§ [REPORT, 12th March.]
§ Resolutions reported,
§ NAVY ESTIMATES, 1923–24.
That 99,500 Officers, Seamen, Boys, and Royal Marines be employed for the Sea Service, together with 1,423 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, 1924.
That a sum, not exceeding £14,055,700, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Wages, etc. of Officers, Seamen, and Boys, Coast Guard, and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move to leave out "99,500," and to insert instead thereof "99,400."
I wish, at the outset, to say that I find myself in the rather unusual position of being able to offer certain congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman who speaks for the Admiralty. Perhaps the House will forgive me if I say that certain proposals that I have made on previous Estimates on more occasions than one— I mean for two or three years—have been carried out. I hope I may be forgiven for touching on a personal note, and I entirely forgive the then spokesmen of the Admiralty for rejecting my proposals, and, in the case of Mr. Churchill, for pouring great scorn upon them. The Admiralty, through my right hon. Friend, have issued the usual statement explaining the Estimates. They have made the usual statement about the irreducible minimum and the justifiable risks that have been run, and they have again informed the House that we have come down to the lowest possible limit of reductions. If we are going to pursue the policy that has been followed since the Armistice, that is broadly true, and, if we are to look for substantial reductions in the future in the Naval charges, there will have to be a change of policy, and certain disagreeable facts will have to be faced. One of these is that the functions 2810 of the Navy have been altered from those that we have been brought up to consider during the last generation. I refer to the fact that our interests that have to be safeguarded are not now concentrated round our coasts as during the last few years. We are reverting to the older system, whereby the Navy had to be pre pared to exert its force much further away than the vicinity of these islands. One of the matters upon which I would like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman is the concentration of the main Battle Fleet in the Mediterranean. Strategically, that is a perfectly sound disposition, but, as a matter of fact, the real danger lies even further afield. What is the result? We find ourselves with very expensive and extensive home establishments that are out of place, unnecessary and unsuited for the new orientation that will have to be made. That is a disagreeable fact that must be recognised.
Do the Admiralty really set themselves to the task of preparing the Navy as a striking or fighting force, and do they consider that expenditure from that point of view alone, or are they still spending money on the Fleet, not for fighting purposes at all, but for what I may call semi-charitable purposes—for the purpose of giving employment to well-meaning persons? Hon. Members cheer me, but, if we are going to give employment to people, I would rather see it done on other purposes and not have the Navy Votes swollen. I am in favour of providing work for the unemployed where industry cannot absorb them, but do not let us put it on the Navy Votes and say that the money is required for the defence of the country. Are the Admiralty spending money for social reasons or for police duties? I cannot help feeling that one of the reasons why certain schools of thought are always advocating a greater and ever greater Navy is the wish and the hope that the Navy can be used as a sort of special police in time of industrial unrest. That is a perfectly modern use for the Navy, a use that has been made of the Navy only since the Great War, and it is a, use which is repugnant to all people who have the real interests of the Navy at heart. If money is being spent astensibly for the Navy, but really for semi-charitable, social, or police reasons we ought to be told.
2811 As a matter of fact, while money can be found for all sorts of purposes, certain essential peace services are neglected. I will detail one, in particular. At the present time, the fishing population of these islands complain that they do not get the protection and the support from the British Navy to which they have a right. It is possible to send a super-Dreadnought to carry an ex-Sultan of Turkey about the Mediterranean for some weeks, and it is possible to send a light cruiser to give a passage to a Greek Prince apparently for the only reason that his brother-in-law is a British subject, and yet when we, the ports that send out the great fishing fleets—a very important industry—ask for the protection and support of the Navy, we have been in several cases refused. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend when a fishery cruiser, for example, last visited Icelander waters or Norwegian waters? In both these parts of the world our fishermen have complained recently—the hon. Gentleman who answers for the Foreign Office has been asked questions on the matter—of harsh treatment, and I am informed that it is many years since any gunboat or cruiser visited these waters. The case of the maltreatment of our men in Russian waters is familiar to the House. While the Admiralty did send a vessel of war to Russian waters, it was only after our men had been ill-used, and the ship was afterwards withdrawn for climatic and other reasons. The whole episode of the withdrawal of the cruiser from Russian waters was due to a lack of touch between the Admiralty and the fishing population of this country, and I do most earnestly request the First Lord of the Admiralty to see that the staff do keep closely in touch with the very important fishing interests of this country, so that this sort of thing does not happen in the future.
I want to touch very rapidly on one or two points, and the first I will mention is probably the most important of all. It is stated in the Admiralty statement that lack of funds has prevented the transference of the Royal Naval College from Greenwich to Camberley. That is something for which my Noble Friend the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) and myself have pressed on former Estimates, and I am glad that the Admiralty have recognised the need for the change. It is very false economy 2812 to save money by not making the change. We hear a great deal at the present time of a combined staff for the three Services —unity of command, a Minister of Defence, and so on- but like unity in other human affairs it must come from the bottom—yes, from the humble workers—and the best way to get coordination between the Naval, Military, and Air Staffs is for the commanders of the future, the admirals and generals of the future, to pursue their studies in common in the same place. It is vital to-day, especially when I am afraid it must be recognised that in a very few-years our first arm of defence will not be the Navy, but the Air Service, that these three Staff Colleges should be in close proximity, so that the officers can be brought up together and study together and get to know each other's point of view.
I regret very much that money has not been found that is urgently needed. I want to congratulate my right hon. Friend on adopting certain suggestions, namely, relegating the coastguard to the Department to which it belongs, and also in closing down the unwanted dockyard at Wei-hai-wei. He has grasped the nettle by realising that Singapore has to be developed. While we are maintaining the Navy in the present world of world politics we must have what is required at this vital place. It is no use criticising a total expenditure of £10,000,000 over a term of years to be spent at Singapore, while we tolerate spending money on dockyards in our own country which for strategical reasons are no longer wanted.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Now I come to that political scandal of Pembroke. I believe there is an hon. Member of this House who represents Pembroke. He was a candidate during the last Parliament. I do not know him. I do not want to make any false accusations; but it has been stated quite honestly that Pembroke is not required for naval reasons—that the dockyard is being maintained for social reasons, because there are shopkeepers and others dependent upon the dockyards, and because waterworks have been built and so on. That is a very scandalous thing. But I want to put in a claim, as a matter of fact, not to be in a hurry completely to abolish the dockyard at Pembroke, 2813 though I am very much against further money being spent there on unnecessary developments and extensions.
