If the matters raised by my hon. and gallant Friends related solely to the Navy, I should not have thought it necessary to intervene. It would be left to the very competent hands of the Admiralty representatives in this House. But as my hon. and gallant Friend and my Noble Friend have raised a question which cannot be confined to a single Service, which even as they have raised it affects two Services, as also two Ministers at present, and in all its implications affects all the three fighting Services and the fighting Ministries, it seems proper that the statement of Government policy should be made by a Minister, not the head of one of these various Departments, but on behalf of the Government as a whole. It is certainly due to no lack of respect to other Gentlemen who intend to speak, but I think it is for the convenience of the House that I should take the earliest opportunity of stating what are our views.
I do not pretend to-night to lay down a policy for all time. The Air man has had, during and since the War, an extraordinarily rapid development, but he would be a bold man who would attempt as yet to define the ultimate potentialities of the Air Force, or the place which it will hold in warfare, whether over the sea or over the land. I can imagine, without an undue strain upon my imagination, developments which may change the whole course of war, and which may quite conceivably lead the world in a short time to think that limitation of battleships or limitation of armaments is of very little use unless the new weapon is subjected to limitation of a similar kind. Accordingly in what I say I am declaring the policy of His Majesty's Government as things stand, and it is essential that that policy should be known, because it is not fair to any Service, nor can the best be expected from any Service, unless they know clearly what is our present policy.
I think my hon. and gallant Friends who have moved and seconded the Amendment have said everything that could be said in support of their Amendment from the particular point of view from which they approach the question. It was essentially and admittedly a 2470 rather narrow point of view. They were considering the interests of the Naval Service, even to such an extent that my hon. and gallant Friend at one point in his speech made the point that it was not fair to take enterprising officers, or officers of ability, from the Naval Service for the service of the country in another sphere. I must remind my hon. and gallant Friend of what indeed he will readily admit—that we have a common country, and that all these Services exist and only exist for the defence of that common country. We must look at it, therefore, from a wider point of view than that taken by my hon. and gallant Friend. I think it will be not without service to the House in coming to a judgment on the subject if I give a review of what has been the history of this arm up to the present. Some knowledge of the experiments we have already tried will not only be serviceable, but will be necessary to the formation of a correct judgment as to what is best to be done at present.
In 1912 a scheme for the creation of a Royal Flying Corps was laid before Parliament. The theory on which that scheme was based was that the needs of the Navy and Army differed, and that each required a technically developed arm respectively for sea and land warfare, but that the foundation of the requirements of each Service was identical, namely, an adequate number of efficient flying men. The aeronautical service, therefore, was to be regarded as one, and was designated at that time the Royal Flying Corps. It consisted of a naval and a military wing, maintained at the expense and administered by the Admiralty and the War Office respectively. There was established further a single Royal Aircraft Factory, common to both Services, and a central Flying School, all graduating at this school to remain to specialise in naval and military flying. And, in order to secure co-ordination between the two branches of the Royal Flying Corps, an Air Committee was set up as a Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence. My right hon. and gallant Friend (Major-General Seely) was the first Chairman of that Committee. But even from the first there was a tendency for the two Services to drift apart, and in 1914, before the outbreak of the War, the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps had already changed its title to the Royal Naval Air Service. With the outbreak 2471 of hostilities, the separation of the two Services was virtually complete That is the first stage in the history of this arm. When war broke out, the War Office were responsible for the aerial defence of the country. But all the squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps were engaged in France, and at Lord Kitchener's request the Admiralty took responsibility for home defence against aircraft, early in September, 1914. Therefore, for the first two-and-a-half years of the war expansion of the two branches of the Air Service was developed independently, both as to organisation and supply, by the naval and military authorities. What was the result?
My hon. and gallant Friend proudly boasts that the Navy got all the best machines and all the best officers. How did it get them? Was that distribution dictated by the country's needs at the moment, or by any consideration of the country's need? It was dictated by a fierce inter-departmental competition in the market, the resources of which at that time were wholly insufficient to supply the Services. It was a haphazard and, therefore, a dangerous arrangement. It was an accidental, and, therefore, could not be a considered, arrangement. It resulted in overlapping, waste of effort, one Department bidding against another in the distribution and application of the resources of the country, not according to a considered view of the country's needs, but according to the relative skill and relative quickness of the different Departments in getting hold of what resources were available. Those are the great and glorious days the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir It. Hall) holds up to us as providing that which his Amendment would provide, and which the present system does not.
Towards the end of 1915, so patent were the facts that there arose a strong movement for co-ordination, though it was not at the time proposed to combine the two Services, because it was clear that for a considerable time to come the great bulk of the work in the air would be of a definitely naval or military character. There was already a strong body of opinion in favour of an Air Minister, who should have entire control of the Services, and a status equal to that of the First Lord of the Admiralty or the Secretary of State for War.
2472 The next step in co-ordination was that in February, 1916, a Joint War Air Committee was appointed to collaborate in and co-ordinate questions of supply and design of material for the Naval and Military Air Services. That was not without some relation to the state of things on which my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir E. Hall) so lovingly dwelt. The Committee failed to present an agreed Report, and it was brought to an abrupt end by the resignation of its chairman (Lord Derby). That committee was succeeded by an Air Board, constituted on 11th May, 1916, under the Presidency of Lord Curzon. This Board was free to discuss matters of general policy in relation to the Air, including combined operations of the Naval and Military Air Services, and to make recommendations to the Admiralty and the War Office thereon, as well as to discuss and make recommendations on the types of machine required for the two Air Services. If either Department declined to act upon its recommendations, the President had the right of reference to the War Committee. The Board was also charged with the task of organising and co-ordinating —observe how often the word co-ordinating comes in; I emphasise it because it means that the system was not working smoothly, that there was not one policy, but two policies, often clashing and constantly overlapping—the supply of material and to prevent competition between the two Departments. Finally, it was responsible for the co-ordination of research in aerial matters between all the bodies concerned.
After further experience—in November of that year, 1916—the Government, after prolonged inquiry, decided on further developments, providing for the Admiralty and War Office to concert their respective aerial policies in consultation with the Air Board, and to submit their programmes of aerial production to the Air Board, which was to decide as to the extent to which the Departmental programmes were to be approved, having regard to the rate of production, the needs of other Departments and the respective urgency of the demands. Every one of these steps was necessary because the profound lack of co-ordination and of a central control had landed the country in difficulties, and had failed to provide us with a satisfactory defence. A change of Government took place in 2473 December of that year, but the new Government confirmed the decision of its predecessor; and the new Air Board was actually constituted on 6th February, 1917. Up to the middle of 1917 all the aerial output was absorbed by the older Services. The supply could not overtake the demand. The constantly growing series of activities to which aircraft was successfully applied outstripped the progress of manufacture, and forced us to apply all the machinery available for a purely naval or purely military purpose, and the building up of a reserve for an independent aerial campaign against Germany was impossible. By July, 1917, however, the Ministry of Munitions had the supply position well in hand. A deadlock appeared to have been reached both in the naval and military theatres, and it seemed conceivable that a sustained air offensive might contribute more powerfully than any other factor towards undermining the moral of the enemy, and disposing him towards a reasonable peace.
It was perfectly clear, however, that unless there were a properly constituted Air General Staff, under an Air Board or under an Air Ministry, aviation, output, however large, would continue to be absorbed by the two Services already existing. Accordingly, in August, 1917, the Government decided in favour of the principle of uniting the Air Services, and of providing a special branch for the systematic raiding of German munition centres. And an Air Organisation Committee was appointed, under the Chairmanship of General Smuts, to work out the details for an Air Ministry, an Air Council, and a combined Air Force. The Air Council was set up by Order in Council on the 21st December, 1917.
The independent Air Force was constituted on 8th June, 1918, under the then General, now Air Marshal, Sir Hugh Trenchard, who was placed directly under the Air Ministry, although for purely operation purposes General Trenchard was under the supreme command of Marshal Foch. It was during this latter period, subsequent to the formation of the Air Ministry, that our Air Services achieved their maximum successes in the War. Although in 1918 a serious shortage in the supply of high-powered engines curtailed that programme, the limited amount of raiding which took place had a considerable effect on the enemy. It is well known that if the War had lasted a little longer, 2474 the range of our bombing squadrons would have greatly increased, and would probably have included Berlin. From that time to this the Air Force has remained a separate force under the Air Ministry.
I hope the House does not think that I have taken too long with the summary, which I could not well have made shorter if I were to give the House all the events that led up to the formation of the Air Ministry and of a separate Air Board by an Act of Parliament on the decision of this House. It will be seen that it was war experience which led to the creation of the Air Ministry, and to the constitution of a separate homogeneous Air Force. It was not theory derived from speculation in the past, but it was practical experience, after trying a great many other experiments, and the deficiencies which they left, that proved to the Government in the pressure of the War, and for the successful conduct of the War, the necessity of creating the system now in force.
§ Viscount CURZON
After the Air Ministry was constituted, did the Services retain control of the aeroplanes working with them, or were they controlled by the Air Ministry?
The independent force was directly under the Air Ministry, subject to the supreme control of Marshal Foch. Air squadrons working with the Army were under the Army Command, and air squadrons working with the Navy were under the Naval Command. Now I return to the lessons which we derived and the inferences which we formed from this war experience. However elaborate the machinery for coordination, whatever the goodwill and the desire to co-operate between the different Departments, it was found during the War supremely difficult to achieve, full efficiency in the Air Services as long as those Services remained divided—part under the War Office and part under the Admiralty. As long as the supply of machines and engines remained under the two Departments, there resulted only a disastrous and wasteful competition. We were driven step by step to a greater concentration of responsibility for the Air, until by Statute the Air Ministry and the Air Board were constituted as they exist to-day. It was only after the Air Ministry was constituted, with its air 2475 staff, that the aeronautical aspects of the War were considered from a distinctly Air point of view and by aerial officers. Until that time the Air was under purely naval or military command, and was only thought of in terms of naval or military warfare.
I do not want it to be thought that the Government are blind to the real difficulties which arise out of the present system. I do not pretend for one moment that it works with perfect harmony or smoothness, or gives satisfaction to everybody. But our view is that the objections to the re-absorption of the Air Forces by the Army and Navy are far greater than any objections under the present circumstances and for the time to which we can look forward—as I have said before, I am not pretending to lay down a policy for all time—which can be raised against the existence of a separate Air Ministry and Staff. If the Air Services were required only as an adjunct to the Naval and Military Services, there would be much to be said for their re-absorption, thought I do not think that even then the case would be conclusive, for there would remain the necessity for preventing the kind of competition which took place with such unhappy results during the War.
It is imperative that there should be the closest co-operation and the closest communication and understanding between the heads of the different Services of the needs, requirements, and capabilities not only of their own Service, but of the other Services with which they have to act in common. These are points for which we must provide, but we have, in addition, to consider the development of the Aerial Forces in their own elements, and use those forces for operations independent of both the Navy and the Army. Already great progress has been made in that direction. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, recently gave the House some very interesting information as to the success of the Air Force in carrying out independent action, and as to the use which we are making of it in Mesopotamia at the present time, as also in Somaliland, but not wholly independent there. The Government believe then that if the Air Service were reabsorbed by the Navy and the Army, this aspect of the service to be rendered by the Air Force would 2476 inevitably be relegated to the background. Sailors and soldiers would continue to think of the force in terms of their own service, and would not pursue and could not be expected to pursue its development as an independent force outside the purpose with which it was associated, and for which they desired that it should be employed. Believing, however, as we do that the Air Forces have immense potentialities of their own, and in their own element, distinctive from their other and vitally important duties in connection with the Naval and Military Services, the great importance of which is not in the least underrated, and convinced as we are that in the future the greatest danger to this country may well be from the action of Air Forces, rather than of Naval or Military Forces, we consider that it would be a retrograde step at this time to abolish the Air Ministry, and to re-absorb the Air Service into the Admiralty and the War Office.
It is true that no other nation as yet has followed our example in this matter, but 1 think that I am correct in saying that some high authorities in other countries think that the course which we have taken is the right course, and are contemplating, or discussing, the advisability of following it in their own case. It is notorious that more than one great Power is most anxiously canvassing the whole situation, and I think it not unlikely, to put it no higher, that we shall find our example followed if we do not ourselves abandon it.
