in the House of Lords, to have been the source of all the trouble, and probably responsible for most of the massacres. We could have made short work with him as we did with the Mad Mullah had the Navy been equipped by the Air Ministry with the appropriate number of aeroplane-carrying ships, seaplane-carrying ships, seaplane carriers, and all the necessary paraphernalia for ensuring that our Sea Power had the long arm of the air ready to help them. If my information be correct—I daresay that the First Lord of the Admiralty will tell us, if the matter be not confidential—the provision of aircraft with the Fleet at Constantinople was so lacking that it would not have alarmed the most pusillanimous Turk. That vital part of our power was taken from us by the lack of the necessary provision.
I have attempted to deal only with a single point, and I hope the Committee will see that now, as in the past, I have tried not to speak at any great length. If I have spoken briefly, I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Committee will agree that I have attempted to deal with a matter which is one of vital and transcendent importance. To make this definite, I formally move a reduction of 100 men in the Vote, I make this definite charge against the Government as a whole, not especially, against the First Lord, who has shown far more alertness in, the matter than others; that there has not boon proper co-ordination between the services; that so far they have been built in watertight compartments; that they have not seen to it that a policy has been pursued with vigour to enable us to obtain the advantage of the new inventions that we saw in the War. I say that, so far as the Fleet is concerned, in proportion to the money spent, it will be less powerful than it would have been if it had been assured of the co-operation of the Air Force. It is vitally necessary to secure some means of co-operation, While it would be foolish, as some have proposed, to have one Minister to preside over the Board of Admiralty, the Air Council and the Army Council—no Member of this House would approve of that, 2446 I think—we do believe that somebody, such as the Committee of Imperial Defence with adequate powers, should be set up forthwith to see that there is no further waste of money or effort on account of a lack of proper co-ordination.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Long)
I rise mainly to deal with the important question raised by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken. He has referred to the Committee of Imperial Defence. The appointment of that Committee and its constitution is the privilege of the Prime Minister of the day. After consultation with the other members of the Cabinet, no doubt, he would have to decide, in conjunction with the heads of service Departments, what should be its membership and what its duties should be. My own opinion, which I give now, as I have given it before, would be that no alterations should be made in that committee in the direction of increasing the number of its members. I would rather see the numbers reduced than increased. Whether it is desirable to give it more power I do not know. In order to remove any misunderstanding which may have arisen from the language which I used last night in regard to a Minister of Defence, I should explain that I was referring solely to the proposal which the right hon. and gallant Member knows has been made in many quarters, that there should be one Minister of Cabinet rank who should represent the three fighting departments, having under him the First Lord of the Admiralty and the other heads. That proposal, I said, would meet from the whole Navy the most strenuous opposition, not from any feeling of loss of dignity or jealousy, but because the whole machinery and control of the Navy, the Air Force, and the land forces are so totally different that we do not believe it will be possible to place them in the hands of one man who should be responsible for the three. We do not think that it is possible for one man to accept the responsibility for the control of the three forces. I am confident—and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has had his own experience and I think he will agree—that unless you have a radical change in the constitution of the Government, more radical than any I have heard suggested up to the present, and you set up two or three Cabinets or something of that kind, you can never 2447 approach the three Ministers who are responsible for these forces and ask them to subordinate themselves to one Minister of Cabinet rank. I am afraid that would be to offer an insult to the heads of these great historical Departments. That is the effect of what I said last night.
As regards the suggestions that have been made to-day, I do not propose to go into the question of our relations with the Air Force. We have been partially exempted from the criticism which has been made to-day on the other Departments, but, although we have been partially exempted from that criticism, it is suggested that we might do more to encourage continuous co-operation and the examination of all the conditions. We have tried at the Admiralty, as I explained last night, to arrive at the policy which I announced. It has involved very heavy labour upon the Board of Admiralty and upon the various officers of the Admiralty, and I really think my language last night was hardly strong enough. No one can properly realise the task which fell upon the Navy and, indeed, all the other Departments who were left at the end of the War, in our case, to construct a Navy which would be adequate to our future needs, and yet would not place a financial strain on the country, or a bigger burden than was absolutely necessary. Something has been said with regard to the Air Ministry and War inventions. We have really been trying, as I believe the other Departments have been, to put our own house in order, and to prepare a proper police for peace time. As to the Committee of Imperial Defence, as I have said that is a matter for the Prime Minister to decide, and we should no doubt be consulted if it were being set up again. I think the suggestion that it should be set up is one of the greatest value. I do not know what the Prime Minister will say about it. It is quite true that there are times just now when it is quite impossible that he could be available to attend, but obviously it would be very useful. We, at the Admiralty, are anxious to have this Committee set up with as much rapidity as possible. We have made our view clearly known.
We are extremely anxious also that apart from, or in addition to, the Committee of Imperial Defence, which is a body of Ministers and experts, there 2448 should be a definite arrangement under which the staffs of the great fighting Departments should meet regularly for consultation and to work out as far as possible a common policy. To that view I have myself expressed my personal adherence. It it most desirable. I can assure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that there has been no avoidable delay. We have been constantly inquiring how such a staff could be brought together. We have a staff, a small one, taking measures to secure the presence of officers of the Dominion Navies, in an endeavour to bring about unity of action between the different parts of the Empire. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman went beyond that and suggested a joint staff to represent all the fighting Departments, so that a policy should be available which would be a joint policy and one of co-ordination. To that I do not think I should offer any objections. I have only risen to make clear the language which I used last night and how it is intended to reply to this wider problem.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I only intend to utter a few sentences upon some of the points which have been raised by the two right hon. Gentlemen who have just spoken. These are points of great interest and importance, and they go far beyond even the vital questions which are raised by the Naval Estimates. I associate myself with both the right hon. Gentlemen in deprecating the creation of an executive Minister of Defence, who would be over the Army and Navy and Air Service in such a way that they would be, or intended to be, subordinate bodies. I think it is of the highest importance that each of the heads of these Departments should have undivided responsibility for his own service, and that he should not be placed in a position in which he would he subordinate to irresponsible people. I say further, with regard to that, that I take the view of the First Lord of the Admiralty, which he has just expressed, and of the right hon. and gallant Gentle man beside me, that we ought to have some machinery for closer co-operation and more continuous concentration of the staffs of the great defensive services, and that it is immediately desirable. It is a long time since I first came into touch with that problem in connection with the Army and the Navy. How far it has been 2449 carried with regard to the Air Service, I do not know, but I hope something of that kind is going on. I think that anything which would add to the efficiency of our defensive preparations should be done so far as it secures an intimate, periodical examination of the problems, and an interchange of information and counsel between the three staffs.
I have only one other point which I will make, not in any controversial spirit, and that is with regard to the functions of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I presided over that Committee for the greater part of ten years and watched its development. I do not know whether it is quite clear to hon. Members, now that war conditions have submerged the normal operations of that Committee, what these functions were. It was not, and was never intended, to be an executive body. It did not accept responsibility. The responsibility rested with the heads of the fighting Departments. It was an elastic body, both in its functions and its composition, which varied from time to time as the Prime Minister thought fit, in accordance with the needs of the time or the particular question which seemed for a moment to arise. Its function was to discuss questions of offensive and defensive policy. It came into consultation with temporary members of the Committee, and with the experts of the different services, so as to form a conjoint body, as experience suggested, to discuss the lines on which our policy ought to proceed. It was never intended that the Committee should take upon itself executive functions, but it was intended so to act as to avoid collisions and cross-purposes, and in some cases the waste of application or an approach to administrative confusion which might have occurred but for its existence. I must express my earnest hope after a long experience of it in peace time that the work of this Committee will be resumed.
My right hon. Friend has referred to the possible occasional absences of the Prime Minister, I do not think that during the whole of the years I was responsible for that office I was absent more than two or three times. There will be no difficulty whatever about that, as the Prime Minister always has some colleague who is thoroughly so competent to take his place, and preside. The great thing is to maintain elasticity in the composition 2450 of the Committee, a clear demarcation of its functions from the functions of the Executive fighting Departments, and to secure, through its operations, for the ultimate decision of the Cabinet of the day, the fullest possible review from time to time of the ever-shifting questions, both of offensive and defensive policy. I hope that will continue to be the function of the Committee.
§ Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS
I do not wish to pursue the subject dealt with by the three right hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me. No doubt that is a question that will be answered by ray right hon. Friend (Mr. Long). I regret very much that my right hon. Friend should have had the misfortune to address this House at the time he did last night, because I am afraid he had a very small attendance—an attendance not worthy of such a valuable contribution to the subject he was dealing with. I hope that the public, at all events, will read in the newspapers what the right hon. Gentleman said. I think that the performance of the Admiralty since the Armistice has been a marvellous one. To have reduced the number of men serving in our Navy from 407,000 to 127,000, as it will be reduced during the current year, and to have reduced the expenditure by one-half—from £157,000,000 to £84,000,000—is a matter which must commend them to the public in general, and to the taxpayer in particular. As an old member of a city which has had very long connections, and I think honourable connections, with the Navy, I think I may say with truth that the Admiralty could not possibly during the War have done without the great arsenal which I have the honour to represent. That city has been a hive of warlike industry for 4½ years. Shells, guns of all sizes and all kinds of war material have been furnished by it. Unfortunately, now it is our painful duty, as it has been the painful duty of my right hon. Friend, to discharge a great many of these workmen and women who have been working there and whose services are not required now because the work has been completed. We all sympathise with those who have been discharged, and we are doing the best we can to find them work in the peaceful industries. I am glad to say that we are managing, I think successfully, to turn very quickly into the peaceful 2451 industries. It is no doubt a difficult question, and it is especially difficult to find work which is suitable for these people.
There is one question I would like to ask, because it directly affects my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. Even since the Crimean War, when it was first found that armour could be used to protect ships, the city of Sheffield has been the home and maker of armour. The character of that armour has changed, and from time to time new inventions have been adopted, but what is the position now? No armour is required. Very few orders for armour were accepted during the War, and, in the present Estimates—I am not complaining of it—there is no armour ordered except £100,000 worth for experiments. The Committee will see that the large armour plate firms are placed in a difficulty. We have this very peculiar special plant which cannot be used for anything else, which is very large and costs a tremendous amount. I suppose if the Admiralty wish to set it up now it would cost three or four times the amount that was originally paid for it. I take the case of a company, one of the large armour works, with which I have the honour to be connected, and I will tell the Committee what is the value of their plant at the present time. The first thing is the melting of the steel, and I am not counting that in. Then there is the big rolling mill to roll the plates, the bending process to bond the plates, the large machine shops and the forging press. These items put together (the figures are based on the valuation of 1907, to which has been added the original cost of additions since, but plant scrapped has been eliminated), comes very nearly to half a million; £486,470 to be correct. That is one firm alone. We approached the Admiralty, and we said: "What are we to do with this plant? We cannot use it for anything else; if you do not want it to make armour any more you must scrap it. That is the only use for it. But, if your ideas are not fixed about the future, if you wish us to keep this armour so that it can be used, you ought to pay just something towards the cost of maintaining it, so that it can be used as required." I understand that the Admiralty say that they do not wish us to scrap this plant, but that we should 2452 maintain it in case it is required; but I noted yesterday that a sum of £50,000 is put down as a subsidy to pay the armour firms for keeping the plant. I think I should be fairly right if I said that you could multiply the figure I have given four or five times, so that the total value of plant of all the firms would be about £2,000,000. £50,000 a year would not go very far to pay these five large armour firms to maintain this scrap for future use. I do not say we shall not do it. We shall; but I should like to press my right hon. Friend to reconsider it. It is not a figure which really is right, considering that this plant was put up for the Admiralty. [An HON. MEMBER: "Have not you been well paid?"] I did not say we were not. I think the policy laid down by my right hon. Friend last night is the correct one. At the present moment it is quite impossible to say what our future requirements will be. Our Navy is supreme at the present moment, and I think that they have rightly come to the conclusion that it is not necessary. There is to be no building in the present programme. Certain arrears are to be finished, but there is no fresh programme of ship-building. My right hon. Friend last night said that we were left in the shipping world with only two Powers whose naval strength was in any way approximate to ours. The United States was the next and Japan, I imagine, is a very bad third. The policy which I understand the right hon. Gentleman laid down was, I do not say "wait and see," but I would say" to investigate and see," to find out what other people are doing. I am glad also to know that he is going to set up a Research Department to ascertain by scientific methods what it is possible to do to improve the Naval Service. In an appendix added to my right hon. Friend's statement he says that the functions of this Scientific Research Department are:To keep under constant review the progress in scientific knowledge at the Universities and in all Government and civil departments, institutions and establishments in this and other countries whore research work is being carried out;To investigate all new scientific principles and developments thus brought to light, with the object of ascertaining whether they are likely to prove of value to the Naval Service; andTo act as the normal channel through which outside scientific institutions and 2453 workers may be approached with a view to their undertaking research work for naval purposes.I think the Admiralty are on the right lines in regard to this, and I would only like to say that, of course, this ideal must be always before the Admiralty; that the first thing is the safety of this country. I was not quite sure from the statement of my right hon. Friend last night whether he adhered to the old two-power standard. He mentioned it, but I was not certain whether he approved it. At all events the Admiralty must keep this firm in their mind, that the real safety of our Empire depends upon our naval supremacy. They have come to the conclusion, and I think rightly, that the capital ship holds the field I think the accuracy of the long-range shooting at the battle of Jutland, both German and our own, was simply marvellous, and it could not have been (lone without the battleship. I think the thanks of this House and of the country are duo to the Admiralty, the officers and men of the Royal Navy who, through the four and a half years of the War patriotically and unostentatiously discharged their duty. The late Captain Mahon said in one of his books—he was describing the action of the British Fleet during the war with Napoleon—" Amidst all the trampings to and fro of the armies of Europe there went on that silent pressure by the British Fleet on the vitals of France which finally lead to victory." I believe we to-day can say that through all this German War, for four and a half years, there went on that silent pressure that was brought to bear on Germany, and that the best thanks of a grateful nation are due to our sailors of all ranks for their devoted though unostentatious service.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Like my hon. Friend, I regret the First Lord of the Admiralty had not a larger audience last night, but it was really a good augury, because it showed that people were contented. I am certain, however, that if he had put in a large sum as a sort of solatium for the losses of the great armament firms, I am inclined to think his audience might have been a little more lively and excited than it was.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I think it would have been the same if it had been a little solatium. May I come now to the Naval Estimates and say that I am very anxious to know where it is proposed that the policy adumbrated in them is to lead? I congratulate the First Lord upon having demobilised the Navy to such a large extent, and it must have entailed enormous work upon the Admiralty and the officers there. I am not, when I say that, thinking so much of the Estimates to-day as of the Estimates of the next year and the year after. What are the foundations that are to be laid to-day? It is all very well to sing "Rule Britannia," but we must have security, and the very first essential to this country is production for export. I want to ask a word or two about the capital ships. I do not propose to enter into the argument between distinguished naval experts, but, of course, there is a naval preference for a capital ship, especially a ship of the Hood type, driving along with 150,000 h.p. We would, of course, all prefer a Rolls-Royce, but mose of us have to be eon-tent with a humble Ford car. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or none at all."] The Hood cost £6,000,000, and you cannot have many Hoods if you are going to keep the Estimates down. I heard last night the argument which was put in the mouth of my right hon. Friend that it is essential to have the big capital ships for the training of the officers and men of the Royal Navy. I think my old friend, Lord Fisher, states that that is exactly the same argument as was used when it was proposed to abolish masts and sails in the Navy. I do not quite understand, but I daresay the naval experts would be able to tell me, why training on a great ship like the "Hood" should fit an officer to navigate a submarine or to steer an aeroplane. It seems to me that the type of our ships will have to depend upon our potential enemy, and whatever that potential enemy builds, we shall have to build against it, because there is no doubt that Britain must remain secure upon the sea.
My right hon. Friend in his statement said the capital ship is proof against, or rather that our operations were not hampered by, the submarine and aircraft, and that a big capital ship was able to frustrate them. But there is one danger which he has omitted, and that is the 2455 danger from the mines. To me, one of the most serious statements made in the First Lord's statement is this, that we, at the beginning of the War had no efficient mines. Personally, I must take my share of the responsibility, because I was a member of the Board of Admiralty for some 8 or 9 years before the War broke out, but it is a very grave reflection upon the professional advisers of the Admiralty. If we had not adequate mines, if they were not efficient, it was not the fault of the civilians, and it must have been the fault, as it was the fault, of the expert officers. We always had an annual fight with the Exchequer, but we always had what money we wanted, and even in 1900, when very powerful and formidable opposition was launched against the Admiralty, the Admiralty had its way. I do not know why the First Lord has put that in his statement, that our mines were not efficient at the commencement of the War.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
If it is true, that reflects upon the naval officers who were at the Admiralty before the War commenced.
§ Mr. LONG
No, I think not. Is the right hon. Gentleman quite sure that he is right? I am informed—I have no knowledge of these matters myself—that at that period very little was known of the best and most perfect form of mines, that it was really more in the experimental stage, and I do not think it follows that anybody was actually to blame. I think everybody set their brains to work and did the best they could, but there is no doubt, so I am assured in many quarters, that in the early days of the War our mines were wholly inefficient.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I think that is true, hut the German mines were very much more efficient than ours, as was shown when the "Audacious" struck one mine and went down, whereas the "Goeben," coming out from the Dardanelles, struck two mines, and went back under her own steam. I must say I think the distinguished naval officers who, having served at the Admiralty for a long time, write books and articles condemning the Admiralty of that day because the technical apparatus of the Navy was not efficient, 2456 are throwing a boomerang which comes back upon themselves, and I think those naval officers would probably do better not to write books, although we are very glad to know that if there was inefficiency in the British mine, and if the German mine was superior to ours, that was the fault of the experts of the day, because they were never refused money for that purpose.