But there is a factor that must not be lost sight of, and that is that Pembroke is one of the few dockyards existing in this island that is reasonably secure against air attack, and that is a very important factor in die future. Included in those dockyards is that represented by the hon. Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke), which is also secure from air attacks. But I shall not include the dockyard at Chatham, or that at Portsmouth. Chatham was built for the Dutch wars. It was, of course, useful in the war against Germany, though Rosyth was the result of that war, and the preparations that led up to it. To-day, however, Chatham is extraordinarily badly placed for our naval needs, and, in addition to that, it is most vulnerable to air attack from the Continent. It is under long range gunfire to-day from Europe. I would strongly urge upon the Admiralty to be courageous in this matter. We must reduce our establishments at Chatham and, for that matter, at Rosyth, though Rosyth is of more utility and much more free than Chatham.
It is perfectly true that Edinburgh was bombed during the War, but still Rosyth is free from air menace, say, from Franco and Belgium, if I may put it in at that. Portsmouth is tremendously important. It was the outcome of the French wars, but it is subject to the air squadrons passing over from the Continent to attack the Midland towns. I would suggest that no new developments in the way of dock facilities should take place at Portsmouth or Chatham. I make these proposals with diffidence, but I press them very earnestly indeed on the right hon. Gentleman. We have to recognise facts. It is no good lion. Members coming here and talking about their constituents, and asking that this dockyard or——
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I talk about Hull, certainly, but I do not ask for essential services to be put there, and I do not ask for a greater expenditure for semi-charitable reasons . I do not suggest the reducing of the establishment at Portsmouth, but I do say that we should 2814 not make further extensions, and that we have to recognise the further fact that Portsmouth is vulnerable, and that Chatham to any European Power attacking us would be untenable. The thing, I know, would be unpleasant for the people who live in Chatham and exist by reason of the Navy, but that cannot be helped. We have got to be prepared properly to compensate those people. In the meantime it is being freely stated in this country that to-day the Royal Navy could not carry out our policy in a time of war in the Pacific because it has not got its proper fuel bases. We are spending scores of millions of pounds on the Navy and in case of need in the Pacific it could not make a defence of our fellow countrymen in Australia because of what I have said, while we are spending money on dockyards which would be no use in such a war, and which are extremely vulnerable. We are doing it for political reasons. I say it is very scandalous. The position ought to be squarely faced and viewed from the highest standpoint of patriotism. Let me repeat what I said in the last Parliament on the Naval Estimates—and here let me quite admit that I am on most delicate ground—but I must refer to the ease of Gibraltar.
We have all been brought up to look upon Gibraltar as impregnable, and all that sort of thing, but in point of fact the dockyard at Gibraltar is under field gun-fire from the Spanish. Gibraltar solely depends upon the charity or the friendliness of Spain, and any war in which we were engaged, if we had not that, but a hostile Spain, Gibraltar would be worse than useless. Let mc repeat what I have said previously, that it would be. a desirable thing to exchange Gibraltar for Ceuta. Such an exchange would gratify Spanish national pride, and she would get a port which would help her to develop the hinterland in a way that at present is not being done. Gibraltar is a sort of fetish. People bamboozle the English folk with all sorts of things and inquire whether we propose to surrender one of the vital parts of the British Empire! There is no more useless place than Gibraltar in this connection, and that is another fact we have to face.
On the vote for personnel, although, I believe, according to custom, we are permitted to deal with other matters, I wish very briefly to deal with one question 2815 of personnel, and that is this: It will interest many Members to know that, in spite of the inducements held out, a great many men have to be compulsorily retired from the Navy. I am talking now of the rank and file. Eight hundred seamen have been forced out of the Navy who did not wish to leave, but who, owing to the reduction in numbers, have had to go. At the same time there are seamen whose relations, and who themselves wish, and are prepared, to buy out, and are prevented from doing so. That seems a very illogical state of affairs. There was a case brought to my notice the other day by an hon. Friend in which a man's parents in his constituency wished to buy him out of the Navy for sound family and business reasons and the Admiralty refused to let him go. You are forcing out 800 men who arc willing to stay and you will not let one man come out who wants to come out. I am afraid the reason is in some cases the man's application has to come before his Commanding Officer and if he is a good man the Commanding Officer naturally wishes to keep him. But an important matter of this sort ought not to be in the hands of the Commanding Officer. I suggest that cases of this sort should automatically come before the Admiralty: the Commanding Officer ought not to be in a position to refuse a man's application to buy himself out. There may not be an opportunity again to raise this matter, and I, therefore, put it forward in passing.
I have ranged over a rather wide field, and I have only one other observation to make. These few suggestions I have thrown out are made simply from the point of view of increasing and maintaining the efficiency of the Navy. So long as we have a Navy, so long as we have not world-peace, I want to see the Navy efficient, and I begrudge every pound that is spent on services that do not induce efficiency in the Navy or promote the welfare of the personnel. I do not want to advocate a greater Navy or further competition in armaments, but I would further ask the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes to reply, to deal with the present shipbuilding programme, and the apparently long time it seems to be taking in the Royal dockyards to build the ships there.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Well, it seems a long time. Here are two ships, the "Effingham" and the "Frobisher." I have not: the exact time, but let me look at the Navy List. The hon. Member opposite challenges what I am saying?
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I did not challenge the statement as to the number of years, but the hon. Member can consult the Votes.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. Gentleman acts as a sort of Greek chorus to me when I speak on these various occasions, but I do not resent it. I am rather pleased with it, and used to it. But I note here, according to the Navy List, that the "Effingham" is being built at Portsmouth and the "Frobisher" at Devonport. The "Frobisher" was laid down in August, 1916, and she is to be completed in 1923–24. There may be perfectly good reasons for all that, but I am only asking why we are taking so long to build a light cruiser. By the same token there is a ship that is called the "Whitehall," a torpedo-boat destroyer— built for speed and named the "Whitehall!" It was commenced in June, 1918, and is still apparently on the stocks. We used to pride ourselves on our ability in speedy shipbuilding. It may be that these ships are being built more slowly for good and sufficient reasons, and for the purpose of keeping a certain number of men going longer, but I should like to ask what are the reasons?
