Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,157,800, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, in audition to a sum of £263,000 to he allocated for this purpose from the sum of £12,000,000 voted on account of Navy Services generally.
§ Sir GODFREY COLLINS
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I wish to call attention to the cost of the Admiralty offices. On page 155 of the Navy Estimates the Committee will see the total cost. It will be agreed that the amount of bonus paid to civil servants and others working at the Admiralty is outside the jurisdiction of the Admiralty. The Admiralty, therefore, cannot be held responsible for an increase, or take credit for a decrease, in the amount of that bonus. Setting aside the bonus, we find that the total cost of the Admiralty offices this year is £879,000, and that last year the total cost was £881,000. In other words, as the result of economies effected in the Department the total reduction this year is only £2,000. I would draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty to one or two items in these figures. On page 156 we see that the cost of naval assistants at the Admiralty offices has increased this year, in comparison with last year, by about £7,000. The naval staff has increased from £89,000 to £93,000; the Medical Department has increased from £13,324 to £15,788: the Department of the Director 1948 of Naval Equipment from £7,100 to £12,100, and so on. It is quite clear that the cost this year of the Admiralty offices is £879,000, in comparison with last year's total of £881,000. The Geddes Committee's Report told us that the audited expenditure of the Departments in the last complete year before the War was £460,000. This year the taxpayer is being burdened with practically 10C per cent. increase, putting on one side the bonus. I would like some explanation on the point. Bearing on that subject the Geddes Committee's Report, on page 31, has the following observation:We are convinced that a large staff at the Admiralty itself tends to create high costs and big establishments elsewhere.The Report of the Geddes Committee has been received in various ways in different quarters of the House. If the Geddes Committee were able to examine any Department of the State successfully, they were surely more able to examine the expenditure of the Admiralty than any other Department. The Admiralty was presided over by Sir Eric Geddes during a critical period of the War. He was supported on the Committee by the Minister of Shipping, whose natural activities in that Department must constantly have brought him into touch with the Admiralty; and, in addition, he had the services of Lord Inchcape, one of the most noted shipowners in the world. These three individuals applied their minds to the expenditure of the Admiralty. They not only pointed out the enormous savings that could be effected, but said they were convinced that a large staff at the Admiralty "created high costs and big establishments elsewhere." Let me analyse the total cost of the Navy Estimates. The total net figure is £64,880,000. The Parliamentary Secretary will agree that to this figure must be added several big items He takes credit on page 117 for £1,100,000 for the sale of ships. On page 254 the Committee will find that the Admiralty have consumed stores, or estimate to consume stores during the present year, valued at upwards of £2,250,000. On page 42 a sum of £800,000 is to be saved this year through the Admiralty drawing on their stores. In other words, the total cost to the taxpayer this year is not £64,880,000, but £69,230,000. Let me compare that 1949 figure with the Report of the Geddes Committee. On page 32 of the First Interim Report the Geddes Committee said:The Navy Estimates for 1922 should be reduced to £60,000,000.Further on they say:in these recommendations no account is taken of large savings which might result, such as the discontinuance of the construction of four capital ships, for which the Estimates for 1922–23 include £11,800,000.In the present Estimates there is a figure of £721,000 towards the cost of two new ships. But the Geddes Committee considered that if the present Estimates were not burdened with the cost of four capital ships the Estimates should be £48,200,000. Add to that figure the £721,000, which is the cost this year for the two new ships, and we have a total this year of £48,921,000, in comparison with the actual cost of the Navy for the present year of £69,230,000—a difference of about £20,000,000. The Parliamentary Secretary may reply that certain of the Geddes Committee recommendations were not specified. Making every allowance for these unspecified recommendations or reductions, it is quite clear that the Admiralty have brushed on one side the recommendations of that very competent Committee to the extent of £15,000,000 to £20,000,000.
I suggest that during the present year these Estimates should be reduced. Why, for instance, should we spend this year £27,614,000 on shipbuilding, repairs, naval armaments and works? That is really for new construction, repairs, and new works in all portions of the globe. I say nothing now of the further sum of £23,000,000 required this year for the wages of the men and their upkeep. The Admiralty will say, no doubt, that these ships are necessary. In the course of the Debates last year, when their policy was being criticised, they stated that the sums required were necessary. I agree that technical experts of the Admiralty could demolish any argument which I could advance on that score. I will not attempt to submit any technical argument to the Committee. On the Report of the Geddes Committee the necessity for these ships is not apparent to the ordinary man. The money could be spent to better use, either being left—to use an old phrase—"fructifying in the pockets of the taxpayer," or being spent in the reduction of debt. In the present state of our 1950 finances, and taking into account the position of fleets in every portion of the world, I submit that Admiralty policy is not conducive to the best interests of the Navy in the long run, that it brings hardships to the taxpayer, and that it tends to delay the recovery which all parties in the House are anxious to secure.
§ Captain Viscount CURZON
I was interested to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins), and I was not surprised to hear him attack the Admiralty on the subject of capital ships. It is the fashion to attack the Admiralty on the subject of capital ships, and before proceeding to deal with other points, I wish to make some references to that question. The question has been raised: Are the Admiralty right to go in for a further programme of capital ship construction? The critics of the Admiralty never mention, and do not seem to appreciate the fact, that there has been a Conference at Washington and that we are bound by that Conference. That Conference allowed us to build two capital ships in substitution for four old ships. If we were to postpone the laying down of these two ships, consider the situation which would arise at the end of the period allowed by the Washington Conference. Presumably the situation would then be reviewed by the Powers concerned, and presumably they would agree to go in for a further replacement of capital ships. Supposing the United States and Japan and ourselves agreed then to replace, let us say, eight ships, should we then claim the right to build two additional ships? Should we claim to build 10 capital ships to replace obsolete ships? I think that would be, to a certain extent, taking an unfair advantage of the other Powers, and would place them in a difficult situation. In fact, I think it is a proposal with which they would not agree and one which would not carry out the spirit in which this country entered into the Washington Conference.
Apparently the critics, including, I think, the last speaker, do not quite understand why we should want these capital ships. I submit we cannot face a situation in which the British Navy would be below a one-power standard, and we cannot attain a one-power standard unless we get these two capital ships 1951 —two not one. In modern naval warfare—it is one of the many lessons of the War—gun-power is developed in concentration. You must have a concentration unit, and it is impossible to concentrate effectively two or more ships on the one target, unless their guns are of the same size and calibre. The minimum effective concentration unit is a two-ship concentration, and therefore, for fleet purposes alone, we must have two capital ships and not one. Therefore, in answer to the question of whether we are to have any at all, I say that in order, both to carry out the spirit of the Washington Conference and to bring the Navy up to the one-power standard, we must have two. Japan has two post-Jutland ships. The United States has three, and we have only one ship partially constructed since the battle of Jutland.
Further, there is a definite saving involved in the substitution of two capital ships for four obsolete ships. Lord Lee, the First Lord of the Admiralty, speaking in another place, made it quite clear that when the substitution has been carried out we shall save in personnel 1,100 men, and in money £750,000 a year, as compared with the upkeep of the four ships. It will also be a good opportunity to try out their guns and mountings. I only mention these points in passing, because the question of capital ship construction has so often been brought up. The wisdom of capital ship construction is called in question chiefly owing to the menace from above the water and below the water attack. In above the water attack I include aircraft. In a certain interesting and very bright little morning paper I have noticed large headlines, such as, "The power of the seaplane," "Surprising result of tests with warships," "Many hits." It is quite obvious that all is not as it should be with regard to the Royal Navy and the air. I do not think the experts can deny that fact for one moment. There is a great question as to whether or not we should have an Air Ministry, but with that I do not propose to deal, and that is not the point so far as the Admiralty is concerned. The question for the Admiralty is this: Is the situation at sea regarding air fighting satisfactory, and, if not, why is it not satisfactory? We have to realise 1952 that the Navy of the future must be prepared to take to the air, and the Navy which cannot take to the air will be at a hopeless disadvantage against the Navy which can. What is being done to enable the Navy to take to the air?
At the present moment the position is this, that we have aircraft carriers for operation with the Fleet—I think, speaking from memory, the number is five—but while the Admiralty have built aircraft carriers, they are not able to get the machines put into them. That is an astounding situation. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, are the Admiralty satisfied with the number of aeroplanes, seaplanes, amphibians, and so on, allocated to the Navy? The Admiralty should face the question squarely and give the House and the country some information. At present we have none. We never get any account of the work of the wing of the Royal Air Force which is operating with the Navy, I asked the Secretary of State for Air to give an account of it, but he practically refused to give me any information on public grounds, and he never alluded to it on introducing the Air Estimates. I asked the representative of the Admiralty in this House to say what aircraft had taken part in the various exercises carried out by the Fleet this year, but we have got no information. We want to know what the Admiralty is really doing to meet this menace. We want to know if they are in a position to do so. I maintain they are not.
I presume the manœuvres alluded to in the newspaper to which I have just referred, are the manœ carried out before His Majesty the other day. The paper says there were many hits. Can the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty give the House an exact account of what took place and say if there were many hits, and will he say what was done theoretically or otherwise, in the way of counter-attack against aircraft? There is no difficulty in aircraft flying over a ship as long as the aircraft are not counterattacked. Were the ships attacked during those manœ in a position to send up machines to defend themselves and drive off the attacking force? The whole question hinges on that. A further paragraph in the newspaper says that the Air Ministry intends to carry out further experiments in regard to seaplanes. We should be delighted to learn as to these 1953 experiments and to know if the Navy to-day is using, or is there in being anywhere, a seaplane which was not in use in 1918? If not, is the Admiralty prepared to say there has been no improvement, and can be no improvement, as the result of our experiences? Was this attack in fact carried out by seaplanes, and, generally speaking, what is being done in this connection? We have to review the whole situation as regards the Admiralty control of aircraft. We have had articles from Brigadier-General Groves, in which he has stated:England's first line of defence is an aerial striking force, and her second line of defence is the Fleet which is also the main bulwark of the Empire. Our present air policy has ensured that the first line does not exist and the second line is already handicapped to the paint of inefficiency by the inadequacy of its air development.In order to find out what the Navy is getting in the way of aircraft resources, I put a question to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty on the 12th July. I asked how many aeroplanes, pilots and observers were now available for working with the Royal Navy for reconnaissance, fighting, torpedo carrying, bomb dropping and observation respectively, and how many were actually required to bring all aircraft carriers and ships fitted with flying platforms up to full establishment. The answer I got was that the aircraft allotted for working with the Fleet from ships and carriers were 18 reconnaissance planes, six fighters, 12 torpedo planes, and 18 spotting-planes. If that answer is correct it discloses a most serious position. It is an answer which was reviewed most seriously throughout the country, and created quite a sensation, if the Press is any guide on the subject. Subsequent to that question being put, the Air Ministry published in a certain London morning paper a sort of apology or explanation. Their contention is that the British Navy is better equipped in regard to aircraft than any other Power. I ask them to give the comparative figures of aircraft, comparing the navies of the United States, France, Japan, Italy and this country. I happen to know the number of fighting machines actually available for the American Navy. It is no less than 86. I put a question to the Secretary of State for Air to-day and 1954 was told we have now nine fighters the Navy.
In face of that it cannot be said that the Navy is sufficiently prepared for war and prepared to repel air attack. Think of the fleet we have scattered all over the world with only nine fighting machines to deal with hostile air attack. We must remember that when the Navy is in European waters, it is accessible to attack, not only by the air forces of the navies of Continental countries, but also by their land machines, seaplanes and amphibians, their converted civil machines and every machine they can get. These can all be concentrated in an attack on our Navy, and I do not see how our Navy is in a position to repel an enemy attack of that kind at present. I hope the figures will be given to the country, and we shall be allowed to know what the position is. The second point made by the Air Ministry is that the number of fighting aircraft available for the Navy can be expanded at the briefest notice, and so can the pilot supply. I can hardly believe that that statement was issued by the Air Minister. I cannot imagine any expert Department issuing such a statement. If it was not published by the Air Ministry, but only issued by somebody in the Air Ministry it should be made clear; but if this is all they know about it, the sooner they have nothing to do with the Navy the better. Is it not a fact that flying on to and flying off an aircraft carrier is about the most difficult thing an airman could possibly have to do? Is it not obvious that only experts can do it?
Take the observers who have to spot for the guns. How are they likely to be able to make the correct wireless spotting signals to the ships depending on them for observations unless they are really experts and trained for work with the ships? Take the reconnaissance observers, those who go in an aeroplane to identify foreign ships, scouting—quite one of the most important duties they can perform. Unless a man be absolutely trained to it, he will not know whether he has seen a submarine or a battleship. Cases occurred repeatedly in the late War where most absurd mistakes were made, and trawlers were reported as battle cruisers, and all sorts of extraordinary things like that. Only an expert can possibly tell, 1955 only a man with naval training can possibly tell, and I say that the branch of the Royal Air Force working with the Navy must be an expert and a specialised branch, and it must be under the Navy's absolute control, so that they can work in with it and get the maximum possible value out of the co-operation which they have every right to expect. Only by cooperation, and perfect co-operation, can the present arrangement, as we know it to-day, succeed, in my opinion. I say that pilots cannot be supplied at the briefest notice, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bear me out in this.
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if the Admiralty consider that the ordinary working branch of the Air arm operating with the Fleet can be expanded satisfactorily by hundreds of machines and the necessary personnel at the shortest notice, and I should like a specific answer on that point. I would like to know how many observers we have trained in fleet work, and how many more do we require in order to bring the existing establishment up to full strength. I would like to know how many carriers we can complete with machines and pilots skilled in deck landing forthwith, which is a most important point. Why have we got only one aircraft carrier operating with the Fleet? What has happened to the "Eagle," to the "Hermes"? Why have they been for so long under construction? What hope is there for the Navy unless they can carry out experiments with all these various ships, and unless they can really get ahead with their work? The most absurd things happen under the present arrangement. I have heard of a case—and I believe it to be true—where a portion of the Fleet was going to carry out a progressive gunnery programme, and they were to work up for a definite date. They carried on with the programme until the ammunition ran out for the year, so it was agreed to interrupt the programme where it stood and recommence it with the following year's allowance of ammunition, when that became available. The following year the Fleet was ordered to go ahead with the important gunnery experiments and progressive training, but when they came to try it out they found that all the pilots and observers on whom they had been 1956 relying had been drafted to another quarter of the globe. The training had to be started de novo, and all the ammunition fired away the year before was absolutely wasted. Where is the co-operation there? There is absolutely none.
The Air Ministry stated thatimportant new types of machines for the use of the Navy will shortly be adopted.But when is the Navy going to see these machines under the present circumstances? The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that the Admiralty have had to resign themselves to the fact that they cannot get any more machines than are already allocated to them. There fore, how are they ever to get the new types? Where are they coming from? There is no more money with which to get them, because the Navy have no control and no say as to how the money spent upon aircraft is to be allocated. In the case of a submarine, the Admiralty lay down their requirements, and they say to the designing staff of the Admiralty what kind of a submarine they want; but in the case of the air, do the Admiralty lay down an air policy, or do they have to take what the Air Ministry give them? I would like to know that. Are they able to say, "We have a carrier with a certain tonnage to perform certain duties, and we want certain machines to perform those duties?" Are they able to have any say in the design of the machines, or do they have to take what the Air Ministry give them?
Take torpedoes for aircraft use. Today I had a question to the Secretary of State for Air to know whether the Air Ministry are satisfied with the torpedo supplied by the Admiralty, and, if not, what steps are being taken to obtain a satisfactory torpedo. Hon. Members may not know that the torpedoes carried by aircraft operating in our service at sea to-day are old 14-inch torpedoes, with a maximum range of 1,000 yards. They are very unreliable, their explosive effect is very small, and, as hon. Members will see from their range, it is really only a very short one, and these very small torpedoes will have only a very small effect against modern battleships. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can give the House some sort of idea as to how many torpedoes would be required to sink, say, the "Hood." Surely, the Navy are not 1957 going to remain satisfied with a 14-inch torpedo. The answer I got to-day was to the effect that the design and development of torpedoes for use from aeroplanes are carried out in close collaboration between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, who are in complete agreement on the subject. Therefore, I take it that the Admiralty and the Air Ministry are satisfied with an old 14-inch torpedo, which is very unreliable, and which has a maximum range of 1,000 yards.
This old torpedo which is used by our aircraft is an old torpedo designed for use from a ship's tube. Is it not possible that a special form of torpedo to be used in aircraft would give much better results? You would not have to have the same structural fittings inside the torpedo that you now have in order to discharge it from a tube. I want to know whether the torpedo experts of the Admiralty have been called upon to design any torpedo which might be more suitable for discharge from an aeroplane and not from a tube, and whether the Admiralty are satisfied that no such torpedo could be designed. I have recently become aware of the fact that the Air Ministry have started a torpedo school of their own at Portsmouth, within sight of the largest, the most efficient, and the best equipped torpedo school there is, with absolutely unlimited service, which they could take advantage of at once, but they cannot do that, and though working with the Navy—and it is entirely a naval problem—they cannot go to the naval torpedo school and carry out their experiments and do their research work, but they have got to have a special torpedo school of their own. That is waste and duplication, and I hope hon. Members who talk about that sort of thing in this House will support me in this matter. I would like to know, seeing that we have got a Navy more or less up to the one-Power standard, whether our Air Force operating with the Navy is up to a one-Power standard, and if not, why not? We do not accept a lesser standard than the one-Power standard in submarines or destroyers; then why with aircraft? What sort of a standard have we got? It is essential that we should know. The country is anxious, and I suggest that sufficient attention is not being given to the whole thing.
1958 I would like to know what steps are being taken to train naval officers to grapple with air problems, whether the Commanders-in-Chief of our principal squadrons are in a position to meet all possible air attacks. One of the most important problems, as far as the Admiralty are concerned, at the present moment is the Burney airship scheme. Quite the most efficient aircraft carrier that can be conceived is an airship. She can cruise above the Fleet at any height she likes, carrying a load of aeroplanes ready to be called away and slipped at any moment. The most dangerous menace that a warship can face is a dawn attack. A dawn attack will be most difficult to counter-attack and to repel, and if you have to wait for your air machines to get off an aircraft carrier—and I am informed that they can only get off at the rate of one every three minutes —it is obvious that from the time the attacking aeroplane is first sighted you will only get off about one machine to fight off the attack, and probably the aircraft carrier will be sunk, because it will be concentrated upon for a start in all probability. On the other hand, if you have an airship cruising above the Fleet, her aeroplanes can be slipped at a proper height. They will not have to spend time in climbing up to that height, and they are in a position to counter-attack at once. That is why the Burney airship scheme is so valuable to this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "Have we ever tried it?"] Are we ever likely to try it under present circumstances? We have no airships, and therefore it is all the more important that we should take advantage of every private individual who will come along and propose a scheme which is likely to give us airships of a sort. No, we have not got airships, but other Powers have.