I will now turn to my right hon. Friend's statement with regard to the training of officers. He proposes to interfere in some degree with the training that was established by Lord Fisher in 1903. The Common Entry is to remain the same. I do not quite understand why you are interfering at all later on, because those officers who were trained under Lord Fisher's scheme, when the War began, I think, would be about 24 or 25 years of age. They entered Osborne at 133/4 in 1903, the War began in 1914, and so they would be about 24 or 25 years of age. It was not those officers who failed; if there was any failure at all, it was among the Admirals, and those officers were not the officers who advised the Admiralty about the mines, and therefore I am a little sceptical about my right hon. Friend's modification of this scheme. He told us yesterday that they were not getting engineer officers, but how does he propose to get them by putting the engineer officer in an inferior position to that which he is in to-day? The engineer officer is to have no executive powers. He is to be purely an administrative officer, and he, therefore, will be in an inferior position, and if you have not got them when they have a superior position, how can you expect to got them when you put them in an inferior position? I candidly confess I do not understand. A young officer at the age of 19, say, volunteers to be an engineer officer, then at 21, when he becomes a sub-lieutenant, he specialises in engineering, and after that he devotes himself wholly to engineering, and will have no executive authority.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Well, to-day that engineer officer has executive authority. He can take up deck duties in common with the others, but under your scheme he will not be able to. He will never be able to command a ship or to become 2457 an admiral in command of a fleet. An engineer admiral is not the same as a fighting admiral, as my right hon. Friend knows very well. The engineer admiral will be under the admiral in command of the Fleet, and the engineer officer of the ship will be under the captain of the ship. Therefore you are reverting to the old system which puts the engineers in an inferior position. There is no way out of it, unless I have misunderstood the modification, and if the right hon. Gentleman disputes it I will read the statement.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Then how can he expect to get a better supply of engineers by reducing their status? I confess I do not understand it, and I think there must be some mistake in altering this system. Of course, it is very dangerous for men to begin to meddle with a scheme until it has been thoroughly tested.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Sixteen years with the engineer officers in a superior position has not given you enough, and now you are going to get a further supply by putting them in an inferior position! In regard to education, the education at Dartmouth is to be altered. I take some interest in this, because I was largely responsible, with my right hon. Friend, the Financial Secretary, for this scheme. As I understand, at Dartmouth you are not going to give the cadets so much time for engineering, but you are going to give them more general education. That is really very extraordinary, and a modern ship, whatever it is, whether a capital ship or a submarine, is a box of machinery. Therefore, you cannot devote, I should have thought, too much time to engineering. Engineering is the Alpha and Omega of the whole thing, but why are you there fore not going to devote so much time to engineering as has been done in the past? Here, again, I honestly cannot understand those changes in the scheme which was founded by Lord Fisher and carried on under successive Boards of Admiralty. What has been the war experience that the changes should be made? These young fellows who were trained at Dartmouth and at Osborne are young men, and in my judgment they have never failed in their duty in the War. 2458 Perhaps my right hon. Friend will be able to explain that to me later on. In the First Lord's Statement he says definitely that he proposes to turn Dartmouth more or less into a public school, and that he does not intend to devote so much time to engineering. I want to know the reason he is going to revise Lord Fisher's policy in that respect. With regard to the Fleet organisation, in the days before the War the Fleets were concentrated in the North Sea amid great opposition. I remember the tremendous opposition to the Fleet being brought from the Mediterranean. Is not my right hon. Friend now scattering our forces somewhat? The Mediterranean is to have six battleships, six cruisers, and 18 destroyers. He said yesterday, very truly, that it is essential to show the British flag. I observe that in China there are to be five cruisers and 12 submarines. Well, you would not show the flag on submarines. I do not quite understand why they are there. In Africa three cruisers are to be kept, in South America four, in the East Indies three, and in North America and the West Indies five. Do you really want all those ships for showing the flag?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I have no doubt you would be very glad to send the Atlantic Fleet over there, and it would afford a great object-lesson of Britain's naval power. I do say, although I may have some opposition from behind, which I do not mind, that those ships in these foreign stations are very costly, and they are not too popular. The men like to be home. I say to the First Lord of the Admiralty that if he is going to pursue a system of economy he must reduce the establishment in these foreign stations, and we cannot keep up the number of ships in foreign stations without large establishments. I do not object to ships going there, but to-day we have got to remember it is no use talking about economy; it has got to be carried out. I am thinking, not about my right hon. Friend's Estimates this year—I congratulate him on them—but what they are going to be next year.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
My hon. Friend will never be an advocate of small Navy expenditure; he is too good a friend of Devonport. In days gone by we used to keep these ships in foreign waters. There is no enemy there to-day. I am asking these questions, and I hope to get satisfactory replies, for in reality I assure my right hon. Friend I do not desire to criticise him in any hostile spirit. I really want to get the most economic distribution of the British Forces. We must study economy. I hesitate, in the presence of my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain W. Benn) and the right hon. Gentleman who was Under-Secretary of State for Air, to say anything about the Air policy, but is my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty satisfied with the present division of responsibility? I am sure he cannot be. It is not in order, and I do not propose, to discuss a separate Air Ministry, but to-day a separate Air Ministry is under the head of the War Office. That the Admiralty has to go to the Secretary of State for War before it can order any aeroplanes or do anything with regard to the staff work, seems to me to be a matter which is lowering to the dignity of the Navy. I do not agree with it at all. I have always said in this House, but everybody laughed at me, because so many of my friends want to get a separate Air Minister, that if you are going to have two Ministries for the three Services, the head of the Air Ministry should undoubtedly be the First Lord of the Admiralty. The Navy, after all is the most important Service. Talk about armies as much as you like, but not a single soldier can leave these shores without the Navy, and the Navy without aeroplanes, airships, and all the appliances is almost like ships without guns, and you might as well put the artillery of the Navy under the Secretary of State for War as put the aircraft under the Secretary of State for War. There is no immediate danger, but I do ask my right hon. Friend to give us some more satisfactory solution of this difficult problem. If to-day were 1914, we should have a reduction moved quickly, because in time of war such a division of responsibility would make it impossible to accomplish anything satisfactorily. I think it would be very wise indeed if the Admiralty could control more of the Air Forces. The training must be very much the same. I observe that in Sir Hugh 2460 Trenchard's Memorandum it is stated that every naval officer must be a gunner, that every naval officer must be a navigator, and that he ought to be trained in engines and wireless. These four subjects are cognate subjects with the Navy, and I contend the Admiralty should have more control over the Air Service, and that if you are to have two Ministries for the three services, I say emphatically that the Air Force should be under the Admiralty rather than the War Office. May I say a word about the dockyards? Before the War we had six dockyards, and during the War there was completed that great splendid new establishment at Rosyth. Rosyth was selected specially—I happen to know because I was there during the time—to meet and cope with the German menace.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
It was pretty well ready, but that is not quite my argument. I think I could have a good deal to say about that if I wanted to, but I am only saying Rosyth was built because of the German menace.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
There was no opposition from Devonport. I want to impress upon my right hon. Friend the First Lord that he will have a very difficult and very thankless task. He has got to reduce the population of the dockyards, or he has got to close them. It is a very difficult problem to solve. I do not envy him. The populations around these dockyards—Haulbowline, Pembroke, Sheer-ness, Devonport, Portsmouth, Chatham, and now Rosyth—have grown up because of the naval expenditure, and you cannot put these people out in the streets without any work to do. Lord Colwyn has made a very valuable report on the subject, but it does not carry us much further. Lord Colwyn recommends a limited amount of mercantile work, but the guiding principles must be rapidity of construction and economy in construction, and he says that is not usually associated with these dockyards, in spite of my hon. Friend the Member for Devon-port. I understand from my right hon. Friend the First Lord that he proposes 2461 to lay down one tanker at Devonport and two merchant ships at Pembroke.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
It does not affect my argument. I am one of those who believe that it is impossible for any Government establishment, conducted as Government establishments are, to compete with private enterprise in the building of ships, or indeed in any other form. If there is not some other form of enterprise carried on in the dockyard there will be an enormous amount of distress. They cannot be kept on. You cannot keep men on for the purpose of doing nothing. I had the privilege the other day of going over some yards in Glasgow belonging to Harland and Wolff. There you have organisation of the most perfect description, and I have not the smallest doubt that in those mercantile yards, with the aid of organisation and machinery, one man turns out the work of two in the Royal dockyards. Therefore I put aside the idea that you can have private enterprise building ships for private people in the Royal dockyards, and I think my right hon. Friend the First Lord agrees with me. What is to happen? Lord Colwyn recommended that Devonport at any rate should be adapted for a port of call. As I understand it, nothing has been done in that direction.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
If that is so, it knocks it on the head, but I understood some time ago certain shipping companies did want it. But I am only interested from the general point of view. You cannot keep men in the dockyards and pay them for doing no work, but you cannot dismiss those men without some consideration. I was informed from Devonport that applications had been made to the Admiralty by the Cunard Company, but I leave that to my hon. Friend opposite. I want to ask, what is the policy of the Government with regard to the dockyards? Is it proposed to keep all these seven? I do not think it is possible, and therefore I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that if he can close some of these dockyards this is a favourable opportunity. There are probably people who want now great manufacturing establishments. Building is very dear. There is considerable machinery in the Royal dockyards. Is it not possible by 2462 some policy that the right hon. Gentleman should sell some of the Royal dockyards? But I am certain, if you do it, you will have to go very gently because of the populations which have grown up around these ports. At the present moment you are spending a considerable sum of money on these dockyards. Why spend this money? To-day it is not wise or economical. The amount is hidden away in the Naval Estimates; but surely this is not the time to spend this money in any of the dockyards?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
It all depends.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
This is not the time to spend money on dockyards, when labour is so scarce and materials so dear, unless for repairs. But these are new works. You are putting in new works. It is false economy to do that now. These Estimates have a great tendency to grow.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
There is a great deal of new work going on at Rosyth in building houses for officials, and there is a considerable amount of work going on at Portsmouth. Do you need so many officials at the present time? Surely, if the Navy is to be reduced, you will not want so many officials? If you have not got so many officials you will not want so many houses for them! I am putting this point to the right hon. Gentleman: Is it wise for him to go in for this building programme at the dockyards? Now let me come to a subject where you are going to spend an enormous sum of money on new works; that is in connection with oil fuel establishments. Judging by the standard of the old days, it is an enormous sum of money that is projected. If we had gone to the Treasury when I was at the Admiralty and asked for permission to spend £2,500,000, I do not know what the answer would have been, or what the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have said. You are going to spend, according to these Estimates, at Gibraltar—which is in addition to the accommodation there now—accommodation to contain the oil fuel—£187,000; at Hong Kong, £110,000; at Jamaica, £47,000; Malta, £195,000; Plymouth, £555,000; Portland, £956,000—nearly one million; at Port Said, £555,000; and on the Clyde, £400,000. 2463 That is all new work. This is for oil fuel establishments to be begun this year. I ask again, is this wise? You are going to reduce—you have reduced—the Navy, and you will be more pressed in the future; is it wise expenditure at this moment, when everything is so dear, to launch out into this enormous expenditure for oil fuel establishments? This is nothing to do with the fuel. I put in a caveat against this when the Navy Estimates were last discussed, and I do so again most emphatically; because if you start these works you cannot stop them Now is the time to settle the question of unnecessary expenditure. I hope my right hon. Friend the First Lord will take note of it, because I am perfectly certain that a large amount of this money could be saved.
I have been talking economy, but there is one economy which I would not exercise for one moment, and that is to economise at the expense of the naval officers who have been demobilised. Naval officers have served their country splendidly during the War. Many of them are in a state of great anxiety. They do not quite know what the future will bring forth. They are splendid specimens of manhood. Therefore, I hope the Admiralty will be liberal with these officers. They deserve it.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Yes, and with the men. But some of the officers are very dismal about their prospects. I travelled down the other day in the same compartment as a couple of them. They were splendid specimens of young manhood, about 30 years old, married, and most anxious about the future. One of them picked up an illustrated paper, and, quoting from an advertisement, said, "Frocks, cheap and dainty, eight to ten guineas." That seemed a lot of money to him. It is not much money to the wife of the profiteer. A good many women of this class to-day are spending a good deal more than eight to ten guineas upon a frock, and the husbands have not done anything like so much for the country as have the naval officers. I feel this matter very strongly, and I hope my right hon. Friend will deal generously with these men. Without their ceaseless vigilance m the North Sea we should not now be sitting so calmly here. One word more in 2464 relation to my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, He and I were colleagues at the Admiralty for several years. No colleague could have been more friendly when we were working together than he. Whatever politics may have in store for him I do not know, but I can say this, that during the 13 years he hag been at the Admiralty the Navy has had an able, a single-minded, and a devoted public servant.
Sir SHIRLEY BENN
I do not rise for the purpose of criticising either Estimates or policy, except on one point—the building of merchant ships in the dockyard. Lord Colwyn's Report advised the Admiralty to do this. I want to try to get the First Lord to see that it will be necessary, not only for the Navy, but for the country, that we should build more merchant ships, even if it is difficult to do. We realise that the present Lord of the Admiralty is determined to keep our Navy facile princeps amongst the navies of the world, and it is desirable, in view of the pretty hard service of the officers, that they should be properly remunerated. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Lambert), said a few minutes ago that this was the right time to close some of the dockyards. Personally, I entirely object to that view. We do not need them at the moment, but there is no telling when we may need them in the near future. If you are going to keep them, it is generally recognised, I think, that the life-blood of the dockyard is the building of new ships. The right hon. Gentleman said it is difficult to build merchant ships in the Royal yards. My opinion is that our British workmen realise the position just as any of us do, and that they will be perfectly ready to take the work at piece rates, or on any remunerative terms, if they know it is in order to keep them employed, and build up the merchant service If the staffs are discharged, and we need more ships for the Royal Navy in a hurry, it is going to be a very difficult matter to replace them. If the men are discharged from the dockyards and other work cannot be found for them, what is going to happen? They cannot go from port to port, from one shipbuilding port to another in order to get work, for they cannot find houses.
Take Plymouth—I am not going to deal with Devonport, for my hon. Friend opposite will talk about it—in Plymouth we have hundreds and thousands of men 2465 engaged in the dockyards. These have houses in Plymouth. If they are sent away from the dockyards they cannot give up their houses in Plymouth because they have not other houses to go to. They cannot live upon nothing, and it is for the country to see that they have the necessary money on which to live. There is no need for us to lose any money in building merchant ships. When the War was on we had to do it, and no one would have told us quicker than the First Lord of the Admiralty that it could be done. We are suffering to-day from a lack of ships. We lost nearly 7,500,000 tons during the War. We were the great carrying country of the world. There are now other countries trying to take away from us that supremacy. They are building ships in order to sec that we do not regain our position as the great carrying country. I was in America in the autumn and I went over dockyards there where there was ship after ship being turned out by the American Government. These ships, I believe, will be sold to individuals, for I do not believe that the American Government will ever run them. But we are not going to let them take our trade away, and surely the Admiralty can in the various dockyards keep the men at work in peace time, building these ships and selling them to our shipowners so that they may run them. I trust that the First Lord of the Admiralty will re-investigate the Colwyn Report, and will make every effort in his power to see that we have merchant ships built in our Royal dockyards.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
In spite of the very able and exhaustive speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty last night, in which he very ably epitomised the Naval Estimates, I confess to keen disappointment, which, I believe, is shared by other Members in this House, and, I think, the right hon. Gentleman will also find by a very large section of the people of the country. I am disappointed by the policy enunciated by the First Lord, first in regard to new construction, and, secondly, in regard to the abandonment by the Government of the suggestions made and the recommendations put forward by the Colwyn Report
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I am very glad to hear it, for there was a statement 2466 which seemed to be an official statement, and which appeared in the papers, that these suggestions and recommendations had been abandoned.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I am very glad to hear that that is not so, because it removes the effect which has been present in the minds of a great many people in Devonport. In regard to the first point, some hon. Members last night, and I think some hon. Members to-day, I think have praised the speech of the First Lord on the ground that for the first time it showed economy in Government Departments. I regret I cannot join in that praise. I admit that economy in Government Departments is essential. But I do not think that the country is desirous to see that economy begin by cutting down the personnel of the Navy to a lower strength than in 1913–14, by stopping altogether new construction, or by reducing the position of the Royal dockyards. That would be beginning at the wrong end. Let us not forget what happened before the War. For many years we had not sufficient men to man the Navy. We had not sufficient cruisers and torpedo destroyers when war broke out. Why was that? It was because of the cry of economy which was set up by Little Englanders, supported by my right hon. Friend opposite and by Lord Fisher, and acquiesced in by the Government of the day.
Are we going to repeat that policy? Are we going to place ourselves again in that position? The hon. Member for Sheffield suggested just now it was good policy, because it would give the Government time to investigate all the circumstances and they would be able to find out what other countries are doing. Many hon. Members will remember that that was the excuse put forward by the late Liberal Government in 1909, when they waited to see what the Germans were doing, and some few years afterwards some of us had the mortification—in a certain political sense it might have been the pleasure—to see the present right hon. Member for Paisley, with Mr. McKenna and Lord Grey, come down to this House, and, standing in white sheets at that Front Bench, say, "We are sorry we did not know what Germany was doing; we admit we ought to have found out, and that we were paid for finding 2467 out, but we did not find out." And then they asked the House to vote them a very much larger Navy Estimate. Of course, the followers of that Government did not like it, and it was with very great difficulty that the Estimates were got through.
Some other hon. Members say it is not necessary now to have new construction because we have a League of Nations in prospect. That is all very well. We may have it in prospect, but up to the present we have no League of Nations in existence, and I would venture to caution the Government against moving too quickly in cutting down their naval programme, or in abandoning new construction on the ground that there is to be a League of Nations. As Mr. Roosevelt once said, there is no piece of machinery which would do away with war, and to suggest that there is, is sheer nonsense and rank hypocrisy. The Prime Minister has reminded us that the League of Nations is only an experiment, and I would urge that we ought not to hazard the honour and safety of the country on the mere assumption that the League of Nations will do away with all wars. What about Australia and other outlying portions of the Empire? Are they pinning their faith to the League of Nations? I share the greatest regret with several hon. Members that we have not before us the Report of Admiral Jellicoe on his visit to Australia and Canada. I do not think, when these reports come in, it will be found there is any suggestion of suspending new construction in those places, and certainly not on the ground of the League of Nations. I remember speeches delivered in this country by Mr. Hughes, who was altogether opposed to depending too much on the League of Nations, and cutting down our Navy because there was a prospect of such a League coming into existence. Similarly the Acting Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia made a most important pronouncement on this question. He said:The League of Nations might succeed, but might prove a beautiful dream, unsubstantial and transient. The British Nation cannot afford to awaken from that dream after losing supremacy of the sea. The Anglo-Celtic Empire must maintain the only form of insurance worth anything, a powerful, vigilant Navy, hacked by the full support and effort of the people's territories which it was designed to guard.It is all very well for the First Lord to come down here and tell us that the 2468 Germans are without a navy to-day, that a portion of their navy lies under the waters in Scapa Flow, and another portion has been distributed among the Allies. But I would remind hon. Members that the Prime Minister is never tired of reminding us and the country that we are not yet out of the War, and are not yet at peace. No doubt, to my mind and to the minds of a good many people, the policy of Germany at the present moment is to scrap the Treaty, and the only way to prevent this is to maintain the power of the British Navy, for the power of blockade will prevent the Germans scrapping the Treaty. That will do what nothing else can do. That is what won the War, and then for the First Lord to come down and tell us at this time about the League of Nations, when the League is not even born, and to urge upon us to suspend all new construction, why I say it is tempting Providence and playing with the whole idea of the safety and security of this country and of the Empire. Again, the First Lord said that practically there was no naval power to-day that can offer us any serious opposition or, indeed, any threat, and he proceeded to indulge in what I think is the very undue optimism that we have no potential enemies. But I would remind the First Lord that the British Navy was built not for the purposes of offence, but for the purposes of defence. Three times the British Navy has saved this country from being dominated by a foreign power. It may be, and I hope it will be, that we shall never again be attacked. But that surely is not a sufficient reason for lowering our powers of defence by suspending new construction.
What is Japan doing? We heard from the Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) last night that Japan has a large new construction programme and is building many capital ships. What is America doing? Mr. Daniels, the Secretary to the United States Navy, proposed to give what has been described in America as the largest navy in the world. He had a very large programme of new construction. I know that since his statement was made that programme has been negatived by the Naval Sub-Committee, and that America has reverted to the 1916 programme. But what was that programme? It provided for four battleships, four battle-cruisers, four scouts, and 20 destroyers. That, I take it, to be 2469 the new construction programme of the United States for this year, and in three years it is proposed to spend on that programme alone £103,000,000. What are we doing? In the first place, we have no programme of new construction. If you look at the figures in the White Paper, you will see that the expenditure on new construction, whatever it may be, is very much under half a million sterling. We are told that the First Sea Lord acquiesces in this policy. If that be so, all I can say it that it is very different from what was said many months ago at Bristol, when he used these words:We must remember that we are more dependent upon the sea and upon the protection of our great lines of communication with the outlying portions of the Empire than any other nation. Therefore we must expect to make greater provision than any other nation for our security.I have told the Committee what Japan and America are doing. I submit we are not making greater provision than other nations for our security by cutting down the personnel of the Navy to a point lower than it stood at before the War, or by suspending the policy of new construction. The hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone held out a rosy prospect of what might come in the course of years when we would join up with America and have a joint Navy. I do not think I need go into that. I do not believe there is any great feeling in America which backs up that sentiment.
Now I come to the Colwyn Report. The Government admitted that they had some obligation to the men in the dockyards, and in order to fulfil those obligations they put forward a programme of new construction this year. The Government know that the dockyard towns are absolutely dependent on the Navy for their existence. The policy of the Government in the past with regard to dockyard towns, and especially with regard to Plymouth and Devonport, has been to disallow any extension that might have taken place in those parts on commercial lines. That being so, the Government owe very great consideration to these dockyard towns, which have no means of utilising the labour discharged from the dockyards, especially at Devonport, while the housing difficulty elsewhere will not permit men migrating with their families to other parts of the country, nor is there any reason to suppose that if they did so they would find work waiting for them 2470 to do. As the hon. Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Sir S. Benn), in his most excellent speech, said: "You cannot turn these men out into the street." I agree with the hon. Member, you cannot turn them out into the street. You must do something for them. But what are you going to do? I am glad to hear that the Government have not yet finally decided that merchant ship building shall not be introduced into the dockyards. I understood from the Report, however, that that point had been finally decided. The Report, I believe, recommends that mercantile work be not given to the Royal dockyards unless rapidity and economy in construction are observed. But the Report goes on to say:We are confident that the men will realise the position and co-operate to the fullest extent in making the endeavour a success.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
The hon. Member ought to know. At any rate, the Report comes to the conclusion that the Admiralty should utilise the surplus facilities of these dockyards in the construction of mercantile vessels. Royal dockyards are equal to any private firms in the country. If you lay down a ship in a Royal dockyard on the same conditions as in a private yard, the men in the Royal dockyard will in all probability beat the men in the private yard. Let it not be forgotten that 14 years ago Portsmouth completed the original Dreadnought in one year from the time it was laid down. The North yard at Keyham has the best equipment, with machinery second to none, and it has, I believe, the largest crane in this country—one which can lift a weight of 180 tons. As regards economy of expenditure, take the ships of the "Queen Elizabeth" class, the largest class of ship that was built before the War. In Devonport Dockyard we built the "War-spite," which was constructed at a cost of £70,000 less than either of the three sister ships built in private yards. This does not look very much like a financial loss on building merchant ships in private yards. We are able at Devonport to build tankers quite as easily, economically and quickly and just as good as they can in private yards, and we can do exactly the same thing as regards any merchant ship the First Lord may think proper to have laid down. So, no doubt, it is in the other yards. As for men of 2471 business experience in private yards, it is sheer nonsense. There is not a private yard in the country in which some of the chief officials did not serve their apprenticeship in a Royal yard. On the score of economy, rapidity of construction and efficiency of administration, the dockyards are equal to if they do not exceed the private yards. The Admiralty can have merchant ships built as quickly and cheaply as the private yards. Why, then, delay? Why does the right hon. Gentleman say, "We have not yet decided?" Why does he not say he will do his best to make them decide? Let him say-he will do his best to make the Government come to a decision. Let him come to the decision I ask him to do, namely, to build these merchant vessels in Government yards.
As regards the terminal port, I have had a letter from the Mayor and handed it on to the First Lord. What happened with regard to that I was never officially informed. We are told the thing practically came to an end. The Cunard Company has been mentioned. It does not follow that there are not other companies equally desirous of making Devonport a terminal port. I mention Devonport because it is mentioned in the report, not for any other reason. Why should not some other company endeavour to utilise the Keyham extension as a terminal port? We discharged during the War thirty-five ships in a week of the Canadian contingent—all the men and impedimenta. Surely, if we can do that, any ship that comes in there can soon discharge its goods and passengers, and there is a very good service to London on the Great Western line which will take them up and carry goods at as cheap a rate as any other. With regard to coal, you can get coal there by sea, and the more ships you build in Devonport Dockyard the more ships you will have to bring coal down there.