There is another part of the Estimates in which, while we are continuing to build the two new capital ships, we are voting money for compensation to contractors for other capital ships which were started, and have ceased to go on. Now we are building these two capital ships that the Admiralty say are the last ships to be built of this type before, I think, 1931. I am afraid I am perfectly unrepentant on this point. I see no use for the battleship in any Atlantic or Pacific war except as a means of locking up valuable personnel. Battle cruisers, possibly; battleships, no. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, as I have asked him before, to get the Staff to play a war game in his presence and try and see the effect of battleships in a Pacific war. 2817 I should very much like to know what use would be found for them even under those theoretical conditions.
There is only one thing really to be done at sea. The time is really not far distant when we must, in spite of a certain pathetic sentiment, recognise that the Navy will no longer be the premier defence. That scepter is rapidly passing to the Air Service. For some years yet, of course, we must have our defence for trade routes, but in any case there is one policy that ought to be the national policy of the British Empire, and that is that we ought to use all our endeavours to bring about, with regard to both the sea and the air, and particularly the sea, a general disarmament with an international police force—an international police force manned by officers and men who are taken young and brought up together as boys as real internationalists, and on whom people will have the same reliance as the different countries have on their own police. There was a time when in England every baron had his own armed forces, and the police were not trusted. Eventually the police became trusted, and that is the ideal we have to work to at spa. We, at any rate, cannot afford to be the policemen of the seas. It is much too expensive a game. War is becoming too terrible to contemplate, especially when it is removed to the air sphere, and the only salvation, while human nature remains as it is, is to have a strong international police force at sea and in the air and to put our trust in that.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE-BRABAZON
I rise because of some observations which fell from the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) with regard to the continuance of Chatham Dockyard. It struck me as curious that those observations should come from the hon. and gallant Member, because at one time there was a distinct probability of his endeavouring to stand for that locality.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE-BRABAZON
It would have been, I think, a tragedy had he done so, because we should have 2818 lost from this House those very valuable contributions to this Debate. It is of interest to think whether, had he been successful—which is stretching the imagination somewhat—he would now have held the views he has just expressed.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE-BRABAZON
It is of interest to me to think whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman is voicing the opinion of many of his colleagues upon those benches, because, from a purely personal point of view, I have often wanted to know what further economies would be proposed by an alternative Government composed of gentlemen of his own persuasion; and now, it having been made known to me what one of their first lines of attack is, I shall endeavour by every means in my power to convey the news to the locality concerned. It is not for me to boost my own goods, or give a long dissertation on the merits of Chatham Dockyard. That would be rather endeavouring to gild the lily. But let mo say that the history of that town is wrapped up with the history of this nation from the time of Queen Elizabeth, and, although I cordially agree that no vested interest, nor any historical or sentimental association should stand in the way of abandoning any dockyard that has ceased to be useful, I maintain that no one has yet made out a case that Chatham has ceased to be useful. The hon. and gallant Gentleman advanced a theory that Chatham is now too near the Continent, and is liable to destruction, not only by aircraft, but also by long - range guns; but exactly the same argument applies to London, and no one has yet advocated that we shall all leave this City. May I remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that, although it seems sometimes to be forgotten, London is still the biggest port in the world? Lying conveniently at the mouth of the Thames in the Medway is Chatham, the guardian of the biggest port in the world, and, until London disappears, so let us leave her doing the work that she is doing at present. When London has disappeared, then we can go and look after Singapore, as advocated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ Captain MOREING
I think that the nation as a whole is not altogether 2819 satisfied with the condition in which our naval forces at present find themselves, and that large numbers of people seriously take the view that we are spending an exorbitant amount of money in view of the present exiguous state of those forces. I am quite certain that no one in this country, except possibly a few fanatics, desires to see the Navy reduced below the safety point; but, at the same time, I think we are entitled to ask that we should obtain satisfactory results from the money we are spending on this Service. I should like to take as examples one or two points from the, Estimates. We are asked, for instance, to vote a very large sum of money for the maintenance of the naval cordite factory at Halton Heath. The reason put forward by the Admiralty for the maintenance of this establishment is that it is absolutely essential to the Navy to secure, not only a thoroughly reliable propellant, but also an absolutely pure propellant, and they point to the losses of the "Bulwark" and the "Irene" during the last War, which they maintain, or at any rate consider, were due to hastily manufactured and probably impure cordite. I am afraid, however, that they are setting a very bad example to other Departments by maintaining factories of this nature. We all know that the one great characteristic of Government service is inter-Departmental jealousy, and I can quite imagine other services coming along and asking for their own separate factories, on the ground that they could not possibly use naval cordite. I think we are entitled to press upon the First Lord the view that it would be possible to secure an absolutely reliable and pure propellant without allowing the Navy to keep its own separate establishment at Halton Heath.
There is a more serious point than the mere expenditure of money on services of this kind in times of peace, and that is that it inevitably leads to great confusion, great waste of effort, and great waste of public money, in war-time. The tendency is for every Department to attempt to expand its own establishment for war, and it was precisely for the reason that it was utterly impossible to get the Army and Navy purchasing authorities to work together in the early stages of the last War that we had to set up 2820 the Ministry of Munitions. I happen to know, from friends of mine who are manufacturers, that the competition that went on between the two Services was one of the factors which led to the shortage of shell and munition supplies on the Western Front. I really think that a case can be made out for asking the Admiralty to reconisider the whole of this question of the supply of propellants, and for asking them whether it would not be possible to assure, in conjunction with the other Services, the joint manufacture of these essential requirements of war. The case is strengthened by the fact that, as I understand, the Admiralty have decided to abandon the erection of their bleaching factory. The Estimates Committee, in the last Parliament, examined the Director of Naval Ordnance, who at the time was urging that the Admiralty should erect their own bleaching factory, but I understand that the Admiralty's programme in that regard has been abandoned. If that be so, it is an added argument for a reconsideration of the whole question of the manufacture of powder for the fighting Services.