The House will be anxious to know in these circumstances how we propose to secure the proper co-operation and co-ordination of the services, and what rules we shall lay down to secure that the Army shall have the aid from the air which is required, and that the Navy shall have the aid front the air which it requires. This is a subject which has for a long time been very carefully considered by a Standing Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council. As the result of that inquiry, we have come to certain decisions, which I hope I may be permitted to give in their entirety, though they are not confined to co-operation between the Air Force and the Navy, because, as I said at the beginning of my speech, it is impossible for the 2477 Government to treat this matter as the hon. and gallant Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool (Sir R. Hall) very easily and fairly put it in moving his Amendment as one to be decided in the light of Naval considerations alone. We can only come to, and defend, our decision by a survey of the whole position. These are the conclusions at which we have arrived:—
In the first place, that the Air Force must be autonomous in matters of administration and education.
Second, that in the case of defence against air raids the Army and Navy must play a secondary rôle
Third, that in the case of Military operations by land or Naval operations by sea, the Air Force must be in strict subordination to the general or admiral in supreme command.
Fourth, that in other cases, such as the protection of commerce and attacks on enemy harbours and inland towns, the relations between the Air Force and the other services shall be regarded rather as a matter of co-operation than of the strict subordination which is necessary when aeroplanes are acting merely as auxiliaries to other arms.
Lastly, the Government have decided to appoint a Committee which will, I say without hesitation, consist either of the Standing Committee or the Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, to examine carefully into the system of Naval and Air co-operation, and to advise us how we can best secure that the Air Force should be enabled to render to the Navy, and in connection with the Navy other services, the aid that they may require.
The case of the Army has been covered by the inquiry which has been already held, but that inquiry has not dealt in the same detail with the Navy. I do not think at the present time that there is likely to be any need for a further Committee of Inquiry as regards the Army. If it should prove to be necessary, of course, the Cabinet will order such an inquiry to be held.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Is the Air Force to be responsible for the defence of all the 2478 naval depots, oil fuel depots, and naval dockyards?
Sir R. HALL
The terms of reference are to advise as to what steps the Air Force is to take to reinforce the Navy. Is there anything in the terms of reference as to what assistance the Navy would have to give to the Air Force?
No, I was not professing to give the exact terms of reference. I give the substance of the terms of reference, but what the terms of reference are intended to cover is what is the essence of the question—how the two services are to work together for the common defence of the country. As regards the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), we hold that the Air Force must be held responsible for defence against air raids. As regards them, the Army and Navy play a secondary role.
Yes, for antiaircraft defence generally the Air Ministry is the predominant partner. As I have already said, during the War the antiaircraft defence was undertaken, for a time at any rate, at the request of Lord Kitchener, by the Admiralty.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Is the Air Force to be consulted as to where the naval depots should be, if they are responsible for the aerial defence?
No new naval depots are being created at this moment. The existing depots were established before the Air Force came into existence. The new possibilities of the situation must be taken into account, of course, in the ease of any future development.
I should already have informed my hon. Friend on that point, had it not been for the way in which I have been heckled as if I were in a Scottish election campaign. Now as to the question of economy, which is of vital importance at the present time. In the first part of the Report on National Expenditure, attention was drawn to overlapping and duplication in the services of the Navy, Army, and Air 2479 Force, and the Committee as a remedy proposed a Ministry of Defence superior to all. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has, I think, given notice of an Amendment raising that question. Such a proposal as that would require a great deal more consideration than the Government have been enabled to give, and, speaking as a layman, and I hope with all humility, I think that it would require a long preparation to train a staff sufficiently conversant with the work of all services to act as a staff to the new super-Ministry. At any rate, we do not think that we could adopt that remedy at the present moment, or without much further consideration, and I believe that in present circumstances we should not facilitate the securing of the necessary economy from each of the three Services if they believed that their individuality was being suppressed, that they had no spokesmen of their own who could express their view, and were all under the super-Minister who was common to all, yet belonged to none of them.
But there is something which ought to be done. There are ancillary services—intelligence, supply, transport, education, medical, chaplain, and perhaps others, which are required by each of the three Services, in the case of which it would seem that there is no particular differentiation in what they do for the respective Services; and we have decided, in the hope of reducing expenditure and securing economy on these ancillary services, to appoint a Committee to make proposals for amalgamating as far as possible these common ancillary Departments of the three great Services.
To sum up what I have said, the Government believe that to abolish the Air Ministry, to re-absorb the Air Service into the services of the Army and the Navy, would be a fatally retrograde step. Even if it removed a little friction, and improved and facilitated the co-operation between the Air Services and purely Naval and Military operations, which is very doubtful, it would unquestionably retard the development of the Air Services in their own element, in which it may be that the future of national defence lies. To take this step would be to bring back also all the evils of divided control which existed in this matter in the early part of the War. The decision of the Govern- 2480 ment to establish a separate Air Ministry-was based, as I have said, on war experience. What is now required in order to ensure the success of the present scheme is close and intimate co-operation, and that the three Services should regard themselves as the common servants of the nation in endeavouring to attain a single object. This cannot be achieved so long as the existence of the Air Ministry and the Air Force remains in doubt, and the Government thought it right and fair to that service and to the distinguished officers who are at its head, and no less fair to the other two great Services, that they should define their attitude in this matter, so that all may know what is expected of them, and what system they would have to follow.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Major-General SEELY
I wish to say merely with what immense satisfaction many of us have heard, and many outside will read, of the definite and final decision of the Government, in the interests of Imperial defence, to maintain a separate Air Ministry and Air Force.
§ Captain ELLIOT
Will it be open for us subsequently to discuss the statement of the Leader of the House with reference to the amalgamation of the ancillary services?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That can be discussed when the House goes into Committee, so far as it relates to this particular service.
§ Rear Admiral SUETER
I am quite satisfied with the very clear statement on Government policy of the Leader of the House. I can only express regret that the Government cannot set up a Ministry of Defence. It is said that there is no staff upon which to draw. Why cannot the Government draw upon the existing staff? On page 8 and page 99 of its Report the Geddes Committee very clearly lays it down that very great economy can be effected by the establishment of a Ministry of Defence. I submit that the Government ought to take that course forthwith.
May I appeal to the House now to allow Mr. Speaker to leave the Chair. The discussion can continue on the Vote that is to be submitted. The discussion on Vote A is as wide as the discussion on the question that Mr. Speaker leave the Chair. That being so 2481 perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Amendment will allow it to be withdrawn.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Before that is done may I, as one who took a humble part in the Air Service and who came prepared to make a speech in answer to my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Amendment, say to the Leader of the House, who has, I believe, made his first air speech, that I cannot do better than say "ditto" to his remarks.
Sir R. HALL
I fear it will be a great disappointment to many Members who came to the House primed with speeches, but after the statement made by the Leader of the House I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I must make a protest against the Question "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair" being put now. In the years before the War it took more than one day to move Mr. Speaker out of the Chair on the Navy Estimates. I see no reason why we should curtail the general discussion on this Motion at 8 o'clock at night. We are told that the discussion can be continued on Vote A, but it cannot be continued on so wide a basis as the present discussion.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I believe the hon. Gentleman will be quite in order in speaking a second time by leave of the House. Here we are entering upon most important Estimates, which before the War occupied more than a day. In view of the financial situation, it is important to discuss these matters fully now, and I must make my protest against the course suggested.
§ Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed:
A. "That 118,500 Officers, Seamen, Boys, mid Royal Marines be employed for the Sea
Service, together with 2,900 for the Coast Guard and Marine Police, borne on the books of His Majesty's ships and at the Royal Marine Divisions, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
We had a very interesting statement from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, who outlined in great detail the economies for which his Department was arranging. We on the Labour Benches are at one with him in the effort to reduce the colossal expenditure incurred on the fighting forces for some time past. We hold that the expenditure on the Navy-could very well be kept within the figure named by the Geddes Committee. We do not agree with the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary that, in looking round for economies, they have scraped the Admiralty to the very bone. Were the world situation properly examined there would be room for expenditure to be kept well within the figure suggested by the Geddes Report. We hope the Admiralty will not cease their efforts to economise. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that the economies which are to be effected would be distributed as evenly as possible among the various naval centres. On that point I join issue with him. As far as one can see from the statement placed in our hands, and from what has already occurred, the economies are not falling evenly among the various naval centres. As a matter of fact there is only one part of the country in which the economies are mainly falling, and that is Scotland. One needs only to look briefly at what has occurred since the War. The naval station of Invergordon has been practically closed. There is nothing left there but a few officials in charge of the buildings and plant. We have been told also that the Scottish Command is to be abolished. In addition, the remaining "Hoods" are not to be built, and three of the four were to have been built in Scotland. We have had the intimation that Rosyth is to be placed on the footing of a docking yard and that there is to be a reduction of the personnel of possibly 50 per cent. I do not know on what ground this action has been taken at Rosyth, and it is very difficult to understand why Scotland is being called upon to bear such an extraordinary share of the burden.
Certain of the economies it is very difficult to understand. Take Crombies and Rosyth, for example. I do not know 2483 on what ground this very large reduction in personnel is being made, in comparison with some of the other naval stations. Rosyth is possibly the safest naval station to be found on the British coast. It is the best oiling station on this side of the Atlantic, and is within closer roach of a native supply of oil than any other naval station in the country. It is very difficult to understand why such a station should be treated in this way. One can only guess at some of the likely reasons for a policy of this kind. I do not know that it would be politic to ask the Parliamentary Secretary some of the questions which immediately rise to one's mind on examining the economies which are being effected in this instance, as compared with those which are being effected at the other naval stations of the country. If there is any danger from the national standpoint in doing so, I do not ask the Parliamentary Secretary to reply, but one is strongly inclined to ask: Can it be that the potential enemy of the future is France, one of our greatest and closest allies in the trying times through which we have passed? Whatever may be the reason, this great change is being made, and it does not give effect to the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary that these economies—with which we agree—were to be evenly distributed among the naval stations of the country.
If we take the position of Rosyth and compare it with the position of the other naval stations, what do we find? I am now quoting from the Parliamentary Secretary's own figures, given a month ago in reply to the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy. He said that, during 1921, the average number of workpeople employed in Portsmouth was 15,724; Devon-port, 13,455; Chatham, 9,936; Pembroke Dock, 2,516; Rosyth, 5,143; and that the discharges which had been made from 31st December, 1921, until the date of the answer to the question, namely, the 9th February, were as follows: Portsmouth, 367; Devonport, 281; Chatham, 109; and Pembroke Dock, 75; whereas in Rosyth there had been no fewer than 544 men discharged. Comparing Rosyth with Portsmouth, we find that in Portsmouth, where nearly 16,000 men were employed, only 367 have been discharged, while in Rosyth, where 5,143 men were employed, 2484 there have been 544 discharges. These discharges have been going on ever since, at the rate of 200 men, or thereabouts, per week. I have suggested one reason for this, but there are other reasons which arise in one's mind on seeing the great disparity between the number of discharges from this naval station and the number of discharges from the others. One is forced to the conclusion that there must be either political or social influence behind it, or both.
Not only have we this great disparity existing between the naval station of Scotland and those of England, but if we examine the position at Rosyth, we find that there is unfair treatment in the discharging of the men from that dockyard just as there is unfair treatment as between that dockyard and the other dockyards of the country. I have already said that there are about 200 men being discharged weekly since the figures I have quoted were given by the Parliamentary Secretary. I should like the Committee to understand that the men who are being discharged in Rosyth are the men who have been taken on locally—the Scotsmen —and the men who are being kept in Rosyth, in its depleted state, are Englishmen. I would be the last person to try to make, invidious distinctions as between one country and the other, but the difference in treatment, first, as between Scottish and English yards, and, secondly, between Scotsmen and Englishmen in Rosyth, is so plain that one cannot help calling the attention of the Committee and the attention of tin Government, and the attention of the country to it. As a matter of fact, Saturday after Saturday as the discharged men are leaving the yard it is a common expression among the workmen, "There goes the Scots Brigade."