There are some subjects which the Members of the Dockyard Parliamentary Committee have brought before the notice of the Admiralty. First of all, there is the question of the Chief and Artificer Engineers. We had a very frank reply to our letter on their behalf, and I thank the Admiralty for restoring payment of the machinery allowance. As matters stand, the Chief Engine-room Artificer who is promoted to Artificer Engineer 2472 suffers an actual diminution of pay instead of an increase. The suggestion we made was that this should be remedied by awarding each Artificer Engineer on promotion 3s. a day specialist-allowance. If that could not be accepted we suggested that the allowance to the engine-room artificer on account of his certificates, which is 2s. a day, need not stop as at present, and that an extra shilling on passing certificate to artificer engineer. The pay with allowances of chief engine-room artificer, 1st class, is 16s. 5d. per day. The pay of the engine-room artificer on promotion is only 16s. a day. Surely this is not what the Admiralty intended. I suggest that they reconsider their decision on this point and see if they cannot equalise the matter. I entirely agree with everything my hon. and gallant Friend (Viscount Curzon) said yesterday about school-masters, and I trust something will be done to increase their pay. All officers, with the exception of schoolmasters, have got an increase dating from February, 1919. Any increase of pay for schoolmasters should date from the same date, and the promotion of schoolmasters should be the same as for other branches of warrant officers, that is to say, commissioned rank after ten years. At present they have to serve 20 years before they get such promotion. As regards Royal Fleet Reserve B, could not the Admiralty do something to assist these men? Their retainer of 6d. a day should be increased to 1s. 6d., and it should be dated back to 1st October, 1918. The bonus of £50 they now receive on reaching 40 should be increased to £150, and instead of the pension, which is only £12, on reaching 55 it should be £36 given at 50. Then there is the matter of the naval cooks, which is now seven months old, and we have not yet received a reply.
It is scandalous to think that officers who were called up during the War should be deprived of their pensions. It was not the case with the Army officers. Navy officers were obliged to take 25 per cent. of their pay in lieu of their pension. I hope the Admiralty will reconsider that, and see if they cannot pay these men back. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told me the other day, when talking about the pre-war pensioners, that they had made their bargain. Did not these men make their bargain? What are they getting for it? Nothing 2473 at all. Their bargain was to have a pension for life, but they got no pension for life. It was taken away during the War. The State can break a bargain when it suits their purpose. The case of the Quartermasters, Royal Marines, is a very strong one. We have put it before the Admiralty on more than one occasion, and I hope something will be done. The Halsey Committee approved of several changes with regard to these men. They were to be called Maintenance Officers. They have not been called Maintenance Officers. They were to have their pay put up on the scale of other officers, but nothing has been done at all to carry out the views of the Halsey Committee on the point, and the time has arrived when this should be done. The Jerram Committee recommended that scales of pay should be antedated to men serving on 1st October, 1918. It is scandalous to think that a large number of men who were on the books in 1919 should not be given the same pay as other men who were serving at the same time. I would ask that the revised scale of pension should be applied to all pensioners now on the rolls. It is appalling to think that the average naval pensioner only gets 11s. 6d. a week. It is quite impossible for anyone to live on that. Widows' pensions are only 9s. a week. Surely the Admiralty can afford to pay a naval widow more than that. It is an absolute disgrace. No woman can possibly live on it, much less bring up children and possibly other persons dependent upon her.
I should like to say a word with regard to the food allowance. At home ports and certain naval establishments the ratings employed get what is known as a food allowance. Hitherto the same food allowance was given to officers and men. Last April the officers' allowance was increased to 5s., but the allowance to the ratings was kept at 2s. 1d, It should be the same in both cases. I hope it will be put right without any further delay. Let the men and the officers, so far as the food allowance goes, be placed on the same footing as they were before. With regard to the 22 years' service, many men are unable or do not complete their 23 years, though they very nearly do so, and they are deprived of their pension. When a man has completed 20 or 21 years he ought to have, at any rate, the greater part of it. I received a letter to-day from a man who served within seven days of 2474 his time. It is a scandalous thing that he should be deprived of his pension. I join from the bottom of my heart in the opinions which have been expressed with regard to the Financial Secretary. He has occupied that position almost as long as I have been in the House. During that time the Dockyard Members' Committee has troubled him a very great deal with a great number of letters and applications, and he has always been most courteous and has done everything he possibly could to assist us. I am sure every Member who represents a dockyard borough will agree that on the innumerable times we have had to seek his advice and assistance it has always been freely given. How he can possibly find time to answer the enormous number of letters I alone have sent him, Heaven only knows, but he does. They sometimes come late, but they always come. I should like to join with others in thanking him for the services he has rendered, not only to us but to the House of Commons and the country at large, and the Navy and the dockyards in particular.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WILKIE
The hon. Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) represents a dockyard constituency. I represent, from another point of view, more dockyard men than he does, and men of the Royal Navy. While I have thousands of members in the dockyards, I have tons of thousands outside the dockyards. Therefore, I approach this question from quite a different point of view; not merely that of a Member for a dockyard constituency but from the national point of view.
I congratulate the First Lord of the Admiralty on his exhaustive statement; but I want to point out, with all due respect, that the views he put forward last night are very different from the views that he expressed when I entered this House, when the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was the Prime Minister, when Admiralty matters were then discussed. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the advancement he has made. Of course, since the War everything has changed. I was quite pleased to hear his statement last night. He said he was looking for possible enemies. On the other hand, may I suggest he might look for possible friends. I have always supported an efficient Navy, even at a time when many of his present supporters 2475 were admitted opponents of it. I have stated in my constituency and in this House that as everyone believes in life insurance the best insurance policy that the nation can have is an efficient Navy to protect the national life. We have heard a great deal about all kinds of nationalisation. In certain respects I have been a nationaliser all my life, and I would point out that if it had not been for our national dockyards we should have had to pay through the nose for our warships. The Committee has heard about the armour-plate rings, and about the gun rings, which have been discussed many times in this House. They would have been prepared almost to build the ships for nothing if they could get their price for their guns and armour.
The Naval Lords, before the War, did not appreciate the power of the submarine. They were dressed up in all their uniforms on the quarter-decks of their great vessels at Rosyth and on every sea, and scoffed at the tiny crafts. I agree as has been pointed out by more than one speaker that wherever you found a British warship abroad it was an emblem of peace and an emblem of safety, and not of war and destruction. If the Lords of the Admiralty in those days before the War had really appreciated the power of the little mosquitoes of submarines we should not have been in some of our present difficulties.
The Government have been crying out for more production, but on the other hand their policy in the dockyards has been to discharge men by the thousands. Instead of doing that, they ought to give the workers a chance on the land here and in our colonics. They ought to adopt every possible means of getting out of mother earth all that she can produce. In other words, the policy should be to give to the poles the produce of the sun and knit all our far-flung commonwealths into one. According to the Statement of the First Lord, a considerable number of new schemes are being launched and they are costing very large sums of money. I do not complain if the things are absolutely necessary. I want an efficient Navy, because I believe this country and all our vast commonwealths and colonies depend on the British Navy. It is the link that binds us together, and those of us who have been abroad have discovered 2476 that fact to our benefit and to the benefit of our country.
Almost every grade connected with the sailing of the ship, the driving power of the ship, and in connection with the feeding of the crew, are all mentioned in the Statement, but I have looked in vain for a single word about the Naval Architects and ship constructors, the men who put these ships into being. How many cases were there during the War where the ships and the lives of those on board were saved by the ship constructors? Yet they are not mentioned. The creators of the ships which our admirals and captains sail and which our engineering friends drive are not mentioned; yet when there is any danger or difficulty you have to go to the ship constructor and he has to save the life of the ship and of the men. During the War the "Lion" and the "Tiger" and a number of other ships were saved in a very short time. The enemy thought they were sending these ships down, but before they knew where they were they were back again in the North Sea opposing them. That work was done by the men I am referring to.
In regard to the discharges at the dockyards the worker cannot understand why while you are making provision for almost every other class they are being turned off. My society, at the cost of hundreds of pounds, assisted the Admiralty to get these men. The First Lord said that when the Admiralty were asked by the shipowners to let them have a number of shipwrights they allowed the men to go back. The bulk of those we sent had gone back before that. The men you are discharging are men with eight, ten, or more years of service in the dockyards. That is very unfair. These men ask you and the House of Commons and the country why they should be the only people to suffer from a change of policy. I know the Government are pressed to exercise economy. It is really economy to build the ships you require rather than to discharge skilled men and to let them walk the streets receiving unemployment allowance cither from their unions or from the State. Instead of the workers being the sufferers they ought to have the greatest sympathy from the Admiralty and from the Government, The Report of Lord Colwyn's Committee has been referred to. The First Lord dealt with this question 2477 and he looks to the men to cooperate with him. I have had letters from several of the dockyards stating that the men are willing to co-operate with the Admiralty in the interests, not of any private profit, but in the interests of the country. That will pay the country far better than turning off the men. I have had information from Plymouth that the discharges are still going on, and that men with eight and ten years' service are being discharged and that there are no fewer than 6,000 unemployed men in Plymouth.
The parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara) answered a question which I put to him on the 20th May, 1919. I asked him to state the number of auxiliary vessels, such as colliers, oil tankers, troopships, store vessels, also trawlers and drifters used as minesweepers and patrol boats, which were required to attend on the wants of the Navy during the War, and he answered that they required 4,274. If they needed then over 4,000 auxiliary vessels, surely they could go on building a few hundreds now. I do not want them to compete with private shipbuilders. They could build the ships that they require without competing with private builders. They could build all the colliers, all the tankers, all the troopships and the store vessels that are required. There would be no competition there. They know all that, and why cannot the Admiralty look ahead and build those ships at once for the needs of the Navy? "For the needs of the Navy" is a favourite phrase of the Financial Secretary; and the needs of the Navy include those auxiliary ships. That is work for you to do, instead of going to other people to have it done. On the question of whether the dockyards can do it or not, I say that the remarks of the hon. Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kin-loch-Cooke) are entirely-justified. There is no difficulty in doing the work for the country. I hope that we shall hear no more of that terrible cry of "economy" which is false economy. I am an Economist myself, but—and I am not going to commit anybody else—I still hold that if we had not had an efficient fleet we should not be where we are to-day.
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Sir Evan Jones) objected to the Government trading in any shape or form; but if you had had to depend on private enterprise during the War, where should we be? 2478 Private enterprise has been a dismal failure, but while the hon. Member for Pembroke objects to Government trading yet where he is personally interested supports the Government in retaining Pembroke Dockyard for national trading. I do the same for different reasons, because I believe that Pembroke Dockyard is a national asset, which should be used for the good of the nation. But the hon. Member said that Rosyth should be scrapped as there was no further menace in the North. How does he know whether there will be no more menace or not? We do not know where it will be coming from the next time. Rosyth is one of the greatest assets which the nation has. If Scotland, by nature's law, is designed to be the northern part of these Islands, why should we suffer? Why should England, Wales and Ireland have dockyards and Scotland not have any? We are just as much entitled to one as they are. Some of us know why they have not been there before, and why the old Admiralty did not come to the north of England or Scotland for dockyards. But our shipyards there were the best asset which the nation had, and anybody who visited them during the War and saw the marvels of shipbuilding which were wrought there, must have felt that it was no wonder that we had the command of the North Sea.
The late Civil Lord (Mr. Lambert) and I opposed the scheme of the national dockyards at Chepstow, because it was initiated as an attempt to build vessels without skilled men. We had innumerable conferences on the subject. I was one of the representatives of the men. We pointed out that what was proposed could not be carried out, because there were certain parts of the ship which nobody but a trained craftsman could accomplish. We opposed also because there was a number of berths in His Majesty's dockyards and in the private yards which were doing nothing; those places had the machinery at hand and the men at hand, and we said that it would be more beneficial to the country to make use of them, whereas what you did was to take the highly-skilled men from those yards. They had to go, and the result was that you got nothing out of it. Of course there was an effort to throw it on to us, to induce us to take over the yard, but trade unionists know that that is not in their line of business. 2479 But even the trained men of the Co-operative Association who have built and owned ships refused to have anything to do with it, because it was not on a sound principle. If the unemployed berths in the dockyards and in the private yards had been utilised we should have got some return, which was not got from the other places, and these new-yards would not have taken away so many skilled men who were required where they were.
On the 10th of November last year I asked the Secretary to the Admiralty a question about naval pensioners, the men who had returned to the yards at the request of the Admiralty and for their loyalty got their pensions stopped. The men feel very sore about this. It has not been done in the private yards or elsewhere, and it is not fair that they should have been treated so unjustly. I have supported him, and I shall support him every time he is on the doorstep of the Treasury. We are asking for fair play to these men in the interests of the Nation. On the 16th February this year he writes that steps are being taken to bring the matter further before the Treasury, and to point out the desirability of repealing Section 20 of the Superannuation Act, 1834, so that in future cases superannuation may not be discontinued. But "future cases" is not what we are interested in most at the moment. Those fellows have done their work, and you ought to honour the bill. The Admiralty profess to be model employers The right hon. Gentleman knows that I have been asking more than any man in the House on that score. What we want them to do is to prove it by deeds and not by words.
I hope and believe that the new arrangement under the Whitley Councils will be the means of arranging differences between workmen and employers, where difficulties occur, by both parties meeting together in amicable conference, so that a friendly arrangement will be arrived at. The workmen trust that by the new council being set up they will be given the same power as they have outside to say what are to be the rates they receive for their work and the conditions under which they work. They do not ask much. They do not want to go into the office and control the Admiralty; but they want to have some 2480 say in the disposal of their labour and their conditions of work.
I was more than pleased to hear the references of the First Lord to my right hon. Friend the Member for Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara). I do not know anything as to the truth of the rumours which have been in circulation. All I can say is that I shall be very sorry if they are true. But I may tell the Committee that I was in that Gallery when Mr. Alexander Macdonald and the right hon. Thomas Burt took their seats as the first two Labour Members of this House, and from then until now I have met First Lords and Civil Lords and Secretaries to the Admiralty all in my own official position as representative of the Shipwrights. So you will admit that I have had a little experience of these matters, and I have had even the modesty to suggest to a First Lord that we could do the work as well as anyone—though, of course, that is a matter of opinion. But I have met all these First Lords, and all the others, and, without flattery to my right hon. Friend, I may say that our experience was in reply to petition after petition not acceded to every year until the men felt that they were being unfairly treated. The right hon. Gentleman visited the yards, met the men, the foremen, and the managers, and brought them all together, just as he did on the Tyne and the Clyde during the War, when the work he did in the interests of the country was invaluable, I render homage where it is due.
Even this week he met a deputation which, if it had not been met, might have caused a lot of unnecessary trouble. We did not expect to get all we wanted. What the right hon. Gentlemen did was to smooth over the difficulties and to satisfy the deputation that whatever was done there would be fair play to those who were complaining. I thank the Committee for this chance they have given me of putting the case of the shipyard worker. I dare say I shall be the only speaker whose university has been the shipyard. Much has been said at different times as to the attitude of the trade unions towards men who have returned from the War. There is not a disabled man of ours whom we have not helped with work or with artificial limbs. Statements have been made that certain organised trades have been against those who have made sacrifices in the War. I say that such cases are very 2481 few. Of course, these organisations have to look to the men who stayed at home at the bench as well as to those who went into the trenches. All that is desired is an equitable arrangement, and I am satisfied that every trade organisation in the country will assist the Ministry of Labour to employ all men possible.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I desire to associate myself with the remarks of the last speaker in regard to my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty. It is not the first time I have had the opportunity of congratulating him on the way he has carried out the duties of his Office. I am glad to think that I have had the pleasure of offering such congratulations not only in this House, but outside it, and I wish him well in the new Office he is about to fill. In regard to the Estimates I was really amazed at the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield and his references to the armament firms. I have been puzzling my brain to find under which head of the Estimates that particular subject comes, and the only appropriate one I could find is "Contributions in aid of religious, charitable, and other institutions." Whatever the sum is, I think it requires some, justification. They made money out of us right and left, and I should like to know what the dividends of the firm are.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The Vote is on page 66 of the Estimate. It is Vote 8, sub-head ii, L, "Subsidy to armament firms for maintaining plant, etc."
§ Mr. HOHLER
I respectfully submit to the Admiralty that that is an item which requires very careful consideration. They have been paid for it over and over again. I ask the Admiralty to consider whether it cannot come on later in the financial year as an Appropriation in Aid. We were given to understand that they were patriotic people. Let them set an example to others. There is one other point on which I wish to call the attention of the First Lord, and that is in reference to the Admiralty Office. The sum involved is, in round figures, £1,500,000. Before the War it was about £500,000. Last year in his written statement I recollect that the First Lord told us it was in process of reduction, or that he hoped to reduce it. For that office to be incurring an expenditure of £1,500,000 seems to me excessive. It is impossible for me to put a finger on a certain point and to say, "There you can 2482 get rid of them," but I am satisfied that with the goodwill the First Lord has shown with regard to other matters affecting his estimates, something could be done to get rid of these temporary clerks, boys, messengers and the like, and other officers, to bring the Department down to something like its expenditure before the War. With regard to dockyards, there is very little I have to say. Everybody knows that I am a dockyards Member. The Members for the dockyards asked for a deputation to be received by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister received them, and the First Lord was there with the Financial Secretary and Admiral Power. The Prime Minister made to us a statement which was satisfactory to everyone concerned, and I know he made it after consultation with the First Lord and the Financial Secretary, because they withdrew for that purpose. We rely upon that, and I do not believe he is going to play us false. I shall, therefore, say no more about the dockyards. They are all equally deserving or, in the view of some, equally undeserving. If I wished to say a word for Chatham I think honestly I could. All I would add is, do not let us quarrel amongst ourselves. Of course I have one or two grievances. I again bring to the notice of the First Lord the long-delayed decision under the Jerram Report. I think it is Clause 48. Many of these men who were invalided before they had served for pension have died. There is also the case of the old naval pensioner. I know it is part of a larger question which has been raised in regard to all these pensioners—old soldier pensioners and civil service pensioners of every class. The other night it was raised in regard to the police, and the Home Secretary in that Debate, I believe, held out the expectation that in necessitous cases relief would be given, and relying on that promise, I voted for the Government. I am satisfied that the Government will endeavour to do what is just. I hope something will be done shortly, because there are grievous cases, and they affect not one class only, but a number of classes.
I want to call attention also to the question of the Royal Marines. I think I have only to state the case of one branch—only 200 are concerned—to satisfy the First Lord and the Financial Secretary that I am right. The point is this: In 2483 1915 the Admiralty created a new class of warrant officer (Warrant Officer, Class 2). In this connection there was issued Admiralty Weekly Order, No. 10, Institution of Rank of Warrant Officer, Class 2, dated 7th January, 1916. Under that Order certain ratings were created Warrant Officers, Class 2. They were given improved pay and, what is much more important, improved pensions. They were promised an improved pension of 2d. a day on being discharged for pension. I have looked through the Jerram Report and they are not dealt with. I have looked through the Halsey Report and they are not dealt with. I find they are being discharged to pension at only three halfpence a day increase. The only other Order that ever dealt with them was Admiralty Weekly Order, No 2483, Naval Officers Pay, Retired Pay and Allowances. It stated:No more warrant officers, Class 2, will be made, and the present officers of this class will be allowed to die out as the case occurs. Their successors will rank with and receive pay of chief petty officers of the Royal Navy with eight years' seniority.You created the rank, and you have never dealt with them since, and you retire them with an additional 1½d. instead of the 2d. which was promised. I think that case has only to be stated to demand attention. A further injustice in connection with these men is the Order prohibiting them from joining the Royal Fleet Reserve. By General Order 220, of December, 1919, Royal Marines holding the rank of warrant officer, class 2, or staff-sergeant, are ineligible for enrolment in the Royal Fleet Reserve. That has the result of preventing these men getting an additional 5d. at the age of 30, which is the equivalent of the Greenwich pension for those who join the Royal Fleet Reserve, and they have to wait until they are 55 before they receive it. If it is too late for the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with the matter, as he may have gone to another office, I hope it is one that will not be lost sight of, and that these men will be given the rights to which I submit they are fairly and justly entitled. The Royal Marines, which I regret to say, seems to be rather neglected.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I will not say neglected, because I know the family connections 2484 my right hon. Friend has with that gallant corps. I will put it that their case is not always stated. Let me refer to the position of quartermasters, lieutenants, captains, and majors. They used to receive their pay on the Army scale, and had they remained in the Army and retired on pension, that, in the case of a major, would on the Army scale be about £450 per year. They asked under the Jerram and Halsey Reports to be transferred to the Navy for the purpose of pay and pension because it is more favourable for them. In paragraph 19 of the Halsey Report that was approved, that they should receive the same pay as commissioned warrant officers who had risen from the ranks in the Navy, and also by a later paragraph that they should on retirement receive the same retired pay as officers of the Navy. In the Navy, except in one case, ail officers receive like pay and that was promised. What the Admiralty has done must have been done inadvertently, and it cannot have been noticed what the promises made to these men were. There are two classes of these men. One class I may call, without any disrespect, rankers who have risen through the ratings to commissioned rank. There is the man who rises by long and zealous service, and another class of man who rises through gallant or meritorious service. The quartermasters asked to be put in the same position as the men who rise by gallant and meritorious service, and that was approved. They then asked for the same pension, and that was approved. When you come to settle the matter, instead of giving thorn the pay of other officers, which they asked and which you approve, you only give them the retired pay of the naval officer who has risen by long and zealous service. An injustice is clearly being done and I ask that it should be remedied. I have referred to these matters in some detail, and I am sure the members of the Committee appreciate how much these pensions mean to these men. I feel sure ray right hon. Friend will find, if he looks into my statements, that they are right and my arguments are sound, and I trust that they will receive early attention.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I should like at once to say on behalf of the Board of Admiralty how much we appreciate the reception generally given by the House yesterday and the Committee to day to 2485 these Estimates. They do indeed represent—I can assure the Committee—continuous and painstaking effort on behalf of the Admiralty, from the hour the bells rang in the Armistice down to the present time, to bring War expansion back to Peace necessities. Let the Committee look again for a moment at what has been accomplished. Our net expenditure for 1918–19 (the final War year) was £334,000,000, and for last year, 1919–20, though many demands were made upon the Navy in several seas, we got down to £158,000,000. The present Estimates propose a nett expenditure of £84,000,000, and between a fourth and a fifth of that is dead weight war liability, which does not contribute a farthing to the maintenance of the year 1920–21. As regards the remainder, when you have taken away the dead weight liability you must divide it by at least two to get the pre-War standard of money value. Now let us look at the numbers—Naval and Civil; and the latter will deal with the point raised as to the Admiralty Offices. On 11th November, 1918, there were on the Active Service List of the Royal Navy 407,316 officers and men. On 1st April, 1919, the number was 273,400, and by the first day of next month we shall have got the number down to 136,000.