There are other points in regard to which I think hon. Members generally are not satisfied that we arc, obtaining full value for the money which we vote for these Services. Take the case of the dockyards. Everyone agrees that we have to maintain dockyards, and, on the whole, they are reasonably well managed and reasonably efficiently staffed. But I cannot help thinking, and I think that here my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) will agree with mc, that probably a close scrutiny of the dockyard establishments, and of the dockyard methods of work, would reveal possibilities of considerable savings of public money, without in any way seriously affecting the interests of my hon. Friend's constituents. I believe that we could find similar examples in other branches of the Service. If we could only get behind the policy underlying these Estimates, I think we should find that, while the fighting men, the fighting ships, the essential outlying stations referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, have been and are being bled to the bone, yet many hundreds of thousands of pounds could be saved on all the little departments and sub-departments of the Admiralty and the dockyards, and the 2821 money saved on these could be expended on the essential services in other parts of the world.
I believe that sufficient money could be found to remove the Staff College to Camberley, and I think no one would hesitate for a moment to support the doctrine that the staffs of our three fighting Services should be housed under one roof, and that the common doctrine of war which is essential for an amphibious Power such as we are should be thrashed out and thoroughly understood by the Staffs of all the three Services. It was the lack of that common doctrine, the lack of that common understanding which is so essential for a nation like ours, that led to the great suffering and loss and miserable failure in the Dardanelles. The Dardanelles idea was sound; it was the want of understanding between the three Services that largely contributed to its failure. Then there is the question of mechanical transport. In all these places three systems of mechanical transport are kept up, and I am certain that it is inefficient for the Army to adopt one type of lorry and for the Navy and the Air Force each to use something different. These are the things which lead to waste and duplication. If you have one common pattern of equipment, only one provision of stores is required to maintain it in a state of efficiency.
Then I may refer to the Chaplains' Department, because it is only by going through these Estimates with a small comb that we can rake up the money necessary for the essential services of the Fleet. Is it necessary to maintain three separate Chaplains' Departments, with three chaplains-general, all with different uniforms and all appointed under different conditions? I doubt very much whether it is. I hope, however, that the Admiralty, when considering the Chaplains' Department, will not imitate the economy of a former War Office official, who suggested that the Chaplain to the Troops at Cape Town should take Sunday afternoon service at Durban. Another of these water-tight services is the medical service. I have no doubt that the Admiralty would maintain vehemently that if a sailor were put into a military hospital he would surely die, and I have no doubt that their military colleagues, would maintain that if a soldier were put into a naval hospital, it would be equivalent to a sentence of 2822 death. We cannot, however, allow these jealousies to stand in the way of efficiency or of economy. What we do not want is the fighting men to be pared down in order that each Service may maintain a paraphernalia of officials and a multitude of various sorts of things. Why do you want to maintain separate hospital accommodation in various towns? The answer will be, of course, that we have to think of the needs of war. After all, in this century, war is a national effort, and, if we are involved in operations on any scale, the ordinary establishments of the three Services will be totally inadequate, and will have to be supplemented from civilian resources. What we should do is to maintain merely the actual minimum which is necessary for the accommodation of the three Services in peace time, and expand those Services from civilian resources in war time. It is childish to maintain that it is necessary at this stage, when we have enormous resources in our civil population to draw upon, to maintain a great number of men in peace time at the various stations all over the world.
In conclusion, I would like to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not possible to secure in peace greater economy by joint purchases of common stores for the different Services. At the present moment we are maintaining three contract branches, buying in competition with each other. No firm, which has separate works all over the kingdom, allow those works to buy their requirements in competition. They have a central purchasing department. I think that is a sound principle for the fighting Services as well. Not only is ultra-departmentalism wasteful in peace, but it is the sure way, unless we are careful, to disaster in war. You can, unquestionably, maintain a comparatively small organisation in peace time, if, during peace, the machinery which you are going to use for the expansion of the Forces in war is carefully laid down and thought out. What we have to avoid is not only a waste of public money, but it is essential that every penny we can save on the excrescences should be spent on the fighting men and the fighting ships. We should avoid setting up these little watertight compartments which, in war time, not merely lead to waste of efficiency, to waste of 2823 energy and to waste of money, but also to waste of lives which we can ill afford to spare in our trained fighting men.
§ Captain Viscount CURZON:
I should like to say one or two words on the subjects which were raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut. -Commander Kenworthy). He devoted the first part of his speech to the importance of keeping ships abroad, and of having ships at foreign stations. With that I absolutely agree. You have only to look at the explanatory statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty with reference to the very successful visit of the battle cruisers "Hood" and "Repulse" to Brazil recently, in which he says the visit was very valuable, both politically and commercially. That is a very interesting admission, because only a short time before the squadron at that station had been withdrawn. The squadron had only been there quite a short time, and the results from the stationing of those ships there were only just becoming apparent. Britishers who had been living out there for years were going on board those ships and were saying that that was the first time they realised their country had a Navy, and they were real glad to see it. It did no end of good, both from the point of view of trade and from the point of view of prestige. The point was soon realised by other countries. The Americans have taken the greatest possible trouble in regard to Brazil on that station. They have sent some of their finest ships there, and a great many men. With the visit of the "Hood" and the "Repulse" we were able to do something to redress the adverse balance against us, and to show South American countries and the South American Continent that we still have a Navy which is still capable of being compared with any other navy in the world. I may say, in corroboration of this, that the officers and men of those ships did real credit to their country, and I know the fact is appreciated by the Admiralty, as illustrated in the First Lord's speech.