We may have the Parliamentary Secretary telling us that the men transferred from the southern yards are established men. I want to show the Parliamentary Secretary before he comes, to reply, that he cannot ride off on that excuse. A considerable number of the men transferred from the southern yards are not established men. There are a number of men employed in Rosyth, transferred from the southern yards, who were offered establishment a considerable time ago, but I understand they refused to take establishment and are not now established 2485 in Rosyth any more than the Scotsmen employed there, or, if they are established, they have been established as a cover, since this trouble arose and since this question was raised in the House. It would be very interesting to discover why these men refused establishment, but I am not going to discuss that. These men who are not established and who are transferees from the southern yards were dismissed along with the locally engaged men, but curiously enough while the locally engaged men go at the rate of 200 a week the dismissal of the transferees, who have not been established, has been withdrawn and they are kept on. Meantime the weekly procession of dismissed local men goes on. If cither the Admiralty, or the Government, or this Committee think that that sort of thing can go on without trouble arising, they are simply deceiving themselves. As I have already stated, I am at one with the Government, and the party with which I am associated is at one with the Government, in these economies, and, as a matter of fact, we think they could effect more yet, but we say that when they are effecting economy, it will have to be on the basis of fair play as between one section of the community and another. That is our complaint, and that is the reason why I am taking this opportunity of bringing to the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary, the Government, and the Committee the anomalies that have taken place as between Scotland, on the one hand, and England, on the other, and as between Scotsmen, on the one hand, and Englishmen, on the other, at the dockyard of Rosyth. I will say quite frankly to the Parliamentary Secretary that it is time that he or somebody else was making inquiries into these things and dealing with them on the basis of fair play.
There are one or two more points I want to bring before the notice of the Committee, but I want to say that to deal with the subject in the way in which I have done is very distasteful to me as an individual. I would rather that I had not to deal with it in the frank way in which I am dealing with it, but the anomalies are there, they have got to be dealt with, and I am quite willing to deal with them in my effort to get them remedied. In giving treatment to Scotland as compared with England in the way which I have outlined, the Admiralty is only 2486 adding to the unfair treatment that Scotland gets as compared with England year by year. I do not say that the people in Scotland are asked to pay a higher proportion of taxation than the people in England or in Wales. I do not think they are. I think we are pretty equal in that respect, but where the unfair treatment comes in is this, that after we have paid our taxes there is a far bigger proportion of the money spent in England than there is in Scotland. There is a growing demand in Scotland for Home Rule, and points like this that I am discussing so frankly to-night are the very things that will increase the demand for Home Rule until you will not be able to withstand the demand for Home Rule in Scotland any more than in Ireland.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I might remind my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Wallace) that we have had a Navy of our own before, a Navy that gave a good account of itself in its day. Not only are the things which I have been dealing with unfair from the point of view of Scotland as compared with England, but there is smother aspect of it, and it is possibly more critical than the one I have already alluded. The aspect that I now want to deal with in a word is the effect that it is going to have on the Burgh of Dunfermline and on the Dunfermline District Committee of the Fife County Council. As the Secretary to the Admiralty very well knows, both these bodies have incurred a very heavy liability. They were encouraged by the Admiralty to incur that liability. They were told that there was to be a large amount of work at Rosyth, that in all probability there would be an increase of the population of from 20,000 to 40,000 persons, and that they as the local authorities would require to make the necessary arrangements as to public health, supplying all the conveniences that are required by such a great population, and so forth. I cannot give you a figure as to the expenditure of the Fife County Council, but I know that, so far as water is concerned, their expenditure has been very heavy indeed, and, if I take the 2487 Burgh of Dunfermline, I find that the Burgh has incurred an expenditure of no less than £430,000.
If Rosyth is to be cut down to a mere shadow of what the Admiralty has led the local authorities to expect, you are going to place on those local authorities an almost intolerable burden, and the Secretary to the Admiralty is requiring to examine the position much more closely than has been the case up to the present. I can assure him of this, that unless the spirit of fair play is to enter into these economies to a far greater extent than has been the case up till now, not only will you have a critical situation arising locally, but you will have the Scottish people taking up the position that they are no longer going to be treated in the manner in which they have been treated up to the present. Unless we have this question dealt with in an entirely different spirit from the one that has been adopted up till now, this will be made a national instead of a district question, and I hope that the Admiralty and the Government will examine this question much more closely than they have done, and in, as I say, the spirit of fair play.
Sir MALCOLM SMITH
We have had a very interesting discussion, and I think we may congratulate the Secretary to the Admiralty that the economies that are being effected are so substantial, although at the same time it might be desired that they could have gone even a little further. In any case, with regard to these economies, there are certain national services that it is necessary to maintain in their entirety. It would be a misfortune if, in economies affecting the Navy, we were to take our Fleet away altogether, or even to a diminished extent, from foreign waters. Our flag has always a very salutary influence in foreign parts, giving confidence to traders and to shipping in various parts of the world, particularly in the Pacific and in the South Atlantic, and then again, with regard to the protection of our fishing fleets, we have complaints occasionally that in such distant places as Iceland, or on the coast of Russia, our fishing fleets are not treated with that consideration which is due to them, and that the presence occasionally of one of His Majesty's ships would have the necessary salutary influence. We have had discussion to-day regarding the sub- 2488 marine and the aeroplane. At the Washington Conference the suggestion was made by the representatives of our country that submarines should be prohibited, and that, no doubt, would be desirable. Unfortunately, other nations objected, particularly France, and we have not, in the meantime, made any satisfactory progress in that direction. To-day we have had some discussion regarding the aeroplane. My view is that the aeroplane should be used only for observation purposes, and that it should not be used for destructive purposes any more than the submarine, which we desire to prohibit. That, of course, could only be arranged by international agreement. It would be difficult to carry out, no doubt, but we are approaching the time when we hope the League of Nations will have more influence—
Sir M. SMITH
— in the pacific control of affairs than hitherto has been the case. If that is not going to become a more definite reality than hitherto it has been shown, then we may almost say good-bye to civilisation. I have listened with a great deal of attention to the previous speaker. He has brought forward complaints about the treatment of Scotland by the Admiralty, and he has done so with very good cause. Unfortunately, I also have to bring forward a complaint regarding the treatment by the Admiralty in my constituency in connection with the naval base at Scapa Flow. As the House is aware, Scapa Flow was occupied by the Grand Fleet almost immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, and continued to be the basis of the Grand Fleet in the North up to the time of the Armistice, and later. In order to protect the Grand Fleet from the attacks of enemy submarines, all openings into Scapa Flow had to be closed, and two important channels leading from the east of Scapa Flow into the North Sea, namely, Water Sound and Home Sound, were blocked by the Admiralty putting down there obsolete merchant ships to the number of five or six, the result being that these channels were effectively closed. Elsewhere in the country, where such precautions have been necessary for the purpose of protecting the Fleets and other Services, these obstruction have all been removed. Take, for example, the Firth of Forth and Rosyth. Quite a number of navigation 2489 obstructions were put down there, and were maintained there until considerably after the War, but they have all been removed by the Navy.
The question has been under consideration for some time, and the Orkney County Council, the Shetland County Council, and the Town Councils in both Orkney and Shetland have all sent petitions to the Admiralty urging upon them the necessity for removing these obstructions. Men of the British Legion, shipmasters, and shipping companies have also asked the Admiralty to have these obstructions removed, and the latest petition is from 75 fishermen and others in an island adjoining there. Many of them served during the War, and came back after the War to carry on their ordinary avocation of fishermen, but they are prevented from doing so owing to the obstructions not having been removed. It is a very serious matter for the inhabitants of these parts that these channels should still remain practically closed for nevigation purposes. The fishing grounds lie out to the east of the island, and the channels have to be used by the fishermen coming into the fishing stations. These men are now unable to carry on their avocation. The curing stations in the neighbourhood are now practically obsolete stations, erected at the cost of many thousands of pounds. Harbours, in use from time immemorial, are now practically deserted, and all this in consequence of these navigation channels still remaining obstructed. I appeal to the Admiralty to have this remedied. Their Objection, in the first place, is that, as all these obstructions were put there in a national emergency for the purpose of protecting national interests, they are under no legal obligation to remove them. A statement of that kind is the height of irony, seeing that obstructions, which were put down for the same purpose elsewhere, have been removed. Why, then, have not these been removed from Scapa Flow?
I am inclined to concur with the remark of the previous speaker, that this is another instance of the way in which Scottish interests are being neglected, or that Scotland is being punished by the Admiralty, as it suffers in other connections. It is hard on these people that this state of affairs should continue. The men from these islands went forward at the outbreak of War voluntarily to serve 2490 their country, and it is very hard treatment of them now that, having returned, they should not be able to carry on their pre-War avocations. It has been the professed intention of respective Governments for many years to keep the people on the land in these country parts, and to make their opportunities there more favourable than hitherto, but here is an instance of a Department doing its utmost to drive the people from the land. If these obstructions are not removed, there will be more people driven away from these parts than the Board of Agriculture, or the Land Courts, or the Development Commission will be able to introduce for many years to come, and the money that is required to remove these obstructions is not by any means very heavy.
The Admiralty tell us, in the second place, that it would be impossible to remove the obstructions except by explosion, which might do a good deal of damage in the neighbourhood. I cannot think that that statement is seriously meant, because I have consulted salvage companies, who are prepared to submit estimates to the Admiralty for the purpose of having these ships removed; but the Admiralty, however, tell me that they are not inclined to give further consideration to the question. I appeal to the Admiralty, therefore, to see that justice —because it is only justice that is asked by these people—is done. It should not be necessary even to ask for these obstructions to be removed. They should have been removed, as they have been removed in other parts, without any appeal having to be made to the Admiralty, but I make this appeal to the Admiralty, and I trust it will not be made in vain. If this be not remedied, it will be another grievance which Scotland will have. This is one that ought to be remedied, and I trust the Admiralty will give it consideration, and see that these obstructions are taken away without loss of time.
§ Mr. J. WALLACE
I welcome in this Debate to-night the support of my right hon. Friend and constituent the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson). I am sorry he is gone from his place at the moment, because I wish to say that, while I generally find myself in the opposite Lobby from himself, to-night, were there a division on this particular Vote, he and I could vote together. I am glad that he 2491 has intervened in this Debate, because he is a resident and knows the position at first hand. I took the opportunity on the first day of the meeting of this Parliament to raise the question of the reductions at Rosyth, and in this important matter I welcome any help I can possibly get from Scottish Members. Up till now that has not been offered to any very-noticeable degree. But I really think that this is a national question which Scottish Members cannot possibly afford to ignore. What is the position? At Rosyth, where you have something like 6,000 workmen of various kinds, you are reducing them at the rate of 200 per week. At the southern yards, as my right hon. Friend has said, you are proceeding at a very much slower rate. In so far as Admiralty policy at Rosyth is governed by strategical reasons, it is not for me as a layman to criticise, but I do wish to point this out. You have in the south out-of-date yards, in some cases quite incapable of doing the work on big ships, whereas at Rosyth you have the most up-to-date naval base in the world with the very latest plant and equipment, and yet, when a policy of economy is adopted by the Government, it is at the very latest plant and machinery that they aim the shrewdest blow of the economy axe. I confess, unless there are very strong strategical reasons, that I entirely fail to follow the policy of the Admiralty at the present time. What does the First Lord say on this question in his memorandum? He announces that the reduction will fall on some of the yards at home and abroad, and continues:Rosyth will be especially affected in so far as it has been decided, after careful consideration, to place this establishment upon the footing of a docking yard.That statement was confirmed by the Parliamentary Secretary this afternoon. The First Lord goes on to say:One of the influences which has governed this decision is the question of the payment of inconvenience money and railway fares to the workmen living outside the area.In January I asked the Admiralty whether, if the workmen who are being paid inconvenience money agreed to forego that payment, the question of the rate of reduction of the staff would be reconsidered, and I received a reply in the negative. Therefore I see no point in this statement of the First Lord, con- 2492 firmed by the Parliamentaiy Secretary that the payment of inconvenience money-has influenced the decision. In this statement the First Lord makes reference to Pembroke. Is it contended that Pembroke is of the slightest use as a dockyard. I have not heard any serious statement made that it is of any use, now that the War is over. The statement of the First Lord says:It has been decided hot to close Pembroke—Why?On account of the distress that might be caused by the dismissal of the staff at Pembroke dockyard.It is quite clearly demonstrated by the First Lord himself that preference is being given to Pembroke on account of the distress which would result from dismissals there!