Apart from the personnel of the Royal Navy, at the Armistice we had 105,000 industrial employés in the dockyards and home establishments—and to-day we have about 72,000. At the Armistice, our staff at Headquarters (and this includes the Admiralty offices, numbered 10,637—and to-day they number about 5,400. That staff had to deal with the payment of gratuities and all the incidents involved in demobilisation, and cancelling of contracts and work of a character involving many poor people, and which, if delayed would mean great hardship to them. When you think of the volume of that work, performed in a welter of difficulties by a staff reduced from 10,637 to 5,400, I think my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Hohler) will acknowledge that it is satisfactory. Our staff at the Armistice, other than Headquarters' staff—I mean the clerical staffs of the Royal Dockyards—numbered 9,800; and to-day they number about 5,000. I am sure the Committee will be interested to hear one or two other facts. At the Armistice the number of hired vessels of all kinds on naval service was 3,870; and to-day they 2486 number 300, mostly trawlers and drifters, of which the bulk are in process of release to their owners—when reconditioned. As a matter of fact, since the Armistice we have reconditioned and returned to commercial service 2,264 trawlers and drifters. Since the Armistice, we have realised by the sale of ships, old ships and commercial ships, well over three and a half millions of money, and we have sold or transferred to the Disposals Board over £10,000,000 worth of property other than ships.
I have mentioned these detailed facts because behind them lie unremitting care and unremitting watchfulness on the part of a body of public servants who were compelled to pass without intermission from the long strain of war to the laborious day-by-day task of getting expenditure back to the normal. For them 1919 was a very heavy year, and it was with very great pleasure I heard the frank tribute paid to our administration yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), and heard that tribute to hard-working officials endorsed by the House generally. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Moulton (Mr. Lambert) was severe on the modifications we have made in the scheme of common entry and training for officers. Like him, I was in that almost from its birth. Successive boards in 16 years—as he knows—and as a matter of fact 46 boards in all, have watched the working of that system, Lord Fisher's original system of 1903, with a single eye to the efficiency of the service. Now its ultimate modification was rendered necessary because during the War we could not get sufficient officers to volunteer for the Engineer Branch. A Committee was set up, consisting of Lord Jellicoe, Mr. McKenna (who had been First Lord at the Admiralty), and an engineer officer, Vice-Admiral Sir George Goodwin. They examined in 1918 the whole question very carefully, and certain proposals were adopted, and in September, 1919, the matter was again carefully considered and proposals were ultimately adopted. My right hon. Friend says that we have departed from the principle of common training, but the fact is that under this modification we have retained the great advantages of common entry and common initial training on shore and in the training battleship. 2487 This means that the deck officers and engine-room officers throughout their careers have a basis of fellowship and sympathy which come from serving together in their early days, as we see among those who have been together in the same Public School. But it recognises this fact, which is accepted by all sea officers, and it is accepted, I think, all round.
I do not pretend to be a sailor any more than my right hon. Friend, but I have been told by those who have to serve upon warships that, owing to modern requirements, the work is much more strenuous now, whether in the case of the deck officer or the engineer officer, than it was in 1903 when Lord Fisher initiated this scheme, and that it is impossible to expect young officers as a whole to absorb the training for both sides up to the rank of Lieutenant. This modification has been made in Lord Fisher's scheme. No one is more loyal to his old colleagues than my right hon. Friend. There are, he says, objections to these modifications, but hard necessity has made us do it, and we claim that we are not by that reducing the status of the engineer officer. What has been said is that it will not now be possible for an Engineer-Admiral to fly his flag at sea that it was possible before, but it is not possible now. I want to speak with the greatest respect of the engineer officers. One doss not want to speak in disparagement of any branch of the Service, and least of all of them, but I really think I am entitled to ask this question: Does anyone pretend that an Engineer-Admiral could really fly his flag at sea under the original scheme. I do not think it was ever possible. It has never taken place so far as I am aware. I may be told that sufficient time has not "lapsed, but I am not aware that it has ever yet taken place. My hon. Friend has said that that possibility ought to have been retained.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
The First Lord of the Admiralty said yesterday that you had not sufficient engineer officers. How could you get them if you propose to reduce their status?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am not arguing that. I am putting forward this proposition, that we are not reducing their status. We have never intended to reduce their status. The only point is that under 2488 the Fisher scheme it was theoretically possible that an Engineer-Admiral could fly his flag at sea, but that it is not now possible, and I say that if it was possible it has never been done. I regret that I should have to cross swords upon an expert question like this with my hon. Friend. I come now to the question of the dockyards.
The Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) and the Members for Drake (Sir A. Shirley Benn), Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) and Chatham (Mr. Hohler) have called attention to the question of the dockyards. On that matter we are all of the one mind. We share the anxiety to avoid, if it be humanly possible, the hardship that will devolve upon these men, these loyal men, and their wives and children, by their discharge. The matter has not been out of my mind for many hours together since the Armistice. I know these men to be most loyal men, who did great service to the country during the War. The memory of that service will stand to the credit of the Royal Dockyards for a long time, even if there was nothing else. But the question is this: The dockyards exist for the Fleet. Upon its size, its new construction, and repair requirements depend the numbers to be employed in the Royal Dockyards. During the War we had a very large number of men charged on Naval Votes 8–1 and 2. There was a great expansion, not only at the old dockyards, but at Rosyth, where there was a new yard. And, of course, we must come down from the effort and level of the War. We have come down a long way already, and, looking at the needs of the post-War Fleet, we must come down below pre-War level so far as naval work is concerned. Take the year 1914–1915. We had, on the Estimates, 43,000 shipyard workers, and we provided £4,549,443 for new construction and repairs in the dockyards, labour and material. To-day we have 57,500 shipyard workers and the money that is provided for 1920–21 is £9,443,500, representing the needs of the Fleet. That money represents less than half the purchasing value of 1914. Well! There it is. In order to avoid discharges we brought forward the work of repair, refit and reconditioning which would otherwise have been spread over a longer time. That was to prevent large discharges during the winter. We considered what 2489 would happen when it ended, as it will shortly. The Colwyn Committee, on which were four representatives of the employees' side of the Industrial Council, considered the matter and gave admirable advice. The Committee was appointed to consider the feasibility of work other than naval work being done in the naval dockyards in the form of merchant construction. They said:We recommend that the Admiralty should utilise their-surplus facilities in the construction of mercantile vessels. The concentration on these vessels by the building yards would release sufficient repair and reconditioning work to keep the other dockyards in employment. We do not regard this as a permanent solution of the difficulty, nor recommend that this should be carried on indefinitely. The future of the shipbuilding trade is uncertain and offers no guarantee of a long era of construction. But we consider that this proposal offers to the Admiralty an expedient for tiding over a difficult period of distress, and the Committee hope and expect that in the present position of shipping trade the Admiralty will be able to build without any loss.In pursuance of that we set up machinery for carrying on the mercantile work referred to, so that it could be done upon expeditious, simple, short-circuited lines and at the least expense. This work that we have pushed forward, the naval work, is now coming to an end, and we are getting ready to go on with this other work. There is first of all a 10,000-ton oil tank vessel, and we are getting ready to deal with that at Devonport. We have set up an Expert Committee to deal with the accounts, which we think is an improvement upon those required by the Public Accounts Committee and so on. For that tank steamer we are obtaining the material and we will lay down the vessel as soon as possible. Then there is another oil tanker, or mercantile vessel, which is to be constructed at Pembroke. The manufacture of the machinery for these two vessels will be divided between the yards at Portsmouth and Chatham and Devonport. These vessels will be built to the account of the Admiralty. Then there is the question of laying down an oil carrier, or a merchant ship, at Portsmouth and Chatham. That is being examined. We also examined the proposal which came from a reputable firm, to lease the Pembroke dockyard. It was also suggested that we should sell some of them by my right hon. Friend; but we had this offer to lease Pembroke for merchant ship construction, 2490 but we found ourselves in this difficulty. We have 3,000 men in employment there; of these, 900 are established pensionable Civil Servants, and the other 2,100 are hired. We could get the firm to agree to take over the hired men and give them continuous employment. The difficulty arose with regard to the "00 established men, and what should be done with them. We should have had to say, "Either you can have your pension paid off and then go into the employment of this private firm"—
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I was speaking of the 900 established men There were, as I said, 2,100 hired men, and, if we had decided to lease the yard, a condition we should have laid down would have been that the lessee should take them over and give them employment under the conditions obtaining in the industry. Then I went on to deal with the established men. We had to give them the alternative of being paid off and their services transferred, not with such an assurance of continuous employment as they would have as established men with us, but under the ordinary conditions, or of being transferred to one of the other yards. We should have had at least 600 of those men who would have said they wanted to be transferred, and we should have had to transfer those 600 men to other yards, where we were already making reductions, and to localities in which there is an acute housing problem. We therefore could not do it, and we declined the invitation that we should lease that yard, and met the situation for the time being with this 10,000-ton oil tanker The future of those yards calls for very anxious consideration.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The point put by my hon. Friend is a perplexing one, and my hon. Friends on the Labour benches will see our difficulty much better than hon. Members in other parts of the House, unless there should be shipbuilders in those parts. We had an offer from the Co-operative Society of Plymouth to build a collier, and we said that we could not do that. At the same time we were discharging men. That is what people 2491 cannot understand. The fact is that the building of a warship is one thing, and the building of a merchant ship is another thing. For the building of a warship you want a balance of trades not at all comparable with that which is necessary in the case of a merchant ship. In the building of a warship there must be a disproportion on the engineering side and on the electrical side, and there is not the proportion on the constructive side that would be required for the building of a merchant ship. Supposing that we had accepted this offer, we should have been in the position of having to take on more ship constructors, if we could have got them, and that is very doubtful, in a town where already there was an acute housing problem; and we should have had at the same time to go on dismissing men on the engineering and electrical side.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
Would not that point be met if there were something in the nature of dilution of labour? Are not the men of Devonport willing?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think I myself put yesterday afternoon to a deputation a proposition as to what might be done in that direction. Here is a shortage on the ship construction side, and to take that collier we should have to increase the ship constructors by taking new men in. That is out of the question, first of all because it is very doubtful whether we could get them, and secondly because we could not house them if we could get them. Sup-posing, on the other hand, that the men on the engineering and electrical sides got together through their Yard Committee, which they have now in Devon-port under the Whitley scheme, and said, "This is not dilution, it is setting aside the demarcation rules." I am sorry to correct the hon. Member for Sutton, but that is another thing.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Supposing they got together and said that, although those skilled men were not precisely ship constructors, yet they could do a good deal of the work pretty well, and they should not suffer any reduction in wage by any transfer or interchangeability, it might be possible to make up the necessary balance of ship constructors, and, if there is a slip available, 2492 subject to what the First Lord may say, I do not think that there would be any difficulty whatever.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I knew my right hon. Friend would concur. If there were plenty of appliances, and if the men among themselves will agree, in this emergency, to set aside the demarcation rules, and make up amongst themselves— so as to give sufficient work, of course—the proper balance on the construction side, they might have that collier, and my hon. Friend will be entirely happy.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I made that suggestion yesterday afternoon, as my hon. Friend knows. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) referred, under Vote 10, to expenditure on New Works, Additions, and Alterations, and he said, in effect: "With all this reduction, why do you want to go on building new works, alterations, etc.?" He referred particularly to the expenditure on oil fuel storage accommodation. If I remember rightly he mentioned millions, but they will not be spent in 1920–21.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The total provision in this Estimate is £653,850, ultimately leading up, of course, to a much larger expenditure when complete. It has been a matter for most careful consideration as to how low we could get it down. The Navy now includes a considerable number of oil-burning ships, and, of course, nearly the whole of the oil that they burn has to be brought from foreign countries. Therefore, unless the Fleet, in time of emergency, is to be dependent upon foreign fuel, we must make due provision for oil fuel accommodation at the naval ports of this country. That is clear, and I can assure my right hon. Friend that that figure has been cut down as low as is possible consistently with the future needs of the Fleet.
Then, I think, my right hon. Friend asked why we wanted to spend money on new works at Portsmouth. There is, as 2493 of course he knows, at Portsmouth the "Vernon," an old and troublesome hulk which takes a lot of expenditure to maintain. We are going to provide, in place of the "Vernon," a shore establishment, for which we have put down £245,300 in those Estimates, as the torpedo training school for the Navy. I think I need not recall to my right hon. Friend the condition of the "Vernon" and the great desirability of getting these men and their officers on shore, with proper accommodation for the work they have to do. I think he will agree that it is about time—indeed the time is long overdue—for the "Vernon" to be set aside, and for this particular school to be taken ashore.
§ The question of the grievances of ships' cooks, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke), has been under consideration for some time past. The Board appointed a small committee in July lust to investigate, amongst other things, the working hours, leave arrangements, and complements of cook ratings in harbour ships, etc., and that Committee will, it is expected, report at an early date. In addition to that, various other grievances of ships' cooks have been dealt with by the Welfare Committee, from whom we have already had a very voluminous report. My hon. Friend the Member for Chatham referred to the case of warrant officers, Class II., and of quartermasters in the Royal Marines. I hope my hon. Friend will allow me to write him fully the justification for the decisions which have been taken on those matters. I do not quite follow his case with regard to quartermasters in the Royal Marines. I cannot imagine that we departed from the decision approved on the Jerram Report, but I will look into the matter again and write to my hon. Friend.
There are several matters of great interest to the men in the Fleet which have been before us for, I am sorry to say, a very long time, and concerning these we are now in a position to make certain announcements. First of all, there is what we call "Jerram 48," which has been pressed upon us from all sides of the House ever since the publication of the original Jerram White Paper. In the original Jerram White Paper, Decision No. 51 raised the basic rate for the long-service pensioner of 22 years
from ½d. a day for each year of service to 1½ a day. Decision No. 48 was:
Men invalided to be awarded pensions in respect of length of service apart from any award in respect of disability.
§ On that we announced that the Admiralty were examining this question with a view to a further announcement. We formulated our proposals to cover Decision No. 48 and sent them to the Ministry of Pensions and the Treasury, and I am glad to say that we have now approval for certain increases in the allowances for service terminated by invalidity during or arising out of the War and before completion of the 22 years. These are as follows: In attributable cases, after ten years, the pension is 7s. a week, as against 3s. 6d. at present; after 14 years it is 8s., as against 3s. 6d.; after 15 years 8s., as against 4s. 8d.; after 16 years 9s., as against 4s. 8d.; after 18 years 10s., as against 5s. 3d.; and after 20 years 11s., as against 5s. 3d. In addition to these rates there is the full disablement scale, partial or total.
§ Mr. HOHLER
The hon. Gentleman uses the word "attributable". Has he adopted this phraseology as the word used in the Pension Warrants for disability pensions?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Yes. That is to say, in saying "Yes," I knew what my hon. and learned Friend was putting, but I think he had better give notice of that question. I think that is so. In regard to the attributable cases, the addition to these improved rates for the service side of the men's pension, there is, as I say, a full disablement scale, partial or total. In non-attributable cases, after 10 years it will be 7s. a week, as against 3s. 6d. formerly; after 14 years 10s. 6d., against 3s. 6d.; after 15 years 10s. 6d., against 4s. 8d.; after 16 years 12s. 3d., against 4s. 8d.; after 18 years 14s., against;5s. 3d. and after 20 years 17s. 6d., against 5s. 3d. In these non-attributable cases there is no addition, of course, in respect of disablement. There will be the usual additions for rank, badges and medal according to the new service scale, both in regard to attributable and non-attributable cases, and these increases will date as from the 1st April, 1919. I am very glad, indeed, to get that rather long-continued problem settled. Now, in regard to the naval schoolmasters, their pay was dealt with by the Jerram-Halsey Committee, and 2495 the Government decision on that was that as the pay of the naval schoolmasters had been considered and increased at the end of 1918, and as they had received an ad interim bonus on the 1st February, 1919, their rates compared favourably with the salaries of teachers in civil life.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I know, but I am giving my Noble Friend the decision, and therefore it was resolved that they must stay as they were. I have admitted that they are the only class of warrant officers who did not get an increase. Many representations have since been made to us, by Members of the House and others, and we are forced to the conclusion that the pay offered is not adequate to attract the type of man required. We have, therefore, pressed for the grant to the schoolmaster branch of the rates of pay proposed by the Jerram-Halsey Committee. My hon. Friends will find them in the second last column, page 15, of Command Paper 270. We have modified them slightly, but not seriously, and they have now been agreed, and I am very glad indeed to be able to say so. But I am not in a position to say what date this decision will take effect from, as that has not yet been decided.
There is one other matter, and that is in regard to the Royal Fleet Reserve, Class B, which several of my hon. Friends have pressed upon us from time to time. We saw a deputation on the 14th November, the Fourth Sea Lord and myself, of representatives of the Royal Fleet Reserve, Class B. They put a number of requests before us. They are not all met now, but they have been carefully considered by the Board, our recommendations have gone to the Treasury, and I am now in a position to say what are the decisions upon them. The first is that the peace retainer will stay as it is. As regards the gratuity in the case of the Royal Fleet Reserve men, Class B, who served during the War, or were exempted from war service to remain in their civil employment under the Government, and who have since qualified for the gratuity, the original gratuity of £50 will be increased by £10 for men discharged in 1914, after the 2496 commencement of the War, and by an additional £10 for men discharged in each succeeding year, subject to a maximum increase of £50. That means that the majority of these men will get a gratuity of £100. The full increase of £50 will be granted to all Royal Fleet Reserve men, Class B, who qualify in future. In the second place, it has been decided that the Royal Fleet Reserve pension shall be increased from £12 to £24 for those who were enrolled prior to the 1st April, 1906. In the third place— and I am very glad that this has been decided, because I know how much store these men set upon it—a long-service medal will be awarded to all Royal Fleet Reservists who have completed 15 years' active and reserve service, and who have satisfactorily performed the training required by the Regulations, with character never below "Very good" during the last fifteen years, or never below "Good" since the age of 18, provided such men are in possession of the maximum number of badges for which they were eligible during active service, and are without the Royal Naval long service, etc., medal. The Royal Fleet Reserve medal will not carry with it any monetary benefits. There are certain medals which do, but this is not one of those. Fourthly, the gratuity at present awarded on invaliding from the Royal Navy is deducted in the case of men who enrolled in the Royal Fleet Reserve after the 31st March, 1906, from the Royal Fleet Reserve gratuity when earned. This deduction is to cease, and abatements which have been made from men who have served during the War will be refunded. Fifthly, in the case of men invalided who have not completed full time for gratuity, proportionate benefits will be awarded in future at the rate of £5 for each completed year of man's service in the Royal Navy or Royal Fleet Reserve. All these things, which are very detailed, will be promulgated in Orders. The decisions which I have announced do not at all cover what the men asked, but we have given careful consideration to them, and these are the decisions which we have come to.
One other matter which has been before us ever since the Jerram Report is the question of petty officers' rig. The original Jerram Committee recommended that "Fore and Aft" rig should be adopted for petty officers. The men pressed this proposal, and they pressed 2497 it for a very simple reason and a very good reason, namely, that they might receive the reasonable consideration due to their responsibilities, a consideration by no means invariably accorded by those unacquainted with their naval status. The matter has been very carefully considered by the Board, and it has been decided that all petty officers over four years' seniority will in future be dressed in "Fore and Aft" rig, with gilt buttons, and will wear the badge now worn by chief petty officers, for whom a new badge is being devised. I must apologise to the Committee for the length of this speech, but these are matters which have been a Long time before us, and I am very glad that they have been settled.
I should like gratefully to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton and the First Lord, and my hon. and gallant Friends the Members for Maidstone, Hull, Devonport, Dundee, and Chatham, for their far too generous references to myself. After all, it is a fine thing and a great thing to be associated with the British Navy. It is a fine thing and a great thing to work day by day for 12 years with men whose first though, whose last thought, is the higher efficiency of the great Service to which they belong. It is a fine thing and a great thing to catch the spirit of the Navy, the spirit of true comradeship between officers and men of all ranks and ratings. It is a line thing and a great thing to see at the heart of everything, and inspiring everything, this splendid creed, that strength is given us for the protection of the weak, and must never be used for the oppression of the feeble and the down-trodden.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
I will not keep the Committee very long, because there are so many Members who want to speak about the Navy, but I would like to say one thing to the First Lord, and that is about the Colwyn Report. I do not think that has been made quite clear by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. He said we are going to build an oil tanker and that then we will build a collier, but that is not the only thing the Colwyn Report said. I am sorry to take up Navy time talking about dockyard questions, but although I do not represent Devonport, a great many of the dockyard men reside in my constituency, and I will frankly say that I am talking 2498 for my constituency. But in talking for my constituency, I am talking for a national thing, for, after all, Plymouth greatly represents the Navy, and, as the right hon. Gentleman has just said, the Navy puts service ahead of everything. The Colwyn Report said they considered that the dockyards, particularly Plymouth, should be used for something else besides building the Navy, but I do not see that either the First Lord or the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has answered the question. Are we going to throw them open for building other ships? That is what they are pressing for from Plymouth. Are they going to do it? They set up the Colwyn Report; do they mean to put it in action, or do they not? The whole of Plymouth is excited over this, and quite rightly so, because the lives of thousands of women and children depend on it. I deeply regret that Plymouth was not as wise as Chatham. They ought to have accepted the Government's proposal of five days a week instead of six. That was not my fault, but it was the fault of some of the right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Labour Benches, and I might say that it gave me great pleasure to hear a Labour Member speak of the Navy. They do not speak of it enough, when their lives, and our lives, and indeed the civilisation of the world depend on the British Navy.
