17. Viscount GURZON
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether a serious reduction of the number of seamen ratings borne in fully commissioned ships of the Atlantic Fleet has just taken place; whether he can indicate the extent of the reduction; whether it represents a decrease in complement or whether an additional number of boys are to be borne in lieu; and whether he can give an assurance that the fighting efficiency and complete preparedness for war of all the ships concerned is not thereby to be interfered with?
§ Sir J. CRAIG
A temporary reduction has recently been authorised in the number of seamen ratings borne in fully commissioned ships of the Atlantic Fleet; the extent of that reduction cannot be stated in detail as it differs in each class of ship. The chief reason for this step is the necessity of resuming in greater volume than at present the specialised training of seamen ratings in shore establishments which was interrupted during the War, and the reduction has been made in order to pass larger numbers through the gunnery and torpedo schools to qualify for non-substantive ratings. The Board of Admiralty consider that whatever slight loss of efficiency is involved can safely be accepted as a temporary measure in the interests of increased efficiency in the future. The ratings withdrawn for training are, of course, immediately available if required, and the arrangements do not represent any permanent decrease in complement. Preparedness for war is not affected.
§ Viscount CURZON
Has the decrease in the number of seamen ratings been made up by an increase in the number of boys?
§ 18. Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can say if there is any shortage of seamen and other naval ratings; if so, what steps are being taken to meet that shortage; whether any cruisers, and, if so, how many, have been withdrawn from foreign stations on this account; whether boys are being taken on to make up the complements of sea-going ships; whether the flying squadron of the Atlantic Fleet is no longer in being; whether any 410 reduction, and, if so, what has been made in any battle cruiser squadrons; and will he say what change, if any, has been made by way of reductions in the seamen complements of battleships and cruisers in the Atlantic Fleet?
§ Sir J. CRAIG
There is a temporary shortage in the seamen branch, partly due to the fact that the measures taken to reduce personnel to peace requirements operated more rapidly than was expected, and partly to special claims on our manning resources which could not be foreseen. The shortage is being made up by authorising the entry of youths and special service seamen, and by allowing men who have taken their discharge to re-enter. In consequence of the shortage of seamen the number of cruisers on foreign stations will temporarily be two less than was intended. The number of boys sent to sea-going ships is regulated as heretofore by the numbers requiring sea-going training before being rated ordinary seamen. There is no flying squadron in the Atlantic Fleet. The attached air-craft carrier is now paid off and undergoing alterations necessitated by recent experiments; she will be re-commissioned on completion in order to rejoin the Atlantic Fleet on the expiration of the forthcoming leave period. H.M.S. "Renown" has been paid off for refit on her return from Australasia. H.M.S. "Repulse," which has just completed large alterations, will complete and re-commission shortly for the battle cruiser squadron. A temporary reduction in the seaman complements of the Atlantic Fleet ships has been made in order to pass larger numbers through the gunnery and torpedo schools to qualify for non-substantive ratings and make up the aftermath of the War. The reductions do not represent any permanent decrease in complements.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman prepared to say that the recruiting of seamen is up to the usual standard?