§ Mr. WALLACE
With the utmost respect, I prefer the reason that is given by the First Lord in his written statement. What is the reason? I do not associate myself with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson) when he referred to social and political influences being at work. I know nothing of these: but I do want to know why distress in the South should preclude dismissals and distress in the North have no effect. That is a question which my hon. Friend opposite is bound to answer. I am extremely sorry that the question of racial prejudice has been introduced into this Debate I know no distinction at all of that kind. I do suggest, however, that the policy of the Admiralty has encouraged and inspired that racial prejudice which, personally, I so much deplore.
At Rosyth at the present time you have H.M.S. "Furious" under repair and refit. There is work on the "Furious" for 2,000 men for something like 18 months or two years. What is the policy of the Admiralty? It was decided definitely that that work should be done at Rosyth because there we have all the necessary equipment to do the work in the best possible manner. The Admiralty have now decided to tow the ship to a Southern yard for repair. Why? You must expect that that will cause prejudice in Rosyth. The Scottish people there will reason, and quite naturally, that unemployment 2493 does not matter in Rosyth, but that it matters very much in the South of England. You are taking all that work away from Scotland and I am not surprised that the Scottish workmen—and the English workmen, too—at Rosyth resent very much the policy of the Admiralty in moving the "Furious" to a Southern yard. I have not heard the slightest defence of that policy which, in my judgment, will hold water for a single moment. I do hope that my hon. Friend whom I have found most sympathetic in this whole matter, when he gives a reply, will give some explanation which will satisfy this Committee as to the Admiralty's policy in removing the "Furious" from Scotland to England. I also hope that he will state clearly, if possible, what the policy of the Admiralty is regarding the transference of English workmen who are established to Southern yards with their full Rosyth status. He told me yesterday, in answer to a question, that the redundant men under 50 would be offered employment in the Southern yards and that the redundant men over 50 would be dismissed on superannuation allowance. Why are there any redundant men at all in Rosyth at the present time, whether established or unestablished? Simply because the Admiralty are going back upon their own policy so far as the "Furious" is concerned. If it is not too late I beg my hon. Friend to endeavour to get a reconsideration of the decision regarding the removal of the "Furious" to a Southern yard. The naval base at Rosyth was referred to yesterday by the Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) as a mushroom growth. I do not know if the Noble Lady ever heard of the battle of Jutland and of those great ships which came limping up the Forth battered and torn and which could only be received and refitted at the Rosyth Naval Base. No yard in the South could accommodate them and it was only at Rosyth that they could be repaired and made fit for the fighting line again. A mushroom growth, indeed! I am sorry the Noble Lady is not present, because I informed her to-night that I should state my opinion upon her statement about Rosyth being a mushroom growth. If I were to give the Noble Lady any advice it would be that she had far better confine her attention to the advocacy of women's rights 2494 or pure milk for babies than attempt to compare the respective merits of our naval dockyards.
There is one other subject about which I wish to say a word. My right hon. Friend has spoken about the responsibility of Dunfermline regarding Rosyth. I happen to represent Dunfermline and I know the local authority there was very unwilling to include Rosyth within the town boundaries, but they did so under the most alluring promises by the Admiralty. The town councils of Scotland spring as a rule from a cautious race and do not relish the idea of great responsibilities of this kind without some definite assurance of being able to meet their obligations, and Dunfermline hesitated long before they took over Rosyth. They hesitated so long that a visit was paid to them by the present Minister of Labour, who was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, and still finding it difficult to persuade them he assumed the mantle of the prophet, and addressing them with that eloquence to which we are accustomed in this House from him, he said:Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take!The clouds ye so much dread,Are big with mercy, and will breakIn blessings on your head.I do not know whether my right hon. Friend succeeded in that way, but at any rate the Dunfermline Town Council gave in after that, and they agreed to take over this great responsibility. They saw the clouds and of course they broke all right. They broke in January this year, not in blessings, but with black disaster. On the 22nd of January this year at Rosyth the fateful notice was posted regarding the reductions in the staff, and now Dunfermline is left with a very serious financial responsibility. In the atmosphere of war it was quite easy for the Admiralty to make all kinds of promises and we now look to the Admiralty to make those promises good.
In anticipation of the development of Rosyth the Dunfermline Town Council spent something like £200,000 entirely in anticipation of that development. Ever since then they have had a loss in annual revenue since they took over the responsibility of Rosyth of something like £44,000. Last year they lost nearly £10,000 in revenue alone; in other words, their provision for public services in con- 2495 nection with the Rosyth development has resulted in a loss to that corporation of £44,000. I ask my hon. Friend who represents the Admiralty what he is going to do about this matter. Surely it is unfair that in a great national project of this kind for a great national contingency, namely, the menace of war, when Rosyth came into being, that the financial results of the abandonment of that policy should rest upon a community like Dunfermline. Surely in fair play, in common honesty, the Admiralty must consider the reimbursement of Dunfermline in so far as their expenditure in the interests of Rosyth has been excessive and unremunerative. I do hope that when my hon. Friend comes to reply he will consider that matter very seriously, because I can assure him that it is at the present time a subject of the greatest possible anxiety to the Dunfermline municipality, who find themselves with this serious financial burden upon them, caused entirely by the reversion of the policy of the. Admiralty, and which they were led to believe would be permanent. All along towards Rosyth the Admiralty have pursued a vacillating policy, and we have never known where we were. In a recent conversation with the Provost of Dunfermline I was asked to find out what is the worst about Rosyth. I received a telegram from the Parliamentary Secretary in January in which he said that the staff there was to remain a permanent staff of something like 3,000. I want to know whether there is any change of policy since January, and whether the reference by the First Lord in his statement about the future status of the Rosyth dockyard means that there are still to be 3,000 kept as a permanent staff, or whether that number is to be still further reduced.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I have listened very attentively and with a great deal of sympathy to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. I have a great deal in common with him, and I regret very much that the dockyard at Rosyth is to be reduced in the way suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary to-day. I take it that the real reason is that Rosyth Dockyard is the only one that can take in very large ships like the "Hood" or ships like the "Hood." At the Washington Con- 2496 ference we agreed not to build ships anything like that size, and therefore I take it that the Rosyth Dockyard would be of no further value.
§ Sir B. FALLE
My hon. and gallant Friend is wrong in saying that Rosyth is the only dockyard that can take the "Hood," because she could come into Portsmouth at any time.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I am much obliged for the correction of my hon. Friend, but I think he is in error. To return to the matter on which I was speaking. I would like to say this. Naturally, the hon. Member opposite will expect of me, as a Member for a dockyard constituency in the South, that I should at once say how pleased I am to receive men who are unfortunately to be dismissed from Rosyth. But I cannot say that I am very pleased to receive them, because I know that the influx of the men from Rosyth will naturally send down labour in my own dockyard, especially with regard to the established men. There are a number of established men who must get out of Rosyth Dock yard, and we are told that they are to find refuge in southern dockyards. Naturally, that will be to the detriment of the established men in the southern yards, and therefore I cannot extend the hospitality I would like to to these men from Rosyth. I certainly was surprised to hear both the hon. Member and the right hon. Gentleman who spoke before him talk about the treatment of Scotland in the way they did. I have English and Scottish blood in my veins, and naturally I am most anxious that both Scotland and England should be properly represented and properly treated by the Admiralty. I have travelled a good deal about the world, and wherever I have been I have always found Scotsmen on top. Even in this House we find gentlemen representing Scotland coming to the front—
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I will not pursue what is certainly a very pleasant controversy on the question of Scotland versus England. The Debate to which we have listened to-day has practically been one on economy, to a great extent founded on the Geddes Report. I am 2497 most anxious, like all hon. Members, to do everything possible in favour of economy. We all want to economise. The question whether we ought to economise in the way suggested in the Navy is, however, quite another matter. I am extremely pleased to find that the Financial Secretary was able to put up so good an answer to the somewhat foolish and unwise suggestions made by the Geddes Committee, because if those suggestions were followed out the result would be not only to do away with the one-Power standard, but to do away with a standard altogether. The Financial Secretary, representing as he does the First Lord, has endeavoured to put forward Estimates which will at any rate give us something approaching the one-Power standard. But in order to achieve this economy, which I admit the financial situation of the country calls for, the Admiralty have accepted a very grave responsibility. In point of fact, and I think no one will deny it, the naval security of this country at the present moment depends upon a Treaty which has not been ratified. That being the case, no one can say we are not taking a very great risk. In other words, our naval policy at the present moment is nothing more nor less than a gamble. I ask, is that wise?
We had a statement made in the House yesterday, by a Field-Marshal of great experience and knowledge, to the effect that our liabilities to-day were much greater than they were before the War. Unlike the United States, we have a scattered Empire to defend. We are not a self-contained country. Four-fifths of our food stuffs are brought in from overseas. At the present moment Bolshevism is rampant in all parts of the world. It may break out on any day at any place. Shall we be ready to meet it with a Navy whose principal recommendation according to the Financial Secretary is that it represents the last thing in economy? I submit it is possible we shall not. In the cuts made in the Naval Estimates I think we have gone somewhat too far. In looking through the Memorandum of the First Lord of the Admiralty I find no mention made of the Dominion Navies or of Dominion co-operation. The Financial Secretary to-day supplied that omission to a certain extent, as he told us again what passed at the Imperial Conference last year. What we want to 2498 know is, what is going to be done with regard to the Dominions? Are we going to have some arrangement with them? The Financial Secretary spoke about an Imperial Navy and an Imperial system, but there is nothing in the First Lord's Memorandum telling us anything about that Imperial system, and no mention is made of the Dominions or of Dominion co-operation. I would suggest to the Financial Secretary that the best thing to do now is either to call a special meeting of the Imperial Conference, or else to have an Imperial Naval Conference, to consider what the Dominions propose to do, seeing that our Navy at the present moment is cut down to such a very low point that unless something is done by the Dominions I fear we are in danger of not having sufficient security for the Empire. The only way we can get such security is by having some co-operation from the Dominions over seas. Therefore at the earliest opportunity I would urge the Financial Secretary to suggest to the First Lord that he should in turn suggest to the Government that a special meeting be called of the Imperial Conference.
I now pass on to the non-effective Vote. We are told there is to be ample compensation. I am sure in that matter we are all agreed. I was very glad to hear what the Financial Secretary said with regard to the attitude of the Government towards those men who are to be displaced either in the Royal Navy or in the dockyards. He told us it was to be a very generous attitude. It would not be proper for me at this stage perhaps in suggest schemes, or even to hint at what the gratuity or pension should be. But the other day some Members of the House, in conjunction with myself, received a deputation from the Royal Naval commissioned and warrant officers who suggested a scheme of compensation which to them seemed to be a very useful one. If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will state what that scheme was. It was that 60 per cent. of the difference between the pay and pension at the time of the officer's retirement should be added to the pension until the age of 55 is reached, after which the officer should receive the pension he would be entitled to at that age of his rank. I make no observation upon it; I merely throw out the suggestion; and I trust that, when the claims are being considered, this 2499 suggestion, which was the unanimous suggestion of a very large number of Royal Naval commissioned and warrant officers should receive consideration.
With regard to the reduction of personnel, we have heard to-day that the reduction has been carefully considered, but no mention has been made of the United States. I have seen many paragraphs in the newspapers to the effect that the reduction of personnel in the United States is not quite the same as the reduction in our Navy, and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary, when he comes to reply, to be kind enough to say exactly what the personnel of the United States Navy is to be, and exactly what the personnel of our Navy is to be. I think that that would clear up the matter of personnel to a very great extent. As regards capital ships, there is nothing to be said, because the question has been decided by the Washington Conference, and, if the Treaty which is the result of the Washington Conference is ratified, of course the capital ship programme will be on the basis of the Treaty. I would, however, ask the hon. Gentleman once more to think over whether it would not be possible to consider the question of laying down one of the new capital ships in the Royal Dockyards. I do not wish to suggest Devonport, because it would be said that I was merely suggesting the dockyard for which I was the sitting Member, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that either Devonport or any other Southern yard would be very pleased to construct one of the new capital ships, or two if possible; and, in spite of what was said by an hon. Member on the Labour Benches, whom I do not now see in the Committee, but who made a very useful addition to the Debate—in spite of what Tie said, I assure him that this ship would be constructed in one of the Royal Dockyards just as quickly and cheaply as in any private yard.