I believe the United States of America have no fewer than four airships with the Navy. They are doing experimental work, and our Fleet, it is obvious, would be at a hopeless disadvantage compared with any other Power experimenting with them. I do not contemplate war with America, nor does any other hon Member for one second, but we cannot afford to be behind other Powers in this matter. It is too great a risk. I would like to draw attention to the opinion of the American First Lord of the Admiralty. Recently, in the Senate in America, the Secretary of State for the 1959 Navy and the Secretary of State for War were asked for their opinions as to forming a separate Air Wing of the Navy, more or less on our lines. I will not bore the Committee by reading the whole thing, but this is the opinion of the American Secretary of the Navy. He says:Naval training and qualifications are so closely woven into those attributes which make a successful naval aviator that to divorce his schooling from the direct naval associations into a separate air training establishment is considered most detrimental to the Navy's interests and to the purpose for which the Navy equips its aviators. An efficient naval aviator must be thoroughly trained in all naval subjects, including ordnance, gunnery, scouting, tactics, types of ships, tactical movements of the Fleets and their units, customs of the sea, etc. He must be conversant with the problems of the officers and men who direct and handle the surface naval ships. His duties, which are and will continue to be closely associated with the tactics and strategy of the Fleet and its various units, require an intimate knowledge of the sea, of naval conditions, and of naval warfare.The actual piloting and manœuvring of a plane represent only a small element of the work and experience required of him. The close co-operation required between battleships, cruisers, submarines, destroyers, and the Air Force will require a knowledge which can be gained only by service connected with all the various elements which go to make up the Navy.That is the opinion of America on this subject, and I do say we cannot afford to disregard the experts of other countries. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes to reply, will deal with the many questions which I have ventured to put to him. I put them to him from the point of view of a friendly critic. I know that the present arrangement is working as badly as possible, from the point of view of the Navy. I know that every officer in the Navy, who has tried to work it, has condemned it in no unmeasured terms, and I know it only arises from two things. It is partly due to the system, and it is partly due to the spirit which prevails at the Air Ministry. I assert this—and I assert it definitely—that we shall not do any good unless we have a thorough reconstruction of the Air Ministry. You will not get any forwarder with the naval side until you do. I see no hope of closer co-operation, which is the only means by which the Navy can run the present system. Therefore, I hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman will 1960 treat this question seriously, and will give me an answer to my many questions which will be understood, and easily capable of being interpreted in the country.
§ Lieut.-Colonel M0ORE-BRABAZON
I wish that the Secretary of State for Air were present. The last speech seems to me an interrogation of him, rather than of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. I do think that the Noble Lord is taking up an attitude of pontifical infallibility in this matter, which is rapidly earning him the reputation which his Noble kinsman in another place has already earned, because if he is going to lay down the law in this House on such difficult questions as the merit or demerit of airships, and everybody is going to take his word, without any reply from exports, then, I think, this House may very easily drift along lines which will involve us in enormous expense for no definite object at all. After all, it is a question for experts, and we knew during the War that a hydrogen filled airship, from a military point of view, was one of the things most easily knocked out that ever went into the air. I grant you that America, from the naval point of view, looks with some hope to the airship, but that is because in America helium is found. There is no possibility of getting it in this country, or anywhere else. She may have airships which may do some good, but there is no hope of our doing it, because helium is never findable in our country.
What is the complaint of the Noble Lord? It really is a complaint that we have not got enough machines. Is not that the complaint all round? Is it not the complaint of the Army, and of the Navy, and also of the Air Force? That I admit, and everybody admits. But that is a question of money expenditure. If the Noble Lord were First Lord of the Admiralty, no doubt he would have an enormous Navy and an enormous Air Force, but the poor taxpayer would not love him at all. I am perfectly convinced that the system under which we run our aircraft to-day is the most economic way of doing it. There is no duplication of schools, or of ordering, or of research, and if you go back to the old system, you are bound to get duplication, which is so extravagant. The torpedo school is 1961 a question raised only to-day, and I know nothing about it, but I know on the torpedo question there is a lot to be said from the point of view of the torpedo from the air and from the ship, and if the torpedo be one from the air, it is surely a question for the air people, and not the Navy. The Air Force to-day has £10,000,000—just over the cost of one battleship—and it has with that to try to keep the Army efficient, the Navy efficient, and to run its own independent air force, and, besides, sink money in capital undertakings such as buildings, because we cannot; have first-class mechanics kept in hovels. If the Air Force be to blame for not having sufficient aircraft, I think they have been put in a very difficult position. At the end of the War the programme was always two years ahead. Machines have been destroyed, but all over the country there are still thousands at disposal, and there are still in the reserve aircraft parks thousands of machines. What was the question before the Air Ministry? Whether to scrap old machines and order new ones—
May I point out that, under this Vote, hon. Members are only entitled to discuss the provisions of aircraft for the Navy? The Committee must not discuss the separate establishment of an Air Force, or the duties to be carried out by the Secretary of State for Air. In so far as the hon. and gallant Member can adduce arguments as to the provision of aircraft for the Navy, it will be in order. I am only mentioning that now, because I do not want the Debate to get on to the Air Ministry.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE-BRABAZON
The Noble Lord made a complaint that there were so few machines connected with the Fleet. That may be true, but there are in reserve many machines which could still be used for work in the Fleet. I want to point out the difficulty. Either you must keep all these old machines made for the Fleet, or order new ones. If you scrap the old machines, and order new ones, you put yourself in a position to be very seriously attacked from the point of view of economy, and if you do not order new ones, you are told that you are using old machines. Although I admit that machines used for the Navy to-day are as good as those of any other 1962 country, there must come a time, and that early, when the subject of more efficient machines must be gone into. The Noble Lord brought up on this Vote the hardy annual of his own Air Force, and he complained bitterly, I thought, of the personnel attached to the Navy. But if they are short of trained personnel at the Admiralty, whose fault is it? Was not the Admiralty asked to find 400 officers for the air and they were to go back to the Navy? Who refused that? The Admiralty, and nobody else. I have read in the "Times" column after column of arguments between the Noble Lord and Admiral Sir Percy Scott in which the Noble Lord maintains how wonderful is the capital ship, and how it cannot be knocked out by any aircraft. I am not going to dispute that, but I do notice to-day the amazing nervousness of the possibility of what might happen, and the plea that the capital ship should be defended, not by its own inviolability, but by other aircraft. I do admit that the Navy should be made more efficient than it is from the point of view of aircraft, but that is a matter not of policy, of organisation, but of pure money—nothing else. The question now of transcending importance is the question of the invasion of this country, and the invader of this country does not meet our Fleet now. That is what has changed everything, and, if you have got the money, surely the first thing to do is to defend yourself, rather than to equip a service which does not come into the question of invasion? I would ask the Noble Lord in future to see that he presses for the expenditure of more money upon another Vote. If he presses for more money to be spent on the Air Force, he may get a little smaller Fleet, but he will get it a good deal better equipped in aircraft.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I do not propose to carry on the Debate raised by my Noble Friend opposite. I only say this, without entering into the merits of the question, that I am well aware there is great public uneasiness on the question of co-ordination of air force work with the Admiralty, and I do sincerely hope that when my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty replies, he will really tell us what is the opinion of the Sea Lords on this question. That is what we really want to know. It is extraordinarily difficult for 1963 anybody who is not an expert to form a judgment, and, after all, it is the judgment of the country which counts in this matter. But how are we to form a judgment, when the experts differ so widely, as they do? I believe that the country has faith in the seamen of the Royal Fleet, and those who are capable of expressing their opinion, and I differ from what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken, that it was only a matter of money, and not a matter of policy. I feel that it is quite as much a matter of policy as of money, and it is an extraordinarily difficult matter of policy. It is hardly possible to find anything more technical, or on which the layman can less readily express an opinion. All he can say is, that he is uneasy when he sees people, in whom he has confidence, on both sides expressing diametrically opposite opinions. What the country wants is the best security it can possibly get for the money it can afford to spend, and many of us who see the present quarrel—if I may use that expression without using it in any extreme sense—the present difference of opinion between the advocates of a separate and an independent Air Force and those who advocate that these aircraft must work with the Navy, and be generally under naval control, either in peace or war, or both—I think those of us who see that quarrel going on feel that it is a real danger to the country. Certainly, after many years' experience at the Admiralty, I learnt to trust the naval view. I do not think the value of the view of the Navy on a technical question of that kind can be exaggerated. It would be a very great help to know what the Navy thinks, and not what the Government think, because the Government cannot have any technical knowledge on this matter. If we can know what the Navy thinks, it would assist us to form our opinion, and I must say that many of us are at present uneasy on the subject.
What, however, I got up to speak about is a totally different matter. I apologise to the House for raising it, but I am unable to get any satisfaction by approaching the Admiralty or the Treasury, and there is a principle of considerable importance attached to the matter. The principle is 1964 whether the prerogative of the Crown shall be used to deny the subject his fair rights of compensation either for money spent or for injury received. I had to deal with this matter when I was serving at the Admiralty, as I did for a good many years, and the principle I learned that was always followed by Government Departments and the Crown—and particularly by the Navy—was that the Navy had a right—and very properly—to use docks, harbours and all the accommodation available to ships under the Royal prerogative free of charge—and very proper too. When, however, in the use of any private property damage was done, or services were rendered, which were of actual value, then, although there could be no legal claim in the case, an ex gratia payment was made equivalent to the value of the services rendered or the damage done. That, I believe, is a principle which has been approved by this House.
Here is an incident which occurred in Harwich harbour, and which the Commissioners there have asked me to bring before the House. During the War, in November, 1917, the paddle minesweeper "Marsa" was lying in the fairway in the harbour when she was run down by a light cruiser and sunk. The Admiralty attempted to raise her, but they did not succeed in doing so, she broke in two. They then sent, after some time, a couple of tugs, which towed her out of the actual fairway of the harbour into shallow water, and deposited her out of the way of vessels, in two or three fathoms of water. Subsequently the Admiralty sent down divers who proceeded to strip the vessel of her fittings and everything of value which they could get out of her. This, of course, they were perfectly entitled to do. They afterwards tried to raise her and failed. In July, 1919, after the War, and nearly two years after she had been sunk, the Conservancy Board wrote to the Admiralty and asked them to take the necessary steps to dispose of her, or to remove the wreck, which was a danger to the craft using the harbour. In reply to that the Admiralty sent a letter saying that they abandoned the vessel—in other words, left her to the Harbour Board.
The Harbour Board, in reply, stated they were prepared to remove the vessel and do the work if the Admiralty would pay for it. The Admiralty refused to give 1965 a definite undertaking to pay for the work —I have the letters here—but they advised the Harbour Board to get a contract for the vessel to be removed. The Admiralty wrote on 29th March, 1920, and said that before proceeding further they would like an estimate from the Conservancy Board as to the cost that would be incurred in dealing with the wreck Tenders were invited which were not satisfactory, and finally the Admiralty approved the acceptance of a tender from the Stanlee Ship-breaking Company to disperse the vessel for £1,650. That was done. The Stanlee Company did disperse the vessel on that contract for £1,650. The Harbour Board then wrote to the Admiralty and asked the Admiralty for a grant towards the payment of this work. The Admiralty sheltered themselves under the prerogative and refused any grant whatever. I do not think that is the sort of treatment which the Harbour Board ought to have received from a public Department. You have one war vessel sinking another in the fairway of a harbour. The Admiralty attempts to salve the vessel, which they had admitted they sunk. They leave her a danger to navigation after taking away any fittings which are of value. Two years after she has been sunk, when they find they can do no more with her, they tell the Harbour Board to remove her at their own cost, and refuse to pay one single farthing towards the cost of removal.
I submit to the House that that is really not according to Admiralty tradition. I do not like to raise a question here about Government Departments, and I have no knowledge of the communications that have passed between the Admiralty and the Treasury. I cannot raise this question on the Treasury Vote, but only on the Admiralty Vote, and it will be the duty of the Parliamentary Secretary to defend the action which is ostensibly taken by his own Department. From my own experience of Admiralty policy this action is one foreign in principle to the principle which the Admiralty has hitherto followed. I cannot help thinking this is one of the measures of economy which we all support as measures of economy, but, after all, there is such a thing as honesty as well as economy. Although we all desire to be economical in our own accounts we are obliged to be honest, whether we 1966 like it or not, and if not we suffer for it by being penalised. I should not like to move a reduction of the Vote. I should feel doing that after serving at the Admiralty so long; but this matter has created a bad impression in the district of Harwich, and the name of the Admiralty is not in the repute it was. There is a very strong feeling, and comments have appeared in the local Press—a very strong feeling that the high dues of vessels which use the harbour of Harwich have been increased, as everybody complains, in order to find the money to pay for raising this Admiralty vessel. This matter almost amounts to a breach of faith on the part of the Admiralty. Here is a letter sent by the Minister of Labour, who was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. In that letter he says:I should be prepared to consider favourably the question whether we could assist the harbour hoard in their present difficulty with regard to the wreck on the understanding that any assistance we gave would be entirely ex gratia and not as a matter of legal obligation.Of course, it would have to be an ex gratia payment under the prerogative. We know the formula; it always is that. No Government Department is ever allowed to admit a claim. All it can say is: we cannot admit the claim, but if you make your case good we will give you an ear gratia payment. That means really in principle the same thing. There are the words which I have read, which amount to an undertaking, and that is followed up by a consideration of tenders. I have copies of the letters that the Admiralty wrote, and in which they say:With reference to your letter of 14th September forwarding tenders received for the salvage of the wreck of His Majesty's Ship 'Marsa', I am commanded by the Lords Commissioners to inform you that nothing is known at the Admiralty of the firm mentioned, and it is noted that the tender is not backed up by a banker's reference. The Admiralty would suggest if time permits that tenders should at once he invited from reputable firms.…Here follow the names of six salvage firms whom the Admiralty think might be employed—In view of the lateness of the season, it would seem desirable that tenders should be hastened. The Admiralty advise the board to accept a tender.The board accepted that tender, got to work, carried it out, and wrote to the Admiralty for the grant which they practically promised. On 15th March they 1967 replied, and in that reply said that not one penny could they give at all. I will not repeat the case, but I do put it to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty that he will, either on his own account or in negotiation with the Treasury, secure fair and honest treatment for this harbour board, and will observe the principle which I think is really of very great importance—a principle of great importance to subjects of the Crown—that Government Departments should not take advantage of the prerogative to withhold the actual rights of the subject, whether the Government Department has taken money from the subject or services. Although the subject can make no claim, yet on ex gratia grounds the principle I have mentioned should be observed. The prerogative can still be maintained. It is asked that a fair and reasonable payment should be made. This, as I say, is a principle of very great importance. It has been flagrantly departed from as here. Therefore, on the ground of the case itself, and the principle involved, I hope the harbour board will get a favourable reply from my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
Very briefly, I should like to intervene in this Debate. Let me first, however, refer to the very wise words uttered by my right hon. Friend who has just resumed his seat. I cannot express any opinion on the subject he has mentioned, except to say it is very bad policy on the part of the Admiralty or any other Government Department not to deal with the subject as would any other subject. They should suspend, one would think, the prerogative of the Crown. However, I cannot say anything particular about that. I should like rather to enforce the argument that fell from my hon. Friend who opened this Debate. We are spending an enormous amount of money on the Air Force and the Admiralty. I do not think the House really realises how much it is. The Navy is costing £70,000,000 this year, and the Air Force £15,000,000. What I want to ask, very briefly, but very emphatically, from the representative of the Admiralty is: Is the Admiralty to-day satisfied with the present position? If not, there must be a tremendous waste of money. I do not want to put it on the taxpayer to-day to find that enormous sum when between the 1968 experts of the Air Department and the Admiralty apparently we are not getting value for our money.
If we are not getting value for our money, that is the fault of the Government. It is the fault of someone. It is between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry? If they quarrel, who is to decide? They are quarrelling to-day. No one can doubt that. What remedy has the House of Commons for this extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs? We are told that there may be some reference to the Committee of Imperial Defence, and that they can report. Is the taxpayer's money going to be properly spent on the defence of the country, not in squabbles between Departments I The enormous naval expenditure to-day may be rendered quite useless by the lack of aircraft. There is no doubt whatsoever that aircraft to-day are as essential for naval purposes as are guns, or engines, or anything else. The Navy without eyes is absolutely useless. Do let us have some considered policy from the Government. We have a right to ask them, as representing the taxpayer, who is paying a very large sum of money--infinitely more than before the War:—yet we have not got value. I must here make complaint of the Admiralty, because, in my judgment, the heart of this Empire is Great Britain, and the first duty of these defensive forces, whether Army, Navy, or Air Force, is to defend this country. Can the Admiralty say—I do not anticipate that there will be any attack upon us immediately—can the Admiralty say that from the defensive point of view that the money of the taxpayer is being spent to the best advantage? They are going to spend, as I understand it, on the statement of the First Lord. £13,000.000 on two new battleships. Personally, I do not pretend to express an opinion as to the value of the capital ship. Surely it is useless, wasteful and extravagant to spend money on capital ships unless you have sufficient aircraft to protect them. I should like to ask whether some of this money would not be better spent upon aircraft, and that is the point upon which we want an answer from the Admiralty. We want to have the question settled as to whether this £16,000,000 should be spent before the Navy has secured a sufficient air force.
One thing everyone will take to heart is that if Departments are squabbling 1969 there is certain to be extravagance. If Departments are self-contained, and spending money one against the other, you are bound to get inefficiency and a large expenditure without value being given. I could not help being struck by the remark that there was actually a torpedo school being established for the Air Force in contiguity to the Naval School at Portsmouth. These torpedoes are not to attack aircraft but ships. If that be so, surely there should be the closest co-operation between the Navy and the Air Force, but apparently each Department is to have its torpedo establishment. We know that these different establishments mean more bricks and mortar and more men to look after them. Why cannot the two Forces have one torpedo establishment? I think this fact alone shows that there is a great waste of money.
Do let some Commission or some body of laymen come in and adjudicate between these warring Departments. We are told that they are experts, but my experience when at the Admiralty is that experts differ. Air and Admiralty experts differ, and the commonsense layman has got to come in somehow. Do let us get some body which is superior to both the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, and let that body decide which is right. Really, it is not fair to the taxpayer that there should be this squabbling between Departments, resulting in inefficiency as well as extravagance. To-day we are paying large sums of money for defences which we have not got.