But to return to my point in regard to the Colwyn Report, do you mean, or do you not, to give us a chance? I know you cannot go on building against an enemy which you have not got. I do not think that is right, and I do not think anybody wants to do it. I am certain that nobody in England will ever want the British Navy to be second to any. It is all very well other countries talking, but they will never really be able to have a Navy, because they will not get the men. It is an inherited thing, and everybody knows it. The United States of America saw it when they came to Plymouth, and you might almost say that the sea belongs to England, and it could not be in better or safer hands. So I do not take the view that you have to keep on building against an enemy. I am perfectly certain the United States will never build against England. It would be perfectly stupid if they did. To come back to the Colwyn Report, what do you mean to do? It is really vital.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
You said that you are going to build a tanker. Are you going to keep Plymouth not only for naval but for merchant ships? What is going around Plymouth now? They are saying that the reason the Government will not take action is that they are keeping a slip empty because they want to see what the European situation is going to be. That is being said quite freely among the men. It is said that the Government do not mind the discharges, they are not adopting the Colwyn Report, they are not even encouraging private shipbuilders, and they do not mean to build ships themselves. That is what they are saying. It may not be true—I hope to goodness it is not. The dockyardsmen at Plymouth are ready. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Wilkie) as said that they build better for public ownership. As a matter of fact they will build for anything, private or public, they are so hard pushed. There are 6,000 men unemployed in Devonport, so that if you are only going to build one oil tanker I implore you to give the chance to private firms to come in and help the situation. It is really appalling. I do not know that I ought to speak about so local a matter, but I am bound to speak because things are getting worse day by day. I am not really satisfied with the statements of the First Lord or the Parliamentary Secretary. What really are you going to do? I want to speak about pensions. I am rather shocked at seeing the few Members there are in the House when it comes to discussing the Navy. I was horrified all yesterday and to-day. You say you have not carried out the Jerram Report, but I do ask that so far as the pensions of widows and dependents are concerned, the Admiralty will give what is asked for. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to adopt the Jerram Report in full. I know what the state of the Navy was when the Jerram Committee was set up, I know from the lower deck men's point of view. I hope the country will ever be grateful to Admiral Jerram for his splendid work for the Navy, England and the Empire, and I beg the Admiralty to listen to him. At Plymouth they are getting very restless, and they do hope now you will give them a chance. Do not be a dog in the manger. If you cannot use it for the 2500 Navy then open it to the private shipbuilders. It is too expensive to keep idle. You have a slip there; I hope the right hon. Gentleman is going to accept that collier.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I should be quite delighted, but will the men agree? By all means, if they will set aside demarcation.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
I quite agree, and I think the men will. I am perfectly certain the men's wives will. The men's wives thoroughly regret that the dockyard men did not take my advice, instead of the advice that was given them in other quarters, but I think they will meet you on that point. I am proud and pleased to join in with the other hon. Members in what they said about the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, who is apparently going to leave us, though I hope he will not. I should like to pay a tribute to him. I have heard some of the men of the lower deck rage against him. They did not realise it was the Treasury and not the right hon. Gentleman. After they found out, they were the first to give him due credit for all he has done for them. I am most grateful to him for the wonderful way in which he answers all the criticisms, but there will be even more gratitude in the Navy if he gets the Jerram Report in full carried out before he leaves the Admiralty, because when you leave it we do not know what we are going to get. You know the conditions and are sympathetic.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I really must remind the hon. Member that we do not say "You, you" across the floor of the House. All remarks should be addressed to the Chair.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
Excuse me, Mr. Chairman, but I am not speaking, perhaps, as well as I should, because I am so conscious of the hon. Member behind wanting to speak. It is very upsetting to have to speak when yon know there are Members behind longing for you to sit down. May I ask again, what are you going to do about the Colwyn Report? Do not be a dog in the manger.
§ Mr. ROBERT YOUNG
I am sure we all listened with a great deal of satisfaction to what the right hon. Gentleman has said. As a new Member of the House, I have not had that experience 2501 of him in relation to Admiralty and naval matters as other Members of the House, but I might also bear my testimony to his courtesy, not merely to me as a new Member of the House when I have been in communication with him, but also in his past dealings in relation to the organisation with which I was connected and which caused me to meet him on several occasions. On that ground, and also because of the courteous replies I have always received to any of my communications, I join with right hon. and hon. Members in wishing him the best of success in any new position he may take up. I want to say one or two words in relation to something that has already been mentioned, and a few words in relation to something that has not yet been referred to. Although I do not represent a naval dockyard or a large merchant ship-building centre, I think I can claim that I have a good many communications from men who work in the dockyards. For some reason or other they send many of these grievances and complaints on to me, and consequently I need make no excuse for intervening in this discussion. I have listened with a good deal of attention to what the representatives of dockyard centres have said, and I feel very satisfied indeed that when they represent a dockyard centre and commence to talk on questions of work inside the dockyard, they are, after all, not so averse to the principle of the nationalisation of industry as we are sometimes led to believe. When one speaks with an eye on his constituency, it probably changes his point of view just a little bit, and I have noticed to-night that the work done in the Royal Dockyards is said to be as good as any work that could be done in any other establishment, and I notice also that those who have been speaking in that strain are not afraid of bureaucracy, which is supposed to govern nationalised industry.
I disagree, however, with the right hon. Gentleman on this side, who said that the Royal Dockyards should be dispensed with and one or two sold. Those of us who sit on these Benches take a quite contrary view. We think the nation should not dispense with any of its establishments, and that they should not only keep their establishments, but utilise them to the full at every opportunity. That being so, it is somewhat surprising to find, after the statement which has 2502 been made, I believe by the Prime Minister, that there were orders ahead for five years, or there were likely to be orders ahead for five years for mercantile shipping, the Royal Dockyards cannot be supplied with sufficient work to keep their men in active occupation. I am led to understand that mechanics at Devonport with six, eight and ten years' experience are being thrown out of work. There are already 6,000 men unemployed there, and I am informed—I hope incorrectly—that almost immediately there will be over 2,300 men thrown out of work, and the general feeling of dockyard men in these towns is that all this is occurring because the Government is afraid of vested interests. It is also true that it is generally stated, as the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has said, that in each dockyard a slipway is being kept vacant in case of national emergency. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's repudiation of that statement, because if it were true it would cause a great deal of concern.
§ Mr. YOUNG
I am much obliged for the statement, but I understand the right hon. Gentleman's colleague made the repudiation. At any rate, I am very pleased to hear the statement just made. I would like to say that in the dockyards there are grievances among the men because there have been no repairs in some of the shops for nearly six years, and they are in a very bad state of repair. I am told that in the coppersmiths' shop and another shop at Devonport the men have to stand on planks, for after a shower of rain the shops are flooded. If that is true, I hope something will be done as speedily as possible. I want to say one word in relation to the Colwyn Report. I would like to know more explicitly if Clause 3 of that Report is likely to be put into operation to any large extent. We have been told what is intended to be done in relation to the oil tankers, but still it will be satisfactory to know what is really going to be done in connection with the building of mercantile ships. The right hon. Gentleman 2503 (Dr. Macnamara) told us there were demarcation difficulties in the way. I can assure him many of us on this side of the House do not encourage these demarcation differences between trade union and trade union.
We are as keenly anxious as is the right hon. Gentleman, that the men should be able to get over these difficulties for the purpose of enabling the Admiralty to build mercantile ships in the dockyards. I was going to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, if he had been present at the moment, if he had raised this question with the representatives of Labour in the various dockyards, because I have received a copy of a resolution which I understand was sent to the Admiralty, and which reads as under:—That this Committee welcomes the findings of the Colwyn Report and requests the Admiralty to take immediate steps to give effect to the same. We submit that if Devonport is to be given the opportunity of demonstrating its capabilities, the discharges of men must of necessity cease in order to retain as many as possible skilled or other workers of all-round experience. This Committee feels that it can speak with assurance that one and all are sympathetic, and that organised labour is prepared to accept its full share of responsibility as per Clause 2 of the Report.This also refers to Devonport. I trust, though I myself am not in a position to say definitely, that "responsibility" means the settling of this so-called demarkation question, so enabling Plymouth not only to get its oil tankers, but colliers, and other places a further supply of work. I wish to refer to one or two other things in relation to the Navy, not raised, so far as I know, so far in this Debate. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty met some considerable time ago, I think September, 1918, representatives from the society to which I belong, the Boilermakers' Society, and other organisations, in relation to the pay of the artificer engineers. At that time we submitted to him a list of what we thought would be reasonable wages for the various grades in which these men found themselves. The Halsey Report does not come up to the standard placed before the right hon. Gentleman. Personally I regret that, because I think that the Navy ought to have the best engineers that the country and the Empire can give it. If we are to have the best engineers they should be 2504 paid equally well with the engineers in the Mercantile Service For this purpose I think that inducements should always be held out to them, because, as has been truly said this afternoon, we have every reason to be proud of our Navy. Being proud therefore of it, we ought to show our appreciation by making the pay of those in the Service at least as good as those employed under ordinary conditions with other people.
Another point is in relation to the mechanician rating. This was established in 1903. I gather now that there has been offered free discharge to about 44 per cent; of these men. These are more or less handy men, and they are being trained at considerable cost to the country. This appears to me to be one of those opportunities in which the Admiralty can practise economy without any hurt to the Navy. The opportunity for real economy, in my opinion, lies in abolishing this class altogether. If you are offering 44 per cent. free discharge, you will find, I think, that the upkeep and training of the others will be a far heavier burden than the country is justified in bearing. Here is another reason: the Navy is more and more adopting oil fuel for boilers and turbine engines. This process will continue. As it continues the number of stokers will become reduced, seeing there will be less need for them. Internal combustion engines are coming strongly to the front. They also, I expect, will be more and more utilised in the Navy. Under these circumstances, the stoker will become nothing more or less than an engine-cleaner. The skilled men required will be those capable of combining engineering knowledge and experience in all these things, and overlooking in every direction. I happen to have in my hand, culled as correctly as possible, certain statistics. These deal with the approximate cost and upkeep of the mechanical training establishment at Chatham. The naval staff comprises a Commander, and various other grades of officers, whilst there is also a civilian staff. The naval staff costs £5,564 per annum and the civilian staff £4,499. The cost of dockyard labour and material, stores supplied, maintenance (including electric light and power) is £3,550 per annum, while other items bring the total approximate amount to £42,600, or an approximate cost per candidate of no less 2505 than £240 per annum. I think that is—I will not say wasted public money—but a large amount of public money which might be saved under the new conditions which are likely to operate in the Navy. Therefore, I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the intention of the Board of Admiralty to retain the mechanical training establishment at Chatham, to train mechanicians at an approximate cost of £240 per head per annum to perform duties which are already carried out by the engine-room artificer? If the answer be in the affirmative, I should like further to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered that the retention of the mechanical training establishment at Chatham at the approximate cost of £43,000 per annum is justified on the score of economy?
Every member of the Committee, and the people outside, who are interested in the Navy, will rejoice to know of the Advisory Committee set up for the purpose of securing the welfare of the various grades in the Navy. Probably that naval Welfare Committee is doing good work. But I am convinced that its procedure does not conduce to a proper discussion of class claims—I mean the claims of the various grades. If radical alteration of the procedure is not adopted it will not be a real vehicle for carrying the views of the lower deck to the Admiralty. There is thus a danger of some classes giving the Advisory Welfare Committee the cold shoulder—for how can you expect chief engineers and engine room artificers to prefer their requests, say, for higher status before 17 other lower deck ratings. I understand the engine room is represented by one in 18. Other people are giving decisions as to their requests. I venture to say, without desiring to create any antipathy between the different grades represented, that it is not possible for a cook, or any similar person, to determine what is right and proper for the engine-room. When you have 17 lower grades determining requests from the engine room, it is likely to cause hardship and discontent, and grievances are bound to arise. Class claims will be made the subject of general discussion, thereby leading to confusion, disagreement and discontent, and the good ship "Welfare," which has been established, may become self-wrecked. I hope not. But still I know there are many engine-room 2506 artificers in the organisation to which I belong who are greatly dissatisfied with the procedure that governs the Welfare Committees.
§ Mr. YOUNG
I do not know what they did at the last meeting of the Welfare Committee. I do not know whether they are entitled to raise objections of this kind, but I think the objections have to come through the Welfare Committee, and if you have seventeen lower grades determining the position of this one class you are not likely to get much satisfaction in that class. I want also to raise a point in relation to the boy artificers. I make no apology for introducing the question of boys, because we are interested in the training of engineers. I want to make a request that there shall be 5s. per day paid during the last half-year's training. The period of training has just been increased from four to four-and-a-half years, thereby making eighteen months under one condition instead of twelve months. I want, therefore, to make the request that 5s. per day be paid during the last half-year's training and that the boys be promoted to fourth-class E.R.A., provided that the necessary efficiency be obtained.
There is another point in connection with boy artificers. I cannot understand how it comes about that boy seamen, or seamen boys, are regarded as men at the age of 18, while boys who happen to be artificers training for engineers are not regarded as men until they are 20. One knows the susceptibilities of young men in relation to these matters, and I do think that this difference should be removed and that the boy artificer should, like the seaman boy, be recognised as a man at the age of 18. I suggest also it would be far better to go back to the old title for them and let them be styled student engineers. If these two points can be conceded I feel certain it will give very great satisfaction to these classes. I had proposed also to discuss a point in connection with the messing arrangements, but as the Secretary to the Admiralty has already indicated that steps are being taken to carry out our wishes in that direction, there is no need for me to press the matter further. I am sure that all of us, no matter in what part of the House we sit, are particularly anxious that the 2507 British Navy shall be kept up to an effective standard. While we are not desirous to pile up armaments upon armaments, we still feel that the Navy must be in a position to maintain the supremacy of this country at any time. We are anxious, therefore, not to minimise the effectiveness of the Navy. We believe it is of more importance to us than the Army, and therefore we want to see our dockyards most efficient, we want them kept fully employed in times of peace, so that when the emergency comes—we hope it may not—there will be men and facilities for keeping us safe from any foreign foe.
§ Mr. C. BARRIE
I wish to say a word or two with regard to the disposal of the drifter vessels. A very large number of drifters were lost during the War. The First Lord has paid a well-deserved tribute to the mine sweepers and the men who man them. There were about 200 lost during the War. One hundred and eighty are in the Estimates as being in course of construction or having been completed. Of these, 162 are, I believe, complete, and it has been arranged that 150 shall be sold to drifter seamen. But, for some unaccountable reason, the scheme has been held up, and I rose to draw the First Lord's attention to the fact, so that, if possible, the plan may be proceeded with at once, and for this reason. This is March. May will soon be on us, and May is the month in which drifters are being got ready to proceed to sea. If the scheme is held up very much longer, the result will be that these 150 vessels set aside for this purpose will be lost, so far as the summer fishing is concerned. Moreover, it is costing a very large sum of money to keep these vessels lying idle, as at the present moment, and in the interests of economy alone I think it is desirable that they should be got to work. I have one further point to raise, and that is in connection with the question of repairs to the drifters which were working at sea during the War. A certain sum has been set aside for repairing these vessels, and, indeed, a very large number have already been repaired. I cannot say that the repairs which have been done to most of the vessels have met with general satisfaction at the hands of the fishermen. It is a very difficult and delicate matter, and I have no doubt that the Admiralty officials have done 2508 their best under the difficult circumstances. But these vessels, as the House knows, are more or less privately owned, their owners take very great pride in them, and, naturally, they wish to have them repaired as well as possible. Probably the officials have had so much to do that they have been inclined, perhaps, to let the work be done, I will not say negligently, but, at any rate, to let it be skimped, and the result is that the repairs have not been carried out as they should have been. Several fishermen have appealed to me to have this question looked into, and I would ask the First Lord to investigate this matter, and if any cases are brought to the notice of the Admiralty where the repairs ought to be reviewed, surely it is only reasonable that that should be done out of consideration for the great services these men rendered to the State during the War.
I had no intention of intervening in this Debate, but I have heard so many references to Plymouth that, being a Plymouth man myself, I wish to say I am delighted to witness the enthusiasm displayed for that town, especially by those who only know about it when they are in search of a constituency. I have worked in yards on the Clyde, and I have seen how it is possible there for war vessels to be built in the same yard and at the same time as merchant vessels. If that be possible on the Clyde or the Tyne surely it is equally possible for west countrymen, and in view of that I do not attach importance to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman on the point of the discharges. I really rose to see if something cannot be done for those men in the Navy who have lost their sight by explosions in peace time. I had one case brought to my notice where a man lost his sight in an explosion on a warship at Malta in February, 1914. He was awarded the magnificent pension of 13s. per week, and this was augmented by 4s. 6d. a week from Greenwich. After his first child was born, and that was four years after the explosion, his Greenwich pension ceased. I suppose it was thought that three could live on less than two. Four shillings and sixpence was taken oft, and the man to-day is totally blind and is only allowed 13s. a week. After the Bill, which was unanimously passed the other day, it would be well if the 2509 Admiralty would take that and similar cases into consideration. I went to the Pensions Minister and I failed. I then handed the case over to the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Rear-Admiral Sir E. Hall). He tried the same source. Then he went to the Admiralty and failed. Now it is thrown back on the Middlesex War Pensions Committee to see if they can do something for a naval stoker who lost his sight during an explosion in a stokehold in peace time and is now allowed the magnificent sum of 13s. to live on and to keep his wife and child. The last speaker from the Labour Benches could not understand why a seaman's boy was called a man at the age of 18 and one in the engineer's department would not reach that rank until he was 20. A bluejacket, when he arrives at the age of 18, is physically fit for all the work he is called upon to do, but a man who is learning a trade in the engine room or the artificer's shop will not reach that stage of skill until he is 20 or 21, just as in civil workshops. I was surprised to hear an hon. Member associated with a highly-skilled trade union ask such a simple question.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
I have received a large number of letters and telegrams asking me to put in a word or two for the labourers in our various dockyards. The lot of the skilled mechanic is a hard one in time of unemployment, but the lot of the unskilled man, generally known as a labourer, is very much worse still, and it is because of that that I have been specially requested to draw attention to the position. We have heard a good deal to-day and yesterday of the Colwyn Report, and we have heard a good deal of condemnation because of the want of desire on the part of the Admiralty to put it into operation. The 20th Clause says:Facilities undoubtedly exist for the efficient and rapid discharging of ships of bulk cargo, and we consider that every endeavour should be made to bring those into immediate use in view of the grave congestion of other ports.That is a very important clause, which should be emphasised and brought to the notice of the Admiralty. Clause 17 says:We have, lastly, considered the possibilities, of the dockyards as the basis of lines of steamers. The only dockyard which presents reasonable attractions is Devonport, which might be made a terminal port. At this port much handling of commercial cargo took place during the War, and we consider 2510 that work of this kind might well be continued.I have not heard in any of the Statements—and most admirable Statements they have been—of the First Lord and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, any intention on the part of the Admiralty to attempt to put these recommendations into operation. A Committee can be appointed and give honest and sincere service, but the fate of a large number of their Reports is to be put aside unless they happen to fit in with the desire of the Department concerned, and then they are put into practice. Devonport is is an admirable place, with great shipping facilities, and there is a great congestion in other centres. We have heard of ships being laid up and kept for two and three weeks full of cargo, which could not be handled, and yet in a place like Devon-port, where they could handle ships with great despatch in war time, and where every facility exists for handling bulk cargo, with a knowledge of the valuable food that is actually going to waste, and various other commodities which are lying there, no attempt is made to utilise the port to the best possible advantage. I am not foolish enough to suggest that great dockyard centres should be maintained at the same status in peace time as in war time. I am not foolish enough to think that the needs of the nation demand that the great crowd of workmen who have been gathered together in the emergency of war to provide facilities for carrying the War on, shall be maintained in peace time. I am not foolish enough to agitate that we should go on building warships which are not wanted. But I am anxious that we should avail ourselves as far as possible of the opportunity of entering upon other work providing employment for those people who have been gathered together at the need of the nation, and not allowed to starve, as many are doing to-day, in our dockyard centres. It is a terrible condition of affairs when we realise it. There is one striking phrase in the Colwyn Report, which says that if the Admiralty whole-heartedly take up this question, very many means can be found, and very many opportunities will develop for engaging in work which will be of national importance, without cost to the nation, and at the same time providing employment for thousands of people. I hope that due note will be 2511 taken of Clause 20 in the Report, and that we may be told whether any attempt has been made, or any desire shown, to meet the recommendations of the Report, with a view to diverting cargoes from congested ports to Devonport, where work is needed so badly.