The next matter to which I should like to call attention is that of the marriage allowance. I understand that this, so far as naval officers go, is not to be granted. I think that that is a very great mistake. The married Army officer is granted an allowance, but this privilege is to be denied to the naval officer. Surely, the responsibilities of marriage are the same in both Services; if any- 2500 thing, they are greater in the case of the naval officer, whose place of residence is not permanent. I should like to know why this difference is shown. The Secretary of State for War, in March last, made this announcement:Certain increased lodging and other allowances are made to every officer over 30 who is married.…The State has thus recognised that officers over 30…may be expected to be married, and it no longer refuses to recognise the increased responsibility that marriage brings."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1921; col. 1289, Vol. 139.]If that is the case with regard to the Army officer, why on earth is there to be a difference with regard to the naval officer? During the War the State allowed all naval officers £24 a year for the education and bringing up of each child. The Oliver Committee, which reported in January, 1919, suggested that, in addition to a bonus, married naval afficers should receive married quarters allowance. What was the result? No bonus was paid, and no married quarters allowance was given, but, on the other hand, the children's allowance was taken away. Then we had, in May of the same year, the Halsey Committee's Report, and what did they say? They suggested the continuance of the children's allowance, and that the Service rate of Income Tax should be levied. What happened then? The children's allowance was not continued, and the full rate of Income Tax was charged. This was specially hard upon the naval officer, and it was, moreover, particularly hard upon the Royal Naval commissioned and warrant officers. I am sure that every Member of the Committee will recognise the great work that was done in the War by the Royal Naval commissioned and warrant officers. True the cost of living now is only some 100 or 110 per cent. above the pre-War figure, but the cost of children's education has very much increased since the War. How can these men, who have risen from the ranks, and who have not, perhaps, had the same advantages as some other naval officers, keep up a home on land, pay their expenses at sea, educate their children as they should be educated, and maintain the position of officers in the Royal Navy, without the marriage allowance? I say it is impossible, and cannot be done. At any rate, however, that is not the point, because, as I have said, the State 2501 has acknowledged that Army officers should be married, and if that is done in the case of Army officers, why should it not be done in the case of naval officers? If the marriage allowance cannot be given, then, much as I regret it, I would venture to plead with the Parliamentary Secretary to see if he cannot persuade the Government, at any rate, to restore the children's allowance. I will not labour that question any more, because I have no doubt that many speakers, more able than I am, will take up the cudgels and do it far more justice.
Now I come to the dockyards. The statement made in the memorandum is that 10,000 men of the Royal Dockyards are to be discharged, but I should like to know how many are going from each dockyard. How many are going from Devonport? We know how many per week or per month are going from Rosyth, and how many per week or per month are going from Devonport and Portsmouth; but what I want to know is the total number that are to be discharged. I am sorry to see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) is not in his place. He never is in his place after he has made his own speech. Directly after he has made his own speech he calmly walks out of the Committee and is never seen again. The right hon. Gentleman made his usual tirade against the Royal Dockyards. He talked about the expenditure before the War and after the War, and the various old questions which he has raised time and again, and which I have had the opportunity of answering time and again; but, for some reason or other, he is never here to take the licking. Unfortunately, although he himself was born and lives in Devonshire, he always has something to say against the Devonport Dockyard. He tells us that in Devonshire he hears that there is great waste in the Devonport Dockyard. I can tell him that there is no waste in the Devonport Dockyard, but that there is a great deal of waste in South Molton. When he suggests that I am interested in the men of the lower deck and dockyards because I happen to represent Devonport, that is hardly fair, because I might retort that he only represents the farmers and labourers because he happens to sit for South Molton and is, I may say, a very important authority on agriculture. Though he knows a great deal about agriculture, he knows nothing 2502 whatever about dockyards and the Navy. I am only sorry to know that I have had to say these words in his absence, and I hope some kind friend will convey to him my views on this matter.
The First Lord states that the reductions in dockyards necessitate delaying or the abandonment of a great deal of important ship construction and reconstruction, as well as the restriction of necessary repairs and refitting of ships of the Fleet. I think it is a very unfortunate thing that the Financial Secretary should have to come here to bear out that statement by the First Lord. Why should we have to do without this necessary and important ship construction? If it is so important, why should it not be carried out? If repairs and refits are necessary and should be done, why are they not to be carried out? The only excuse given is, firstly, on the score of economy, and, secondly, we are told that it is only a temporary arrangement. Will the Financial Secretary tell us to-night that, while he finds it necessary to discharge a great number of men from the dockyards, as soon as he is able to abandon this idea of a temporary arrangement he will take them all back again, because after all that will be a very necessary step to take, although I am very much afraid he will not find them there? Would it not be better to keep what you have? You have very many good men there now, and if it is a temporary arrangement I suggest you should make a compromise in regard to these discharges, and that you should not discharge quite so many as you are doing now.
I pass on to oil fuel reservation, which is a very, very important matter. I greatly regretted to hear the right hon. Member for South Molton talk about oil fuel as he did this afternoon, but, then, as I said before, the right hon. Gentleman knows a great deal about farming, but nothing about the Navy—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Does the hon. Gentleman forget that the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. G. Lambert) was a Civil Lord of the Admiralty for at least 10 years?
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Yes, I remember he was a member of the Board which cut down the establishment in the dockyards to such a low point that it was disastrous, that when I came into Parlia- 2503 ment I had to get it put up again, that the first thing I did was to get it put up, and the first thing the right hon. Member for South Molton had to say was that he had to do it himself. It is no good talking about that. Let us go back to oil fuel. It is a great mistake to economise in this direction. The right hon. Member for South Molton desired to do away with all the bases for oil fuel, and he mentioned a lot of places where he said we had tanks for oil fuel. It is perfectly true that not very long ago the Admiralty decided that these places were necessary when they decided to adopt oil for the Fleet, and now it is said some of these places, I do not say are to be abandoned, but are to be economised on to such an extent that they will not be very much use. I would like to remind, again, the right hon. Member for South Molton that the ocean routes cannot be separated from strategical problems. He does not quite appreciate that point. He talks about strategy, the necessities of war, and that sort of thing. That is not the point. You must have your proper bases on our ocean routes, and these bases ought to be kept well supplied with oil. The Committee must remember that the mobilisation of the chief units of the British Fleet would be severely restricted if you did away or limited in any kind of way the supply of oil from those bases. You have done away with coal, and have turned your ships into oil ships, and you now say, do away with bases for the oil. If you do that you will make your ships like toy ships sitting on the waves of the ocean, and they will be of no good whatsoever. That is an entirely false economy. I hope the Government will reconsider that matter and restore our reserves. One word about travelling expenses. Even the Secretary of the Admiralty thought fit to say that he regretted very much the cutting down of the travelling expenses. I forget what it was, but I think it was a fare-and-a-half—
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
It was a return for single fare which was allowed to the men of the Navy. That is to be absolutely taken away, and the men of the Navy, when they go on their holidays, go away for a few days, travelling from one town to another, or home to see their 2504 wives and to see their children, have to pay full return fare. I do think this is a very unfortunate measure. These men, although they do receive now very much better pay than before the War—and thank God for that!—suffer a great hardship, it seems to me, when they have to-pay full fare in circumstances of this kind, and I join in the appeal which I think the Parliamentary Secretary made to the railway companies that they should give the same concessions as they did before to these men. There is one point I think we will all join in thanking the Admiralty for, and that is with regard to the scientific services. To think of reducing the scientific services at the present day would be nothing short of a calamity, and it is satisfactory to know that the Admiralty have taken a firm stand on this point. If the personnel is to be reduced, let us at least have a naval force efficient so far as science can make it; let nothing be left undone to make up in quality for what is lost in quantity.
With regard to allowances for the upkeep of uniform, the question of these allowances for officers has been under consideration for a considerable time. No answer has yet been given on that point, and I hope to-night the Parliamentary Secretary will possibly be in a position to give an answer on that question. I feel sure my hon. Friend the Member for Central Portsmouth (Sir T. Bramsdon) is waiting to speak on the subject of schoolmasters' pay. I will not labour that point, but will leave it to him. We must, however, have a decision on it at the earliest possible moment. It was promised a long time ago; indeed, I understood the promise to be given at least nine months ago. We have not had a decision yet, and I do hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say that some decision has been arrived at on that point. The same is the case in regard to submarine pay, which has been under consideration for a long time without anything having yet been done.
In conclusion, there are one or two words I should like to say about Royal Naval commissioned and warrant officers, and, with the permission of the Committee, I will put their views before the Parliamentary Secretary. There is the recognition of rank. I ask for the revision of the relative rank table in the King's Regulations. I received a deputation the 2505 other day, and they mentioned that by the finding of the Hyde Parker Committee—
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted; and 40 Members being present—
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
By the finding of the Hyde Parker Committee these men were recognised as officers in every respect. Many cases of hardship, many cases of suffering, are caused by the non-recognition of these men as officers, and I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary should do his best to get the matter put right. With regard to stagnation of promotion, I was reminded by the same deputation that the Admiralty still had this matter under consideration, and I strongly urge upon the Admiralty to find some means of amelioration of the present conditions. One word about messing and cabin accommodation. The accommodation at present provided, even in the latest kind of ships, is hopelessly inadequate, and I would suggest that adequate accommodation should be provided for all Naval commissioned and warrant officers. That would make a good deal of difference to their comfort, and I should like to ask that it should be seen to. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will pay especial attention to the points I have raised.
§ Sir T. BRAMSDON
In the early part of the evening the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose) severely criticised the cost of the work done in the dockyards and the cost of administration, and he paid attention to the fact that the Geddes Committee states that the cost is £3 for every ton of material in the dockyard while it is only 30s. in private yards. I should like to know how those figures are arrived at. There is an old saying that you can prove anything by figures, and I have my doubts whether the Geddes Committee were right in the estimate they formed of the cost of these respective yards. I should also like to inquire when that estimate was obtained. Was it obtained for work done in the dockyards during the War, because, if so, it may easily be accounted for. We know full well that it was part of the Admiralty policy that there should be an overborne quantity of workmen in the dockyards during the War, and for a very good reason. They did not know when 2506 any ships might be brought into the yards or when any action might be fought and how serious it might be, and the Admiralty would have been wanting in discretion and judgment if they had not had more than a sufficient number of men in the dockyards to undertake that work. If the estimate was based on that fact I cannot wonder that the cost per ton was more than it would be in private yards. Again, there has been more repair work done in the dockyards than in private yards, and of course it follows that the quantity of material for repair work is less than it is for new construction, and therefore, if the estimate was based on that basis, that may be the reason. It has been pointed out that some of the statements of the Geddes Committee have been inaccurate, and I submit that this is one of those inaccuracies which want to be proved. The hon. Member admitted that there was not as good, but, as he put it, a shade better quality of work done in the dockyards than in private yards. He did not want to praise the dockyards too much, but I think he might have said that the work done was a great deal better than it was in the private yards, and certainly I may put it on this basis, that there is no better work done anywhere in shipbuilding than is done in the Government dockyards. He also said the very best men were allocated to the dockyards. I think he is right there. There is no shoddy work done in the dockyards, and we have the very best quality of men in connection with the work which is done there. It is not because the wages of the workmen are more. They are less than in private yards. Then he spoke of the salaries of the Admiralty engineers and managers. I think he will find, if he compares the two, that the salaries of the heads of departments in dockyards are not nearly as much as they are in private yards. My hon. Friend forgot that the "Dreadnought" was built in Portsmouth Dockyard in record time, and that was one of the best pieces of work ever done. I would also call attention to the fact that during the War the loyalty and devotion of the men of the dockyards was beyond all praise, and the Admiralty themselves paid them the best compliment they could for the work done at that time, and praised the men for it, and I think with justice. I answer that point merely because the hon. Member 2507 was attacking the dockyards, and as I represent the senior naval dockyard—I did not say the principal yard; I am always modest in my statements—I thought I was entitled to take some account of the attack which he made.