I do not think the country is very much alarmed about this matter, or there would he a larger attendance during the discussion of the Navy Estimates. I maintain that it is our duty to see that the taxpayer's money is used to the best advantage. I do not want to make any charges or to criticise or appear to be nagging, but I ask the representative of the Admiralty to give us a clear statement on this subject. Is the Admiralty satisfied with the present position as regards aircraft? With regard to this discussion, although we have two very able representatives of the Admiralty present, we have not got the Air Minister here. I know that we were told at Question Time that the Admiralty and the Air Force were operating with the closest possible co-operation like brothers, but it struck me that the brothers were mere like Cain and 1970 Abel than two very loving and embracing brothers. I would like an answer to my question as to whether the Admiralty is satisfied with the present air position, and, if not, what steps are proposed to remedy it?
Vice-Admiral Sir REGINALD HALL
The hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon), who spoke from the Benches below me, has stated that the complaint of the Navy was they had not sufficient material for the Air Service and the Navy, but I venture to say, speaking for the Navy, that is not the gravamen of the Navy's complaint, which is that they have not the control and the training of the personnel. It is not a question of materiel, the Navy rightly claims that everybody serving on board ship must be of the Navy and in the Navy. It therefore follows that to all officers and men so serving there must be give a certain amount of naval training, and therefore they must be available for all naval duties.
We have to-day in the Navy a most anomalous position, one which Drake would not tolerate for one minute, because he laid down that he would have a gentleman to haul and work with the sailors. We now have four or five aircraft carriers in the Navy. These carriers provide means of transport for aircraft and the personnel for manning them and keeping them in repair, but these officers and men are not part of the Navy. They live on board the ships and are used only for flying.
Where you have day and night work going on in the Navy, every man has to pull his pound, but in those aircraft carriers you have certain men who only do flying, and they take no part in the duties appertaining to the routine work of a ship. In my opinion, that can only cause friction amongst the personnel. There is nobody more anxious for the development of the Air Force than the average naval officer, because they fully understand and realise its possibilities, but if you are going to develop a new arm like the Air Force and associate it with an established force like the Navy, you can only develop it to its full extent by securing the full co-operation of the rank and file and their enthusiasm. By that means you will get everybody working towards one end. The pity of it is that we have not got that co-operation to-day. I admit 1971 that at one period we had it in the Navy, but it has now been taken away. The Navy had its own Air Force during the War, and I think I am right in saying that the Director of the Air Service had the loyal co-operation of naval officers in endeavouring to make it efficient.
What I want to see is some arrangement come to whereby this quarrel between Departments shall cease. Here we have a great service like the Navy threatened by an attack from the Air Force, and they are not allowed to organise their own defence against it, in fact they have to depend upon an outside force for their defence. That is a point which ought to be considered by the members of this Committee. It is not quite right that the Navy, which may be attacked from the air, should not have the power to defend itself, and it should not be absolutely dependent upon an outside force for defence against an air attack. If we can get some arrangement whereby the Navy can secure the cooperation of the rank and file of the Navy to develop air power at sea, I think we shall have reached the nearest approach to idealism we can get.
I think also this is necessary from a purely economical point of view. To-day we are closing down training establishments and discharging large numbers of young officers and trained men, some of them under the age of 25. I would like to know if the Royal Air Force is prepared to take those men in, or are they going to train other men instead of training the young men who have been discharged from the Navy who are fully qualified with sea experience. If so, this policy does not seem quite right from the taxpayers' point of view. We were told that some 18 months ago the Air Force asked for 400 officers to train. I would like to go further and say that so highly do I value the service in the air and its possibilities that I ask whether we could not make it part of the training in the Navy that every sub-lieutenant should be trained in the Air Service. In this way we should get officers and men trained to the Air Service, and then we should get commanding officers who would understand the Service. To-day the Navy is cut off from all that, and there is no officer in the Navy who can go into the Air Force and come back, for not a single officer 1972 or man has a possible chance of doing this. I venture to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty when he states his case—and I do not suggest for one moment he should make a promise to-day—to give favourable consideration to my suggestion bearing in mind the fact that the Navy desires the highest development of the Air Force and that the only way to secure it is to fire the enthusiasm and to educate the rank and file.
§ Rear-Admiral ADAIR
The right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) made a very encouraging remark in the course of his speech. He said he trusted the naval officer. I entirely agree with him, and I would add that, if the House will do the same, I am sure the Naval Air Force will be as efficient as possible. It was in connection with battleships the right hon. Gentleman made that remark. The Naval Lords of the Admiralty consider two battleships essential. That is quite sufficient for me. I do not wish to enter into any argument about it. If they say they are essential I am quite sure they are. Some 18 months ago I suggested that we should defer building battleships for at least a year on account of the iniquity of spending vast sums of money on armaments generally, and because I considered that were safe for some years, but as soon as the Naval Lords expressed the opinion that that was not the case, I waived my view. Only six months after that, the Washington Conference brought about what I had been advocating, namely, a great reduction in naval armaments. So far as building battleships is concerned, the Board of Admiralty are unhampered. They have to consider no other Department, and we can safely trust any conclusion they come to and any action they take in consequence. But when it comes to the Air Force they are hampered by the fact that there is an Air Minister. For three years I have been advocating with every argument used to-day that the Navy should have its own separate Air Force, that it should be part and parcel of it, that its officers and personnel generally should be comprised of naval men, primarily seamen, and that their air duties should be secondary to their seamen's duties. These are the lines I would like to take, and had they been followed I am sure the progress of aircraft in connection with maritime war- 1973 fare would have been further advanced than it is to-day.
We are too apt to be misled by experiments taking place round our shores or what is done in the North Sea. We are told in the papers of several hits being made on the Fleet off Portland by an air force based, I presume, on Portsmouth. It is perfectly right that a force based on the shore, a territorial force for the defence of our territories, should be Air Force people, and the right people to handle it is an Air Ministry. But it is different when it comes to a purely naval function, such as spotting for heavy gun firing, which is essential to the control of gunfire now that the ranges are over 10 miles, and when we are dealing with naval reconnaissance, speedy reconnaissance, which is so necessary in these days, because if an admiral is not acquainted speedily with the movements of the fleet he is approaching, he may miss it, as we very nearly did in the Jutland case, where our admiral was ill-informed of the whereabouts of the enemy fleet; remembering too the fighting aircraft or craft carrying bombs and torpedoes which may be attached to a fleet carried in carrier ships the control of which must be in the hands of the admiral, and which should be handled by naval people who understand what they have to do, who can recognise their enemy and so on. In all these cases, I say, this naval air force should be entirely under the orders and administration of the Admiralty. They should have nothing to do with the Air Force; just as the ships which carry aeroplanes are manned by naval officers and men who are part and parcel of the Navy so should be the aircraft and personnel carried in them be part and parcel of it too.
It is a ridiculous system to have branches of two different services on board a ship used by the Navy for purely maritime warfare. I have said we are misled by the experiments which take place round our coast and that is most dangerous, because such experiments within a radius of a hundred miles around the coast are so misleading. I would ask the Committee to look at the map of the Pacific Ocean. If we were at war in the Pacific the probability is that we should be working our capital ships, supposing they were out there, from a base some- 1974 where in the neighbourhood of Admiralty Island, north-east of New Guinea, 2,000 miles from Sydney, 2,100 miles from Yokohama, 3,000 miles from Singapore and 3,000 miles from Honolulu—right in the middle of the trade routes. Think of these distances. Of course there is no aircraft that could cover them on their own, although I hope there will be some day. They will till then have to be conveyed in carriers which are part of the Admiral's Fleet, and anyone in them should be immediately under the Admiral's control and not under the control of any other Department. I hope in the future there may be aircraft which will be independent of carriers—almost destroyers which can, if they wish, take to the air. This will come; we are on the way to it. There is already a craft in Southampton Water far in advance of anything else, and surely if such craft come, vessels which can be kept and are intended to be kept on sea except on exceptional occasions when they can take to the air—these must necessarily be part of the Navy and must be manned by naval men, primarily seamen. That will come. But leading up to the development of that aircraft I feel sure about this, that if the Admiralty do not take the matter in hand and endeavour to assist invention and progress in such directions as I have pointed out we shall never advance. It is the duty of the Admiralty, and I venture to assert that they have not done their duty in the last three years.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The discussion for the last half hour has been purely naval and highly technical, and I hope the Committee will excuse me if I follow one or two of the speeches made. It is most regrettable at this Debate, which has been so valuable, the Air Minister has not been present. I think the least he could have done would have been to be in his place. I do not suggest that the discourtesy is wilful. Perhaps there is good reason why the right hon. Gentleman is not here, but I think some effort should have been made to secure his presence. The most enlightening speech made has been that of the hon. and gallant Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool (Sir R. Hall). I am sorry he has left his seat. Apparently his charge against the Air Ministry is that when the officers attached 1975 to the naval wing of the Air Service are sent to sea to fly aeroplanes used by the Fleet, when they are on board ship, they are not available for watch keeping, they wear a different uniform, and are under their own discipline. If the idea of the Admiralty, as represented by the late Director of Naval Intelligence is this, if he wants to get control of officers trained in naval flying in order to make them naval officers first and secondly air officers, if their air duties are to be secondary to their naval duties, then heaven help the Air Service and heaven help the Navy. If that is the attitude of hon. and gallant Members I do not wonder that the Air Minister is keeping a tight hold of his own naval air wing and is resisting the attempt to reabsorb it in the Navy.
I am sure I shall be acquitted of any desire to rob the Navy of what it needs. I think what my Noble Friend the Member for Battersea (Viscount Curzon) said of the neglect of the naval wing of the Air Service is very largely justified. I think the figures given already both by the Admiralty and the Air Minister are most alarming. The trouble is of course that we have not the money to go in for a big shipbuilding programme and also to have a good Air Force. If we could go in for building ships of the hyper-super Dreadnought class against the United States, and at the same time find money for an Air Service able to meet the 200 air squadrons our French Allies could put into the air within a few hours of a declaration of war; if we could control the Middle East with their aid, if we could supply army craft for the Army and aircraft for our outlying stations, some of which are useless under the totally changed strategic conditions, if we could afford to do all these things, we could sleep comfortably in our beds, we could wave the Union Jack, we could sing patriotic songs and we could throw out our chests with other people in the world. But unfortunately we cannot afford these things and we must address ourselves to the best expenditure with the limited amount of money we can afford. That being so, I do not consider that a case has been made out for building the two capital ships of under 35,000 tons which the Admiralty have already commenced. I should like to repeat the statement I have before made as to the history of 1976 capital ship building since the Armistice. At that time the Admiralty were building four Hoods: the "Hood," the "Rodney," the "Howe," and the "Anson," They continued building those ships for some time. I have been unable to find out for how long. Apparently, they went on for some little time, and then stopped building three of them. They completed the "Hood," but they stopped building on the "Rodney," the "Howe," and the "Anson," and the contractors who were building these three ships claimed £860,000 odd for compensation for work put in. I understand that the engines of these three great battle-cruisers were taken to pieces again and the parts used where they could be used and the metal for the hulls was sold. What happened to the guns I do not know, but I suppose they are available for other ships, and are, therefore, not entirely wasted.
At any rate, we altered our policy; we only continued the "Hood," and these three capital ships were scrapped. The work was stopped, and what had been put in was wasted. The next thing was that, after various Committees had sat— and, in particular, the Committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law), which dealt with the whole question of capital ships, aircraft, submarines and so on, and the finding of which was kept secret—the Admiralty announced, through the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that we were going to build four great capital ships in the year 1921, and that they were to be followed by another four capital ships. I do not know whether those ships were to be Dreadnoughts or battle cruisers, but I rather think I am right in saying that the first four were to be battle cruisers and the next four battleships.
Then the Washington Conference came, and building on these four new ships has, I suppose, been stopped. I do not know-how much money has been spent on them, but presumably some has been spent. I think the contracts for two of them were given up, but the whole of our information regarding them is rather vague, and it is rather difficult to get exact details. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary, if he has time when he comes to reply, will give us some information as to how much money was actually spent on these four 1977 new capital ships, which were announced by the Colonial Secretary in a very truculent speech last year., It was so truculent that I wonder it did not destroy the hopes of success at the Washington Conference. The right hon. Gentleman's speeches usually destroy the hopes of some movement, but at any rate, the. Washington Conference succeeded in spite of it. The four new ships were not proceeded with further. Now, as the result of the Washington Conference, we are laying down two new ships, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, speaking in another place a few days ago, said we were going to exercise great economy by building these two new ships, because when we had done so we were going to scrap four ships, and that was going to represent the saving of money.
That, very briefly, is the position of the Admiralty's policy with regard to capital ships. They are going to build two ships of under 35,000 tons, and that is the result of the Washington Conference, because we only have one ship that is called post-Dreadnought, namely, the "Hood," and I think that that is only claimed as partially post-Dreadnought. I do not at the moment remember the figures for Japan and the United States, but I think that the United States has two and Japan three. Anyhow, the position is that the whole of our Navy that won the Great War at sea is ignored. The idea that is carefully put about is that all ships built before Jutland are useless for their purpose, and we start on this great building programme once move. It is a great building programme, because, although it does not sound very much to talk about two ships, yet, on the admission of the First Lord in another place the other day, the expenditure will come to £16,000,000. His exact words, I think, were, "Between £13,500,000 and £16,000,000," including the armament and all the accessories that these ships will require afloat and ashore. Only quite recently the Government introduced an extraordinary Bill for saving money. They were going to abolish the inspection of seamen's food, they were going to charge for admission to the British Museum, they were going to charge shipowners for every inspection made by Board of Trade officials and they were going to do a number of other mean things of that sort to scrape together a few thousand pounds. I will not go into their other meannesses, such 1978 as supplying only half-a-crown a house for clearing away slum houses in our great cities—
§ The CHAIRMAN
That would be in order on the Economy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, but it is not in order here.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I said that I was not going into it, and I only mentioned it to indicate the financial state of the country, as expounded by the Government, when it comes to constructive expenditure—expenditure for social improvement and the like. The Admiralty, however, apparently embark quite lightheartedly on an expenditure on capital ships which will amount to £16,000,000—more than we spend on our whole Air Service, and wiping out any economies we can make, as far as I can gather, by these scrapings and savings and petty injustices. Now they are going to carry out further experiments with various means of attack against capital ships, on one of the ships that we are scrapping, namely, the "Superb," a monitor, and, I believe, on other vessels. What is the danger to this country, really, in case of war? It is a two-fold danger. It is, firstly, mass attack from the air by scores of aeroplanes flying by night at the very outbreak of war, and scattering poisons and disease germs in our cities. Secondly, it is the cutting off of our food supplies by commerce raiders, whether surface ships or submarines. To what purpose can these two new capital ships, at a cost of £16,000,000, be put that will ward off those two dangers, or prevent them by timely counter-attack? They will not stop the aeroplanes flying across the Channel or across the North Sea to scatter death and disease on our cities. It will not be possible to use them as commerce protectors on the great ocean routes over which our food and raw materials and trade pass. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Shettleston (Rear-Admiral Adair) mentioned Admiralty Island, which was going to be the centre of our commerce protection in the Pacific. Is it fitted for the reception of capital ships at the present moment? Are there docks that can take these new ships? Are there breakwaters to protect their harbours? Are there aerodromes that can house aircraft and beat off hostile air attacks?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
No, there were not at Scapa, and, if the Germans had known that, and had been a little more bold, they would have wiped out the British fleet in the first days of the War. The Germans were prepared for every possible movement that our Fleet could make, and they sat down waiting for us to make the next move; but we had prepared nothing at all, and so did not make any movement, and during those few weeks we had time to sink merchant ships and put down nets and mines and so on at Scapa. Surely we have learnt our lesson. My hon. and gallant Friend knows that Admiralty Island is not fitted to take in and succour these capital ships, and we cannot afford the money and will not spend it to make it a fit place for that purpose.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
My hon. and gallant Friend dealt with that 18 months ago. He is far-sighted in every speech that he makes in this Chamber, and I only wish the Admiralty would listen to him. I dealt with the same question and asked what preparations were being made at Singapore two and a half years ago, and also again two years ago and last year, and still I should like to ask, although it was not my purpose in rising, whether Singapore is being prepared as a base for big ships? The fact of the matter is that the Navy is lamentably short of aircraft, of trained air personnel, and even of an air practice— of an air doctrine and its practical exercise with the Fleet. Continual practice and continual expenditure will be necessary to perfect mass attack and defence from the air, but we have not the money to spend on it, and I am sorry to see, from what information I get, that the Fleet is not getting sufficient sea training at the present moment.
It is lamentable that at the present moment, with a Navy which is already costing us £64,000,000, we should be spending what will amount eventually to £16,000,000 on these two capital ships, when, as I maintain, the need for an improved Naval Air Service is very much greater than the need for more great super-Dreadnoughts, the utility of which, to my mind at any rate—and I believe that many naval officers of the highest attainments and experience share 1980 the same view—is very doubtful, indeed, in a great Pacific War. There is a use for the cruiser, and even for the battle cruiser, but I believe, myself, that in future, war will be fought chiefly by submarines and light cruisers, and, possibly, later on, by the sort of aircraft which the hon. and gallant Member for Shettleston described, that can go to sea for days. Where the capital ships that are, apparently, to be immune from under-water and above- water attack will be, and how they will be used, is extremely doubtful. In these circumstances I feel that we are simply building these two new super-Dreadnoughts for traditional reasons and not for sound strategical reasons; and, because we are spending that money, we are neglecting the much more vital Naval Air Service. I appeal, therefore, to the Committee to look upon this matter with great gravity, and, if we do not get some satisfactory assurance, to join us in the Division Lobby.
We have listened to a very interesting dissertation from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy). It was one of his characteristic speeches, full of positive assertion, showing a very considerable knowledge of naval affairs, and also that innate retiring modesty, which he never fails to show in any speech he delivers in this Chamber. I am reminded that he did not mention Rosyth, and it was about the only thing he did not mention. He covered all the seas of the world; he referred not only to strategy, but also to general policy, and, as he proceeded with his speech, the old couplet came to my mind:The people wondered and still the wonder grew.How one small head could carry all he knew.I think that that old couplet is very applicable to my hon. and gallant Friend at the present time. I myself do not feel qualified to enter upon that technical field which has been so well covered by the two Admirals who have spoken. It is not for me to refer to technique or to strategy in the Navy, but I think that even a layman like myself may be allowed one word when we hear so much in these days as to the relations which exist, or are alleged to exist, between the Ad- 1981 miralty and the Air Force. It seems to me that, if our defence is to have any cohesion and to have any real effect, there must be no division, no jealousy, but the most active co-operation, between these two great forces upon which we depend so much for the safety of the country.