I wish to draw attention to the system of paying compensation to employees in the dockyards. I have raised the matter by question on several occasions, and I have also raised it by correspondence and personal interviews, and every case which has been mentioned has been dealt with speedily and put right I allude to the matter to-night, because I want the system altered. The Admiralty have contracted out of the Insurance Scheme and have a scheme of their own. I do not find fault with the scheme; I am only complaining of the way in which it is administered. Under the scheme, a man who is injured is examined and gets his doctor's certificate and then is granted what is termed "hurt pay." We call it compensation pay. Hurt pay is granted according to a scale which has been adopted, and it goes on for six months, but at the end of the six months it automatically ceases. The man has to be medically examined, and a report has to be sent in, and the Committee that sees to the matter has then to decide whether he is entitled to a continuation of the hurt pay. I have no fault to find with that; but where the evil comes in is that the six months are allowed to expire before the man is reexamined. I do not know why they are so slow about their business. I have had cases which I have submitted to the Department, where a man has been kept waiting for three months. It would not matter so much if his hurt pay was continued, but his hurt pay stops, and he has to wait sometimes very long periods before the Committee decide whether he is entitled to a continuation of the pay. If the Committee decides that he is, then the back pay is given to him. But what about the interva when there is no money coming in? What about the wife and children and the man himself It is bad enough to be receiving no wages when you are out of work, but it is infinitely worse if the man is broken in health and requires attention and consideration, that he should be deprived of his means of livelihood during that period.
2512 I am sorry that the First Lord and the Parliamentary Secretary are not present so that I can tell them what I feel on this matter. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman who is now on the Government Bench will carry my message to them, although he cannot carry the fire which is inflaming my soul. He can, however, tell them that I shall have something to say by-and-by. If a man is permanently injured, if he loses a limb, say, there is no question, but if there is a doubt the man has to be medically examined, and he has to wait until the Committee have decided. He ought to be given the benefit of the doubt until his case has been decided. The system should be altered in such a way that the examination takes place two weeks, or one week, before the expiration of the six months. If there is any delay in the completion of the examination and the findings of the Committee, the hurt pay should continue until the report is to hand. I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary is now present, because there is no more sympathetic man in any Department, and I know it is not in accordance with his desire that any man should suffer through the machinery not being rapid enough to meet his case. [Dr. MACNAMARA: "Hear, hear!"] If the machinery needs speeding up, I am sure I have only to mention it to him to get it speeded up. I want the speeding-up process to be carried out so that if anyone has to suffer a hardship it should not be the one who is least able to bear it. I believe in putting the burden on the back that can carry it best. The heaviest burden should not be put upon the weakest shoulders. I am pleading for those who are least able to bear the burden. I feel confident that the Department will put this matter right.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I should like to allude briefly to a matter that I spoke about last night, namely, the necessity for declaring the illegality of the submarine as a weapon of war. I left out one sentence which I ought to have put in. One defence for keeping on the submarine is that it can be built by rapid methods in a few months. I speak of after the outbreak of a war, when submarines have been declared illegal. It is said that the parts could be secretly pre-pared in various parts of a country in the guise of cranes or bridge girders or the like, and hurriedly assembled after the outbreak of war. But it takes much 2513 longer than that to train submarine officers, as the Germans found to their cost. It takes many months to make a good periscope officer, and we should at least have a breathing space of 12 months, if the war lasted so long, for anti-submarine preparations, if the submarine was declared illegal now.
I wish to make a few remarks about the distribution of the fleet as given in the very admirable White Paper which was issued yesterday. In the China Sea there are no torpedo boat destroyers. I am quite sure I shall have the support of the other professional Members here when I say that a fleet must be complete, must have submarines, aircraft, destroyers, and all the rest of it. A fleet without destroyers is as bad as an army without artillery. If the fleet in China is to fight it ought to have all its weapons complete. They used to have destroyers in China, and they did very good service. I served there myself, and the training was very excellent for the officers and men who served in them. I think that it would be a good measure when we are so strong in destroyers to have some stationed, say, at Hong Kong. We are sending sloops to China. They were put together in a great hurry for anti-submarine service, and they were useful in the late War, but only because of our great battle fleet which supported them. That may not be the case in future.
I appreciate what has been said about showing the flag, but we could do that as well with light cruisers. These sloops cannot show the flag with dignity in peace nor with effect in war. They would sink with honour, but they can neither fight nor run away. Exactly the same thing applies to the Red Sea, where we are also using sloops. The argument might be used that they are useful in hot weather, but with double awnings, side-screens and ventilators I do not see why light cruisers could not do the work. They would show the flag with more dignity in those days, for the dwellers in these places are now very sophisticated and they know quite well when a ship is a fighting ship and when it is not. In tie East Indies the flag ship is the quite obsolete "Highflyer." I divided the House last year on the spending of money on that ship. It is a very ancient ship. It belonged to a very useful class and did good work in its time. It is said that 2514 the only reason that it is kept there is that it has comfortable quarters for the Admiral. But any Admiral worth his salt would prefer a fast modern ship. Again, in the East Indies there are no torpedo boat destroyers. I consider that a great pity. There should also be submarines, and there should be at least one seaplane carrier. If you are going to have these small squadrons, let them be at least complete in all the moving arms.
I had put down notice to reduce the Vote by 1,000 men. The right hon. Gentleman who led off this Debate moved to reduce it by 100 men. I am going to try to show how the personnel could easily be reduced by 1,000 men with great saving to the community and no loss in efficiency. There are great numbers of men in the Navy who want to return to civil life. I get many letters, as other hon. Members, I am sure, also do, from constituents serving in the Fleet who want to get out of the Navy if they can. It seems a great pity that these men should be kept on to man such ships as the "Hussar." I was her first lieutenant in the Mediterranean in 1908, and I met the right hon. Gentleman on the lower bar of the Union Club on that occasion when he came out on the Admiralty yacht. She was then the yacht of the Commander-in-Chief, but she is obsolete as a gunboat and is perfectly useless for war purposes. This is not a time when we should be spending money on a yacht for the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean. He can take a passage on a destroyer if he wants to go to any place.
Another case is that of the "Carnarvon," which for modern war purposes is really useless. The same thing applies to the "Cumberland." Then there is the "Commonwealth." I served in her during the War, a dear old tub and an excellent ship, but for modern purposes no use whatever. Her gun power is inadequate, but she is used as a gunnery training-ship, and is fitted up with all the latest apparatus. Therefore, it might be said it is a great economy to keep her on, but this ship absorbs many officers and men. The "Agincourt," with her 14 12in.-guns, a modern ship, is in reserve, and I submit with great diffidence that a better policy would be to scrap the old "Commonwealth," which will never fire another shot in anger, and replace her as a gunnery training ship by the 2515 "Agincourt" or some other modern vessel in reserve.
The "Cæsar" has still officers and men, but is utterly obsolete. One or two of her class were used as breakwaters towards the end of the War. The "Hearty" is being used for survey purposes. A light cruiser could do that work just as well. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that we might not be able to spare light cruisers for that work, but you will not be able to man all the light cruisers you have in the Navy list. We have never been so strong in light cruisers as we are at present, and you have to have a certain number of light cruisers in reserve, or kept in dockyards, which might be in active work and kept efficient as ships can be kept efficient only by active work. In commission reserve you have obsolete ships such as the "Antrim," the "Devonshire," the "Donegal," and the "Glory." I cannot understand what the Board of Admiralty are thinking of to tie up officers and men in these ships. Then there are 12 P. boats, which were built at the instance of a late Lord, because he was told that submarines were better on the surface than other types, and they were made as like submarines as possible, and they did good work in patrol service, but they are no use either from the point of view of steaming, seagoing, or any other point of view.
I would also ask for a declaration of policy in the future with regard to the Baltic. I asked a question on Wednesday about the clearance of the mines in the Gulf of Finland. I do not wish to comment on the reply of the First Lord, except to recall that he said that whether we exchange information as to the position of these minefields—I hope we shall do it in the interests of humanity—will depend on the attitude of the Bolshevik Men-of-War towards our Men-of-War. Are we going to send a cruiser squadron to the Baltic permanently? There is no Baltic squadron shown in the White Paper. If we are going to send such a squadron, what is its base going to be? Is it true that we have been bargaining for a base in one of the islands? What is it going to cost us? Are we going to turn the Baltic into another Mediterranean? I do not know that we have any interests in the Baltic at the moment, though it would be easy to manufacture 2516 them. The First Lord told us yesterday that it was difficult for this country to find an enemy. Is it proposed to make one in the Baltic?
Might I also ask for a declaration of policy with regard to the Black Sea? I do not wish to refer to the recent activities of our Fleet there, except to say that when the Prime Minister was telling an interested House that we were going to enter into trade relations with the Soviet Government, our ships were firing over the houses of Odessa on to the advancing Red Army. I reserve further comment on that subject until the despatches are published. I cannot undertsand why the Admiralty refuse to give the figures showing the expenditure on coal and oil. The total amount of money allowed is shown in the Estimates, and I do not see why there could not appear also figures showing the tons of coal and of oil burned. They would not be of any advantage to a possible enemy, though I believe that that is the official apologia. It is important we should know the facts. There is a great shortage of oil and a greater shortage of coal, and it is right that this Committee, as guardians of the public purse and also of the supplies of fuel, should know the amount being spent by the Fleet. I do not say that fuel is being wasted, for I hope we have got back to the pre-War practice of economy. In view of the fact that we are so supreme at sea—one of the few fruits of victory—I think it is most unreasonable to refuse to give this Committee the expenditure on coal and oil.
I understand that other hon. Members will refer to the item of £50,000 for armament firms, the voting of which seems to me a very retrograde step. Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations makes a very pious pronouncement on that subject:Members of the League agree that the manufacture by private enterprise of munitions and implements of war is open to grave objections. The Council shall advise how the evil effects attendant upon such manufacture can be prevented, due regard being had to the necessities of those members of the League who are not able to manufacture munitions and implements of war necessary for their safety,I understand the remaining Vote will be passed pro formâ. With great respect I draw the attention of hon. Members on these Benches to this item of £50,000, subsidy to armament firms. I have quoted 2517 what is the pious hope of the League of Nations, and it is in the Peace Treaty which the Prime Minister said we were determined to keep. In these Estimates and in the item referred to you have the practice. You are asked to vote £50,000 for the subsidising of armour plate rolling, or something of that sort. Armament firms have not done badly during the War. I should have thought they could have foregone that item, at any rate for a few years.
The distribution of the Fleet and everything connected with it rests on policy. I take it that the function of the Fleet is to fight. There are two possible enemies that we can fight. The matter has been faithfully dealt with by the First Lord, and I agree entirely with his attitude towards the United States. I submit with great respect that our dockyards abroad are not being maintained on any known principle of strategy. I refer to the two dockyards in the Far East, Weihaiwei and Hong Kong. If we are engaged in a war, with Japan as an Ally, we shall not need those dockyards, for there are very much better equipped dockyards and bases in Japan. If Japan is an enemy it is extremely doubtful if we shall be able to make full use of Hongkong and certainly we shall not be able to make use of Weihaiwei, which is within gunshot of Port Arthur. Every bit of money spent on Weihaiwei is sheer waste and might as well be thrown into the sea. I would suggest that the money might be spent on Singapore, which is going to be the most important strategical point in the world. It is a nodal point for sea routes as well as for air routes and is unique. I should like to see a development of Singapore as a naval and air base. With regard to Jamaica the same thing applies in relation to the United States. If we are Allies we shall not require Jamaica; if we are going to be in hostility to the United States, Jamaica cannot be held, however strong we are, because of its greater nearness to Key West than to our main bases. Any naval officer would say so quite plainly. Therefore, sums spent on oil fuel tanks and the upkeep of the yard at Jamaica are really sums wasted. If it is a question of the command of the Atlantic the money should be spent at Galway Bay or at Queens-town.
I wish I had had the opportunity of moving to reduce the Vote by a thousand 2518 men. I think I have shown that in the obsolete and obsolescent vessels you could save that number many times over. May I also refer to the 700 men due for demobilisation, and who are most of them practical fishermen. Some of them, no doubt, may stop on in their desire to serve their country. We may be told that they are engaged in re-conditioning trawlers; but there are plenty of men in those obsolescent vessels who could be doing that work while these 700 men ought to be fishing, and thus earning better wages for themselves and their families, and providing a supply of cheap food for the country. All sorts of excuses have been made as to why these men have not been demobilised, and I think that it is very scandalous that they have not been. I should like to reinforce the remarks made by the Noble Lord the Member for Battersea (Viscount Curzon) with regard to the number of Admirals flying their flags. Admirals, though useful, are expensive officers with their Staffs, special steamboats, and all the rest of it. There are ten ships in the Atlantic Fleet and no less than five Admirals, or one for every two ships. It may be said that the Junior Admirals are getting experience, and that may be so, but then the Captains are not. In the interests of economy, I have no hesitation in putting this point and pressing for some explanation.
We are keeping an enormous number of trawlers which are used for landing liberty men and bringing on board beef and other stores. That is a new departure grown up during the War; and no doubt it is a luxury which through practice has become a necessity. I remember in the Channel Fleet, with 16 battleships we had two duty steamboats for the two Squadrons; and we were not allowed to use them without very special reason. We had to use sailing boats for the sake of economy. We have at present, apart from mine sweeping, 57 Admiralty owned trawlers working with the Fleet, and 6 chartered trawlers. There are 73 Admiralty drifters and 17 chartered drifters. That is an enormous number, and the expense must be very great. Twenty trawlers are engaged mine sweeping. I hope good progress is being made in mine sweeping. The route from England to the Continent across the North Sea is still dangerous with a longer line of passage—and I hope every effort 2519 is being made, in conjunction with Germany, to clear the mines away. With regard to the training of officers, I am in favour of the public school system of entry, as against the present system. I have been, as an officer in a battleship, in charge of midshipmen, and I have had both types under me. After 6 months, you could tell little difference between the young gentlemen from Osborne and Dartmouth, and those who came from the public schools—by the method of public school entry, open to those who could pass the examination. In a great many cases, the public school boy was the superior, and especially in initiative—which I think is not developed at Osborne or Dartmouth. Those who come by the public school entry system, have a greater knowledge of the world than those under the other system.
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that feeling in the Fleet is very strong on the subject. There is a school which favours the Osborne and Dartmouth system, but there is a much larger school, especially amongst those who have practical experience on the subject, that the public school system is the better one. I would press for a more democratic system of entry in the future. I consider that there should be no money bar as there is at present. Only well-to-do parents can send their boys to Osborne and Dartmouth. I know that the fees do not cover the instruction and that the Government give a good deal of help, but still poor people are precluded from sending their boys there. This is not only a working-class question in the narrow sense, but is one which affects many people such as officers of the Army or Navy and widowed mothers who will not be able to send their sons. I think it will be much more democratic and cheaper in the long run to have a wider selection, and it will be fairer to the people generally. In the United States Navy there are no fees charged, and any lad who can get nominated and pass the examination can go to their training college. I much regret to see that difficulties are put in the way of promising boys from the lower deck sitting for the special entry examination. They can sit, but it is pointed out that they will be under a great disadvantage in not being able to take the examinations in Latin and French. Why on earth should they?
2520 If these boys from the lower deck, who go as boys from one of the training ships—where they have had a good education and a good training—sit for these examinations, what difference does a knowledge of Latin make? I obtained only 10 per cent. of the available marks in Latin when I passed into the Navy. They only took one in five; the competition was pretty stiff. Three hundred and fifty went up and they took only 60, and I got in on mathematics. What on earth they want Latin for I do not know. As for French, they can pick that up afterwards. I do not see why these boys from the lower deck should not be trained by the naval instructors and given a chance to sit for the special entry examination. Possibly only the best of them would get in in that way, but it would be a goal for the best of the boys in the training ships. They would be able to become midshipmen in three or four years at the age of 17½, and if they can pass the examination I think it is a great pity they should not be given the opportunity. I know that at present they can do so, but, reading the White Paper very carefully, I am afraid that difficulties are being put in the way which are quite unnecessary.
I cannot close my remarks without saying a word or two about the staff organisation at the Admiralty. I do not wish to appear ungrateful for the concessions which have been made in this direction. I think we are coming gradually to staff principles as laid down by Moltke, Schellendorf and Foch, which were in existence long before the War, as the right hon. Gentleman knows only too well. In the Paper we have been given, if I read it aright, the Deputy-Chief of the Naval Staff looks after the policy and operations, and the Assistant-Chief of the Naval Staff is, as far as I can gather, entierly responsible for material. That is how I read it, though it is not very clear. The whole object of modern staff work, as recognised by all the great French, Gorman and British authorities on that matter—it is really a truism—is that you must separate the thinking out of policy ahead from the day-to-day work. I do not think we are doing that. The very fact that "operations," which mean the ordinary concurrent work of the fleet, and "policy," which is the whole range of naval policy for five, ten or fifteen years ahead, are under the Deputy-Chief of the 2521 Naval Staff, seems to me to stultify that principle. I submit, with great respect, that the arrangement should be as follows: That under the Deputy-Chief of the Naval Staff should be operations, the upkeep of material and the day-to-day use of material and that under the Assistant-Chief of the Naval Staff should be policy and the design of all material, which is, of course closely locked and linked with policy. I may have misread the Memorandum, or perhaps it is intended to make this change shortly, but with great respect I commend this to my right hon. Friend as constructive criticism.
I would also ask him, when he replies, to explain what is the exact relation between the Naval Staff, the War Office, and the Air Service. I have looked carefully in the Navy List and I have read the Paper explanatory of the Estimates with great attention, and I do not see much mention of officers borne for that purpose. I served for nine months in the Plans Division of the Admiralty during a hot period of the War, and the liaison then between the Admiralty and the Hotel Cecil—the Hotel Bolo—was extremely weak. I was for a short time myself the liaison officer, and I know how bad it was. The Air Service was made a separate Ministry during the War and the liaison service had not been created and had to be improvised. I would like a reassurance that the liaison is good and will improve in the near future. Might I repeat the criticism I made last year about the Staff College, the brain of the future Navy, being at Greenwich, a most unsuitable place? It ought to be at Camberley, where naval officers could meet and discuss and collaborate with the military and air Staff Officers and thus get that clash of ideas out of which progress and development comes. I hope that as soon as possible Greenwich will be used for other purposes. In any case, it is too near London. As my right hon. Friend knows, there is a pretty strong body of opinion in the Navy that thinks with me on this mater.
Further, I want to make an appeal regarding the Marines imprisoned for misconduct in the North of Russia. I raised this matter last year, and a very full reply was given by the First Lord himself. I am sure everyone who knows anything about the Navy was shocked and astonished to hear that 70 Marines were 2522 accused of cowardice or misconduct in action, an unprecedented event, I should think, in the history of that glorious and incomparable corps. I do not wish to touch on the reasons why they were there, but I would ask the Committee to consider that the Russian situation has changed. I would remind the Committee of this fact: These Royal Marines were ordered to be disembarked and were given leave, if my facts are correct, in order to go to the Army of Occupation on the Rhine—this was last year, after the Armistice—and on their return from leave, at the last minute, without any warning they were sent to North Russia, not as volunteers. I do not wish in any way to criticise what has been said about them. They are accused of misconduct and cowardice in action in North Russia. I suppose in no campaign in which British forces have been engaged has there been so many courts-martial per cent. of the persons engaged as in those North Russian operations, and, I might also add, so high a number of decorations per cent. given as were given in that operation, and for very little fighting. The whole thing is over. An hon. Member says it is not, but it is over as far as these men are concerned—we have no men in Russia—though there will be a reckoning later on, no doubt, at least I hope so. I would appeal, however, for an amnesty for these men. We are not going to make peace with the Bolsheviks, but we are going to trade with them. We are going to take their bloodstained corn. Earlier in my few remarks I found it necessary to question the fact that the Fleet was engaged in firing at the Bolshevik Army at Odessa, while the Prime Minister was making a speech advocating peace and trade, but in view of the fact that the situation has changed, I think it is time that those men were released. They have been well punished. They have been sentenced and disgraced and sent for long terms of imprisonment. I know the imprisonment has been reduced, but they are still languishing in prison. In view of the feeling in the country among the working-classes about this Russian expedi-Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) has testified to in this House, and in view of the great service done during the War by the Royal Marines, I really think that these men might be released, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will 2523 make that representation in the proper quarter.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I want to say a few words about some of the air aspects of the Estimates which were presented by the First Lord to the House last night. I will mention one or two small items before I attempt a general survey, and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he can give us any information on them. Those of us who are interested in the Air Service are anxious to see that because it is a junior service it does not suffer in competition with the senior services. There is work which can be done with advantage by the Air Service which ought not by reason of some tradition to be retained by the others. The Secretary of State for War, speaking on his Estimates, said:The Meteorological Office and the whole service of meteorology has been taken over by the Air Service, and the Air Minister is responsible.It is obvious that the Air Ministry is the most suitable one for dealing with meteorological work, because it is the only service which has machines which go into the air. On page 56 of these Estimates there is £1,875 for meteorological work, and I would like to know whether that is merely a passing item or whether there is to be co-ordination with the Air Ministry and whether such items would be transferred to it. Also on page 58, there is a reference to the Compass Department. The Air Minister pays £5,000 a year to the Admiralty in connection with this Department. No doubt the Admiralty is the best equipped in this kind of work, and I should say that in some matters like this if the Air Service were to be taken over by another Department, the Admiralty would be the best Department to take it over.
Then there is the question of surveys. Is any of that work being done by aeroplane? In the Red Sea during the War, the work of charting the reefs in the clear water was done by aerial photography, and I think it was a cheaper and a better substitute for the ordinary method. It would interest many people to know whether that work is being continued, and if other charting is being done by aeroplane. Next I come to the Coastguard, for which there is £560,000 for wages, and so on, and again £83,000 for the Coastguard staff. I only wish to throw out a 2524 suggestion that the whole of the work of the Coastguard might be done by the Air Service. It would be wise to look into the future and see whether some of the officers who have been trained in flight, either on planes or boats, could not be employed in conducting the coast patrol. During the War the coasts were patrolled from the Air Stations, and I think that that duty might be taken over by the Air Service altogether. A patrol of 50 miles out is a comparatively trivial thing in an aeroplane. Two men in an aeroplane would do far more than a man who was guarding the coast from the top of a cliff or along the beach. The machine in the air has a greater sweep of the surface, both of land and water, than the ordinary coastguard could have. All these duties, I think, could be performed by the Air Force; but, at any rate, I throw out the suggestion, whether some of the watching of the coast could not be much better done by the Air Service. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the expense? "] I am not going into that. A distance of fifty miles could be patrolled by one machine with ten men, and then these men would all the time be practising flying at sea instead of practising from the aerodrome or from their flying stations. I think the Admiralty should not lose sight of that possible development.