But I did not get up to talk about dockyards but about the Navy. Last year I called attention to the lack of promotion from the lower deck. That promotion is no better now than it was last year. I have here some astonishing figures that I should like to read respecting the lack of promotion amongst the men of the lower deck. Since the Armistice, a period of three and a half years, the following promotions only to warrant ranks have been made, that is to say from the lower deck, not a single gunner warrant officer, only two torpedo gunners, not a single boatswain, not a single signal boatswain, not a single warrant telegraphist or warrant shipwright, and of the warrant masters at arms only six have been appointed, of warrant engineers only 19, of warrant mechanicians two, warrant electricians six, warrant ordnance officers two, warrant writers 15, warrant victualling officers 19, and warrant cookery instructors four. These are the only promotions to the rank of warrant officer which have been made from the lower deck for the last three and a quarter years and the total is only 73. Now let us look at another phase of the question and see what the promotions among the commissioned officers have been. Would hon. Members believe that over 100 officers of captain's rank have been promoted to the rank of rear-admiral? Would they be surprised to hear that 115 commanders, 33 engineer commanders, 21 surgeon commanders, 22 paymaster commanders, totalling 201, have been promoted to the rank of captain, 214 lieut.-commanders, 94 engineer lieut.-commanders, 52 surgeon lieut.-commanders, and 29 paymaster lieut.-commanders, making altogether 409, have been promoted to the rank of commander?
Of those in the commissioned rank there has been a total of well over 700 promoted, against 73 from the lower deck. My hon. Friend, in replying for the Admiralty, may say that it is not quite fair to refer to these ranks of commissioned officers without taking a corresponding appreciation of the other ranks of the lower deck, that is the say, the ranks of leading seamen, 2508 petty officers, and chief petty officers. If you do take those into consideration, and you bear in mind the fact that the warrant officer is, normally, the highest rank to which a man from the lower deck can get, you find that you have 73, as against 100 officers to flag rank, and 201 officers promoted to the rank of captain. Not only that, but the promotion of midshipmen to lieutenant-commander by way of sub-lieutenant and lieutenant is automatic. It is only a question of time, and at certain periods these commissioned ranks get promotion. So far as the lower deck is concerned, they only get promotion at the will of the Admiralty and on the recommendation of their officers.
§ Sir T. BRAMSD0N
Two hundred and fourteen. That is for three years and a quarter since the Armistice. Some of the warrant officers are over-borne. There are more warrant officers, apparently, than they have use for. If that is the case with the warrant officers, I believe also that all the commissioned ranks are over-borne except members of the surgeon branch, so that if there is one class among the men over-borne, the numbers of the commissioned ranks are very severely overborne. So far I have taken only the warrant officers. What can the man from the lower deck aspire to beyond that? In order to enable him to get to commissioned rank, the Admiralty in 1912 established a system which is called the Mate System, but this only applies to the seamen branch and the engine-room branch. This was considered to be an epoch-making event. It was announced in such terms as: "From the Board school to the ward room," "From the gutter to flag rank." "New era for the lower deck." "Poverty no bar to progress," and so on. What has happened in regard to this promotion to the rank of mate? Since the Armistice the following number of petty officers have been promoted to the rank of mate—mate, executive branch, 13; engine-room branch, 24—a total of 37 who have been promoted to commissioned rank through this system. That is a most unfair thing for the lower deck.
Last year there was a great flourish of trumpets in this House, and there was cheering when it was announced that 2509 there was to be an opening for boys to be promoted to midshipmen and sent to Dartmouth. How many boys have been so promoted? I do not know of one. I remember how the announcement was cheered by some of those who have been in the Navy, and who were delighted that at last there was to be a proper direct executive promotion of men from the lower deck. I think there is one man who has been promoted to the rank of captain from the lower deck, but that was through brilliant war service. In the Army you have an instance of a man being promoted from the ranks to be Field-Marshal. You have many instances in the Army of men who have been promoted to the rank of Colonel. I am not sure of the other ranks. Anything like that promotion would be regarded in the Navy as a very extraordinary event.
It seems to me that we have to go back to Sir Cloudsley Shovel for an instance of a man being promoted to flag rank from the lower deck. When we look to foreign countries, we find that Napoleon's marshals were invariably men from the lowest rank, and right well they discharged their duties, and admirable and brilliant officers they made. Why should there not be better facilities opened up for the promotion of men from the lower deck to the higher ranks in the British Navy? I want to encourage the best class of men to go into the Navy. We have heard that there is to be a reduction in the personnel of the Navy. That being so, what is left of the Navy should be a smart, up-to-date, efficient, contented Navy, but we can only get that by giving the men a regard for their future and an ambition to aspire to positions which at the present time they have not got.
Since last year the Admiralty have established a Welfare Committee, or rather they have resuscitated it. I referred to the question in my speech last year. The Welfare Committee is a committee established so that the men can present their views and their grievances through proper constitutional channels to the Admiralty, to be dealt with by the Admiralty themselves. This Welfare Committee was established; but, I think it was in 1919, the men, who were delighted to have an opportunity of constitutionally presenting their grievances, had so many grievances to redress that they overloaded the ship and trouble arose. The result was that that Welfare 2510 Committee of 1920 was not a success. The men were partly to blame, but I say with all respect that the officers of the Admiralty were also to blame. Therefore, this very important system of the men presenting their own grievances came to an end and the Welfare Committee was discontinued.
It fell to my lot to make representations to the Admiralty on behalf of the Joint Committee of the Lower Deck Societies of Portsmouth, which was as near as possible a true representation of the men of the Navy as could be secured, which was agreed to and acquiesced in by similar societies in Devonport and Chatham. I was desired to approach the Admiralty to see if this Welfare Committee could not be resuscitated. I was met in the most friendly, courteous and admirable spirit by the Admiralty. I put the views of the men of the lower deck as I had obtained them constitutionally, and told how they wanted the Admiralty to resuscitate the Welfare Committee. I am glad that the Admiralty have done so. They have issued an Admiralty Order giving instructions as to what the Welfare Committee should do and it will meet very shortly. I want to thank the Admiralty most cordially on behalf of the men for what they have done, and I hope they will forgive me if I say that the system is, I fear, not one that is acceptable to the men. I do not say that with a view to discarding it, because one would like to give it a proper trial. In the working of this Welfare Committee there are two classes of requests, the class requests and the general requests. The first deal with requests put forward by the different classes in the Navy, and the others refer to requests which affect the Navy as a whole. In connection with the class requests the grouping together is very unfortunate. Take, for instance, the eighth group, which consists of shipwrights, joiners, blacksmiths, plumbers, painters and coopers. The shipwrights can rise to warrant officers and they had charge of the other men. The blacksmiths are better paid than the remaining artisans, and, considered in their different categories, the others have not the best disposition towards the shipwright. To group those classes together is most unfortunate.
Then they are asked to send representatives from each group oh the 2511 subject of these class requests. That is part of the trouble. The electrical artificers, the ordnance artificers, and the armourers, each of whom have different ideas and wishes, are grouped together, and they are to send two men to represent their requests. How are these men with different views going to send two persons to represent them? Another group is the writers, victualling ratings, and the ships' cooks. The writers attend to the clerical work in the different offices and on the ships and they are concerned with accounts. The victualling ratings are the men employed in the victualling of ships, the victualling of which depends on the victualling department, and the ships' cooks deal with the cooking establishments. And those three classes are expected to send three men to represent them as to the accountant class requests.
Now as to the general requests. At a port meeting of the different ports there are to be 19 men who will represent the seamen, signalmen, telegraphists, sailmakers, and regulating branch, and 13 men representing mechanicians and stokers. Five men are to represent six groups, and I think that there will be considerable difficulty in this. There may be excluded from the representation some important class. Suppose that the engine-room artificers are not represented. That is a typical and unsatisfactory state of affairs. What these men want is that there should be a port welfare committee. They want to discuss this question freely and often at their port meetings; they want to have inter-port interviews every half-year, and they ant to report what takes place at those interport meetings to a representative of the Admiralty once a year. If they have to wait, as they must under this scheme, for two years, I suggest that you are creating trouble. Then as to the selection of these men. They are not to be selected in a democratic way, which would be the proper thing to do, but the commanders-in-chief at the different ports are to pick out the men who are to be on these committees. That is all very well if the commander-in-chief is sympathetic with these particular requests, but we, who are concerned with the men in the Navy, know that the superior officers, as 2512 a rule, are not sympathetic to this mode of representation, and some of them, therefore, can scarcely be expected to do that justice in selecting representatives which should be done. If a commander-in-chief sets to work in a proper way, no doubt he will obtain sufficient information to select or allow to be selected the proper representatives, but if he is not sympathetic, and does not set to work in the proper manner, then there is trouble before him.
I submit to the Admiralty through the Parliamentary Secretary that this system is not in accordance with the wishes of the men. What has been done in this case is what is too often done in connection with nations. People are offered that which they do not want and that which they do want is refused to them. I submit that sooner or later what the men themselves wish to have is the system which will ultimately have to prevail. I say that in no carping spirit, but with the greatest desire to be loyal and patriotic on the part of the men, and I say it because I am convinced that otherwise you cannot have that happiness and contentment among the men which is desired, unless you pay respect to their wishes. You could not have a more loyal and patriotic body than the seamen and sailors of our Navy, but you may try them too much if you keep them on a ship within a confined space and deny them the opportunity of talking these things out amongst themselves Though they are loyal and patriotic they have human nature after all, and if my hon. Friend will only look at this in the light in which I present it, I feel sure that some alteration will be found to be necessary before this scheme can work satisfactorily.
I would like to ask in connection with the scheme why they have omitted in Article 26 the canteen arrangement? Are we supposed to have a different kind of representation for the canteen arrangement? It is presumed that it consists of other machinery. It is true that other machinery of a sort does exist, but the principle of representation is altogether different. I would like to know if this will ultimately be placed on the same footing as the welfare machinery, or do the Admiralty recommend various forms of representation? In the welfare machinery a great deal of trouble has been taken to secure proportional representation, but under the present system of representa- 2513 tion the majority of ships are disfranchised. I would like to call attention to another very important question affeeting the men of the Navy. That is the assessment of their abilities. It is a very strong point with the men in the Navy. For instance, "exceptional" ability is to be awarded only to a man who stands out from his fellows. The number of "Exceptionals" awarded is limited to four per cent. where the total number of ratings borne in ships is over 400, and to five per cent. with 400 or less. The men object to the whole system, as they are not satisfied that they get just satisfaction out of it. They wish to revive the old system.
I suppose most hon. Members have seen the old parchments of the men. I had one sent to me this morning. You see down the lines the letters "V.G.," which mean "very good." They present these to you with pride. You say, perhaps, to a man, "Not a scratch against you?" He agrees and says, "I have been in the Navy so many years and have never had a scratch against me." That is the old system. What is the present system? It is that instead of the old "V.G." they put in the words, "Exceptional," "Superior" or "Satisfactory," as the case may be. Just imagine a man out of the Navy who is seeking employment. His employer asks to see his parchment. It is shown to him, not with the list of "V.Gs.," to which I have referred, but in the case of one ship "Exceptional," another ship, "Superior," another ship, "Satisfactory." They all mean the same thing—"very good." The men do not like the system. They say, "Give us back our old system which we understand and which so long has done us good." The award of "Exceptional" is supposed to carry with it special advantages, but there are many concrete cases in which men have been awarded "Exceptional" with no result whatever. There are serving now in the Navy men who were awarded "Exceptional" continuously since the introduction of the system in 1910. There is serving now in the Navy a Chief Petty Officer who has been awarded "Exceptional" for ability continuously since its introduction in 1910, who has passed both professionally and educationally for warrant rank, has been recommended continually for promotion yearly and half-yearly and also recommended for promotion by a senior flag officer more than 2514 once during the War. That man has not gained a single day's advantage. Surely it is a very severe test of loyalty. Why has he not had promotion? Such instances only show that it is not always the highest recommendation and courage which bring promotion.