What I am coming to is this. I want to know whether the Admiralty will really take steps to send our ships abroad to foreign stations? I regard the fact of ships being in home waters as extremely bad, both from the point of view of the officers and of the men. Instead of their 2824 thoughts being concentrated on training and efficiency, and so on, when they are in home waters their thoughts are mostly concentrated on leave and how they can get ashore. Not only that, but it is generally the case—and anyone who knows the neighbourhoods will agree with me in this—that centres of discontent are generally to be found near home ports. The Navy on foreign stations is nearly always much more contented and much more happy. Therefore I hope it will be the policy of the Admiralty to send ships abroad much more often than they have done up to the present time. I should like to see a cruise (it would be well worth it from the point of view of the experience which the officers and men would gain) of a very important section of our battle fleet to the American continent, and thereon to Australia, New Zealand and India, to show the flag in a way that it has not been shown for years and years. I believe it could be done with a unit of four ships. Great experience would be gained by the officers and men on such a trip, and I believe it would do no end of good to the Navy and to the country as a whole. I hope that that suggestion may receive consideration at the earliest moment when it becomes possible.
With regard to the replacement of ships, I think the Admiralty are gradually coming to a very serious situation indeed. The Washington Conference limited the number and displacement of our capital ships. It limited everything, pretty well, with the exception of light cruisers, with regard to which it only dealt with their armament, and placed limits on their tonnage; it did not limit their numbers. We hold at the present moment a superiority in numbers, but America—nobody thinks we are going to war with America, but we cannot afford to leave these things absolutely to chance—and Japan are building very powerful ships, and we cannot afford to neglect that. The Admiralty are in a very difficult position in this country. The Admiralty say it is necessary for them to have certain ships so long as the money is available. I say it is a question for the Admiralty to decide whether they can substitute for light cruisers lighter-than-air craft. I believe they will be able to if they are given the control; but until they are given the control it is a matter for the 2825 Admiralty to decide whether it is necessary to meet this potential menace from over the seas. We have three or four light cruisers under construction. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman for Central Hull said, these ships have been under construction for an inordinate length of time. The "Raleigh," one of our newest and best, was lost recently on the North American station. No steps whatever have been taken to replace that ship. It is true that one of the "Frobisher" class is to be completed, but no steps have been taken to complete the other two ships. We are gradually arriving at a position in which we shall find ourselves in very grave inferiority in the matter of light cruisers. They are the eyes of the Fleet. They are most important ships. The Admiralty is not able, under the present organisation of the air services in this country, to replace those eyes of the Fleet floating on the surface of the water by eyes in the air, as it should do. The result is that a very serious question from the point of view of the Navy may arise. I do hope the Admiralty will give serious attention to the light cruiser position, and, in a lesser degree, to the destroyer position, which is also very serious, and may become very serious at no far distant date. I do not believe that the slow construction of these ships is cheap or economical or efficient. I would like the First Lord, when he comes to reply, to deal with this point, and to explain exactly what our position is with regard to light cruisers as a whole, and what the policy of the Admiralty is going to be. It may be, of course, that they are waiting in the hopes of getting control of the air arm. If so, let the Admiralty say so; then we shall understand.
I should now like to touch on a question which was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, namely, that of the Staff College. Like him, I have also urged upon the Admiralty that at the earliest possible moment the Naval Staff College should be transferred to Camberley. I know it will cost money, but it is a very important thing indeed. If we are going to get the maximum value, which is what we want to-day, for the money which we spend upon our fighting services, the thinking departments, the brains, of those three Services should be right alongside one another, and not separated by miles of country as 2826 they are at present. This is realised by the Admiralty, but I do not agree with the Admiralty when they say they cannot afford to do it. I say it would be real economy in the end. When you get the staffs alongside one another, it might be possible to reduce competition in various branches of the Navy, and it might be possible then that we should come all the quicker to a Ministry of Defence, if it is really desirable.
One word with regard to dockyards. I certainly agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull in the matter of dockyards. I do think that Chatham dockyard, under modern conditions, is becoming a most serious matter. It is true that Pembroke is being maintained as a sort of poor relief, but with the increasing menace from the air, it is a matter for consideration whether we are right in retaining Chatham and giving up Pembroke. I think Chatham dockyard in a modern war—certainly in another European war—will become quite untenable, and that any money spent there will be absolutely so much money thrown into the sea. If Pembroke dockyard is developed in place of Chatham, I imagine that the staffs at present employed at Chatham could be transferred to Pembroke. I do not know whether the housing conditions at Pembroke could be developed to keep pace with the transfer of the Chatham staff; but I do not suppose the transfer would be effected in a day or in a night. At any rate I think it should be very seriously considered whether we are right in spending very much more money on Chatham dockyard.
I want now to allude to the question of Naval fuel. A most serious situation has arisen with regard to the fuel of the Navy. Owing to economy, it is stated in the First Lord's memorandum, the allowance of fuel for the steaming of the Fleet has again been cut down to a very low limit. This strikes at the very root of the Navy. It is not worth spending money on the Fleet if we are not going to get efficiency from it, and you cannot get efficiency from it unless the men receive their training efficiently, and if you cut that training down you strike a direct blow at the efficiency of the Fleet. When we are spending £58,000,000 or £60,000,000, whatever the amount is which 2827 we are spending, on the Fleet, I say we have a right to get the maximum efficiency from it. Indeed, we run a tremendous danger in time of war if we do not get it. I do beg that the Admiralty will give serious attention to this matter. I would also like to appeal to this House, as I think this is a matter which should receive our most earnest consideration. It is of vital importance to the Navy.
With regard to the provision of storage, I would like to ask the First Lord what we are really doing in that direction. Are we erecting oil tanks and planning oil tanks all over the seas abroad? If we are, I would like to ask whether any attempt has been made to arrive at some sort of arrangement with the great oil companies of the world, at any rate, with the British-controlled oil companies, to see whether they could not arrange or guarantee to keep at certain selected strategic points where we want the oil to be a minimum storage of oil. If so, surely the expense of erecting the oil tanks; and so on, would be transferred from the country to the private companies, and we should at the same time get supplies of oil where they were required for the Navy. I have reason for saying that I believe something could be done in this direction if advances were made. I would like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if he could make any statement regarding this matter?