I do not apologise for bringing this discussion back to some matters of local rather than general interest. In various Debates which have taken place in this Chamber I have referred to the Admiralty policy in connection with Rosyth, and I wish to say just a. word or two on that question this evening. I am aware of the important influence on world policy exercised by the Washington Conference, and I, for one, welcome the decisions of that Conference, but I still think that the application of the policy in this country was somewhat unfair and invidious and bore very hardly upon Rosyth, which, according to common agreement and knowledge, is one of the most modern dockyards in the country. However, that policy has been decided upon. Arising out of its application certain obligations rest on the Admiralty to which I should like to direct the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary. The first obligation is to give us a clear statement as to the future policy regarding Rosyth. We have suffered all along from a vacillating policy on the part of the Admiralty Suggestions have been made from time to time, whether on extensions at Rosyth or on the provision of housing, and a certain policy has been announced. There seems, however, to be a continual quarrel between the Admiralty and the Treasury on all these matters. It is the intense desire of the local municipal authority there that we should now have a clear statement as to the future policy in regard to Rosyth. The policy has been changed from time to time, and I trust that my right hon. Friend, who has this question very much at heart, will give us some statement which will satisfy the local feeling.
Arising out of the discharges of Rosyth, there is another obligation which rests on my right hon. Friend. That is to mitigate, so far as may be, the severity attaching to the dismissals which have taken place. Some piteous cases have been brought before me, and although hardship in matters of this kind is un- 1982 avoidable, they ought to be dealt with by the Admiralty as sympathetically as possible. I wish to acknowledge, quite frankly, that the right hon. Gentleman has treated the various cases which I have brought before him with a courtesy and sympathy which have been very much appreciated. If he can only realise the hardship and suffering which has taken place as a result of the reductions at Rosyth, he will continue to extend to those cases of hardship that consideration to which they are entitled. Another obligation rests on his Department, and that is to see that the dockyard and all its appointments are kept in an efficient state of repair with a view to future commercial development. We have great hopes in Scotland of future commercial developments at Rosyth, but their realisation will very largely depend on the policy which the Admiralty intends to follow. I feel sure I do not require to do more than refer to this question in a single word, and to express the hope that the future commercial development of Rosyth will not be overlooked by the Admiralty.
My right hon. Friend is aware that when the Rosyth dockyard area was taken over by the Dunfermline Corporation very great expenses were incurred in providing the necessary public services. The Corporation accepted these responsibilities at the urgent request of the Admiralty and other Government Departments, and, although they may have no claim, legally, to reimbursement there is certainly a claim in equity. What happened? They provided all the public services necessary for what was expected to be a great dockyard development. They spent enormous sums of money and now, owing to the Washington Conference—with which we all agree—the policy of development at Rosyth has been reversed. My right hon. Friend is aware that on this subject I introduced a deputation to him at the Admiralty some little time ago, and he promised consideration to the claims of the Dunfermline Municipal Authority. Last year the Corporation there lost about £10,000 in revenue alone through the financial responsibility they had taken over. It is time that this subject were dealt with in a frank and liberal way by the Admiralty. We can only claim that, at a time of grave national crisis, we took over great financial responsibilities, and we do not consider, having as a small community 1983 become responsible in this way for what was a great national requirement, that the loss incumbent upon the reversal of that policy should fall upon this community. I hope my right hon. Friend will give that matter serious consideration, and not let us have only his sympathy. As a matter of fact, what we want is his money.
There is one other matter about which I wish to say a word. In this Vote the Accountant-General's Department is mentioned. The Accountant-General, I understand, deals with the question of gratuities. There are very great complaints in the dockyard at the present time regarding the delay in paying gratuities. I do not know how far the restricted and reduced staff is responsible for that delay. If it is due to the Admiralty being understaffed in that Department, that is no consolation to the poor fellows who have been denied these gratuities for such a long time. I had a case this morning where a man had been waiting something like six months for a gratuity of £100. Delays of that kind should not occur. I hope to hear later from my right hon. Friend that he is prepared to give consideration to the various matters I have brought forward.
§ Mr. ROSE
The only thing I have to say about the Air Service in connection with the Navy is that I hope that whatever the proper authorities are doing in this matter they are keeping their plans private and are not satisfying what seems to me to be personal inquisitive-ness. If the Admiralty Authorities were to tell us everything they were doing in the way of developing an Air Force in the Navy it is altogether probable that the proposals would end in smoke. I am not speaking as a naval or military man, but I have always been under the impression, if you are going to do something, either for defence or offence against your enemies, you do not tell all the world about it. I sincerely hope that the Admiralty, or whichever authority has this matter in hand, is doing something. Whether it is or not, I hope it is not going to make public property of its proceedings. I rise tonight particularly for the purpose of directing attention to something which, on two previous occasions, I have brought before the Committee. I hope 1984 this is not going to degenerate into a sort of hardy annual, and it is because I fear that the complaints I have to make may be of a more of less stereotyped character that I am going to pass by, with just a reference, much that I have said on a previous occasion.
I want again to call the attention of the Committee and of the Admiralty to the whole dockyard system of our country. I am not trying to differentiate between Rosyth, Devonport, or Pembroke, or any other yard; it is the whole system of dockyard administration that I want to attack now and that I have tried to attack before. In the first place, I want to give the Committee a few figures to indicate exactly what the position is, and how-hopeless it is under the present system of administration in our Royal Dockyards to compete with what is known as private enterprise outside. The total number of workmen employed in our dockyards at home and abroad is roughly 46,000. The salaried staff, which includes police at the bottom and some very useless admirals at the top, is 4,035. That means that for every 11 producing workmen there is one non-producing official. That is an utterly abnormal percentage. I do not care what practical engineer or shipbuilder you may take, if you were to ask him whether he would consider that one non-producing official to every 11 men he employs on productive purposes is anything like fair or reasonable, I am perfectly certain he would answer you in the negative, and very emphatically. The cost of these salaries is £1,083,828, and the cost of all the productive labour is £6,760,000, so that just about 17 per cent. of all that is spent on the personnel of the dockyards is absorbed in the salaries of non-producers.
While this system prevails, we are being told on all hands that the Government dockyards cannot compete in shipbuilding. Last year some experts—I presume they were experts of a sort—came before the Geddes Committee and stated that the percentage of the cost of material was as £1 to every £3 of labour expenditure in the Government factories. The proper percentage in competitive shops or yards should be just about half the amount of labour for the same quantity of material, that is, 30s. for the material to every £1 of the labour. There was some agitation, owing to a sudden slump last year or the year before last, 1985 and the Colvin Report, which was issued, recommended the propriety, or at least the possibility, of building merchant vessels on contract. One of the deterrents was that the men refused to work piecework. Now, that difficulty has been got over. This is a result of the acceptance by the men in the dockyards of what is known as the squad piecework system. A vessel called the "Hassa," an oiler, has just been completed at Devonport for the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company. The labour costs to date were £106,766 and the material costs were £106,000, so that labour and material worked out to the very extraordinary proportion of £ to £. The commander of the Anglo-Saxon fleet says she is the finest oiler in the Kingdom. In the face of evidence of this kind it seems to me—and I speak partly for my party, but much more for myself—that all that the Government yards can do in the matter of hull building is to assemble the parts which are sent in by the manufacturers. I have a suggestion to make, if it is not too late to make it—and it ought not to be too late. I do not believe in building capital ships. I am with those who believe they are useless. I am with those who believe that spending money upon them is waste. You have decided, whether in obedience to the dictates of the armament ring I do not know. You have not decided according to the dictates of the nation's necessity, but I presume the Admiralty has had to build these ships because they were told they had to. We do not want that these two ships shall be built at Devonport and Portsmouth respectively, because they are the only two yards which can take them, but I am going to ask the Secretary for the Admiralty pointedly if he will let the dockyard authorities in those two places tender in competition, because they have not been allowed to do it yet.
May I say a word on general policy. I am not in the least ashamed, nor do I hesitate for a moment to declare the policy that I and all my colleagues believe in. We believe that no armament work of any sort or kind should be made by this or any other nation except under the auspices of the State. I believe that is the policy of what is known as the League of Nations. Certainly it is the policy of the League of Nations' Union. But this is what I want to put as pointedly as I can. Supposing both these ships were 1986 placed in Government establishments, what would that take away from the people outside? I am in a position to say that the hulls of these vessels can be constructed, that is to say, the portions can be assembled, for something under £15 a ton and that the authorities of both those dockyards are ready and willing to undertake that work. £15 a ton amounts to. just 10 per cent. of the whole of the work which will be necessary. All the guns: will be made elsewhere and all the armourplate and all the material will have to be supplied and the work will be only 10 per cent. of the whole because that is the only portion of the work which can be done in Government dockyards.
Another objection has been raised to. placing these boats under construction in dockyards. It is said the slipways will not take them. When the four ships which are abandoned now, owing to the Washington Conference, were under discussion, the estimate for the cost of altering the slips of these two dockyards was about £900,000 —an estimate made at a time when wages were very high and material prices were very much higher than they are to-day. There was an alteration in the design and the two ships which are to be built now would require a very small extension of the dockyard. There is a ship being built called "The Eagle"—a mother-ship for aeroplanes. She has a 92 ft. beam, and they are putting 5 ft. blisters on each side of her, and these two new ships are only to be 105 ft. beam, and any slight difference which would be needed to give more room in the dock could easily be effected by raising the keel blocks. The lengthening is not a great deal. Some day you will have to adapt them unless you are going to scrap your dockyards altogether. You can make the alteration now for £450,000. More than that, I am in a position to say that the authorities in one of these dockyards are ready and willing to make that provision for alteration of the dock in order to take this ship and include it in the price. It is idle to say these vessels cannot be built there. It is idle to-say it is going to impose any hardship or wrong upon private enterprise in any other part of the country. It is a reasonable thing to ask. It seems to me there is no need to hesitate for a moment in respect of this. Let it be clearly understood that if these two ships are placed in Government dockyards it does not mean that any more than 10 per cent. of 1987 the work is done there, because no more than 10 per cent. can be done there.
There are other phases of this question. There is the phase which was dealt with in the Colwyn Report. The population is dependent upon dockyard activity and dependent upon the Government for its life. They have expanded in the confident belief that they were always to have at least a sufficient share to keep them reasonably going. You are cutting that off. You are leaving the local authorities in all these cases in a perfectly pitiable position. You had to climb down from the project of shutting up or selling Pembroke. The story of Rosyth is bad enough, Heaven knows. Whether this or some other Government faces it, it will have to be faced. Is all the money and all the human interests that are involved in the Government factories, dockyards and arsenals—is all the interest that is bound up in this sort of thing to be flung away, and is private enterprise to choke every prospect of any kind of betterment in this direction? I say fearlessly that the Government dockyards, instead of being starved, should be expanded in every possible way. I wish more of my Labour friends were here, because it is necessary that they should re-echo what I am going to say now. There is an idea abroad, which I frankly admit has been more or less justified, that in Government dockyards the men do not work their best, but there is now a tendency for the men to accept payment by results, with the consequences I have tried to indicate. But besides saying to the Admiralty and the Government authorities, "You must do this thing in the interest of the nation," we have also to say to the workmen, to whom perhaps we are much more responsible, that they must, as a first principle, be ready and willing to do as much for the State, of which they are citizens, as for any private employer in any private yard, and until they agree to do that sort of thing, the Admiralty, or any other authority, is quite right in withholding work from them, as they have done. But not in this case. This is a case in which the men have already shown that they are ready and willing to make the best of things. Therefore, it is essential, on grounds of mere propriety, that they shall be allowed to tender. If competition is 1988 a good thing, let them stand in with it. If private enterprise is private enterprise at all, let there be enterprise about it; but it seems to me that the real type of your modern enterpriser is the unhappy Captain Peel, who backed horses after they had won. Most of them have very little enterprise as far as I can judge. When they come up against a snag, they come here snivelling for subsidies, or asking to be exempt from some obligation they ought not to resent bearing. As far as I can judge, the modern private enterpriser has no enterprise at all. He is a misnomer.
Are our own people, for whom we are responsible, to be allowed to enter into this competition? Are they to be allowed to say at what price they will assemble these elements? If that request is fairly and honestly considered, I will answer for at least most of the skilled men in the dockyards, that they will justify any confidence you like to repose in them. I ask the Committee to refuse to believe all this rubbish in the Geddes Report about the high cost of work there. It has never been anything like that. It is a preposterous figure, and even under all the great difficulties, which I recognise as clearly as anyone else, the figure was never anything like that. Under conditions which are daily and hourly altering for the better, I am certain the men in our Government establishments—not only the dockyards, but all our Government factories—are quite ready and willing to compete successfully with anyone else. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some indication that this very modest and very moderate claim for consideration on the part of Government workers will be viewed sympathetically by himself and his Department.
§ Mr. AMERY
This Vote is one which justifies a very wide discussion, and hon. Members certainly have availed themselves of their rights in that respect. I hope the Committee will forgive me if, in the first instance, I deal with the immediate subject matter of this Vote, namely the cost of the Admiralty Office, which was raised by the hon. Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins) in introducing his Amendment for the reduction of the Vote. The hon. Member referred to page 155 of the Navy Estimates, and came to the conclusion that, after deducting War bonus, the total reduction in the 1989 Admiralty Vote was only £2,000. Unfortunately, the hon. Member, by a slip which may happen to any of us, took the wrong page, the page which summarises Sub-head "A." If he had looked at page 154, which gives the total Admiralty Vote, he would have seen that the decrease in the whole Vote, including War bonus, was £332,000, and that after deducting War. bonus the decrease is £164,000—a very substantial reduction in the total strength of the Admiralty Headquarters.
§ Mr. AMERY
I may have added it up wrongly. The hon. Member for Greenock made it a matter of protest that the Admiralty Vote should have been so much higher, after making allowance for war bonus and for increase of salaries and costs, than the Vote before the War. This is a matter that has been raised so often, both in the Press and in questions in this House, that I think it is only fair that I should deal with it with some measure of fulness. Several questions were raised by hon. Members, including the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), which were based on certain statements on the Admiralty figures which appeared in the Press. There was a letter from a certain Admiralty contractor, which pointed out that the numbers in the Admiralty, according to the Navy List, had increased from 1,489 to 3,900, an increase of 170 per cent. Whoever compiled those figures assumed, in perfect good faith, that the Navy List is a statistical record of the total number employed at headquarters at the Admiralty. It is nothing of the sort. It is a list compiled for the convenience of the Service, and before the War a great many people were not put in the list, both at headquarters and at the out-stations of the Admiralty, who are included to-day. The result is that these figures are very far from corresponding. The real increase—a substantial increase, I readily admit—between the figures of 1914 and the figures of last April, when the statistics were produced, is as between 1,734 and 3,493. The hon. Member for Central Hull pointed out the other day, in a supplementary question, that the Naval Constructor's Branch had increased by 400 per cent. That figure was taken from the figures adduced in the Press. It is perfectly true that those are 1990 the figures as they appear in the Navy List, of the names in the Navy List. What is the truth? In 1914 neither the draftsmen nor the modellers at the Admiralty, nor the experimental workers, nor the whole of the overseeing staff were included in the Navy List, whereas in the present Navy List they are included. By that means you get the apparent difference between a staff of 82 and a staff of 335. If, however, you take the number of people who were included in 1914 on the same basis as the number included to-day, the staff in 1914 was 418, or 83 more than the staff to-day. There has been an actual reduction of 20 per cent., and not an increase of 400 per cent. I have drawn attention to this matter, because it is important that, in the first instance, we should have the accurate facts as to the strength of the Admiralty Office.
I should like to bring before the Committee certain other considerations. The assumption is that the staff at the Admiralty was adequate for its work in 1914. That is an assumption which I absolutely deny. The staff of the Admiralty in 1914 was, from the point of view of efficiency and economy, woefully inadequate in many material respects. Let me take, first of all, the important question of the Admiralty Staff. The Admiralty Staff was only initiated by the present Secretary of State for the Colonics in 1911. It was in process of being created when the War broke out, and only numbered 47 officers. To-day it numbers 139, and I think no one who knows anything about the work which has to be done, or about the character of the problems that have to be considered, would dream for a moment of going back to the staff of 1914. If there is any form of extravagance that is culpable, it is that of throwing away millions of money on mistakes in policy. It is perfectly easy if you make a mistake as to your objective, or as to your real strategical aims, or the manner in which those aims ought to be carried out, to squander millions of money. The foundation of naval economy and naval efficiency is an efficient and adequate general staff.
Let me take certain other Departments. The experience of the War showed that all the Departments which had to deal with guns, with ammunition, with mines, and with torpedo equipment were woefully deficient in personnel. The pro- 1991 blems had not been sufficiently worked out, and at terrible cost of life and also of national wealth we had to make good in a hurry what might have been largely saved if the staff of these Departments had been more adequate. These staffs today number three times what they were before the War, and I believe that the figures on that side are fully justified. Let me take the more purely business aspect of the case. In 1914 we had in the Admiralty only one trained accountant officer. Would any business man in the Committee consider it reasonable that you should have only one trained accountant to look after expenditure amounting, as it did before the War, to £50,000,000, or something like £100,000,000 reckoned on the value of money to-day? The experience of the War, and still more the experience of trying to clear up the problems left after the War, showed us that we must have an adequate accounting staff. We have to-day a staff of eleven permanent officers, with special accountant training, and eleven temporary officers in the Costings and Investigation Department.
That Department costs the nation, I believe, something like £50,000 or £53,000 a year. I have had the figures looked into with regard to some of the work they have done in the last twelve months. In the last twelve months in connection with claims put forward, as primá facie reasonable claims, by contractors in connection with business left over from the War, they have secured a saving of very nearly £3,000,000. That is good business. At this moment, before the matters left over from the War are effectively cleared off, the reducing of this staff might be of benefit to the Admiralty contractors, but certainly it would not be for the benefit of the taxpayers. Let me take another purely business consideration. I have made inquiries which have revealed the astounding fact that in the Admiralty before the War there were only ten shorthand-typists for the immense business of a staff of nearly 2,000. This meant that large numbers of the higher officials, including the Sea Lords themselves, had to do most of the work of writing their minutes and other important correspondence, laboriously with their own hand instead of dictating it. What business 1992 firm would dream of maintaining a procedure of that kind The staff in that respect has been increased to something like 200, a figure well justified by the increased efficiency of the work done. Such as it was, the whole of the staff during the period immediately before the War was grievously overworked, and the need for relieving the pressure was under the serious consideration of the Admiralty and the Treasury when the War broke out.