There is a new branch of the Service called the Supply Branch. It is to be responsible for naval stores and ultimately, I suppose, for general messing. A knowledge of storekeeping and account keeping will necessarily be a requisite qualification. I presume it is not intended to introduce a costly system of commissioned officers for the branch? There are many excellent and capable chief petty officers anxious to secure promotion to warrant rank. Will they be given a chance as officers of the new branch? If practical experience is necessary the engineer's yeomen, who possess a knowledge of naval stores, might be given a course of instruction in the same way as the present secretaries' course. My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) has touched upon a number of subjects to which I had intended to refer. I had proposed to speak on marriage allowance, on the uniform upkeep system, on railway concessions, submarine pay and post-War widows pensions, and on the relative rank of Warrant Officers. I will not say anything on these subjects beyond stating that I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend has stated. I will refer specially to the schoolmasters. They are a very badly treated body of men in the Navy, they are insufficient in numbers, their pay is the poorest of any class similar in rank to themselves, they have no relative rank, they are the only body of men of that class who do not get the pay of their rank. Altogether their case is one which arouses the sympathy of every branch in the Service and everyone in the Service looks to this as one of the worst and unkindest cases dealt with by the Admiralty. Let me be just to the Admiralty. I am inclined to think it is not altogether the fault of the Admiralty. I believe the Admiralty have recommended that these officers should have the treatment they deserve and that only the Treasury blocks the way. It is one of the many cases that is said to be under consideration. The words "under consideration" are almost by-words now in naval matters. I hope that all these things 2515 which I have put before the Parliamentary Secretary of the Admiralty on behalf of the men of the lower deck will receive that sympathetic treatment which I am sure they deserve.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
It is very difficult to speak at this hour of the evening about the Navy, particularly as everyone who has spoken before has taken all my subjects. There is not one single thing left for me to mention. I should like, however, to deal with the House of Commons' attitude towards the Navy. That seems to be the most important thing I can do. Had this been a question of drink restrictions or trade unions, the Benches of the House would be filled, but as it is a simple question of the British Navy, look at the House! It is really a proper disgrace, as they say in Devonshire. Labour Members are the worst of the whole lot. They do not even seem to know that we have a British Navy. Not one of them has spoken, except the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose), and they want to do away with him. It is a most extraordinary thing that we have sat here all day, and every man or woman who wants to speak on the Navy has become rather acrimonious. The hon. Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) dealt with the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), and gave him a thrashing. The Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr. Wallace) said that I should deal with milk and babies, and leave the Navy alone. If he drank more milk and less lemonade he would perhaps be more polite to the only woman Member who is at the moment in the House.
Although I represent Plymouth, which is the most important dockyard port in the Kingdom, I want to congratulate the First Lord on his extraordinarily able statement, and I should like also to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary. Like every Member of the House who has any vision, I am delighted at the result of the Washington Conference. We who are interested in the Navy know there is something bigger even than the Navy, and that is the peace of the world, and what was done at the Washington Conference has gone a long way towards establishing the peace of the world. It is hard on those who represent dockyard constituencies and naval men that there should be these reductions. It is a 2516 popular thing to say we do not want the British Navy to be reduced, but it is all nonsense. If by reducing the British Navy we can get peace in the world, the British Navy will be the very first people to welcome it.
I do not propose to deal with the ships, but I should like to say something about the men in the ships. We are told that the question of post-War widows' pensions is "under consideration." I must say that the Admiralty is the most considerate place in the world because they are always considering. They are marvellous. Everything with them is "under consideration," but I do not blame the Admiralty and I do not blame the Treasury. I blame the House of Commons. If they backed up the Admiralty and got at the Treasury these things would not be so long under consideration. Then there is the question of the recognition of ranks, a matter which may seem small to the Admiralty but is really rather important as far as the lower deck men are concerned. The Hyde-Parker Committee recommended that there should be a clean cut for the warrant officers, that there should be warrant rank and warrant officers, and that they should be called officers. The Admiralty never carried that out, and what has been the result? I will give you an instance to show how this affects warrant officers, who are really of the same rank as second lieutenants in the Army, but who, if they seek help in time of trouble from the Officers' Family Fund are told they are not officers. This is the case of a man, a retired gunner, invalided in 1920, married, and with three children. He desired to obtain a small grant in order to set up a poultry farm. That is where he was wrong, because chickens are very difficult things to deal with. However, he applied to the officers' association for advice and assistance, and was informed that he was not recognised as an officer, and therefore could not be assisted. He was advised to apply to the Grand Fleet Fund and other like associations, who in turn informed him that being an officer he could not be assisted from their funds. That man applied to several associations, but all to no purpose. It would not be difficult for the Admiralty to deal with this matter, and it would help in many cases of genuine hardship among warrant officers, who are, in every respect, officers. 2517 Messing and cabin accommodation, though it does not seem very important either, is also a question which should receive attention. A warrant officer certainly ought to have cabin accommodation. They have important work to do, and nothing is more difficult than having to do work when there is no place where one can do it alone. Storekeepers have got this privilege.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
Storekeeper warrant officers, but not the others. I believe even the captain's cook has a cabin to himself, and, of course, we all know it is important to make your cook happy, but this is equally important in regard to warrant officers. The stagnation in promotion on the lower deck has been dealt with by the hon. Member for Central Portsmouth (Sir T. Bramsdon). Those who have anything to do with the lower deck know that, although the letter of the Admiralty law is in favour of promotion, the spirit is really very much against it. I know there are great difficulties in the way, and difficulties with regard to the men themselves, but every man who goes into the British Navy ought to feel that by merit and good conduct he can get to the top. That is the only way in which you can have a first-class all-round ship. In the case of your own business you would want a young fellow coming into it to see that by merit and real work he can rise to the top, and the same thing applies to the Navy. It may sound too democratic, but it has been applied to the Army with great success, and I hope that the Admiralty will see that those who oppose it in spirit, though not in letter, will be moved on to a higher grade.
In regard to the schoolmasters that is very important. Some of the hon. Members who have spoken for the Navy are against education. I am for both, and it is a most important thing that the men who are giving the education in the Navy should have contented minds. They have got the chance of filling the minds of the men with whatever they like, and to have your schoolmasters lower paid than other corresponding ranks is a very great mistake, but that also is "under consideration," and we are hopeful. I am quite certain that the American and Japanese Navies, although they are cut- 2518 ting down, are not cutting down in the educational facilities they are affording. The welfare of the Navy is also important. It seems to me, if you are really going to set up a Welfare Committee, where the men can air their grievances, which, after all, are not revolutionary or Bolshevist, but are quite genuine grievances, they surely ought to be represented by the men whom they select and not by men selected by the Commander-in-Chief. Look at the Labour party and the trades unions! You would not dare deal with them in that way. They send their own representatives when it comes to a lockout or a strike, and although, of course, I am not talking about the Navy striking or being locked out, if they have grievances which they think are genuine, surely the Admiralty ought to let them select their own men. Also I would recommend them to have a meeting more than once every two years. I know the Parliamentary Secretary is in deep sympathy, and I am relying upon him, and most of the enlightened members of the Admiralty see how very necessary it is. In regard to marriage allowances, that also is very important. It has been urged in the House frequently—twice to-night. I see the Report of the First Lord has cut it out entirely, but surely that is not quite right. The marriage allowance has been criticised by the Admiralty as novel in principle and a departure from the good old principle of paying for the value of services rendered, but this is what we say: Do you value the services of naval officers less than those of the Army and Air Force? If you cannot have marriage allowances, please make children's allowances until you can give marriage allowances.
I shall not keep the Committee any longer. I have been very much impressed with their boredom all the evening, but I do beg the Admiralty, if we have got to have a one-Power Navy—and it is quite right; we only want a one-Power Navy—let us see that it is the best one-Power Navy in the world, and you cannot get that until you look into every branch and see that the men are contented and feel that their grievances will come up and be dealt with sympathetically. It all depends on the Admiralty. I cannot see that the Navy will ever get much support from the House, until probably there comes another menace to the country, and then they will all come and sing songs 2519 about the good old British Navy. I may not know much about battleships, but I do know about marriage allowances, and married officers and their wives, and, the lower deck men, and I beg the Admiralty, in all their reforms and economies, not to economise on the things that are absolutely vital to the moral of the Navy.
§ Mr. HOHLER
Speaking from my experience of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, I know I can rely on anything reasonable that is brought forward, at any rate being reasonably dealt with and sympathetically considered by him. The only point to which I really want to direct attention is, what is to be done with the men? I regard the whole seriousness of this Estimate to be the compulsory retirement of a large number of officers and men. We have had no indication to-night as to the basis on which it is proposed to deal with them. Had I, as an able seaman or an officer, entered this Service and found my career cut off in early life, it would be to me the greatest grievance I could have. Every seaman who entered the Navy entered it with the certainty that he could, at the expiration of his 12 years, subject to good character, be entitled to be re-engaged. What are you going to do with these men? I am all for economy, but are you really going to effect an economy on this basis? Just look at your own figures and see what the position is. I find, from the records I have looked at, that the numbers borne in the Navy in 1913 were 142,000 men. We now propose to reduce them to 98,000. That is an enormous reduction. As I gather, it was proposed that this year the number should be 118,000 officers and men, and we are going to reduce them to 98,000. There are 20,000 men whose careers, in my judgment, are absolutely wrecked by this proposal.
While you are saving the money, as it is thought—I will not say by the Admiralty, because, having read the statement of the First Lord, I gather most clearly that he is wholly opposed to it, and I do not blame the Admiralty—I do ask the Government, while yet it is not too late, that something may be done. You are, on the one hand, turning out these men and ending their careers, many of them not being qualified for any skilled vocation in life; the bulk of them will not be mechanics or artisans, and you are throwing out 20,000 men on a market full of 2520 unemployment at the present time. Take the county of Kent. They are making new roads and finding employment for unemployed people, yet you are proposing to turn out from the Navy some 20,000 men. I find that the Vote for Non-Effective services of officers and men in 1913–14 was £2,400,000, whereas you are increasing the Non-Effective Vote up to £9,000,000. Where is the real economy? I protest that you cannot see that although you are making allowance in these non-effective services you are not making effective allowance. Why? Because these Estimates are based on your taking 118,000 men in the Navy. I doubt very much whether you estimated for this further reduction to 98,000 officers and men. Would it not be much better to allow these men to be reduced by natural wastage so far as you can? If the time comes when trade improves and there is further employment in the country and you can be fairly satisfied that they will be able to get jobs surely that would be the time to ask them to go? At present there is little or no immediate prospect of employment and they will have to go to the Labour Ministry and take the dole.
The truth is that the Geddes Report—quite rightly from their point of view—was directed to the question of money, not to the other considerations as to what would happen to these men after they are discharged. The same thing may largely be said about the 10,000 men about to be discharged from the various yards. I realise that the Admiralty and the Government have dealt most sympathetically and, in my view, most generously with the dockyards and the employment of labour there, but what I do ask myself, knowing the condition of the dockyard which happens to be largely within my own constituency, knowing that there is great unemployment—I am getting pathetic letters every day as to the position of these men who are thrown out—what on earth are they to do? They have worked well under the Government, some of them for many, many years. I find that the Admiralty in their statement say—it comes under Vote 8, Section 2—that they are greatly in need of certain works, but that they have cut down that which they thought it necessary to do to the very minimum. I was wondering that if these works are really needed, whether it would 2521 not be well for the Admiralty to point out to the Government that they could easily employ these men on certain of the works which are actually needed, and this will save paying the dole. Surely something of the kind might be done. You are making a nominal or perhaps a substantial saving partly on the Naval Estimates, whereas in truth you are going to increase the grant that you will have to pay for unemployment. These are the two points I wanted to make, and I trust that we shall have put before us the principle and the scale on which these men are to be discharged from the Navy.