With regard to the issue of clasps, I have been lately receiving an increasing number of letters from naval officers, friends of mine, and from men on the lower deck all over the world with reference to the issue of clasps. They want to know when the clasps to which they are entitled by Orders issued to the Fleet will be issued. From time to time I have put questions, and other hon. Members have put questions, in this House, wanting to know about the issue of these clasps. All we know is that the issue was suspended some time ago. I have, the OFFICIAL REPORT with a reference here, but I will not occupy the time of the House by reading it. This was done, first of all, because they said it could not be undertaken while they were dealing with medals, but as soon as that process was completed they would go on to the issue of clasps. Then there came 2828 a changed attitude, and they began to say that the Army had not got their clasps, and that it would not be right to give the Navy theirs before the Army had received their own, in spite of the fact that the Navy was entitled to them a long time before, whereas in regard to the Army I am not certain for what they are to get them, and it will in any case doubtless take some time. Then they said it would cost a lot of money. It may be that it will cost money whenever the clasps are issued, but I would ask the House whether the Admiralty have any more justification for refusing to proceed with the issue of clasps than they have with the issue of medals. If a man is entitled to a medal he is just as much entitled to a clasp, and it is the one great distinction that anyone who went overseas and did sec some real service can get. There is considerable feeling about it in the Navy, and, as the first Lord of the Admiralty probably knows as well as I do, the feeling is increasing. The reason I raise it now is because the Department in the Admiralty which would have to deal with clasps is in process of disbandment, and it will soon be impossible for the Admiralty to proceed at all with the issue of clasps except with great delay or increased expenditure. I would ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, before further steps are taken to disband this Department altogether, whether the question of the issue of clasps to the Navy cannot be reconsidered? I know it is bound to cost money, but it will cost money later on and I cannot see any justification, for the first time in all our history, for the refusal to issue to the Navy clasps to which they are entitled.
The hon. and gallant Member for Camborne (Captain Moreing) alluded to the Dardonelles, and said the Dardanelles was lost on account of bad Staff work, or that was the effect of his remarks. I was at the Dardanelles during the successive stages of these operations, and I know exactly what happened. I know that the Dardanelles was not lost and the original attack on the Dardanelles—I believe the strategy was quite sound—did not fail by reason of any lack of co-operation or bad Staff work on the part of the people there or by reason of a failure of gallantry by the officers and men concerned, because they were heroes beyond power of description, but simply and solely because of the transport officer at Avonmouth Dock at 2829 the time. The transports came out with stores that the Army could not possibly want for at least three months at the top of every hold and with the things that were immediately wanted at the bottom. That is why they failed. Every transport had to be sent back to Egypt, everything taken out and put back again. That took six weeks, allowed the Turks to know the positions of our Forces, and when they came back there was a mountain of barbed wire. That was the reason for the failure of the Dardanelles campaign.
I would like to allude to the question of the air. I am not going to raise the same discussion we had yesterday, or to throw an apple of discord into our Debate this afternoon, but a statement was made by the Secretary of State for Air yesterday to which I had no opportunity to reply, and which I consider very serious indeed. It shows a certain lack of understanding of the position. The Secretary of State for Air yesterday said he considered that the friction between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry had been exaggerated. I know a good deal of what is going on inside the Navy, and I know that the Secretary of State for Air could not and did not have complete, full, information of the proper state of affairs when he said that. There is friction throughout, all along the line. In aircraft carriers, as the First Lord knows as well as I do, the position is at times almost impossible. The position does not tend to get any better, and the friction has not been exaggerated. It is not friction between Departments but friction between Services, and the present position is extremely bad for both Services. I do hope, therefore, that there will be no delay in this Committee, and that it will proceed to a solution at the earliest possible date. I should like to utter one word of warning. A good many hon. Members think that the institution of a Ministry of Defence would charm away all these difficulties in the night, as though they had never been. In my opinion a Ministry of Defence will not in any way get over the friction which exists in the Navy today between the Air arm and the Navy. You will need to have some absolutely different arrangement from what you have to-day. I will not lay down what it should be. I know what I think, but it is a matter for the Committee. The institution of a Ministry of Defence 2830 alone will not solve the problem. A good deal of the difficulty may disappear if we get a real Imperial Joint Staff working alongside one another at Camberley or elsewhere; then I think we shall be able to realise a good many of the economies mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Camborne. There is at present hopeless overlapping in the Services. The Air Ministry only last year or the year before erected a large hospital right alongside the Naval Hospital at Haslar. The hospital at Haslar is almost always half empty in peace time, and yet the Air Ministry put up another hospital right alongside it. Then there is the Air Staff College, and I sincerely hope accommodation will be found for that. Anything better than having them at Andover, and to bring them back to Camberley, where I hope there will be in a short time the Naval and Military Staffs. I do not wish to say anything which will raise controversial issues in this discussion. I only ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if he can deal with the questions I have raised, particularly those concerning stationing ships abroad and the light cruiser position, which I think is very serious indeed.
§ Mr. HOHLER
My Noble and gallant Friend who has just sat down joined with the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) in making an attack on Chatham Dockyard. I thought that if there was one lesson we learned in the last War it was, at any rate, that Chatham Dockyard was not the objective of German aeroplanes. The Yard itself never suffered, though almost every night aeroplanes and hostile aircraft were passing over the County of Kent. It is true that at the naval barracks some injury was done, but not as the direct result of aeroplane attack. Crowded numbers of men were sleeping under glass which was all shattered, and in the result, I believe I am right in saying, scarcely a single life was lost in the barracks, though as a result of the commotion following the sudden smashing of the glass and the hurrying to and fro their feet were terribly cut and there were some casualties. When we have that latest example, I really think the attack on Chatham Dockyard in respect of aircraft is a little far-fetched. I am directly interested, however, having watched the hon. and 2831 gallant Member for Central Hull, for he was a candidate for the Gillingham Division of Rochester, which I have the honour to represent. I have made special inquiries as to what he said about the Dockyard, and am credibly informed that he told the Committee on which his selection depended that there was one thing he stood for, and that was the support of Chatham Dockyard. It was essential to the Navy. I have often heard expressed by the extreme Liberals and Socialists some sorrow that the hon. and gallant Member was not selected to fight me. I wish he had been. He departed on his way and has gone to Central Hull, and with his usual consistency I suppose he has promised Central Hull that he will do for it that which he can. I rather gathered that his castigation of the Admiralty that they had not sent a light cruiser to the Icelandic waters was due, possibly, to something we saw in the papers about Hull fishing boats.