Next I come to a much more important subject. References have been made to a proposed Defence Minister. We have had statements both from the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty, and it would be interesting to hear how their conflicting policies can be made to agree. The Secretary of State for War indicated on 11th March that he was in favour of grouping the Departments. That was by way of defence for taking over two Departments himself. Then we had the First Lord of the Admiralty to-day, who said that the Navy would not consent to any proposal that one Member of the Cabinet should represent the Army and Navy in this House. I have not had experience enough to express an opinion, but there is a conflict between these two statements which should, if possible, be reconciled. Whatever co-ordination there may be between the three Services, it should be a true federation and on a basis of equality. It would not be fair to treat the Army and Navy as units, and then to 2525 bring in the Air Service in an inferior position. It should not be a question of size or cost or numbers, nor even of the history of the Service. You cannot have true federalism without free consent and equality of power. It may be that considerable economies could be effected by a re-arrangement of the duties falling upon the three Services. The Air Force might be able to take over part of the duties of the others. But I think most people will desire to see the Air Service, whether independent or unified, in such a, position that it can develop itself to the greatest possible advantage. Whatever may be said by the Admiralty, there is no doubt that the Air Service cannot be developed except by people whose whole thought and interest and career are wrapped up in the Air Service. It cannot be developed as a side issue or as a secondary occupation of people who, in their hearts, are either soldiers or sailors; you must have people whose whole allegiance is to the Air. The Admiralty, in the Memorandum they have issued, have laid down two principles. The first is that everything that flies from a ship must necessarily be under the command of the Admiralty; and the second is that anything that attacks at sea must be under the command of the Admiralty. I understand, of course, the reasons that the Admiralty have for laying down those principles. They ask, how is it possible to have an Admiral in command say, of the North Sea, with a separate Fleet, under the command of an Air Marshal, occupying the waters which are properly within the strategical area of the Admiral? I quite realise that, for the observation of artillery fire, the machine that observes the fire of the gun must be under the control of the gunner, whether he is on land or on the sea. It is equally obvious that a machine that makes a reconnaissance at sea, for the purpose of finding out the enemy, must be under the control of the Admiral for whose benefit the reconnaissance is being carried out.
That is not the whole story. We look to a development of the Air Service in the future. There is the case of oversea raids—raids which may start either from the coast or, possibly, from inland, and may go oversea for long distances and carry out offensive raids. Then there is the case of offensive operations undertaken from seaplane carriers in distant theatres of war. Let us take the parallel 2526 of aerodromes on land. The Admiralty say that everything that floats must be under their command. The General in the Field might very well say that any area of territory must be under the command of the General. If we examine what occurred in the War, we find that the aerodromes near the front line, which did the service for the corps or division of the Army, as the case might be, being in the war zone, were directly under the command of the General. But there were those aerodromes which were a long way behind the front line, from which the Independent Air Force carried out its operations, and they certainly were never suggested as being within the zone of war, or within the proper scope of the Commander-in-Chief. Working from that, I venture to suggest that there are occasions on which it might be very proper for the Air Ministry to have command, or I would say—so as not to make a proposition which cannot be maintained—to have the most free use and capability of development of flying things, independently of the Admiralty. I do not expect that that proposition will be accepted by those who take the Admiralty view, but I will give a few reasons for it. First of all, it is to be remembered that a seaplane carrier is a special type of ship. I put aside the question of the ships on which aeroplanes land when they come down, and am speaking simply of the seaplane carrier, that is to say, the ship which takes the seaplane out of the hangar, swings it out, drops it on to the water, and sends it on its mission. For that you want a ship of a special type of design and a special class of manœuvre. It is really a ship which is not designed, used or manœuvred as a ship, but a vessel the solo existence of which is directed towards besing serviceable as a floating aerodrome.
The aerodrome is not like a camp in every respect. It must be selected by air officers, because they alone can judge of those considerations of wind, trees, character of ground, or nature of atmosphere, which make a good or bad aerodrome. So far as it is possible, it is desirable to permit the air officer to have the widest possible scope in the design and management of the seaplane carrier. Primâ facie, I mention that as what can be said for the case I am advancing. There are some operations carried out in the air from ships which have nothing to 2527 do with the Admiralty or the Fleet. The best examples one can possibly take of that are examples from the War itself. There are operations which are purely air operations, which are carried out from ships, but which are not done in the service of the Admiralty at all, but are done in the service of the Army. The raids carried out on Pola by the Italians are one example. Pola used to be bombed by the large Caproni machines that flew from Padua. They flew across the head of the Adriatic, and so came over Pola and launched their bombs. According to the Admiralty memorandum, those machines would come under the control of the Admiralty, because that is an oversea operation in connection with the Fleet. There was of course, naturally, to be an escort of destroyers, in case one of the machines might come down and salvage might be necessary. The whole operation, however, broke down, and was not performed, because it was impossible to get a co-ordination between the Army and the Air Service. That is an example from an Allied Power. My contention is that an operation of that kind, although carried out overseas in conjunction with the Navy, is an operation which should properly be put under the supreme command of the air service concerned. We ourselves had squadrons of D.H/'s at Otranto flying over and bombing the Austrian ships at Durazzo. They were not even seaplanes. They simply flew from the heel of Italy, across the narrow Adriatic, to bomb the Fleet in Durazzo. I venture to suggest that, even the naval co-operation might have been necessary for that, it should have been recognised as an operation in which the Air Service should have the supreme command. I can give other examples of work done by the Air Service from seaplane carriers, which was not in the least in the service of the Admiralty. We had a station at Port Said. The Army was concerned in fighting the advancing Turk coming down the coast road from Palestine and into Egypt. Our work consisted entirely in sending a seaplane carrier along the Palestine coast, flying over the low-lying land of Palestine and Syria, and taking photographs and bringing them back. We were nominally under the control of the Admiralty, but in reality the whole of the work was carried out for the G.H.Q. of the Army. I assure 2528 the right hon. Gentleman that that arrangement, which was then in existence, caused the very greatest inconvenience to all the parties concerned. We did not even have a British escort, but were escorted either by French torpedo boats or armed trawlers. The work was done for the Army, and yet, owing to the rules then persisting, and re-enacted in this memorandum, we had to depend on the Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies.
It was so throughout the whole War, in the attacks on the Arabian coast, for example. When Jeddah fell to the King of the Hedjaz, it was really an air operation, and I suggest that there are many other illustrations of the same kind. The war in the Hinterland of Aden was the same. It was impossible to reach Mahomed Said, who lived in the Hinterland of Aden, except by air, not because it was very far away, but because it was too hot, and the troops could not advance across the intervening desert. We could only reach him by sending a seaplane carrier off the coast, launching our machines, and attacking with bombs. Why should the air officer be precluded for ever, as he is in the terms of this Memorandum, from having the superior command of an operation of that kind? Then there is the question of submarine detection. Everybody knows that the seaplane is a far better instrument for detecting a submarine than anything on the water, the reason being that if a periscope or anything is showing, as it it dragged through the water it leaves a trail of white, which can be seen from a height of 500 or 1,000 ft. for a very great distance. It is possible that instead of air convoys, you might, in the unhappy event of any future conflict, have a swept route, or patrolled band, going from here to Egypt, entirely done by aircraft, based on places like Calais, Malta, Suvla Bay, and so on—a broad band of the sea never out of sight of an airman. If that were so, it would be very difficult for a submarine to live in that patrolled passage. Plans for that purpose were put forward during the War, but why should you not yield the superior command, in a case like that, to the officer who really carries the responsibility and is responsible for the success of the work?
Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman that although sometimes the Admiralty was sympathetic to the Air Service, there were times when it showed 2529 a real lack of sympathy and comprehension. Naval officers have been, perhaps naturally, unsympathetic professionally to the Air Service. There was the case of the captain who, when it was suggested that he should have his guns marked for by flying machines, said, "Thank you, but my signaller will see all he wants to see from the foretop of the vessel." There was the case during the War of the bombardment of the Belgian coast, when some gallant officer was tied on to a tripod to watch the shooting from his battleship. I think that actually occurred. What fatuity, when artillery observation by aircraft was possible! We have, of course, passed those days, but it is fair to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Air Service has only succeeded owing to the energy and enthusiasm of those who believe in it. Let me remind him that at the battle of Jutland there was only one seaplane in the air, and at the same time in France there were 450 machines actually flying. If the Admiralty had been as sympathetic as it should have been to the Air Service, how came it that at the same time in the War there was one machine in the air at the Jutland battle and 450 machines flying—I am not speaking about the establishment—on the French front? I would beg, in relation to this Memorandum, to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to what the Minister for War said on this question. We are discussing whether it is ever possible that in a flying operation conducted from the sea the senior command should be in the hands of the air officer. It has been conceded as regards the Army. On the Army Estimates, Vote on Account, the Secretary of State for War spoke first about the Somaliland campaign and its success, and then he said:The military or ground forces and the sea forces co-operated under the general direction of the aerial command. I propose to apply that principle to another field. I have directed the Chief of the Air Staff to submit an alternative scheme for the control of Mesopotamia."—[OFFICIAI REPORT, 23rd February, 1920; Col. 1354, Vol. 125.]That is to say, that in a field where the air is really the dominant factor, the supreme command passes to the air officer. I very respectfully press this point on the notice of the right hon. Gentleman. We think that it is only by encouragement of this kind, it is only by allowing the air to develop itself in 2530 its own way by those who believe in it, that you can get the best effects. As far as the Navy is concerned, of course it is a Very fine and powerful machine, and perhaps the qualities that most suit a naval officer to fit him for success are administrative qualities—I am putting aside personal courage, which is common to all the Services—routine of business and ability to act in uniformity with all the other officers in the Service. They are not the same qualities that are needed in the Air Service, which is in its infancy. The demand on the Air Service officer is to be in a perpetual ferment of constructive imagination. He should always be thinking out new developments, and I think in the past people of that stamp have met with many chilly and painful rebuffs from the Admiralty. I know distinguished officers whose careers have been very much warped by the lack of sympathy among the naval officers for these men's zeal for the Air Service, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in his reply, to bear in mind the points I have made so bold as to advance, and not absolutely, as regards the sea, to do what has not been done as regards the land, namely, shut the door on the possibility of a superior aerial command.
§ Viscount CURZON
I want particularly to refer to some of the speeches that have preceded me. I should like to refer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ilkeston (Major-General Seely), who, urging very rightly the importance of the Air Service upon the Admiralty, raised the question of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I should like to say, from my own personal experience, what I think is the view of the majority of naval officers to-day, and that is that they do not look forward to, in fact they dread, any suggestion with regard to the constitution of a Minister of Defence. What they really want is the Committee of Imperial Defence resuscitated, revived, and brought into being again, together with a properly constituted staff working in close connection with the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, and competent to advise us in all questions of naval, military, and aerial strategy. That is, I know, the opinion of the majority of naval officers, and as far as the Minister of Defence is concerned, the Navy certainly dreads it very much indeed. I raised last night the 2531 question of Lord Jellicoe's tour, and I asked the First Lord whether it would be possible for him to give us any more information. In the course of his remarks, he said that if hon. Members saw those reports he did not think they would criticise them.
That is exactly what we want to do, and I do hope the right hen. Gentleman (Dr. Macnamara) will press upon the First Lord of the Admiralty the desire of hon. Members to see those reports. The right hon. and gallant Member for Ilkeston (Major-General Seely) made one remark which somewhat astonished me, namely, that it was as easy to drop a torpedo from the air as from a ship. I have seen experiments carried out in connection with the dropping of torpedoes from aircraft, and I believe it to be a fact that you cannot drop a torpedo from above the height of 25 feet or below 15 feet, and the aeroplane has to be at the right angle to get any chance of success. Added to that you have the very common failure in connection with the gyroscope. Therefore I venture to think the right hon. Gentleman was not quite correct when he made his statement. In September last, I think it was, there was carried out in the Moray Firth some very important gunnery practice, I think I am at liberty to state, I witnessed this practice. It was carried out entirely by air observation. All the spotting was done by an aeroplane flying about 6000 feet some miles away, and it was supposed to be one of the finest shoots ever carried out by the Navy at long range. Visibility was so bad that the target was practically indiscernible by the ships firing at it. Nevertheless the shoot was one of the best carried out by the Navy in recent years.
There is another point in the First Lord's speech to which I should like to refer. He made one remark yesterday which was very significant, in my opinion, about the German ships. There is considerable anxiety amongst many naval officers to ascertain what is going to be done, and whether any decisions have been arrived at with regard to the allocation of the German ships. I have put repeated questions to the Prime Minister and the First Lord on this subject. The last question I think was about a week or ten days ago, and the answer I got was that I should not know 2532 till the Turkish Treaty was published. I do not know what the Turkish Treaty has to do with the German ships, but I took the answer for what it was worth. The right hon. Gentleman said last night that a portion lies beneath the waters of Scapa Flow and a portion has been distributed by the Allies to the different forces of those Allies. I should like to know why the House cannot be told what ships have been given, and to what Powers. We have heard a good deal during the Debate about the question of the supply of ships to the Navy, and in particular capital ships. A lot of people seem to question the advisability of constructing a ship like the "Hood," but I think it should be realised that the opinion, at any rate, of the Navy, so far as I know it, is that the capital ships must combine three things—maximum of protection, maximum of armaments, and maximum speed, and that entails large size. To have large size you must pay for it, and it is true, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. G. Lambert) said, that we should all like a Rolls-Royce, hut a good many have to put up with a Ford or nothing at all. But in naval warfare it is the capital ship that counts, and to deprive a ship of any of those qualities would be to ensure definite loss of offensive or defensive qualities. There were skilled officers before the War who held that our ships had too much armaments, but when our ships went into the Battle of Jutland it was soon found that, so far from carrying too much armament, they did not carry enough, and a great deal more armament had to be put on the ships after that action.
I wish the First Lord had given a little more information to the House on the subject of mines. I know he could tell the House of one instance during the War where a large portion of a squadron went through a mine-field off Peterhead, with no damage to the ships. That was, of course, due to the protection afforded by the paravanes. The right hon. Member for South Molton seemed to dispute the fact that we were not prepared, so far as the Use of mines was concerned, at the outbreak of war. I believe I am correct in saying that at the outbreak of war the Navy only had about 50 mines available for use, and those were a very inferior type which were renowned for the fact that they very seldom went off. With 2533 regard to the loss of the "Audacious," I know something about that, as most of the crew were shipmates of mine during the War, and I know the "Audacious" was not really lost, or rather need never have been lost, if she had had the special fittings and the special construction which were afterwards fitted to ships actually built before her or at a later period during the War. With regard to the disposition of ships, the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) made a remark about the lack of destroyers on the China station. I should like to reinforce what he said. It is surely rather absurd to station a squadron of light cruisers and submarines, and nothing else, at a station like that so far removed from home waters. It would be impossible to reinforce it quickly from Australia. They would have to come some way, and possibly through heavy weather. I therefore hope my hon. and gallant Friend's remarks will not be lost sight of.
With regard to the training of officers, I should like to support what the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull said as to special entry. He is perfectly correct as to the great value of the special entry midshipmen. I served in a ship during the War that had to a certain extent specially selected young officers under special entry and from Osborne, and the contrast between the two was very instructive. It was no doubt true the Osborne cadets when first joining the ship probably knew more about the Navy and had more naval knowledge. But, on the other hand, they were smaller, and they did not appear to be quite so healthy or so strong. The special entry boys, on the other hand, were stronger, their minds and characters to a certain extent more formed, and they were very much better at games and all that sort of thing, and, being in better health, they very soon made up any leaway in the matter of knowledge, and the contrast between the two was very marked. I have followed up the careers of them ever since, and they have in practically all cases proved very successful officers. With regard to the question of Cambridge, I do not know whether the country realises the very great value of this Cambridge course to the Navy.
It is held by naval officers that this is one of the finest things the Admiralty 2534 has ever done for the naval officer. It is a thing which the boys themselves appreciate. I know one case, a great friend of mine, a boy shipmate with me for some time, who went to Cambridge. Before he went he was very fond—or perhaps I should say, not fond but thought more of dancing or of its modern equivalent, jazzing, than he ought to do. He was not really very keen about his profession. He went to Cambridge. I have seen him since, and he has told me that his course there had broadened his outlook on life and enabled him to take an enormous interest in various things and subjects about which before he knew little and cared less. His sojourn at Cambridge has been of the greatest possible value to him. I hope that course will go on, and be improved. I should like to point out, too, the possibility of its extreme value to the boys promoted from the lower deck. I should like to see that course made use of by them so that a boy may go from the lower deck, and become a magnificent man and not lower the standard whatever. If he does so he also will be enabled to take advantage of this Cambridge course.
There is the question of the coastguard. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last suggested that it might be possible to replace the coastguard by airmen. As a matter of fact, I was going to raise that subject to-night. I happen to belong to the Lifeboat Institution, and I have lately seen several cases where the coastguard appears to have been, I will not say lax, but unable to keep a sufficiently good lookout. That was due to the fact, I think, that the coastguard is really rather seriously under-manned. There was the case of a vessel lost not very long ago at Buckie, in Scotland. There is no doubt, whatever, that that was entirely due to the coastguard not being sufficiently manned to enable them to keep a night watch. Had they done so they would have been able to do something, and many lives in consequence would have been saved. I was very glad indeed to hear of the concessions which the Parliamentary Secretary announced on the subject of naval pay. These concessions will, indeed, be valued by the Navy. But there is one thing to which I must refer, and that is the question of the naval officers Income Tax. I make no apology for raising this question. It may possibly be wondered why one should champion 2535 the officer and, perhaps, not talk so frequently about the men. It should, however, be realised that the officers have nobody to whom they can refer or come to on the question of their pay, whereas the men are now looked after by that great advance, the Welfare Committee. I think, therefore, it is all-important that this House should really interest itself in the subject of the pay of the naval officer. Admiral Halsey, in his Report, recommended that in the new rates of pay the Income Tax, based at present on the service rate, should be raised to the civilian rate. The Admiralty on that decided that the new rates were to be taxed at the service rate of pay up to 31st March, 1920, and, thereafter, at the civilian rate. The effect of this has been to reduce the net income of naval officers at a very serious time. I would like to point out that the cost of living is rising every day, but what is more serious still is the question of housing. The naval officer is in an almost impossible position in regard to housing. He practically has to keep two homes going, one afloat and one on shore, and his shore home is subject to very frequent shifts, that is, if he is to see his wife at all. He may have to move it to Canada or Australia, and that is a thing which certainly does not obtain to the same extent in any other profession in this country. Furthermore, the naval officer has to take, as a rule, a furnished house or furnished rooms at any port on which he may fix for his residence, and this is one of the cases which do not come under the Rent Restrictions Acts. The householder who has taken the house is protected by that Act against being called upon to pay more rent, whereas, in regard to the rooms which he lets to the naval officer, he is at liberty to raise the rent, and he can practically cover, by that means, the entire cost of the house. This has actually happened in several instances.
I have had a number of letters from naval officers on the subject of income tax, but I do not propose to worry the Committee by reading them. I do wish, however, to make a real appeal to the First Lord who, I know, is very sympathetic indeed on the question of naval officers' pay. I want to ask him on their behalf to carefully go into a number of cases which I have to submit to him on 2536 this subject, and when he has done so, I trust he will consider whether he cannot make a recommendation to the Government that, at any rate, until some appreciable fall takes place in the cost of living, the net income of a naval officer shall not be further reduced. The married man is hit absolutely hard. I know of the case of a lieutenant with six years' seniority who is married and has three children. His wife cannot, of course, afford to engage a servant, but more than that she has to go out into service herself in order to keep things going. It is in view of cases like that I want to be quite sure of securing better treatment for these officers. Before I sit down I should like to say one word with reference to the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty. A good many references have been made to him in the course of this Debate. I came to this House straight from the ship on which I was serving last year, and almost the last word said to me by my shipmates on the lower deck was, Tell the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty what we think of him—tell him off." That was said to me with a wink. It is no secret that in the Navy at that time the right hon. Gentleman was blamed for nearly all grievances from which the men suffered, and I naturally came prepared to find fault with him. But I am bound to say I never received kinder treatment from anybody than I have received from him since I have been in this House, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we all appreciate his services very much indeed. I only wish he had been here while I was speaking.