§ Viscount CURZON
It has not been possible for me to take part in the general discussion owing to the necessity of having to keep the terms of the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend, which I seconded. But I do want to say just this on the Navy Estimates. I have read the First Lord's explanatory Memorandum with the greatest possible care, and it seems to me we are going in for what cannot be described in any other words but a most desperate gamble in regard to British sea power. Whatever you may do with armies, you cannot improvise navies. Therefore it behoves everyone of us who cares for his country jealously to look at any reduction that may be proposed in the Navy. I cannot at this time of night go into the merits or demerits of the capital ships. There is a great case, I think, to be made out for the postponement of the building of one of the capital ships, but I am rather sorry the Admiralty are going to lay down both at the same time. I do hope that the Admiralty will take care as to our supplies of oil fuel. After all, in 1914 we were able to justify a weak Army by the fact that we had a strong Navy. Yesterday in this House I listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Devon (Sir H. Wilson), who gave us to understand clearly that we had a weaker Army than we have ever had in our recent history. Coupled with that to-day, you are going to have the weakest Navy you have had for a very long time. I do not anticipate war, but I maintain that just as armies are intended to prevent war, so are navies. The worst form of economy is a navy not strong enough to win a war. There is one way in which a navy can be reduced in numbers and yet make up for its weakness, and that is by increased 2522 mobility. If you are going to economise on oil fuel, that is about the most dangerous economy you can make. Out down your numbers if you like, but do not interfere with the fuel supplies of the Navy. You cannot gamble with the Navy, and I beg the hon. Gentleman who represents the Admiralty to make note of the opinion expressed so freely to-day that, whatever you do about building battleships, be careful that you do not unduly reduce our fuel supplies. You are going to have a small Navy which, we have been told, is to be cut down to the bone. Let us see that that Navy is at least 100 per cent. efficient, and that cannot be achieved unless your fuel supplies will enable that Fleet to fight on its own establishment, and be able to operate in any quarter of the globe.
Another point I wish to mention is that of complements. You are going to reduce the complements of the Atlantic Fleet by 15.7 per cent. The present establishment of those ships was laid down as a result of our war experience, and if you are going to cut down those complements now, it will be a very dangerous thing. You will have to reduce the men at the guns and all round, and that is a most dangerous economy, because the Fleet cannot fight properly unless it is fully manned. I warn the Parliamentary Secretary, from my own personal knowledge, that it is a most dangerous, economy to reduce the complements of his first line ships. Before the Admiralty finally settles this matter, I beg the hon. Gentleman to go into the question with the greatest possible care. I hope the Admiralty will find some other way of economising instead of reducing the complements of the first line ships.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am in rather a difficulty because I believe the Financial Secretary is waiting to reply on some of the points raised. I will not detain him long. The speech we have just listened to is the first protest I have heard from the great Unionist party against the cutting down of the Navy, in the words of the spokesman of the Admiralty, "at great risk" I am almost inclined to make a protest for them: a little of the old Adam is apt to creep back now and again. I want to say this in no unfriendly spirit, that it is possible to economise on ships, oil fuel 2523 and dockyards with much greater safety than on personnel. We may get our dockyard work done in private yards—as much of that was done during the War; we can improvise oil fuel stores by sending floating oil tank ships, we can improvise ships, especially auxiliary vessels, but we cannot improvise personnel Whatever we economise on I do object to economising on men—and seagoing men especially. I hope, too, that the swinging of the Geddes' axe will not be made an excuse for reducing the real staff—the thinking Department—at the Admiralty. There is a certain school of thought among the civilians at the Admiralty that naval men ought not to be on the staff there. We built up that staff in the face of the fiercest opposition during the throes of the great War. The idea that only one limbed, blind, or deaf naval men should find employment on the thinking staff of the Admiralty is a terrible fallacy and the worst possible economy we can make.
May I mention a few economies which might be made without loss of efficiency? If I were so unfortunate as to find myself in the position of my right hon. and gallant Friend—which I hope I never shall be—these are the economies which I would put forward. Take the dockyards in the first place. We do really want a strong man at the Admiralty to deal with the dockyard question. We have two redundant dockyards which we could get rid of to-morrow, and it would be a real economy to pay the workmen in them a pound a week for the remainder of their lives and to close the yards. One is Rosyth, and the other is Chatham, with its satellite, Sheerness. I know the Government may lose two or three seats by doing this, for political influence is serious in these matters. An hon. Friend reminds me of the case of Pembroke. That is simply a scandal, as by the political influence of the Welsh Members we have been keeping going for a long time, and at great expense, a yard which should have been closed long ago. I am afraid the fact that the candidate for the next election is the son of the Prime Minister will not make it any easier to get the Pembroke dockyard cut down. We are, however, facing facts. It is redundant, and the Navy is not a charity organisation. The fact that a township 2524 has grown up which depends on Pembroke is no reason for keeping it on.
Then there is another direction in which economy could be effected. Dartmouth and all its works—and I speak as an old "Britannia" cadet—ought to be closed down and done away with, and we should rely upon special-entry public schoolboy cadets. I have had experience, as a midshipman and as an officer in charge, of both, and my view, which I believe is borne out by officers in the Navy, is that there is little to choose between them. If anything, the public schoolboys are rather better. Their physique is better, and in many cases they show more initiative. That would also open the avenue to the poorer boys in the country, who could enter the Navy by this means if they can only pass the examinations and go through the mill, and it would withdraw a great grievance from poor people in the country. It is a much cheaper way of getting officers for the Navy. The idea of taking boys of 13 and training them at Dartmouth to be naval officers is an exploded idea. It is not necessary. During the War very excellent work was done by these boys who came straight from the public schools.
Then a reduction might be made in shore appointments held by naval officers. I am not referring to the Admiralty now, but to the dockyards and to various artificial posts which did not exist before the War. In March, 1914, there were 78 post-captains employed in shore jobs; to-day there are 114. In 1914 there were 14 post-captains doing war courses; to-day there are 36. It is all right about the war courses, but I can see no justification for having an extra 30 officers in shore appointments. Moreover, there is still the same number of flag officers in shore appointments to-day, although the personnel is smaller than it was before the War. These appointments could be reduced without any loss of efficiency.
The suggestion which I am now about to make will, I know, not be received with approval in some quarters, for it-is very drastic. I think you can afford to-day to halve your battle squadrons, so desperate is the need for economy. You could keep one battle squadron in commission, but I do not see that you need one in the Mediterranean, or, 2525 if you do, you could do without one in the Atlantic. I would do much more of the sea training of officers and men in destroyers and submarines. They would get a much better training in that way. In fact, I do not think you can make sailors in Dreadnoughts; the only real sailors are made in small ships. I admit that there would be a loss of efficiency, but if it is a question of choosing, I would rather have more destroyers and fewer battleships, especially as we can rest on our oars for two or three years without fear of war. You can always commission a battle squadron again if the clouds darken on the international horizon. Then with regard to the two ships which are to be laid down in 1923, the Admiralty have been urged from several quarters to postpone that. Even if you do have to build them at the end of the eight or nine years—which I doubt very much, because people are beginning to understand that there will be no place for battleships in the next war; battle cruisers, possibly, but it will be a war of submarines and light cruisers and aircraft—you will be able to build much more modern ships, because you will be researching and improving all the time. I hope the Admiralty are not going in for the policy of nucleus crew ships, though I see that these are beginning to figure again in their published memoranda and in the "Navy List." That policy is inefficient and demoralising and bad in every way. It is better either to pay the ships off entirely or to keep them in full commission. I have had experience of both.
There are a great many other matters about which one would like to speak on this occasion, but I am afraid we have been rather jockeyed out of our proper naval discussion to-day. I hope we shall have a better opportunity when the full Estimates have been placed in our hands.
§ Mr. AMERY
Hon. Members will hardly expect me to reply in the two or three minutes that remain to the very wide and interesting discussion which has taken place on these Estimates. I need only say that I shall certainly consider very carefully the many important points which have been raised, and as there will be future opportunities for discussion I hope to be able to give fuller answers to those points then than I could possibly have given to-night, even if I had risen somewhat earlier. The only thing I 2526 should like to say, in reference to the last two or three speeches—leaving aside the rather technical controversy as between putting battleships to reserve and reducing complements, on which to some extent the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut. -Commander Kenworthy) answered the Noble Lord the Member for Battersea (Viscount Curzon)—is that I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken that the question of personnel is, in its essence, the most important of all. The efficiency of the men is really the finally deciding factor. The building up of an efficient system of training, the efficient training and working together of these men in a battle fleet, so that you get in those supreme minutes in which the fates of navies and of empires may be decided loyal cooperation, mutual understanding, and discipline—all these matter more than anything else. I quite agree also that you are running grave risks if you cut down the personnel below the numbers requisite to maintain its high state of efficiency and to make it capable of forming a nucleus for expansion if the danger should arise. I should like to introduce just one qualification to that in present circumstances. We have to-day a larger reservoir of men who have been through the navy owing to the circumstances of the Great War than any country in the world, and, in any case, during the next few years we can expand on the nucleus of the present regular Navy more quickly than any other power conceivably could expand. Of course, it is very difficult to secure large economies in any direction unless you also reduce your personnel very much. Therefore, with all these considerations in view, while cutting down in every other direction, we were also bound to cut down very considerably in the matter of personnel.
The only other part on which I wish to say anything was raised by my hon. and learned Friend for Gillingham (Mr. Hohler), and I think his contribution, though very brief, was perhaps the most important to our Debate to-night, because it raised what to my mind is the most difficult and at the same time the most vital question in this whole matter. It is the question of what are we in justice and equity going to do with these men whom we wish to leave the Service during the coming year. Also, a question no 2527 less important is whether if we do treat them with any reasonable consideration, whether we do it through the Navy or whether it is done in a much more sorry fashion through unemployment relief and other forms of public assistance, we are saving as much as we may think. The only answer I can give to that latter point is that, undoubtedly, these economies can never have the whole effect they appear to have at first sight. There is another side to the account. The only thing that can be said is that the need for economy is so great, and the advantage of reducing taxation so substantial in the improvement of industry, that even the differential advantage gained may be worth a great deal in the present economic crisis. On the other point I would only say one word. I would remind my hon. and learned Friend that we hope to get rid, as far as the Navy is concerned, of a very large proportion of our ratings by ordinary wastage and by stagnation of recruiting. I think three-quarters of the 20,000 can be secured in that way. We also hope the terms which we shall offer will be so reasonable, taking into account the varying circumstances of the men's lives and their possible opportunities outside, that to a large extent they may voluntarily accept and thus reduce to the very minimum the difficult question of finally deciding who, among those who are not willing to go, will have to be given reasonable and fair compensation, but still have to be told that the Naval Service can no longer make use of them. Then again we recognise that where we have contracts, moral as well as legal, we have to give every consideration. Having said this much I hope I may appeal to the Committee to give us this Vote A and the Vote on Account to-night. I think the discussion has very fairly covered the broad general statement contained in the skeleton Vote and in the First Lord's memorandum. I hope as soon as possible the detailed Estimates will be in hon. Members' hands and then we may have more detailed and more adequate discussions.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I think I can suggest one way in which we could help this absorption of men and that is to ante-date the pensions by a year. If you secured that for the marines, 2528 stokers and bluejackets that would be something to the good.
§ Mr. HOHLER
But I suggest that this must be discussed when we see what the proposals are. They are really most important.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I agree. If we can have our scheme later on we shall have the benefit of the hon. and learned Gentleman's advice. I only wish to put the suggestion forward because we get so few opportunities on the Navy. We got the Speaker out of the Chair by 8 o'clock, which is unprecedented in the history of the House. It shows the lack of interest in naval affairs. A lot of officers will have to go in the prime of life—men of intelligence, who have travelled, and many of them linguists. They will have a much better chance of getting good employment if they could be given commercial courses in the great commercial cities of the North. I should like to see started commercial classes for the last six months before they go. Give them six months' warning, and send them to Manchester or Liverpool, and let them have a course of commercial practice, and when they go it would be much easier for them to get employment. That is a suggestion for the officers. Whether anything of the same sort could be done for the men depends on my Friends on the right. If the trade unions are prepared to allow these men to be trained, it will be a great aid to them to get employment when they leave the Service.
§ Question put, and agreed to.