§ Mr. HOHLER
No, I would be sorry to say that, because my hon. and gallant Friend's imagination is far more vivid than anything we ever see in the papers. The trouble is that when we have an hon. and gallant Member, retired, or on half-pay, lent or seconded for service in this House, where he gives us most valuable information, telling us, as he has done today, that the Navy is really to be our second line of defence, I doubt if he will find any Admiral of his time who will agree with him, and I do not think inside the Navy he would have any following. Really I think we have gone mad on this question of the air. With the horrors that are threatened I foresee that not only London will be extinguished but the whole House of Commons. They will throw down gases and Heaven knows what will happen to us. There will be no turmoil because we shall all be dead. I often wonder to myself if these hon. and gallant Gentlemen, late of His Majesty's Navy, would ensure the feeding of our people by means of aircraft. I wonder how they would escort our transports to some distant shore, because I gather from the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he abandons all our possessions abroad. He suggests that we should give up Gibraltar. 2832 That is only a mild beginning. I have no doubt he will suggest something more later. When one thinks it is quite possible by good fortune that some of these deadly aeroplanes may make bad shots and put their bombs into the Thames instead of the House of Commons, one wonders whether we could be fed or not. I do not think those at home got aeroplanes so much on their nerves as to think the North Sea Fleet was of no use. It is not the line we took then and I do not see why it should be the line we take now. I am satisfied that this attack on Chatham Yard is the result of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's embittered memory.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I have no doubt the hon. and gallant Gentleman's memories are pleasant, but his rejection must have been galling. If the fact is that he is perfectly impartial in this matter, of course I and my constituents will attach far more importance to what he says than we do. It is curious, too, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman should have applauded the removal of the coastguard from the Admiralty. I deplore it, and I think there is matter which calls for deeper reflection than his all-wise survey suggested to us. I doubt the whole legality of what is proposed to be done. I have looked at the Act of 1856, and I find that the whole of the maintenance, control and selection of these men for the service is by Act of Parliament placed under the Admiralty, and I do not see how they can abandon it, as they propose to do, upon an Estimate. Surely, if that was the determination of Parliament in 1856 it is not for the Admiralty by an Estimate to say to these men, "You are adrift, and we are going to hand you over to the Board of Trade and the Department of Customs and Excise. "I protest against it for two reasons. I do not know who has forced this on the Admiralty, but it shows the deepest disregard for the rights of men that I have ever known, and I believe it has no parallel in history. At a month's notice, with no proposal to repeal the Act, men are abandoned and set adrift. It is absolutely wrong and requires justification. It is the Geddes axe gone mad. Every dirty little trick which could be done to 2833 reduce expenditure seems to have been adopted. I was glad to hear that the fees at the British Museum are to be abandoned. That is one thing gone. This is another thing done at the instance of the Geddes axe. I do not know what justification Sir Eric Geddes has for dealing with the thing in this way in his Report or why we should act upon it. Wholly independently of the services they render in regard to the notification of vessels passing by, they render great services and are the mainstay of the men who act to preserve life at sea. I do not know, but I doubt whether there is a single rocket apparatus on our coasts which is not under the charge of, or directed by, coastguards. What are you going to do to replace them? It is no part of the duty of the Board of Trade, and it never has been. In manning the lifeboat crews who are the men on whom we rely and who on many a desolate point are the only people on whom we rely to render service in life-saving?
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
May I correct the hon. and learned Gentleman? The coastguards do not man the lifeboats at all It is done by volunteers among the fishing population.
§ Mr. HOHLER
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggests that coastguard men take no part in that I join issue with him. It is true it is a voluntary service, but it is largely provided by these men who volunteer from the coastguard on these desolate spots. Again, from whom do we get information that a ship is in distress but from the coastguard? Why are we to remove them? Every public body, so far as I am aware, has protested against what is being done. It is said some of them are to be transferred. On what terms? You are making no provision to replace them as far as I can gather. Lloyds have protested against it, and I believe every Chamber of Commerce in the country interested in the matter has protested against it. I not only put it on the ground that this is a false economy. The safety of our mercantile marine depends upon the assistance that the coastguard gives in their watch upon the high seas and on the successful endeavours they make in saving life. If Lloyds alone objected to this it ought not to be done. I deplore it, because we are entitled to consider that those in the 2834 employ of the Government should have a certain security in the tenure of their posts, and I earnestly urge upon the Admiralty, even at this late hour, that they should do something to alter what is proposed.
This is the occasion on which we have to raise points which concern the men we represent and I should be lacking in my duty if I failed to do so, the more so as I regretfully notice there has come into the Admiralty now a kind of doctrine that any body of men whose conditions of service are altered or who are discharged in the interests of economy, if they appeal to their Member to see if something cannot be done, are told, Dear me, that particular man, or this particular body of men—for it often affects a whole class—are infringing some ancient Regulation, passed, I suppose, in the days of Queen Elizabeth. Therefore we are bound to raise their grievances, though I think they are far preferably raised by letter or interview with the Admiralty themselves. The First Lord has never raised such a point with me. He has always dealt with it as a matter of business and pointed out the reasons and I have been able to satisfy the man and say, "Those are the reasons," and I have not been called upon to raise the point. It is in other branches of the Admiralty that I have had this difficulty, which has only occurred within the last year or two. I raise my protest against it because I am well aware that these small points do not interest the House, not being national questions. The point I wish to raise is this. When it was determined that the pensions of civil servants should be reduced as and when the cost of living fell, a different rule was made in regard to the established men of the Yard who had retired on pension. It was done under a Treasury Minute I think of some date in March, 1920, and the different rule was this. It was determined under this Minute that the pension of every civil servant going from any of the great Departments of State should fall as the cost of living fell. When you came to the established dockyard man a different rule was made in the same Minute. It was said that his pension should be regulated and should rise and fall with the rise and fall in wages. That has operated most unfairly. It has not risen and fallen with the cost of living, and surely that is a point which we have 2835 to consider. Higher pensions were given because of the increased cost of living, and there is no justice in reducing them except upon the basis that the cost of living has fallen pro rata. The increases have never been the equivalent of the rise and fall in the cost of living, and the established men in the Yard have suffered enormously. Their pensions are not large, and I ask the First Lord whether he will see the Treasury on the matter. I do not suppose the economy effected by the altered rule saves the country much, and. if it did, the saving is not worth effecting if you effect it at the expense of comfort in living. If something could be done it would give these men contentment and happiness. I deeply appreciate the difficult conditions under which the poorer people are living, and what we can reasonably and rightly do to assist them we ought to do.