I was rather surprised that the Members for Devon-port did not refer in greater detail to the question of unemployment in that town. It was only the hon. Member (Viscountess Astor) who had any concrete suggestions to make with regard to the conditions appertaining in Devonport dockyard to-day. I was at Devonport last Sunday, and I found that unemployment had risen to something between five and six thousand—very large indeed for a dockyard town. Anyone who has read the Report of the Colwyn Committee is bound to be amazed at the vagueness of it and the complete absence of any definite proposal dealing with the question of the dockyards. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why efforts have not been made to utilise Plymouth 2537 dockyard for commercial purposes. During the War it was used largely for commercial purposes. The length of the wharfage in the tidal and other basins, also the wharfage outside in the dockyard must be very considerable indeed, and when you take into consideration the terribly congested state of affairs in Liverpool, Hull and in almost every port in Great Britain, I feel sure that if merchant ships could be diverted to Plymouth the congested state of the mercantile marine would be very considerably alleviated. Even if it is not possible to deal with Plymouth and Devonport on broad lines such as those and to alter the demarcation of the trained men in that dockyard, as was suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary, or to commence the construction of merchant ships in that port, is there any reason why this vast surplus of trained men, engineers, fitters and electricians could not be employed temporarily on other work? The resources of Devon-port yard are very considerable. The demand throughout Europe for electrical and every type of machinery and implements which can be introduced is enormous, for instance, steam ploughs and agricultural machinery in Eastern Europe and Russia. I feel sure if a little initiative were shown it might be possible very speedily to alleviate the misery and poverty which exist among 5,000 or 6,000 men in Devonport to-day, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give some assurance that definite steps will be taken at once and without any delay whatsoever to find employment for these men. It is no good appointing committees and commissions to inquire into the matter if no action is taken. We have had too many of them and we are getting too much accustomed to the results we receive from them.
Another point on which I would like to dwell is that of meteorology. There are in existence four different Government Departments dealing with this subject. Meteorology is dealt with by the Air Ministry, by the Admiralty, by the War Office to some extent, and there is also a separate meteorological Department at South Kensington. It cannot be efficient and sound to control meteorology from four different Government Departments. If one Government Department is to be responsible for dealing with this important scientific development that Department 2538 should surely be the Air Ministry. The Air Ministry is more closely connected with the air than any other Department. The Air Ministry and aircraft depend more on detailed knowledge of the air than any other Department. I am told that Committees have been sitting to discuss a suggested coordination of the Meteorological service, but the only thing that seems to be done is that of setting up Committees. Since the War the whole system of meteorology has lapsed, and no comprehensive or far-seeing scheme is at present enforced by the Government for distributing meteorological information. I remember before the War, when I was at the Admiralty, it used to be possible by wireless to obtain a meteorological report, synoptic charts, showing the atmospheric conditions throughout the whole of Europe by means of wireless stations within the radius of the Admiralty. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some indication as to the future of Government policy in regard to meteorology.
I was surprised that the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) suggested that trawlers should no longer be employed in the transport of men to and from their ships. I entirely agree with him that the vast number of trawlers, I think it is 160, should be turned back to their fishing trade, but I disagree with him when he suggests that the men in the Fleet should go back to the old system of coming ashore in rowing boats and sailing boats. No doubt the hon. and gallant Member has, like myself, shared the pastime of getting liberty men ashore. These men do not get ashore very often, sometimes once or twice a week, sometimes once or twice a month, and if they are to be sent ashore in bad, rough, rainy weather in open boats or in the ordinary service launch or pinnace, it means that, although their leave lasts perhaps five or six hours, an hour is spent at each end in a very uncomfortable situation in the open boat. The men return on board completely drenched, and any amusement which they obtain from their few hours sojourn ashore is completely nullified by their disagreeable trip to and from the ship. When the right hon. Gentleman considers the suggestion as to what should be done with the trawlers, if he cannot retain some of them for liberty work in open roadsteads such as Rosyth, I hope he will make use 2539 of larger steamers or small passenger steamers, or whatever else may be available. I quite agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that we should return as many of the 170 trawlers as possible to the fishing trade, but the chief point he made was that they were employed on liberty work. They are employed on other kinds of work, such as taking mails, and all sorts of jobs on which they were never intended to be employed. I have no doubt that other steamers can be found such as are used on the Thames and other places, for conveying liberty men to and from the shore in open roadsteads.
Those of us who have a connection with the Navy welcome the progress which has been made by the Jerram Committee and its constitutional evolution, the Welfare Committee. Only those who are in direct touch with the men on the lower deck, seamen, however humble their position, can realise the benefit which has accrued to them from the institution of the Welfare Committee. You will understand what it means when I describe it as the Whitley Council of the Navy. Those Councils now provide a safety valve through which every rating can air its grievances, and put forward suggestions for better conditions for alteration in uniform, or any other domestic improvements to which it may think itself entitled. But I am inclined to think that there is still scope for enlarging the operations of the Welfare Committee. These Committees are at present arranged to sit once a year. That might well be increased to once every three months. There is such a voluminous amount to be discussed from every class in the service that it cannot be dealt with adequately by one session every twelve months, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will see his way to arrange that these committees should sit once every three months.
There is one regulation in connection with the Welfare Committee which is rather difficult to understand. Instead of the men on the Committee being appointed from all the depots as a whole, and therefore being in a position to represent a class or rating and voice its desires, the Admiralty retain the power to detail the specific port from which such and such a man is nominated. For instance, take a particular branch such as the carpenters. Instead of the carpenters' 2540 representative on the Welfare Committee being appointed from all depots as the best man whom they can find to represent the aspirations of the carpenters of the Navy as a whole, the Admiralty says, this year the carpenters' representative will come from Plymouth, or this year from Devonport, and there is a strong feeling afloat that that restriction has been specially introduced by the Admiralty in order to curtail the appointment of representatives who may desire to voice any aspirations in too strong a manner. For instance, suppose the champion for the carpenters happens this year to be stationed at Portsmouth Dockyard. The Admiralty say that this year the carpenters' representative shall be nominated from Plymouth. Probably it will be found that among the carpenters at Plymouth there is no man who really understands the programme which the carpenter branch wish to put forward. Therefore, I hope my right hon. Friend will see his way to make this small Amendment in the present constitution of the Welfare Committee.
I rose primarily to support what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) concerning the Air Service. We have had many debates on this matter, and we have raised the same topic continuously since the House first assembled in 1919. I do not think that the policy of the Government improves as time goes by. There is a divergence between the statements of the Secretary of State for War and the policy of the Admiralty. Take the argument of the First Lord. He states that he will, under no circumstances, tolerate the placing of the Admiralty under a Minister of Defence. At the same time we have the Secretary of State for War conducting the Air Ministry under the War Office. If the one is right the other is wrong, and if the one is wrong the other is right.
§ Mr. LONG
The hon. Gentleman is making a statement for which he has no foundation whatever. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has constantly stated here that since he became Secretary of State for War and Air he has maintained the two organisations quite distinct, and they could be separated to-morrow if necessary. It is not correct to say that the Air Ministry 2541 is under the War Office. If my right hon. Friend were here he would be the first to contradict that. He holds the two Seals, but holds the two offices distinct. The same man is head of them both, but there is no more link between the War Ministry and the Air Ministry than between the Air Ministry and my Department.
We know quite well the influence over those Departments of the Secretary of State for War. He spends three days in the Strand and three days in Whitehall administering those Departments. Whatever may be said by my right hon. Friend, we know it is the fact.
We have a right to interpret the method by which the Government Departments are being administered, There is a very considerable measure of agreement on this side on that matter, as has been so continuously asserted.
We shall, certainly. Let us pass from that little controversial matter. As to the question of a Ministry of Defence, I would rather go further than my hon. and gallant Friend. If it is really the opinion of all the experts to place the three Services under a single Minister, I do not see any very great argument against that, Perhaps the greatest argument against it would be the enormous power which would rest in the hands of one Minister, and a power which, might or might not be used for the good of the country. From the point of view of efficiency and economy, and the co-ordination of offices, certainly to place the three Departments in closer relationship would be all to the good. Just picture the co-ordination which exists between those Departments. The only organisation is the Committee of Imperial Defence or whatever organisation 2542 has now taken its place. At that body possibly the First Lord and the three Parliamentary representatives in this House meet with the Chiefs of Staff and the First Lords and those who correspond to them in the War Office and Air Ministry. You cannot get real coordination by the senior officers simply meeting and discussing a number of principles. If there is to be co-ordination between the three fighting Services, you must arrange that the staffs shall work out the details and thrash out the whole operations and policy together. Therefore I would suggest to the First Lord to consider if he cannot arrange for more co-ordination amongst the operational Departments and that the planning divisions of the three Departments get together. Possibly those Departments may discuss matters together, but I do not think they do so. In the Admiralty there is a planning division which is occupied solely in the preparation of future policy for future operations, and that Department is wholly unaffected by the present executive work and operations. That Department and similar analogous Departments of the War Office and Air Ministry could be assimiliated, possibly, in one Department, and that would provide a means of linking up the three fighting Services. I always feel, in discussing these matters, that we are getting down rather to first principles. On matters such as the Navy Estimates, I would much prefer to see the discussion on broader lines as to whether the Navy Estimates are required or not. For my own part, we, cannot cut down sufficiently our expeinditure. I am not at all sure whether we are not founding a Navy far greater than is really necessary, but if we are to have a fighting force, let us see that it is organised as efficiently as possible and that the administrative machine which works out its policy and plans and operations is run on business-like lines and not allowed to drift and lapse at the whim of this Department or the whim of an officer here and there.
I do urge the right hon. Gentleman to take the earliest opportunity to set up some Department of the sort I have mentioned. I suggest as a first step a meeting might be called of the representative Departments to plan out and elaborate the details of such an organisation Presuming for a few moments that the statement 2543 of the Minister of War is correct, that the present organisation of the War Office and the Air Ministry is not merely temporary, but is possibly a step towards a Ministry of Defence, I should like to know what steps are being taken as to co-ordination of staff officers at the different colleges. At the present time there are only two air officers at the Military Staff Colloge at Camberley. How many air officers are there at the Naval College at Greenwich or at Porstmouth? I do not believe that there are any. If there is to be coordination between the Services, there must be a certain number of officers of each Service sent to these Colleges to get an insight into the working of the other Service, and an attempt made to make the officers more or less interchangeable from a staff point of view. I agree with every word said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain W. Bonn) concerning the inherent conservatism of the Admiralty on the whole question of the air. I have experienced that very fully, and I feel, if the letter of the First Lord in his explanatory Memorandum really indicates the feeling of the Admiralty towards aircraft, that we should at once remove all aircraft, lock, stock, and barrel, from Admiralty supervision. We want to see the Air Service taking a prominent place among the other Forces of the Empire. There is no personal feeling in the matter, but there is no doubt, when you get people who have been brought up all their lives in the Admiralty or in the Navy, used to one method of transit, used to ships on the surface, used to working in one plane, they are bound to be opposed to new inventions. You have only to read the history of the development of the Navy. You will find that the Admiralty opposed the introduction of the sailing ship, and, when steel and steam ships were introduced, I can imagine that the Admiralty said, "No, let us stick to the old wooden ships; at any rate, when they are blown up, you can use the bits to float on." The same thing is happening with regard to the development of the Air Service to-day. I will not say that they are necessarily stupid, or accuse them of any inherent mental lacking, but, give them all the qualities of education and experience, and, even then, they are bound to be conservative with regard to the development 2544 of the new Force. Take the case of aircraft employes by the Admiralty during the War. There was a scheme for the intensive patrol of submarine routes by aircraft. It had to be forced down the throats of the Admiralty by the Air Ministry and the Secretary of State for War, who was then Minister of Munitions. It had to be forced upon the Admiralty by political means, and it was not accepted by common sense and adaptability. What has happened in respect to torpedo-carrying aircraft? What is the First Lord of the Admiralty doing in the matter? Is he trying to cut down expenses? Or is he looking at the vision which is sarcastically referred to in the Memorandum on the second page? I hope it is not true that this development has been abandoned. May I ask him to refer to that when he has finished his conversation and gets up to reply? I desire to express to the Parliamentary Secretary (Dr. Macnamara) my gratitude for the courteous way in which he has dealt with every question which has been brought to his notice. I only wish I could pay the same tribute to everyone in his Department. I am sorry I can not. I hope before he goes he will give some advice to those who remain which will bring about some better conditions.
§ Rear-Admiral ADAIR
I have a great deal to say, but I will confine myself to making a most earnest appeal on behalf of the young married naval officer. I refer to the warrant officers, mates, and all commissioned officers up to the rank of Commander. Their case is lamentable. We have numerous cases where their condition is one of penury. The addition made recently to the pay is insufficient for the married man. It is not liberal even for the unmarried man. Let me make a comparison with the naval officer and his brother officer in the Army. You must assess pay according to responsibility. I will take two cases of equal service and responsibility, the Lieut.-Commander arid the Major. The Lieut.-Commander has £584 a year and the Major has £574 a year. They are practically the same though, if anything, the naval officer's responsibility is greater. The soldier has the advantage. When he gets married he gets £155 a year more to maintain a home, and that is totally different from the cost of the maintenance of a home by the naval officer. Sometimes the naval officer has two 2545 houses on his hands, if he wants to keep anywhere near his family. At the present time he cannot get a house anywhere within his moans. He is moved about from one place to another, and may leave a home hero and another there. Coming home from, say, Australia, at the present day, he can find no house that he can afford to pay for, and the maintenance and education of his children is practically impossible for him. I beseech the First Lord to consider very seriously this proposal, that, for all married officers of 30 years of age and upwards—which places them on a par as regards age with the Army—and with less than £1,000 a year normal pay, there should be a separation allowance at this modest rate, namely, for his wife, 3s. 6d. a day; for his first child, 2s. 6d; for his second child, 1s. 6d.; and for his third, if he is lucky enough to have it, only Is. This very modest proposal only totals up to 8s. 6d. a day when he has achieved three children for the State. The naval officer is usually of good stock—and I am referring also to the lower-deck stock, to the warrant officer and mate—and it is desirable to breed from that stock. At present the married naval officer is in a state of penury. I ask the First Lord to consider that proposal, and give him, at the outside, with three children, 8s. 6d. a day to maintain his family.
§ Mr. LONG
My hon. and gallant Friend would really do well not to be so excited. He is much younger than I am, and I can assure him, from my recollection of a life's experience, that you exhaust a great deal of very necessary vital force in getting excited about nothing. He is exciting himself about a proposition that has not been made. I am not misinterpreting his motives, but asking for information. The representative Leader of the Opposition is now in the House, and I will put it to him, and I am quite sure he will not exhaust his vital force as my hon. and gallant Friend has done. I ask very respectfully what we are going to divide about. I am told by one hon. Member opposite that we are going to divide in order that the Navy shall be 100 men less than it is at present. I am quite prepared to accept that as the difference between the two sides. Let the Opposition range themselves for a Navy reduced by 100 men. If that is their view and their wish, I certainly shall not quarrel with it; but I think it would be a subject for the comic newspapers in the course of the next week.
In the meantime I desire to say a word or two before the Division about some of the remarks which have been made in the course of the evening. I entirely concur with my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last (Rear-Admiral Adair) as to the position of some naval officers, but I would put this to him, as a distinguished representative of the Naval Service. Can we make, in respect of the married naval officer with a family, a greater claim for consideration by the State than is being made in respect of everybody to-day with a fixed income below a certain sum? The financial conditions at the moment make the life of the civilian just as hard as that of the sailor. I speak from personal experience. I have taken the trouble to examine into eases in the Civil Service and in the Navy. Do not run away with the notion that you can make the naval case harder by talking about two establishments and so on. There is no harder case to-day than that of the Civil Servant who has got to live in London, who has got to be in London every morning at 9.30 or 10, and who may be kept there by the exigencies of his duty till 10 or 11 at night, or even later. It is absolutely 2547 compulsory upon the man to live within easy reach of London. In these days he is fortunate if he can get, not a house, but a lodging somewhere near London at a rent which he would have got a very good house for a few years ago. I am only stating facts. I have entire sympathy with my hon. and gallant Friend's case. For the moment I represent the Admiralty. There is nothing in the world I would like bettor than to be able to persuade the Treasury to do something for the married naval officer, upon whom the times press with cruel severity. I know a case of a naval officer whose wife has to do the whole of the housework, whose children cannot be educated as he would like to educate them, and who is supposed to have his mind free from care in order that he may devote the whole of his energies to his duties, and in present circumstances it is almost impossible, but I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that you cannot limit the ease to the naval officer. You have got to realise that, as things are, it applies all round, and you cannot raise the one without raising the other. We have raised these cases at the Admiralty. The Treasury are not any more unwilling to consider them than we are, but they are forced to bear in mind the fact that if they once open the door it will not be ajar, but it will be pushed right open, because ail the other cases will come in with it. Therefore, my hon. and gallant Friend must know that it is not failure on the part of the Admiralty to appreciate the hardness of the cases, it is the complexity and the magnitude of the problem alone which makes it impossible for us at present to deal with it.
§ Mr. LONG
There have been a great many suggestions and criticisms made, of a very friendly character on the whole. Indeed, the Debate has been of so friendly a character that I am very surprised to find that we are going to end with a division. With regard to certain criticisms and suggestions with regard to labour problems, the Admiralty is a very remarkable Department. We have to be prepared to, defend questions of high policy, of naval reconstruction, and of the readjustment of our naval forces, etc. But, in addition to that, we have to be 2548 prepared at the shortest notice to answer the most astounding conundrums, and, in order to make the situation rather more difficult, the hon. Member who spoke last but one put some extraordinary problems about the Meteorological Department. I frankly confess I have never heard of them before. We have a very distinguished hydrographer in the Navy, in whom I have great confidence, and until I heard those remarks I believed that we had the very latest information from the air we could possibly have. It may be we are as much behindhand as he suggests, but records of the War at all events show that the Admiralty were not badly served in this respect during the War, and I am rather inclined to think that hon. Members criticise us for two reasons—one because criticism is the legitimate occupation of the Opposition, and, secondly, because criticism is much easier than defence. I am an old Member of the House of Commons, and we have got to carry on. Debates. That is one of the reasons why we are here. It becomes rather boring when one Member after another gets up and says ditto to the Government, and when they go back to their constituents the latter say, "I see that you did nothing but tell the Government that they were most wonderful people. Why did you not call them names? Do not you know they have not given us this or refused that?" Therefore it is very much easier for Members of Parliament to criticise the Government than to support it. There is another reason. One of the reasons for which the Government was created was in order that it should be the legitimate object of attacks by anybody who did not belong to it. In this respect we do a very useful public service.
Although on the whole I claim that these Estimates have been received with singular and almost unprecedented approval by the House of Commons, yet there has been criticism. With regard to some of the questions as to employés of the Admiralty, I do not pretend to give an answer now, but I have made a careful note, and I will take care that they are carefully examined in the Board of Admiralty, and if we are not able to meet them adequate replies shall be forthcoming within a very short time. With regard to the Air Force, I have always resisted, and always shall resist, the attempt 2549 of any Member, whoever he may be, to discredit the word of a Minister of the Crown speaking on behalf of his Government. It has been the unbroken practice of Parliament to accept the word of a Minister without question. In my experience of over 35 years I have served in Governments, I have never known a case, to whatever party the Government belonged, where the Minister has betrayed the very highest trust which is reposed in him by Parliament, and they take his word as to what is the exact practice in the Government. I stated with absolute truth, and with full knowledge which cannot be possessed by anyone outside the Government, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has administered the Air Service as a separate Department, and he has administered it with absolute fairness. There has been
§ no partiality as between the War Office on the one hand and the Admiralty on the other. As to my own view, either as First Lord of the Admiralty or as a private individual, I say nothing, but I do say that my right hon. Friend has not done as suggested as Secretary for War or when he had to act as Secretary for Air. I do not say that there is not room for improvement; but I do say it has been worked fairly and honourably by all concerned. We believe we shall find means by which the Air Force will work with the other two great fighting Departments satisfactorily to the State and appreciably to the general interest.
§ Question put, "That a reduced number, not exceeding 135,900 be employed for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 18; Noes, 194.2551
|Division No. 64.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Lawson, John J.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Lunn, William||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Bromfield, William||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Spoor, B. G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hirst, G. H.||Swan, J. E. C.||Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy and Lieut.-Colonel Malone.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Davies, Sir Joseph (Chester, Crewe)||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir Janes Tynte||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Denison-Pender, John C.||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Donald, Thompson||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Doyle, N. Grattan||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Edge, Captain William||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
|Balfour, Sir R. (Glasgow, Partick)||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Jellett, William Morgan|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Falcon, Captain Michael||Jodrell, Neville Paul|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Johnson, L. S.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Fell, Sir Arthur||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Forrest, Walter||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Benn, Com. Ian H. (Greenwich)||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Bigland, Alfred||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||King, Commander Henry Douglas|
|Billing, Noel Pemberton-||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Glyn, Major Ralph||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Goff, Sir R. Park||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Gould, James C.||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Britton, G. B.||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Greenwood, Colonel Sir Hamar||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Bruton, Sir James||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Lonsdale, James Rolston|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Grundy, T. W.||Lorden, John William|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Lort-Willlams, J.|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Lynn, R. J.|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Hayday, Arthur||Lyon, Laurance|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)|
|Casey, T. W.||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Mallalieu, F. W.|
|Courthope, Major George L.||Hilder, Lieut.-Coionel Frank||Matthews, David|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hinds, John||Mitchell, William Lane|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Holmes, J. Stanley||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Curzon, Commander Viscount||Hood, Joseph||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. K. (Kirk'dy)||Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Morgan, Major D. Watts|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Morison, Thomas Brash|
|Morris, Richard||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Wallace, J.|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Neal, Arthur||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Oman, Charles William C.||Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W.||Sexton, James||Waring, Major Walter|
|Parker, James||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)||Warren, Lieut.-Col. Sir Alfred H.|
|Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Peel, Lieut.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Perring, William George||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||Wignall, James|
|Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Sitch, Charles H.||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Pollack, Sir Ernest M.||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Preston, W. R.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)|
|Prescott, Major W. H.||Steel, Major S. Strang||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Pulley, Charles Thornton||Strauss, Edward Anthony||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.||Sturrock, J. Leng||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)||Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)||Younger, Sir George|
|Reid, D. D.||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Renwick, George||Taylor, J.||TELLERS FOB THE NOES.—|
|Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Lord E. Talbot and Captain Guest.|
|Rose, Frank H.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
Original Question put, and agreed to.