If the Admiralty was under-staffed for the problems with which it had to deal in 1914, the nature of the problems themselves has changed to a very marked degree since then. The whole of the work of the naval service has become immensely more complicated. Innumerable new devices and arms of war have been introduced. It is the exsent and the complexity of the problems that have to be dealt with, and not the total numbers and strength of the Navy, that necessarily reflect themselves in the personnel of the Admiralty. If we had a Navy consisting of nothing but torpedo-boat destroyers, however large and however costly it might be, the staff at headquarters would be comparatively small. Let me give the Committee a comparison to illustrate what I mean, The keyboard of a typewriter depends not on the amount of typing that has to be done but on the number of letters that have to be used, even in the shortest piece of correspondence. The larger the number of letters the more complicated and larger the keyboard, because every letter has to have its own lever and its own key on the keyboard. That is true of the Admiralty. Every one of these new services and every one of these new technical developments which have been introduced have to be considered and dealt with at headquarters, and that has created, inevitably, additional staff.
I do not want to go into the whole of the developments since the War, but let me remind the Committee of a few. There is an immense increase in submarines, in mines, in aircraft, and a corresponding increase in all the devices for dealing with submarines, for detecting and attacking submarines, for dealing with mines, and for coping with aircraft. Each one needs consideration at the Admiralty and necessitates the employment of some portion of the 1993 Admiralty staff to deal with it. There has been a, very great development in wireless. Our largest battleships to-day have nine different sets of wireless, whereas, before the War, at the most, they had two sets. There has been a very great development of power control, gyro control, and a complete revolution in the whole of the electrical equipment of warships. That is going on all the time. Then we have the immense development in the use of oil in place of coal. At the lower end of the scale, in respect of the unskilled worker, the stoker, there has been an immense saving in consequence of the introduction of oil. But, as I mentioned on a previous day, that does not necessitate or make possible a saving in the higher ratings or officers, and when you come to the Admiralty, it has necessitated an increase. You have to deal with the problem of oilers. The construction and looking after of tanks, and a number of other problems arising out of oil, have all to be considered. The technical, strategical, constructional aspects of these developments have all to be considered by the central brain of the Service.
I have dealt so far with complexities introduced by the art of war, but other complexities have been introduced in the interests of the Service itself, and by the wish of this House. This House has decreed, very rightly, that there should be a marriage allowance for dependents of the men on the lower deck, but it does not follow from that decree that the marriage allowance drops like manna from Heaven upon the families of the men in the Service. It has to be sent out to each family. It has to be calculated. Somebody has to write the letters and sign the necessary documents. The marriage allowance involves an additional staff at the Admiralty costing over £60,000 a year, and the work could not be done without it. Again, the House has decreed, and I agree with its decision, that the men and officers of the naval Service should not lose their right of voting, and should be able to continue to exercise the right of voting while serving at sea. That means that the Admiralty becomes the registration officer for a constituency of something like 100,000 outvoters, and many Members of the House know the complexity caused by having even a few thousand outvoters in their own constituency.
1994 Then we have a great extension of welfare work. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Portsmouth (Sir T. Bramsdon) takes the greatest interest in it. He is brought into continual contact with myself and others in the Admiralty, and he will appreciate that that welfare machinery cannot be operated without a certain amount of work at headquarters. There has again been a great growth in the whole question of dealing with labour. The Whitley Councils are admirable things, but the Committee will appreciate that they mean work. All these things mean an increase of staff in the Admiralty. Those considerations account for what I might call a certain normal increase, which is bound to remain even when we carry out our reductions in full. But, of course, we have not carried out those reductions in full. At the present moment we have a staff of fully 500, largely the Accountant-General's Department, still dealing with questions left over from the War. If there were more of them, they could dispose of the prize money distribution as rapidly as the hon. And gallant Member for Central Hull would wish. They could also deal more rapidly with the question of gratuities which has been raised by an hon. Member. They are necessary for clearing up the problems left behind by the War, and as fast as those problems are cleared up, hat staff of 500 is being got rid of.
There are still further reductions which we hope to be able to carry out when the present reduction in the Navy has been completed. But nothing, to my mind, is more unfair than to suggest that we are reducing the Navy in order to keep a number of bloated clerks living at ease in the Admiralty. I would ask the Committee to consider that we cannot carry out reductions without involving a great deal of correspondence. Every single case requires consideration, and the whole of this business of drastic reduction, following the Washington Conference and the recommendations of the Geddes Committee, necessarily means, during a very considerable part of this year, employing a staff which it will be possible to dispense with when the reductions are finally completed.
I will now deal with one of the other main points raised by the hon. Member for Greenock and other hon. Members, more particularly the hon. and gallant 1995 Member for Central Hull. That is the question of the capital ships. On that matter the policy of the Government and of the Admiralty has been made clear, repeatedly, in this House and in the other House, and at the Washington Conference, not only to the Powers with whom we were negotiating, but to the great Dominions and India which joined us at that Conference. We accepted at Washington a very great revision of our whole conception of the naval position in accepting the principle of equality—of co-operation, not competition, but still an equality—with the United States in a one-power standard. But below that one-power standard we cannot go, and no government and no Board of Admiralty in this country would be prepared to go below that standard. The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) and, I think, the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, seemed to think that this question should be treated purely as a matter of the local defence of Great Britain, and therefore a question in which air defence or anti-commerce-raiding craft would meet the needs. I must demur to that point of view.
We can only continue to exist as Great Britain by holding open and free the great highways of the sea to this country, and in the long run we can only continue to exist as Great Britain if Great Britain remains part of a united world-wide Empire. There is only one way of holding open the pathways of the sea. That is by having a navy strong enough to defeat any other navy that stands behind the commerce destroyers or other craft who dispute our command of the sea. From that point of view we cannot go below the one-power standard. The question has been raised—and it is a different matter—whether the building of capital ships is essential to the maintenance of that one-power standard. All I can say is that this matter Has been decided in that sense by every other great naval power in the world, and it has been decided in that sense by the Government of this country after a long series of most careful investigations, first of all in the Admiralty itself, and finally by a very powerful Committee presided over by the late Leader of this House. And they came to the conclusion that while there is no doubt that recent developments will increase the importance of the part 1996 played in the whole complex of the battle fleet, and of naval strategy, by the submarine and by aircraft, the basis and foundation of the fighting fleet still remains the capital ship, and nothing has-happened since that conclusion was formed which would in the slightest degree invalidate the report of that Committee.
There is nothing either in the offensive power of new weapons that have been introduced, or in their defensive power,, which would enable them to compete with or challenge the strength of the capital ship, that is always assuming, as we must assume, that that capital ship is accompanied by a reasonable number both of surface and of super-surface auxiliaries. There is nothing in recent experiments to justify the idea that the capital ship is not capable of defending; itself against the menaces with which it is threatened. But, having said that, I do agree wholeheartedly with what was said by the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon), that, in an ever-increasing degree, the Navy must get into the air. We have to consider the importance of the air factor, not only from the point of view of the defence of these islands against air attacks, but as an integral part—
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE-BRABAZON
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Navy should be charged to defend this country against air attack?
§ Mr. AMERY
I did not say that. I am afraid the hon. and gallant Member has misunderstood me. What I meant to say was that, apart from the immense and growing importance of defence against air attack which is for the Air Ministry, the air work of the Navy itself in the narrow sense, the work that is vitally and integrally connected with the actual operations of the fighting fleet, is increasing in importance, and that it is essential that it-should do so. The Noble Lord, and one or two other Members who intervened in the Debate, raised a wider question than I am prepared to discuss to-night. That is the question of the relation of the Admiralty to the Air Force. Over the marginal region where they come into contact it is vital that their co-operation should be of the fullest kind. One thing which I will say is, that there is not the slightest idea of challenging the general 1997 position laid down by the Leader of the House in March as to the existence of a separate and independent air force.
That aspect of the question is not in issue at all. There is no question, as the right hon. Member for South Molton suggested, of the attitude of the Admiralty to the Air Ministry resembling that of Cain towards Abel. That is not under discussion or in issue at all. The only question in issue to my mind is that of considering how the integrity of naval control over the air units actually working with the fighting fleet can be most effectively secured, and secured consistently with the fullest training of the personnel of those units in every aspect of air science, and how that co-operation can be secured most effectively, most economically, and in such a way as to encourage to the greatest extent the development of this aspect of the work of the Navy. The question is at this moment under discussion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) said very rightly that it is an extremely difficult and technical question. I am not going to presume either to argue it or to pronounce judgment upon it. That question is under discussion by the Committee of Imperial Defence, and it is also being considered in a friendly spirit by the Chief of the Air Staff and the First Sea Lord, together with the help and advice of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
§ Viscount CURZON
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Admiralty are satisfied with the provision indicated in the answers I got to-day from the Secretary of State for Air in regard to the provision made for the naval flying services?
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Mr. AMERY
The word "satisfied" has occurred very frequently in this Debate. All I can say is that we are satisfied that this matter is receiving the full, careful and sympathetic discussion which it is receiving at this moment, and that whatever the conclusion at which the Government may arrive, the Admiralty will co-operate to the best of their ability and the fullest extent of their loyalty to make that form of co-operation a success. The Noble Lord asked other detailed questions. Many of them were questions which would be more properly addressed to the Secretary of State for Air. Some 1998 of them are questions which I can endeavour to answer, not perhaps fully, because they impinge on the sphere of the Air Ministry, but answer from the point of view of the Admiralty. The Noble Lord asked who actually lays down the air policy for the Fleet and the policy of construction and design. The air requirements of the Admiralty are, in the first instance, laid down by the Admiralty, and the Air Ministry endeavours to supply those requirements as fully as the financial conditions of the country permit. An hon. Member was right in saying that, necessarily, in the matter of air provision, there is a very considerable margin between what we would like to see, between experiments we would wish to make, between the strength of the air establishment we would like to have in our hands, and what the finances of the country allow. At any rate the policy is laid down by the Admiralty, and the Air Ministry then endeavours to meet the requirements of the Admiralty to the best of its ability.
When it comes to a question like the design of carriers, the design in the first instance are a matter for the Naval Construction Department of the Admiralty. But, of course, aircraft can be designed only in closest consultation and touch with the Air Ministry. There is a joint technical Committee of the two Services, the members of which collaborate in studying details of design. Actual experiments in that connection are carried out, some at the National Physical Laboratory and others on board, and they judge from the experiments what alterations or new investigations are required. The same applies to the designs for torpedoes. Torpedoes have always been designed, so far, by the Admiralty in conjunction with the Air Ministry. A question was raised as to what work the Air Ministry is doing on a special torpedo to supersede the old torpedo. That question should be more properly ad dressed to the Air Ministry. I was also asked questions about the present position of aircraft carriers. We have two aircraft carriers, one with the Atlantic Fleet and one with the Mediterranean Fleet. They are the "Argus" and the "Pegasus." Three more carriers are being completed. We hope that the "Hermes" and the "Eagle" will be ready before the end of the present financial year. The "Furious," I hope, 1999 will be ready by the end of 1923. When the "Eagle" and "Hermes" are put into commission we shall require a larger provision of aircraft for their full equipment than we have available to-day. At present we have the pilots and the aircraft for the two carriers that are actually in service.
A question was asked to which it is very difficult to give an answer. It was as to the comparative figures in the case of other nations. The Committee will realise some of the difficulties of comparison when I point out that a navy like the United States Navy has a naval air wing which in the estimates of the present year is put down at a cost of something like £3,250,000. It does the work for the Navy and also does a certain amount of work from the shore, and at present is doing its work mainly from the shore. But under our organisation that work would come under the regular coast defence work of the Air Ministry. The Noble Lord mentioned a figure and asked whether it was the fact that the United States Navy now had, compared with our six fighting aeroplanes, a strength of 86 fighting aeroplanes. Our figures are as stated, six—actually six with pilots and with the Fleet. Also there are three more in immediate reserve and another three in general reserve, the latter group being under the control of the Air Ministry. The figure which my Noble Friend gave, of 86 fighters in the American Navy, is not the figure of what they have to-day, but is a figure derived from the United States House of Representatives Paper of the proposed strength for 1923. They propose to have 86 fighters, 73 spotting planes, 36 torpedo planes, and 18 reconnaissance planes. These are among their proposals. Of course, there is always a considerable margin between what is proposed and what is actually carried out. By the time these proposals are carried into effect, we shall have a larger provision of aircraft carriers, and, I trust, also, we shall have a larger provision of aircraft with them.
The Noble Lord dealt with the question of training officers with the Navy in the sea sense. That is of the greatest importance. A certain number of naval officers have been trained as observers. Twelve have already completed the six months' preliminary training in flying and six months' work actually with the Fleet, 2000 and they are to receive their Admiralty certificates. I hope we may extend that number very rapidly. References were made to a suggestion some 18 months or two years ago that the Air Ministry should have a large number of naval officers seconded to the Air Service for training. It is quite true that negotiations broke down on a difference as to the number of years such officers should be seconded to the Air Force. The period desired by the Air Ministry was in the opinion of the Admiralty such as would cause the naval officer to lose touch with naval matters. There, again, we have a problem for which I hope a satisfactory solution will be found in the future.
§ Viscount CURZON
Can the right hon. Gentleman give any information as to a paragraph published in to-day's newspapers, regarding air operations that took place in the Channel?
§ Mr. AMERY
Yes. I can give information, at any rate, from the naval point of view, though that point of view naturally wants supplementing by the information of the Air Ministry. These exercises were not, as the papers seem to suggest, of a wholly novel character, but were one of a series of very valuable and instructive exercises which have been carried out for some time, the latest experience of which confirms in the main the result of previous exercises. It is not true that these aeroplanes employed a smoke screen. That is an interesting detail thrown in by the newspaper but not based on actual facts. There was not a surprise. The torpedo-carrying aeroplanes were sighted about 15 minutes before firing their torpedoes. They were attacked in dummy by fleet fighting planes as they approached. They were under dummy gunfire from escorting light cruisers and destroyers when at a low altitude before firing their torpedoes. Hon. Members will realise the great difference upon the morale and steadiness of a flier between dummy fire and real fire directed against him. The attack was developed under conditions which were necessarily favourable to the attack. The number of hits reported under these favourable conditions was not considered to be at all large, from the Admiralty point of view, or at any rate not beyond what was expected.
§ Mr. AMERY
I cannot say now. I will turn to some of the more detailed points that have been raised. The right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Prety-man) raised very temperately and fairly the grievance of the Harwich Harbour Board against the Admiralty in connection with the sinking of the mine sweeper "Marsa." That ship was sunk in consequence of a collision in Harwich Harbour waters, and after an effort by the Admiralty to salve her, which necessitated a certain amount of fittings being taken out of her, the Admiralty abandoned her. There is one point on which I must differ from my right hon. Friend. In abandoning this wreck and leaving her to the Harwich Harbour Commissioners to dispose of as they could, we were not sheltering ourselves behind the Royal prerogative. It is a general right to abandon a wreck.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
They have to declare at once whether they will abandon a wreck and make that declaration to the local Trinity House or local harbour authority or whatever it is. My complaint is not that they abandoned the wreck, which they had a perfect right to do, but that they did so two years afterwards.
§ Mr. AMERY
I do not think the Admiralty's rights were abrogated either by the previous attempt to salve the vessel or by the delay. At any rate, this is the advice which I am given. What is perfectly true is that at several stages during the War the Admiralty did consider the matter of giving financial assistance to the Harwich Harbour Board in view of the financial difficulties in which that Board found itself, and in view of the very large use of Harwich Harbour which the Navy made during the War, and in that connection the Admiralty paid to the Harwich Harbour Board at one stage a sum of £1,460 to make good a deficit in the year ended September, 1919, and they also lent them a further sum of £1,385, which was repaid. At a time when Harwich was in serious financial difficulties they did conider the ques- 2002 tion of making some ex gratia payment, in view of the deficit which it was understood the Harwich Board had to meet in connection with these operations; but when the Harwich Harbour Board, if they had not got a surplus, had, at any rate, reached conditions which would enable the sum to be paid by themselves, then the view of the Admiralty and of those responsible for the finances of the country was, that the Admiralty was not entitled to make this ex gratia payment to the Harbour Board. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that in consequence of this having to be met by the Harwich Board they are compelled to levy much higher dues. Their dues are, I believe, 50 per cent. higher than they were before the War, but, as I understand, a great many other ports in this country have dues which are not only 50 per cent., but substantially more than 50 per cent. above what they were under pre-War conditions. Though I sympathise with my hon. Friend in taking up this matter on behalf of the Harwich Harbour Board, I do not think I can hold out the hope that there will be a decision different to that which has already been arrived at after full and careful consideration by the Admiralty.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Wallace) raised the general question of Rosyth. I do not think I need recapitulate the arguments which I used when I introduced these Estimates in March, more particularly the general reasons which brought us to the conclusion that we had to make a specially heavy reduction in a particular dockyard, namely, Rosyth, in view of the unfinished condition of that dockyard in many respects and the very heavy expenses which we should have had to face if we had continued to keep it as a first-class dockyard. Consistently with those reductions we have, as my hon. Friend very generously admits, done our beet to ease the situation for the individuals affected, and very hardly affected, as I readily admit. We shall continue to do our very best to mitigate the hardships which have resulted. I may say we have already given instructions to do so, not only as regards particular cases, but as regards the number. We had decided to bring down the purely dockyard staff to something like 2,000 but we are leaving it at present at a figure something like 300 men higher than we had contemplated, 2003 and consideration is being shown for the disabled men especially. I may say, in parenthesis, that we have practically reached or shall reach in a very few weeks the limit of our dockyard reduction, not only in Rosyth, but in all the dockyards, and will have reached a position from which I have no doubt the dockyards will, as the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose) suggested, show what good work they are capable of in the future. Anyhow, we have endeavoured to make that special concession to Rosyth and we are doing it by carrying on the work on the "Furious" to a rather more advanced stage than we had intended.
§ Mr. AMERY
As my hon. Friend knows, I have met the representative of the Dunfermline Municipal Authority and we have gone into the case, but this also has to be considered with those who are responsible for the national finances. I am afraid I cannot at this moment give my hon. Friend a more definite answer, but I will endeavour to do so at the earliest opportunity.
§ Mr. AMERY
Yes, it is under consideration now. I should like to refer to the criticisms and the eulogies which the hon. Member for North Aberdeen has passed upon the dockyards. I think he is quite right in saying that some of the criticism based upon the comparative cost of dockyard work and work outside are beside the mark and unfair. It is suggested in the Geddes Committee Report that the ratio of labour to material in the dockyards is far higher than in the case of outside contractors.
§ Mr. AMERY
It may interest the Committee if I briefly analyse that criticism. I think it is quite true that, on new construction, the work of the dockyards is rather more expensive. We have had figures worked out, and I think the ratio of labour to material worked out in the case of the dockyards at 1.8, as compared with 1.3 in the case of the private yards. There are two considerations materially 2004 affecting it. One is that the outside contractors reckon as material everything they get from the sub-contractor. On the other hand, the dockyard analyses these things back into their constituents of labour and material, and that inevitably increases the proportion of labour to material. There is also the fact that the dockyard exists for a great variety of purposes, not only construction and repair, but a great many other administrative purposes connected with maintenance. All that increases the overhead charges, and makes the comparison between the work of the dockyards and the work of the private contractor, who is simply out to construct ships, a misleading comparison.
On the other hand, when you come to repair work where close supervision is required, where the interests of the dockyard and the Admiralty coincide but where the interests of the contractor and the Admiralty do not coincide, where it is practically impossible to put things out to tender and where you have to pay by results, then our experience—an experience extending over a great many years—is that this repair work is more cheaply done in the dockyard than by private contract. We have had figures of repairs to a number of cruisers, and the proportion of labour to materials is as 3 to I in the ease of the dockyard and as 4.3 to I in the case of the ships which were given to private firms to repair. That clearly snows that where you have got a great mass of intricate and detailed repair work, where the judgment of people of special naval experience is required. you get greater economy at the dockyards than you do-at the naval contractors. That is also the explanation of the overhead staff at the dockyards of which complaint has been made. Every re-fit is a matter of an enormous number of detailed requirements brought forward by the captain of the ship, which he says are urgent and necessary, and no one who has not-got naval experience or has not been in command of a ship himself is competent to judge how many of these are, shall I say, a try-on, how many are desirable but not absolutely necessary, how many may be necessary next year but are not necessary this year, how many may be desirable for the sake of the ship itself but had much better not be carried out at all if the ship is subsequently going 2005 to become obsolescent and to be written off the Navy List altogether.
All these are the first considerations that arise when a ship comes in for refit, and they are none of them considerations which the ordinary naval contractor can have in his mind, or which he is interested in having in his mind. The first essential stage of a re-fit are the conferences between the officers of the ship and the naval, engineering, and constructional officers of the dockyard really to thrash out between them what are the necessary items and what the items which can be left over for another year or which are not really required. Then again, the naval dockyard is a great establishment for many other purposes, such, for instance, as stores. It requires police to prevent peculation and the taking away of material, which is so much more natural to the human mind when you are dealing with Government material than when you are dealing with the material of a private contractor. You cannot, therefore, compare the overhead organisation of the naval dockyard, with all its miscellaneous duties and purposes, with the overhead organisation of a commercial shipyard, which is only out to build certain ships, those that pay best, and to build them on purely commercial lines. I think I have covered most of the points that have been raised so far. There may be other points to be raised subsequently on this Vote, or perhaps on other Votes on the Paper, and, if necessary, I will reply to them as well, but I thank the Committee for the courtesy with which they have remained and listened to the somewhat lengthy statement I have had to make.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
Everybody must appreciate not only the care but the particularity with which the right hon. Gentleman has replied to the various criticisms which have been addressed to him, and what remains of the Committee will, I am certain, pursue the inquiry as to naval expenditure and policy with the care and industry which have already distinguished it. There is one point which has been very present to my mind during the somewhat lengthy attendance which I have put in to-day in listening to these various speeches, and it is this. I hope the day is not very far distant when, on those occasions when Navy Votes come before the House, or Air Votes, or 2006 Army Votes, we shall have the Parliamentary representatives of each of these Departments here to listen to the several Debates.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
That is one of those futile interruptions with which the hon. Member favours the Committee, and it is singularly inappropriate to-day, because the Leaders of the Opposition have been here during the whole of the Debate. It really shows how rapidly, and, I hope, successfully, the idea is developing that it-is the business of the House of Commons,, not only to consider the separate Votes, but as far as possible to get a conspectus of the whole idea of defence. I do not know myself whether the right way of doing that is to set up at some time a. Ministry of Defence. I have not sufficient technical or other knowledge to justify me in expressing an opinion on that point, but I am certain that if the heads of the other Departments, the Royal Air Force and the Army, had been here to-day, they could not have helped deriving considerable benefit from the criticisms and, as I thought, most fruitful suggestions which have been made. My right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty opened his reply with some comments on the criticisms addressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins), on the subject of the Admiralty Vote, Vote 12, and the defence which was put forward was, I thought, one of considerable interest. It was this. We have so very much more work to do than we had when the War broke out. I would not describe it as ungenerous, but the rather unnecessary defence was put up that when the War broke out the Admiralty was unprepared in many material respects for that War, and particularly in regard to Vote 12. I am not a qualified judge, but I should have thought that, if there was one Department of the defence of this country which responded' with more efficiency to the call of duty than another, it was the Navy, and it seems perfectly clear, therefore, that the Departments represented under Vote 12 were not inefficient. Besides which they were then face to face with a war position which had been clearly defined for some years previously. Everybody was discussing this thing and either saying that there was no danger of war or that 2007 there was a danger of war. It was present in the public and the professional mind that war was to be contemplated, and it was almost on a war basis that you had the Admiralty Office staffed and at work.
Surely that is not the outlook which we have to-day. It is not a war outlook but a peace outlook, and our military and defensive forces should be on a peace basis. What is the test of that? There are two basic facts upon which, I submit, our defensive policy should move, particularly as regard the Navy. One is the basic fact of the disappearance of the German Navy, and the other is the existence of the Washington Agreement. East and West there is, on the one hand, the disappearance of a well-equipped, dangerous, deadly foe; on the other, there is the disappearance of the cloud of suspicion and dread which hung over our naval Debates last year. Those are the two great facts of the situation, and I should have thought that that would have reflected itself in the position or the financial requests of the Admiralty to the House of Commons to-day. Before I leave that, let me add one or two other comments as to the peace outlook. Undoubtedly, according to one or two of the spokesmen of the Cabinet—I think even the Prime Minister himself—their outlook was that there would be no great war for ten years. On the 2nd May of this year, the right hon. Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law) said in this House, in dealing with expenditure on the Navy:Look at the immense sums expended to-day on the Navy, for instance. I have not had the opportunity of judging as to whether the Geddes Committee was right or wrong, but I am quite sure that when the Cabinet began to examine it it was in the same frame of mind as I did, and it was this, that so far as human foresight can tell. there would be no world war for a very long time to come."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1922; col. 1203, Vol. 153.]There you have the view of His Majesty's Government still. That being so, what justification is there for this fact, that when the War broke out a really efficient Department was costing the country £483,500, and to-day, with the peace outlook, and no great war for a very long time to come, that same Department is costing us net £1,420,800? I state the matter broadly, and it requires, I submit, 2008 a much better answer than my right hon. Friend has given the Committee to-day. Let me take one or two of his illustrations. He said that when the War broke out, this Department required ten typists and now it has got 200, because of the additional work which has been thrown on it owing to the developments after the War.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I suppose I am a little bit of a business man myself, but I should have been alarmed if my Department, however greater my work might have been, had shown such a large increase in the number of typists, from 10 to 200. It is a symptom of the spirit of spending and of general extravagance which has not yet been eradicated as a result of the War from the Admiralty as from other Government Departments. That is my criticism on that point. Let me turn to another general point which I wish to make on the whole cost of the Navy. These figures were indicated, though not specifically mentioned, I think, by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins) when he opened the Debate to-day on this Vote. I ask why, in the circumstances which I have indicated, namely, the peace situation, which has been admitted by the Government themselves, and evidenced by the great events to which I have alluded, our Navy Estimates to-day are £64,880,000 net? It is not brought about by new capital ships, whose cost this year is something under £800,000. That represents an expenditure which, as far as I can gather from what was stated by my right hon. Friend to-day, does not foreshadow any great and sweeping reduction next year. It looks to me very much as if we are likely to be faced, under the most favourable conditions so far as His Majesty's present Government are concerned, with no less an expenditure than from £50,000,000 to £55,"00,000 for years to come.
Is that consistent with the general policy announced from time to time by His Majesty's Government and agreed to by all parties? It is far, far greater than before the War, when you 2009 had the war scare, the war dread; whereas now you have the peace outlook. I need not add anything to the point which was made by my hon. Friend as to the real weight of authority behind the recommendations of the Geddes Committee. The men who made those recommendations are not amateurs in naval affairs. Sir Eric Geddes ought to have known something about it, and he knew a good deal about it, and nobody can charge either Lord Inchcape, or Sir Joseph Maclay, or Sir Guy Granet with any lack of patriotism, or with not belonging to what you may call the big-Navy school. I am quite certain there is a very large amount of unrest in the public mind as to whether many more millions could not have been saved from the Navy Estimates.
Let me say a word on the question of the capital ships. I was very much struck with the Debate between the experts in the Committee to-day. It is a very favourite comment of mine, when I am discussing the House of Commons, that no matter what Debate comes up, you will find on the back Benches, if I may say so, far more than on the front Benches, a wealth of information of a thoroughly authoritative kind which you get in no other assembly in the world. We had to-day Members discussing this matter whose authority and experience were both interesting and valuable. They brought out this point to my mind, very clearly, that there is undoubtedly a period of transition and experiment going on as between the great ship and the development of defence and attack in the air, in which considerable progress is being made. It seems desirable to meet criticism on that matter before launching the country into very large, and, indeed, I should say, excessive expenditure upon capital ships. The Government are the responsible body, but that does not absolve any Member of this House from the duty of criticism. Faced with that criticism to which I have alluded, directed with such a genuine public sense of responsibility and of duty, I wonder whether His Majesty's Government are meeting it all as fully as they ought to at the present time. I think they should, at any rate, only have proceeded with one capital ship. I imagine that the position of aircraft is clearing up with a certain amount of rapidity. People know a great deal more, infinitely 2010 more, than they did nine or 12 months ago. There are more authoritative statements made on the subject. We are learning something more of it every day. Then as I have said we have the peace outlook. There seems no great war, humanly speaking, likely to happen for years to come. Why should we commit ourselves to these vast sums during this transitional stage?
For myself, I think the situation will be met by either delaying construction or laying down only one of these capital ships for some time to come. I heard a remark this afternoon from the hon. and gallant Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) which suggested to me that in his mind the result of the Washington Convention was that we must lay down two capital ships. But the maximum in all these matters automatically tends to become the minimum. There is no compulsion on us to lay down two capital ships which, I understand, is the maximum. There is the probability of a more intensive period of experiment and investigation as to the relation of the Air Force to defence and offence than in any other country in the world. I should have thought it was well within the margin of safety to have delayed this great expenditure, at any rate, for some considerable time. After what one heard from hon. Members in different parts of the House, submitted with great conviction, it appears to me there is very much room yet for drastic economy in Vote 12.
§ Major Sir B. FALLE
I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty several questions on a few points I have here. The first relates to prize money. Is it possible in any way to expedite the payment of prize money this year? There is a good deal of unemployment, which causes a good deal of suffering amongst people of small means and smaller pensions, and they are in real need of this money. There is another point with which I wish to deal. It is a question which has interested my colleague the Member for Central Portsmouth (Sir T. Bramsdon) and myself for a very considerable period. It is an important matter. I think, perhaps, my hon. Friend has done even more work on the subject than I have, and I should almost apologise to him for asking the question. But I am happy to say we work together in these matters. The question relates to schoolmasters' pay, which is a 2011 very important one, not only for Portsmouth, but the whole Service.
On the subject of capital ships I should like to say a few words. I do not pretend to be an expert on this matter, but I have the advantage of hearing a great many experts, and they all agree that while our possible enemies have capital ships we must have them as well; while they have capital ships which are post-Jutland we have only one ship which is even partially post-Jutland, and we are, therefore, in a position of inferiority in this respect. My right hon. Friend seems to think that we are going to have no more wars for many years. That is a very pleasant notion. He probably will be old enough to remember, or he will have read of the time of the outbreak of the Franco-German War. Our Foreign Minister, a man of great ability, only a fortnight before the outbreak of that war declared that there was no cloud on the horizon. Within a fortnight that war was being fought. Need I refer also to our Prime Minister, who in January, 1914, thought there was no moment so good as that to reduce the Navy? The right hon. Gentleman was not ignorant. He was well-informed. He had his expert advisers. Yet he thought of a possible reduction in our Navy.
The best way, it seems to me in this matter, is to keep our powder dry, and for our ships to keep in power and efficiency alongside possible opponents. By that means, you, at any rate, diminish the risks, the very great risks, of war. We have been reminded of the necessity, by the Debate of yesterday, of giving notice to those whom we are going to attack, even if they happen to be in the other House. I have no hesitation to-night in making, not altogether an unfriendly attack on the First Lord of the Admiralty —whom I saw in the Gallery to-day—because he has two very capable hon. Friends in this House to answer for him, hence the arguments used in yesterday's Debate about the necessity of notice do not apply to me now. I do not consider that the First Lord has acted up to his reputation in his present position. I think he has prejudiced the Navy which he represents. Neither the First Lord nor the First Sea Lord seem to me to possess much initiative and appear to do nothing but give away, and to take things 2012 lying down. They pursue the line of least resistance. Whenever they meet trouble it appears to me they put it to one side. Under their care the Navy has lost her pride of place. We have lost our command of the sea, which was never abused, never used to bully but to succour and to help the downtrodden and keep the peace. It was used to assist those people who, in Mr. Gladstone's words, were rightly struggling to be free, if and when, and where they were to be found. Under their fostering care the Navy has been cut to the bone. Officers and men have been turned out of their life's profession—men who have fought for us and won and saved us and cannot be replaced. If the time comes when they are wanted, I can only hope they will be found. In the meantime, however, they are to be thrown away, when there is an appearance of peace, like a pair of worn gloves. Our ships are being sold and broken up, the men are being dispersed, and the Service neglected. What for? Simply to please our opponents, to make our foes rejoice and to make the world laugh! I have travelled considerably, and I say without the smallest hesitation that in the whole wide world, with the exception of our Dominions, we have not a friend, not one who will come to our assistance, as we found out during the Great War. There are far more people against us than appearsion the surface.
Nations, like people, do not understand that kind of madness, and they call it weakness. Undoubtedly it is weakness, and it has to be paid for by this country in blood, as has occurred already. It is not the strong who make trouble and cause wars, it is the weak, and only the weak. We began this weakness and the spirit of gambling about the time of the late Lord Tweedmouth, and that weakness has continued to this day. Who will say that, had this country been prepared, had our Navy-been ready, if the Governments of France and Russia had had strong men at their head and a strong army and navy, that Germany would have dared to provoke war? Is the lesson we then learned to be so soon forgotten? It was almost at the eleventh hour that our Government awoke to the fact that our Navy was not ready, and this was about 1911 and 1912. In any case, it was not as ready as it ought to have been, with 2013 the result that our Estimates jumped up to £50,000,000.
We let the Navy clown and then in a moment of panic our Estimates go up by £50,000,000. All was hurry and skurry, trying to remedy the wasteful and wilful neglect of previous years and we know the result of that hurry because it was patent to the whole world. We had no mine layers, we had 34 mines in the whole country, but no ship to lay them; we had a bad system of night signalling and of night firing and we had only one big powder magazine in each ship, while the Germans had 50. Our torpedoes were inferior and ship for ship we were inferior to the Germans. The result was that our ships were more easily sunk than the German ships. We had an insufficient number of torpedo catchers and we were only saved in the War by the valour, the vigour, the initiative, the discipline and the devotion of our officers and men, there at any rate we were pre-eminent. It is time the country realised that we are now throwing these trained men out of the service in which they have been trained for long years, the service which is now being neglected and impoverished. They are being flung out of the profession which they chose for themselves and which they loved, a profession of which they were the ornament. This is the service which stands between us and ruin and destruction. It stands between us and the loss of Empire and all that we hold dear in that respect. It stands for us and our Empire, for without it we are reduced to the position of a small island unable to feed our people. Therefore the Navy is the arm which stands between us and starvation and slavery.
We are risking all that by flinging our advantages away and it is time that the nation understood what we are doing. Some of these things are being done on the score of economy, but I call it extravagance. I made to two great Departments a proposition showing how they could save in one small place £40,000, but they laughed at the idea as too small to be considered. We could make temporary economies at any rate amounting to millions and millions without touching the effectiveness of our force. What we expend on the naval service is money very well spent for it is spent to keep what we have, and we have a great deal. If hon. Members will 2014 think of what we have they will understand the need of the Navy. We own a quarter of the surface of the world, and we have more than a quarter of the population of the globe, most of our possessions are within the temperate zone. We have almost all the desirable places on the earth. We have the greatest markets, the biggest ships, the bravest and best men, and the most beautiful women. We wish to keep them. We profess surprise that people should covet what we have, but, undoubtedly, they do so, and would take them from us if they could. They do not because we have a Navy to defend our possessions, and yet there are people who wonder whether it is necessary to have our fighting Services in a state of efficiency—our sea, air and land Services lest covetous people should attack us. Our Services are kept for the protection of the nation, and, in my opinion, the Government is neglecting those Services. This is extravagance of the most unwise kind. It can only invite misunderstandings and war. I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose) had become a convert to our views, and was of opinion that good work can be done in our dockyards—better, if possible, than was done outside.
§ Sir B. FALLE
I thought the hon. Member last year was rather against our dockyards, against the premier port of Portsmouth.
§ Sir B. FALLE
I quite thought that the hon. Member had been converted to the view that the dockyards can do good work, and I was anticipating he would soon come round to the opinion that the Admiral-Superintendent of the dockyard was a very desirable and useful person. He would do so if he could come to Portsmouth. I repeat not only are the Government neglecting the Services, but they are also neglecting the adjuncts to the Services. I wish to warn the Government seriously on that particular point. With private yards I am not so much concerned. They are carried on with the object, no doubt, of securing a good return for the shareholders in them. The Royal Dockyards, 2015 however, were brought into existence by the needs of the Navy in wonderful natural ports, especially in the case of Portsmouth and Devonport.
§ Sir B. FALLE
The Government has kept them as dockyards. It has prevented them being used as commercial ports except possibly in the case of Plymouth and Devonport, where there is a great port for many important liners. At the present moment the Royal Dockyards are not allowed to undertake commercial work. There are a few struggling firms on the fringe of the dockyards attempting to do commercial work, but the dockyards themselves are not allowed to undertake it, and now, apparently, they are to be put out of action. They are not to be given building of ships of war. We know that there are not slips in any of the yards on which we can build new capital ships. I believe we have not a dock that can take in the "Hood," except possibly Rosyth. There ought to be in these Government yards docks which can take big ships, and there ought to be slips on which big ships can be built. Men are being put out of the dockyards every day. Last week I had a visit from a man of 46 who had been 28 years in the dockyard. Some time ago he was offered establishment but his health was not good enough to allow him to take it. He has been thrown on to the labour market, and there are already 6,000 unemployed at Portsmouth. It means starvation to him or resorting to one of the most dreadful things started in late years, the dole as it is carried out at the present moment. Unless wisdom comes to the Government before very long, I believe a terrible heritage will be reaped in a few years, either by ourselves or by our sons, and I appeal to the Government to be wise in time. It has the finest dockyards in the world, it has the finest workmen, but at the moment it is misusing them.
§ Mr. WILKIE
I want to preface my observations with a few personal remarks. When I first came into this House I had as a colleague a Civil Lord of the Admiralty. Since then another colleague of mine for many years was First Lord of the Admiralty. Therefore, I can almost say I have been connected with the Navy ever since I have been 2016 here, and certainly I represent thousands of dockyard men whose livelihood is being discussed to-night. While not a dockyard Member, I feel I represent a considerable number of the constructors of the Navy. We have been talking recently about a truce for 10 years or 20 years. We have tried truces in the industrial world, and we are aware how little they can be relied upon. I have always stood for an efficient Navy in this House. I have done so from the beginning. While we are all economists, I would like to point out there is a false economy as well as a real economy, and I do claim that, whatever economy is effected, it should not be always at the expense of the workers. The economy must be carried out with fairness and equity and justice to all concerned, but I am one of those who yet want to be assured of its reality. I hope it is real, but I do not want us to be misled. I am for economy, but I want real economy, and I want it to be spread over those who can best-bear it
Coming now to the workmen whom I represent in the dockyards, they are asking, and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary, is it true that there has been a refusal to allow our own dockyard officials to estimate for the two super-Dreadnoughts at the same time that private contracts were asked for? We have been told by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose), and I have been reading it for longer years than I like to state to this Committee, that there have been continual charges made against the workers, but we never could get a fair comparison between the estimates from the dockyards and the estimates from outside. All we want is a fair comparison. I have been told that if it had not been for the National dockyards we should have been paying through the nose for battleships in the years that have gone by. Nothing, however, can be said against the dockyard workmen. It cannot be said that they do not work. I have challenged that in this House and elsewhere. Why are they not given a chance to prove it? If they get a chance to estimate and they are too high, they will know where they are. I do not want great charges for the Admirals who are over these dockyards to be put on the price of the ships. Let us have fair overhead charges, as is the case with the private contractor. If we are beaten in 2017 the dockyards, we shall take our beating as other men do outside, but we do say that the officials ought to be given the same opportunity that is given to the private contractor.
I do not want to go into the details of the figures as regards the alterations that are necessary to certain building berths, but those alterations will be required sooner or later. There are one or two large docks where those capital ships could be built without any cost for preparing the berths, and indeed, that cost would have to be incurred outside as well as in the dockyards. As the hon. Member for North Aberdeen has said, the men are willing to accept payment by results, and to give as fair value to the Admiralty as they can get anywhere else. With the reorganisation of work at Devonport, the cost of labour on the oilers built there has come down to a very considerable extent, namely, according to my information, from £3 to £1 per ton. The high cost was not the fault of the workmen; it was the fault of the system, and we want the system rearranged. We want the charges—the barnacles—wiped off. The late Secretary of the Admiralty used to tell me that we had to have over 4,000 auxiliary vessels to support our Navy during the War, and we shall want some hundred of them even now in time of peace. Why do not the Government build these ships themselves, and give the men employment, instead of casting them out on the scrap-heap to get the dole, which is demoralising to all? It would be far better that the Government, and also some of the shipowners who made so much money out of the War, should build some ships even at a greater cost, and get some return for the money.
I know that the Government are often blamed, but I often ask myself, when I hear so much blame put upon the Government, what I should do myself in that case? The workmen in the dockyards will endeavour to satisfy the officials if they are only given a fair chance. As the Parliamentary Secretary has stated, the Whitley Council has been of very great value in that respect. Some of us know the old style of what we should call the blue-water admirals, with their quarterdeck manner, who would listen to no one. We believe that that has been very much changed, and that the reduction of costs in the dockyards has been considerable. 2018 I am also informed that, supposing the contracts were given to the dockyards, only something like 10 or 15 per cent. of the cost of building the ships is spent in the dockyards. Any amount of work is sent out. Besides the armour and guns, there are very many other things. The Admiralty buys hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of stores and fittings that could be made in the dockyards at a less cost than we are paying for them, and it would help to keep the men employed. You have in the dockyards at the moment a set of skilled men whom you cannot replace. If you throw them out in this inhuman way, you cannot replace them. Therefore, we want the Admiralty to look into all these little matters, and see what they can do. National shipyards should be used for national ships and all that they require. I know I may be challenged, but since I have sat in this House whenever I have had convictions I have always had the courage to express them, and I am going to do so to-night. I believe in the principle of national shipyards for national work, and other necessary work should be done there. Let the Committee consider a small thing. The Admiralty actually buys wooden tallies at 1s. 3d. per hundred, and sends outside for the spars, masts, handspikes, etc., which could all be produced equally well in their shipyards, and at a lower cost.
With regard to the proposed ten years' holiday, if that can be carried out it is worthy of consideration. If we are going to have it, however, we must have some other productive work to keep the men employed. Whether or not it is the duty of the Government to do it the people have got to be fed, one way or another, and the worst way we can feed them is by giving merely doles. The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Wallace) referred to Rosyth Dockyard. Since I have been in this House it has always been my lot to fight for fair play for Scotland. My very first speech, long years ago, was on that point. Owing to the German menace the centre of gravity changed from England to Scotland. Who can tell where we may be threatened next? I think, after all the money that has been spent on Rosyth, it would well pay the country as well as the Admiralty to give the dockyard a fair chance and to use it for necessary work. We need a whole lot of these auxiliary vessels. Why 2019 cannot the dockyards be used for that purpose, and our skilled men be kept at work earning wages and not be put on the scrap heap? The hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose) gave the Committee some figures showing the cost of non-productive officials. I do not know if those figures are confirmed, but I am not one who desires to pull the highest down. Rather I wish to raise up the lowest, and if anything can be done in the matter suggested, I shall have no objection.
A lot has been said, and I have read a lot about the capital ships. I happen to know something about ship production in America, France and Germany as well as in this country. As a ship constructor, I say without egotism, that we stand equal —I do not say above, but equal—to any country in the world. There are two schools of thought—the air ships and the floating ships. I say that the Navy overcame the submarine; and the Navy, if you give it a chance, will overcome the airships which may attack it. What Member of this Committee would like to have been on a capital ship when, as in the Japanese-Russian War the Japs during an engagement, walked about as if they were on parade? Why was that? It was because every one of those Japs was more or less educated, and they knew that their ships could strike the Russian ships and could give them a mile or a mile and a half to spare. The sailors aboard the Russian ships knew nothing about it, although their officers did, and while some people cried out against the officers giving way, those officers could do nothing else, because they knew that the Japanese ships could hit them without them being able to retaliate. Would not hon. Members rather stand on a capital ship, with a range of a mile or a mile and a half to spare, than on a ship which is outranged? One capital ship is worth a Fleet. Of course, it would have to be protected by submarines, aeroplanes, and a mosquito Fleet. We want an efficient Navy—I do not care if it is submarines or airships, or whatever it be—this country, our island home, demands that we should hand on safe to our successors what we have received from our predecessors.
There is another point to be considered, and that is the discharges of the men I was pleased to hear the Parliamentary 2020 Secretary to the Admiralty say that he thought the worst of that was over. I hope the Admiralty will put on their thinking caps and devise means of providing work which will bring a return to the country in time to come, and possibly even now. What has the Navy been for us but an insurance? People pay large sums for their life insurance, though they do not want it. We are paying a sum for the life insurance of our country in an efficient Navy and a well equipped, even if a small Army. I trust that we shall not be too much carried away by this great economy stunt. In some places we are making too much of it, and I hope whatever is done will be done equitably and with fair play to all concerned. We are told that we have now passed away from the War outlook, and that we are in a peace outlook. That is only an assertion. Vessels may be sailing along on a smooth sea, and suddenly, within half an hour, one may run into such a storm as has never been seen, and ship after ship may go down. We shall only save ourselves and our island home by being prepared for whatever may come. I am not in favour of exorbitant expenditure, but of a fair outlay to enable us to maintain our position. I am not asking for any preferential treatment of the dockyards, but I want fair play, equity and justice, and estimates compared with their like and not with figures which will not bear comparison. National dockyards should be used for national purposes, though we are not opposed to private yards having an equal opportunity. We shall only invite disaster unless we maintain an efficient Navy to guard our island home.
§ Sir C. K1NLOCH-COOKE
I am sure the Committee has listened with the greatest interest to the speech which has just been delivered. I go back 13 or 14 years, and on every occasion we have had a useful speech from the hon. Member. He always takes the right tone and hits the nail on the head. I congratulate him on his re-appcarance, because he was not here on the last occasion when the Naval Estimates came up, and upon his very excellent contribution to the Debate. I cannot say the same for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), who has disappeared quite as quickly as he re-appeared just now.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted; and 40 Members being present—
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I was saying at the time of that unfortunate interruption, that I regretted to find the right hon. Gentleman is not in his place, because I should like to have made some observation about the very kind remark he made to me. However, I do not think the Committee will be much grieved at his absence, because the futility, if I may be allowed to repcat the word he used towards myself, of his speech is well known and well appreciated by the Committee. I am sure the little he did say will have no effect on the Division. Certainly, he was unable to refute in any kind of way the observations of the Parliamentary Secretary in his very brilliant speech in defence of his office. I think these Motions for reduction, with a view to economy with regard to the Navy, are very unfortunate. Not only are they mis-read in the country, which is rather given to the idea that we spend too much money on the Navy, but they do not represent the real feeling of the House of Commons. The House of Commons and the country want a Navy, and an efficient Navy, and they do not want an economic Navy in the sense that it is not equal to what is required and what it is required to do. The Parliamentary Secretary said this was a wide Debate and most matters had been mentioned during it. In his own speech he did not mention one rather important matter and no previous speaker has mentioned it. I refer to the Imperial Conference. We were told we were to have an Imperial Navy. We were told at the Imperial Conference that the great Dominions were only too anxious to contribute to that Imperial Navy and that as soon as the Treaty of Washington was signed they would show some sign of what they intended to do in regard to contributions to this Imperial Navy. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether by now he has received from any of the Dominions any suggestion as to what contribution they should make to this Imperial Navy. In Canada there is a tendency to cut down the Navy and there is the same tendency in Australia, and here we are cutting down the Navy. Surely the time has arrived 2022 when it would be best to have some kind of Imperial Naval Conference—I am not talking about an Imperial Conference on the usual lines, but a special Naval Conference to try to bring about the idea of an Imperial Navy, and I will suggest that the time has arrived when it would be useful if the Parliamentary Secretary were to bring the matter before the Government.
The dockyards have been so much touched upon that one' could only reiterate what has already been said if one continued to talk in the same strain, but I should like to know whether these discharges from the yards are going to cease, and when they are going to cease. There is great disturbance in all the naval ports where there are dockyards becase they do not know when these discharges are going to cease. Lord Long told the House, when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, that so far as Devon-port Dockyard was concerned, the numbers would not be reduced lower than they were before the War. I believe the number now is very much less than it was before the War. We cannot go on like that. We must know exactly where we stand, and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us whether or not these discharges are to cease and how many men it is proposed to allow to remain in Devonport Dockyard. The cutting down of the Navy has meant the cutting down of the dockyards. I do not find any fault with that, but I do find fault with the system by which these men have been sent out of the yards. The hon. Member for Portsmouth cited the case of a shipwright of 28 years' standing in the yard who had been sent out into the streets. That is the case of a great number of men in all the yards. Men with families have been sent out on to the streets to pick up a living where they can. Everyone knows that in the dockyard towns there are no industries. The Admiralty did not allow industries to grow up in the dockyard towns; a very proper principle, no doubt, at the time it was laid down, but the effect of that is that we have men turned out from the dockyards who are unable to find any other means of livelihood in their native town. There are boys who have been brought up to think that they would enter the dockyard, in fact, boys who have been to school and have been apprenticed in the dockyards, and who had some 2023 right to suppose that they would one day become men in the dockyards and rise in the walk of life they had chosen. The result is now that you have these boys, these ex-apprentices, turned out. They have some right to expect something better from the Admiralty, because they have passed examinations and have done good work. Nevertheless, they are turned out, one after another, on to the streets. You have the older men who are also being turned on to the streets.
Apparently there is no system. No one knows who is to go one day or who is to go the next day. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction in the dockyards owing to the want of system. Many men come to me, and no doubt many men go to other hon. Members who represent dockyard towns, and say: "We are turned out, and we do not know why we are turned out. There is so and so who has been a shorter time in the dockyard, and he is not as good a worker as I am, and he is not turned out." These complaints ought not to go on from day to day, and if we had some better system of discharge I do not think these complaints would arise in this way. I do not wish to say anything more about the dockyards, except that I regret that the result of cutting down the Navy, as the Parliamentary Secretary said the other day, to the bone, has resulted in cutting down the dockyards also to the bone.
There is one other point of the policy of the Government in regard to the Navy that I should like to mention, and that is the policy with regard to the electrician class The electricians have a very reasonable complaint. The stagnation in their class is due, I think, to the lack of decision with regard to the future policy of that branch, it is time the Admiralty made up its mind what is going to be done with the electricians. Retirements are taking place and no promotions are being made to fill the vacancies. The difference of appointment authorised by Form I and the Order in Council is very pronounced, then there is a difference between the position of the electrician and the engine-room artificer. All these points could be settled by the policy which the Admiralty ought to lay down at once. Another matter which I should like to mention is the death of a writer, not very long ago, I think in the 2024 Udal Torre Sanatorium, from tuberculosis. This man's case is closely associated with the question of ventilation in His Majesty's ships. The places in which these writers have to work in the ships are not properly ventilated, with the result that the men sometimes work 12 hours in a very hot place, come out very heated, and often they catch severe colds which in time generates tuberculosis. I have communicated with the Parliamentary Secretary about it, and he sent me a very courteous reply. He told me that the matter is being inquired into, and that something will be done. I would like to take this opportunity of impressing upon him that the time has arrived when we must have a strict and very careful inquiry into this question of ventilation on board ships where the writers are required to do their work. It may be possible that some of the work which falls to the writers might be done on shore, and so lessen the amount of work which has to be done on board ship. In any event, the time has arrived when something must be done to see that the places where men are required to work are properly ventilated.
Then there is the, question of naval schoolmasters, which we have discussed over and over again. We have been told that this matter was going to be settled, and that they were to receive increase of pay. It is almost two years, certainly 18 months, since that announcement was made, and it is not asking too much of the Parliamentary Secretary that he will to-night give us a definite answer as to when the naval schoolmasters may expect their rise in pay. The question of prize money has been touched upon. That question is felt very much in the naval ports, and especially at Devonport, where there are a great number of people who are very much distressed on account of not receiving their prize money. I am not referring to the men who are now-engaged in the work of the Navy, but pensioners and widows, and the next of kin, who are in a very distressed state. I receive letters every morning from people who beg me to see if they cannot get their prize money. In these days of stress and strain I think the Admiralty might perhaps make a little more effort to distribute the prize money quickly. We have heard to-night of the number of people that it is necessary to employ in 2025 order to do the work of the Admiralty. If sufficient people were employed to see that prize money in distributed, there would not be the serious delay that is taking place at the present time. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary not to overlook the observations I have made, even though he has already made a very useful and very practical speech. If he has the opportunity of replying, he might take note of the points I have raised before we go to a vote. When we do go to a vote, I trust that no one will vote against the Admiralty, except the two tellers.
§ Sir T. BRAMSDON
I want to thank the Parliamentary Secretary most warmly for the conclusive defence that he has set up of the good work that is done in the dockyards. That defence was unexpectedly enhanced by the praise which was bestowed upon the dockyards by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose). I join in emphasising the distress which exists in the: dockyards on account of the recent discharges, and I was very glad to hear from my right hon. Friend that these discharges will very shortly come to an end. We know that the Admiralty have, to the best of their power, set out to retain in the dockyards the most efficient workers. That has been the object in connection with the discharges, and I think we may say now that we have in the Royal dockyards the most efficient workmen of their class to be found in the world. That ought to do something to maintain the very high standard of efficiency which we know exists in the dockyards, and which I am sure will continue to exist.
We were told to-night something about the cost of the work of construction in the dockyards and in outside establishments. We have the official figures, and there has been a good deal of discussion in connection with them. My right hon. Friend showed that the cost of construction in the Royal dockyards was very little more than the cost in outside yards. One thing with which you will agree is that all that is made up by the superority of our dockyards. That is a thing which is generally admitted. We were told some time ago that in order to build those super-dreadnoughts it would be necessary to spend something like £900,000 on the two main dockyards. The hon. Member 2026 for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose) gave figures to show that that expenditure was very much over-estimated, and he argued that half that amount was all that would be necessary to put those slips into proper and efficient condition. The Committee will agree that those slips sooner or later will have to be reconstructed so that they may take the biggest ships of the Navy. It is unthinkable that the naval dockyards should not be able to build, as they always have done in our history, the biggest ships in the Navy. My right hon. Friend will answer that that is a question of the cost of the alteration of the slips. I would ask him to give us the latest evidence upon this point, whether the view held by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen is the correct view, or whether he still adheres to the larger figure. We know that the cost of working the dockyards and other places is very much lessened by the fall in the cost of material and labour, and if there is a substantial reduction in the cost of carrying out this essential work everyone will agree that it should be done. In building ships by contract there is sometimes the danger of a combination to keep up prices, but if the Admiralty can in their own dockyards build the biggest kind of ships with the most efficient work, that should be done. I should also be glad if my right hon. Friend will say what are the prospects of the future in reference to these ships.
The right hon. Gentleman expressed regret at taking so long a time to cover the points which had been raised. No expression of regret was needed, because the facts with which he dealt were of vital interest, and to me, as a comparative newcomer in this House, his speech was packed full of instruction on the very interesting points with which he dealt. But I was in the end disappointed, because for some reason he failed to deal with the matter that was raised by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose)—the respective claims of the dockyards and the private yards in the construction of ships, I was glad to hear what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty had to say about the comparative cost of the private yard and the dockyard, and I think that the figures which he gave were a convincing answer to the cheap criticism made by those who have never 2027 troubled to ascertain the facts themselves.
The claims of the dockyards have been emphasised in previous speeches tonight, and I do not want to reiterate them, except to urge this upon the right hon. Gentleman, which I have no doubt he has heard almost every week since he occupied his present office—that the dockyard is, after all, a deliberately artificially-created community, and it is a community built up deliberately upon special lines to meet special needs, and because of that it has a special claim upon the Government whose creation it is. Reference was made to-night to Plymouth, as I prefer to call it, by the hon. Member for the Devonport Division of Plymouth (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke). Plymouth has in itself the most exceptional natural advantages. For more than 100 years, while that community has been growing, those natural advantages have never been capable of development. We have one of the finest harbours in the world. In the ordinary course of things Plymouth would have been a great commercial port, but every step taken, in the way of local enterprise, to develop the commercial interests of Plymouth has been immediately stopped by the Admiralty themselves, who, very rightly, have said that the claim of the nation, as represented by the Admiralty, should be predominant.
That, as the hon. Member for Central Portsmouth (Sir T. Bramsdon) said just now, is a perfectly proper claim for the Admiralty to have made from time to time. But we are entitled to say, because of those conditions, that the community that has been artificially restricted in its ordinary development has now a special claim upon the nation at this time when the national policy is being considerably changed. I was interested in what was said by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen as to the cost of extending the two slips at Portsmouth and Devonport which was estimated at £900,000. I wish to raise a question which was ruled out of order on a previous occasion, and which has given great anxiety to those of us who are concerned with Plymouth, and that is the making of the slip at Devonport. I put on the Paper the other day a question asking the present esti- 2028 mate of the cost of making a slip at Devonport equal to building the biggest ships required by the Navy, or the building of any one of the two new battleships, and the answer given was that no new estimate had been made, but that the estimate arrived at some time since, when one of the super-Hoods was in contemplation, was £350,000, and the right hon. Gentleman said that he thought that that figure need not be considerably altered. It is a smaller ship that is now contemplated and further the cost of labour and material must have decreased considerably since the figures were gone into last.
I had the honour almost 12 months ago, with the three Members for the borough of Plymouth, and many members of the corporation and those representing various interests in Plymouth, to wait-on the right hon. Gentleman at the Admiralty, and he then informed us that it was the definite policy of the Admiralty to make the Devonport Dockyard equal to all the real needs of the Navy and that it was not intended that Devonport Dockyard, with all its great traditions, and its great capital, should fall into a secondary position, but he told us that at that time it was impossible to spend the money on making one of the slips necessary for building one of the ships contemplated at that time, because it was so urgent to get the ships built at once. That was before the Washington Conference. It was urgency for the ships that made it impossible for him at that time to consider the comparatively small cost of making a new slip there. That argument of urgency no longer has any force. We are told now that we need not contemplate a war for 10 years. At any rate, Washington has effected a complete change in the situation, and while there was point in the argument of urgency then, there is certainly no point in it now. I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether the policy of which he then spoke still holds good, and whether he will have regard to the fact that in Devonport Dockyard, as in other dockyards, there are millions of public money sunk, and that it is a real economy and a far-sighted policy to spend a small sum in order that you may make these many millions available for national purposes. At present they are not available, because the ships cannot be built, but the expenditure of a quarter a million of money, or less, 2029 would make the dockyard available for the purpose for which it was constructed. As long as you have no dockyard in which any big ship can be built, you lose all the purpose of your dockyards, and you are practically in the hands of private interests in this country.
I admit that their purpose is largely for repairing. But I do not think the hon. and gallant Member would contend that it is not also very important that the dockyards should build ships. A small expenditure would make the dockyard equal to the meeting of that need. It is a very sad thing that we are having dispersed the workmen at the yards. Take the position of the father and mother in the home. With some difficulty and at some expense, they have educated their boy. They have seen him sit for his examination as a dockyard apprentice and secure his position, and now that the lad has gone through his period of apprenticeship, he is out on the labour market. That has happened in a large number of cases. It means in these homes very real disturbance, loss and disappointment, and, having regard to the fact that these lads at a very important period of their lives are to be dependent on the dole, and for a long time may be out of work, I do not think their dispersal will in the end be any real economy. I suggest that where these national yards exist, it is to the advantage of the nation that they should be given the first chance.
After conversation with those who have been engaged in the yards, I am able to say that all they are anxious for is that they should have an opportunity of putting their work into comparison with what can be done elsewhere. There has been a piece of work done lately at Devonport which reflects very great credit upon all concerned. The dockyard men do not ask for any favours. They are quite prepared that their work shall be compared with any work done elsewhere. What disturbs them is that, owing to the withholding of the small expense that is needed, they have not an opportunity of doing this work. I do not know that a contract can be given, but an estimate can be obtained, and I think that at Devonport, and no doubt at Portsmouth, the cost will be 2030 found to correspond very closely with the estimate. Such an estimate could be put in comparison with any contract obtained elsewhere. At any rate, I ask the Admiralty to give the men whom they have specially trained for this work a fair opportunity of doing the work in competition with others. I trust that some such assurance can be given on this point.
§ Mr. AMERY
The Committee will, of course, not expect me to deal more than very briefly with the points raised. The right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) raised the issue of the capital ship. I have already dealt with it, but I would only add that he has been dealt with most effectively in the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Wilkie). He and others have expressed their anxiety about the whole dockyard position. As to discharges, I would like to assure them again that we have very nearly reached the minimum figure which we want to get, and that by the end of the month, or not many days after the end of the month, I hope that the reductions will come to an end. We shall then have reached rock bottom, and from that point we may see a beginning of really fruitful and effective activity in the dockyards. On behalf of the Admiralty I welcome the statement made by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose), and by the hon. Member for Dundee that the men in the dockyards are willing to make trial to the fullest extent of the system of payment by results. Certainly we sympathise with that point of view, and we believe that the system can be adopted without the danger of a man having any feeling that he is taking wages away from others. I can give an assurance to the workmen that if they do better work individually, they are not in any way taking work away from their fellows.
The hon. Member for Dundee and the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) have raised the question of enabling the dockyards to compete with people outside. As far as it is possible to do that, I think the Admiralty are sympathetic to the proposal. It is good for the dockyards to be tested in fair competition. If they can compete fairly with outside work, we are only too glad, in view of the responsibility which we feel towards the great dockyard population. When it comes to the question of the two new capital ships, we reach a consideration of a rather different 2031 character. It is perfectly true that the cost of enlarging the slips for these two ships would now be somewhat reduced in comparison with the estimates framed some time ago. There has been a fall in the cost of wages. These ships will be somewhat shorter than the four super "Hoods" originally proposed. But they will be just as broad, and it is the breadth that causes the chief difficulty in construction. The reduction in cost will not be very large. There is the question of delay. That operates in two ways. The hon. Member for Bodmin suggested that there was no longer any urgency. He said that we do not contemplate war in the near future. Last year we did not contemplate war in the near future. But we still regard it as urgent that we should not fall below the one-power standard. Apart from that, there is another difficulty in the delay in extending and enlarging these slips which will mean that for a period of something like 21 months, I think, in the case of Devonport, the work of the unskilled men will be holding up the work of skilled men. I cannot at this moment say we are able to put new slips into the Royal Dockyards.
§ Mr. AMERY
I am afraid we could not put one. I again repeat to the Committee that we cannot go on in the Royal Dockyards indefinitely in the position of being entirely dependent on the private contractor. The hon. Member for Devon-port (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) raised the question of ventilation on board ship. I quite agree it is a most important consideration and one to which far more attention is now being given in the construction and design of ships than formerly. I hope it may be possible to ensure such conditions of health on every one of His Majesty's ships as will be satisfactory and consistent with a perfect fighting machine. With regard to the particular case he mentioned of a writer suffering from tuberculosis, we have in the past taken in writers of a somewhat lower physical standard than other ratings, and we are inquiring whether this is altogether a satisfactory policy and whether it may not be wise to raise the standard. The hon. Member for North Portsmouth (Sir B. Falle) raised the question of prize money. He wishes the payment accelerated and the hard cases more 2032 promptly dealt with. We are trying to deal with the hard cases ahead of the other cases, and we have (lone something in that respect already, as a great many other hon. Members know. The result of doing so is that we have elicited such a number of hard cases that the existing staff dealing with prize money is at present entirely devoted to hard cases, and the other work is falling behind. There is no other way of getting a more rapid distribution of prize money, except by taking on additional staff at the Admiralty, and that, I know, my hon. Friends opposite would deplore and disapprove of.
Several hon. Members have asked a question to which I have often had to give a postponing reply, and that is as to the schoolmasters. After long discussion with the Treasury that has now been settled, and I think settled satisfactorily. An Admiralty Order will be issued at the end of the week containing all the details, but the Committee may be interested to know the main, salient points of the new scheme. The new scale for naval schoolmasters is a uniform scale rising from the initial salary of £223 a year by equal annual increments of £9 2s. 6d. to £456 at the end of 25 years. The London Burnham scale for non-graduated teachers rises from £210 to £450 in 20 years. The new naval scale over 30 years, is about 3 per cent. less than the London Burnham scale. It is about 5½ per cent. or nearly 6 per cent. better than the provincial Burnham scale, not taking into account the 5 per cent. reduction now being introduced as contribution towards pension. Taking that into account the new naval scale is at least 2 per cent. better than the London Burnham scale and correspondingly better still than the provincial scale. It is 21½5 per cent. better, taken over 30 years, than the scale in force at the present moment. I reckon that the ultimate addition to the Estimates, for the 205 schoolmasters, will be about £15,000 a year. There was another question which the hon. Member for Portsmouth, and other hon. Members, raised, and that is the position of these officers from the point of view of promotion to commissioned rank. We have secured, there also, a substantial advance, from their point of view, for the period of service for promotion from warrant rank to commissioned rank has been reduced 2033 from 20½ years to 15 years, and the rank of Commander, that very coveted distinction, has now been granted, by selection, in conjunction with seniority, to one per cent. of the schoolmasters. Those schoolmasters now serving will reckon their qualifying term of service for full pay, promotion, and retired pay, or retirement gratuity as though they had been entered as schoolmaster candidates on the dates of their original con-
§ tinuous service engagements. I think hon. Members who have taken a keen interest in this particular question will welcome this as a solution which, though delayed for some time, has been satisfactorily settled.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,157,700, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 44; Noes, 157.2035
|Division No. 227.]||AYES.||[10.25 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Newbould, Alfred Ernest|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton le Spring)|
|Banton, George||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Robertson, John|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayward, Evan||Rose, Frank H.|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Sexton, James|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Hirst, G. H.||Swan, J. E.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Irving, Dan||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Kennedy, Thomas||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Bromfield, William||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Lawson, John James||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lunn, William||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South]||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness and Ross)||Mr. Penry Williams and Mr.|
|Gillis, William||Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Hogge.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M.S.||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Larmor, Sir Joseph|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Falcon, Captain Michael||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W.||Faile, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)|
|Atkey, A. R.||Fell, Sir Arthur||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Foot, Isaac||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Ford, Patrick Johnston||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Forrest, Walter||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. K. (Devizes)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Mason, Robert|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Fremantle, Lieut. Colonel Francis E.||Mitchell, Sir William Lane|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Ganzoni, Sir John||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)||Gee. Captain Robert||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Murray, Hon. Gideon (St. Rollox)|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Green, Albert (Derby)||Neal, Arthur|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Grenfell, Edward Charles||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Gretton, Colonel John||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hallwood, Augustine||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Cayzer, Major Herbert Robin||Henderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)||Parker, James|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J.A.(Birm.,W.)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Pease, Rt. Hon Herbert Pike|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Hills, Major John Waller||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Clough, Sir Robert||Hinds, John||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Pratt, John William|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Houfton, John Plowright||Purchase, H. G.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Remer, J. H.|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon, Cuthbert||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Jephcott, A. R.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Rodger, A. K.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Kenyon, Barnet||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Kidd, James||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Steel, Major S. Strang||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Windsor, Viscount|
|Stephenson, Lieut-Colonel H. K.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitcheil- (Maryhill)||Wise, Frederick|
|Sturrock, J. Long||Townley, Maximilian G.||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Sugden, W. H.||Wallace, J.||Wood, Major Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Sutherland, Sir William||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Taylor, J.||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield||TELLERS FOR THE NOES —|
|Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)||Wilkle, Alexander||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)||Williams, C. (Tavistock)||Dudley Ward.|
|Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Before we leave this Vote I want to raise one point that I called attention to earlier, but I also make no apology for raising the question again, as it affects every serving officer and man of the Fleets. I refer to the matter which I think I am right in saying has caused a good deal of comment and distress amongst the men, and that is the question of travelling facilities for men going on leave. Take the case of an able seaman receiving 4s. per day. He is serving in the Fleet and gets three times a year long leave. His home, say, is in Glasgow and his ship is stationed at Devonport. If that man spends only 1s. per day on his food, recreation, and so on, and if he saves the other 3s., the railway fare to take him on leave from his ship at Devonport to his home in Glasgow—to put it no further away—eats up half that pay. Before the War a concession was given by arrangement with the railway companies by which officers and men could go the double journey for the single fare. That was a privilege they very much appreciated. In those days their pay was smaller, but railway fares were less—
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. James Hope)
That is a matter which seems to me to be outside our purview at the present moment. In the days of control of the railways, the hon. Member might have raised the point here, but I do not think he can now raise it.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I think I can explain the position. The Admiralty, I think, recently made a contribution to the railway company. In any case, the privilege was in force before the War, when we had no control; also, as I shall presently show, the Admiralty can help men in this respect in a very practical way. I understand that the question of policy has been raised. These are the days of economy, and the case against may be that this privilege has been withdrawn on the suggestion of the Geddes Committee. But the Geddes 2036 Committee are wrong when they say in their Report—on one of the few occasions when they are inaccurate—that this privilege did not exist before the War. It did, and it was very much needed then, and is now?
I believe a proposal was mooted, which was only stopped by the Admiralty, the object of which—there was a contributory scheme for the officers and men of the Fleets—to pay a certain amount of their pay every month, in return for which they would get either reduced railway travelling or—it was suggested—free travelling altogether. I believe I am right in saying that the Admiralty, for some reason or another, objected, although the railway companies were agreed, and the great body of the men and officers were agreed, to the scheme, which did not come to pass. I should like to know whether the Admiralty have of late considered some contributory scheme; whether they have discussed it with the welfare committees of the lower deck; whether they have discussed the idea with the officers, whose opinions they can easily get at; and whether they have discussed the matter with the railway companies. The men who live at a distance from their home ports are at the present time penalised very severely by the expenses of railway travelling. This is a class of the community which I believe is hit most hard of all by the high cost of railway travelling, and if the Admiralty can do something to help them it is their duty to do so. My suggestion is that the idea of a contributory scheme should be explored, and if the Admiralty can see their way to give some small grant-in-aid, I do not think the country would begrudge that to the Navy after all that has happened in recent years. In any case the complaint of men and officers is very real indeed to-day, and I hope that the Admiralty will bear this matter in mind and explore all means of relieving those concerned.
§ Viscount CURZON
I would like to support the point which the last speaker has raised. It is a question which presses 2037 very hardly in the case of the men whose ships are sent to Rosyth and whose homes are in Devonport or Portsmouth. These men are faced with the difficulty of getting back to their homes, and I think the Admiralty ought to take up the suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, and see whether some kind of contributory scheme cannot be instituted for ships refitting at Rosyth. It is a fact that more work is being done at Rosyth than was done there before the War. Previously, prior to the War, an arrangement was made to allow these men reduced travelling facilities, but this privilege has now-been withdrawn, and it has created a great feeling of resentment amongst the men. If the Admiralty will only give a helping hand in this matter it will do a great deal of good.
Another question I wish to raise is that of the lieut.-commanders whose promotion should have taken place on the 1st January, and has been delayed. If the Committee will bear with me, I will just explain exactly what happens. On the 1st January every year promotions are made, and this year the Admiralty propose to promote a certain number of lieut. commanders to commander rank. The Treasury stepped in and said they considered the list was already too large and that the number of suggested promotions should be reduced. The Admiralty had a long discussion over this matter, and finally, as a result, no promotions from the rank of lieut.-commander to commander were made in January. Finally the requisite number of promotions were made on the 31st March and dated back to the 1st January.
Of the officers who were promoted, some were granted back pay from the 1st January to the 31st March, but to others the back pay has been reduced. There is an Admiralty instruction to the effect that an officer does not get back pay when dated back unless they are reappointed. Some of these officers were reappointed and some were not, but my submission is that it is extremely unfair to differentiate between these officers, and there can be no ground for refusing the back pay to which they are entitled. It was never the intention of the House or the country that these officers should have suffered as they have done, because it was through no fault of their own.
2038 Their promotion was delayed owing to a quarrel between the Treasury and the Admiralty, and I submit that the Admiralty should see to it that these officers do not suffer in consequence of the difference of opinion between the two Departments. It seems grossly unfair because the officers themselves do not understand why you should differentiate between one officer and another for no reason except that you have reappointed them in some cases and in others you have not. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bring this case very strongly to the notice of the Treasury and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give some further explanation before we pass from this Vote.
§ Mr. AMERY
My Noble and gallant Friend the Member for South Batter-sea (Viscount Curzon) will be glad to hear that the technical difficulties which stood in the way of paying these officers full commander's pay, have been overcome, and they will receive their commander's pay as from 31st December last. As regards the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy), I would remind him that these railway concessions before the War were given, not by the Government, but by the railway companies as a matter both of business and of sentiment. When the railways came under Government control, it was decided that the concessions should figure on the Admiralty Vote, and not on the Railway Vote. Now, however, through the action of the Geddes Committee, the concession has been withdrawn from the Admiralty Vote, and it is left with the railway companies to restore it. So far they have declined to revive it, but we have by no means abandoned the hope we may induce them to do so. We are still pressing them. Meanwhile, Commanders-in-Chief in the Home ports have been able to arrange certain concessions locally with the railway authorities. The London and South Western, the Great Western and the London, Brighton and South Coast Companies are giving return week-end tickets at 1⅓ single fares. The South Eastern and Chatham are also issuing week-end tickets at 1$ single fares on their own line and cheap period return fares over their system. But the Northern lines have not felt, so far, disposed to grant any concessions as regards the harder case of the men who have leave 2039 from Rosyth, with the exception of cheap return tickets to Edinburgh and some local stations. But we do not regard the matter as finally settled, and we are continuing communications. In view of that, I do not think we need, at the moment, consider the other suggestion of a contributory scheme as we still have hopes the railway companies may meet us in the matter.
§ Lieut.-Colonel NALL
I think the right hon. Gentleman has been misinformed about the week-end tickets. It is easy for any one to get a week-end return ticket at single fare and a quarter. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the cheap tickets are issued at any time in the week? That would be a real concession, and not merely one which is available to any civilian on any railway in the country. Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the matter from that point of view?