§ Mr. W. WATSON
It is with some diffidence that I intervene in this Debate. I am a layman in these matters, but I follow with deep interest Debates on the Navy Estimates because in my constituency there is a dockyard which is also interested in these Debates. I have been wondering yesterday and to-day if there are such things as grievances in the dockyards. Until the conclusion of the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down I have not heard of any particular grievance inside the dockyards. I know that there are a considerable number of grievances inside the dockyards, and I think this is the proper time to bring some of them to the notice of the House. Since I became a Member of this House, and having had the honour to represent a dockyard constituency, I have had experiences that I did not expect. I am afraid that if I were assured that the nationalisation of industry for which we stand on these benches would be conducted along the same lines as some of our present nationalised concerns, I doubt very much whether I should be an advocate of nationalisation. At the same time, I must confess that it seems peculiar to me that there are representatives of our nationalised institutions sitting on the Front Bench opposite who when the time comes to speak on the question of nationalisation on a wider scale are the most vehement opponents of that principle. It makes some of us 2836 doubt whether our nationalised army, our nationalised Navy, and our nationalised Post Office, are run as well as they could be if they were controlled by men who believe in the principle of nationalisation. I do not, however, intend to pursue that subject. I may have an opportunity of doing so when the Debate on the Motion of the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) again comes before the House.
I rose for the purpose of bringing to the notice of the House one or two things that have struck me as being peculiar during the time I have been a Member. The first point is in regard to marriage allowances. The attention of the House must be called to Rule 1,657 of the King's Regulations, because there has been a case within my own short experience in this House where a woman has suffered because of the manner in which this Regulation is interpreted. It struck me as peculiar and strange that on no more information than was contained in a private letter from a man to his wife, the marriage allowance should be stopped. That was a most unfair proceeding. It may, of course, come within the four corners of the Regulation but it seems to me that it did not justify the taking of a step of that description. It would have been very much better if this Regulation had been interpreted in a more liberal spirit, and that some definite proof that the man did not intend to return to his wife, would have been insisted upon before the marriage allowance was stopped. I hope that in the days to come, if it cannot be done at the moment, that the question of marriage allowances will be dealt with much more generously than has been the case up to the present time.
In introducing the Navy Estimates, the First Lord of the Admiralty spoke of the importance of the part the Whitley Councils were playing in getting over difficulties between the workmen and officials in connections with the dockyards. I agree that many difficulties in connection with dockyard work have been got over as a result of these Councils. I do not think there is any reason why we should depart from the system of having Councils for discussion between representatives of the workmen and the official side, especially the work that is to be done inside the dockyard, and the principles that 2837 are to govern that work. I regret to find that recently the Board of Admiralty have refused to meet a deputation from the trade union side of the Admiralty Industrial Council on a question which they considered to be of very great importance. I agree that the First Lord of the Admiralty has a very difficult task in dealing with the claims of ex-service men to work in the dockyards. At. the same time, he has also to keep in mind that he has brought into the service of the Government a very large number of men who also claim that they should have some right to work in the dockyards. I hope that this latest development in the shape of the refusal of the Board of Admiralty to meet the deputation from the Admiralty Industrial Council will not be pursued, and that we shall not have friction between representatives of the workmen and representatives of the Admiralty inside the dockyards.
The regulation or rule which it is proposed should be suspended says that 15 per cent. of the men employed inside the dockyard shall be ex-service men. That Regulation is to be waived at the discretion of the Admiral-Superintendent and a larger number of ex-Naval men, ex-Royal Marines, and ex-service men are to be employed within the dockyards. That is a question on which the Admiralty might have gone the length of meeting the representatives of the trade union side of the Admiralty Industrial Council, and discussing with them the problem, because as the First Lord indicated in his speech —and it has been emphasised over and over again by other representatives in this House—we have had, during the last 12 months in particular, a very difficult problem to handle in connection with the discharge from the dockyards of something like 10,000 employés. That reduction in the dockyards has intensified the problem. It makes the position of the Admiralty an exceedingly difficult one.
The Admiralty have to choose between men whom they have brought into the dockyards during the period of the War and up to the time that the Washington Agreement came into operation, and reversing the process; while on the other hand they have to consider the claims of the ex-service men who served in the Army and Navy to work in the Admiralty establishments? 2838 The First Lord and the Board of Admiralty have a very difficult task in deciding between these two contending interests. I hope the First Lord will seriously consider the question. I do not think there would be any harm in seeing the trade union side and discussing the matter with them. The trade union side might agree that a larger proportion than 15 per cent. should be taken on in the dockyard; but it is very hard after a man has served practically his whole life in the dockyard that he has either to accept a reduced status within the dockyard or to go outside the dockyard altogether.
There is another matter that gives me some concern, and that is the method of increasing the unemployment in the dockyard districts. In my own district I expect that at the end of this month the number of unemployed will be increased to the extent of 200 or 300. During the past few months these men have been taken on again at the dockyard, but the process of eliminating them is again to take effect, and these men will once more have to go upon the unemployment list. That is not helping, to solve our unemployment problem. As far as I am concerned, and as far as the Labour party are concerned, we would rather see these men engaged inside the docykards on useful work than walking the streets and drawing the unemployment benefit and doing nothing at all. I understand we are going to have something like 1,000 men discharged from the dockyards at the end of this month, thereby intensifying the unemployment within the dockyard districts.
There is another matter which calls for attention, and that is, the difficulty some dockyard employés experience in getting their compensation claims admitted. A man receives an injury inside the dockyard and he is taken to hospital. He may not be seriously injured, and may be able to resume work of a certain nature inside the dockyard within a few days. He is admitted to work inside the dockyard for months, perhaps years, but the time comes when he is discharged from the dockyard. He may be still suffering from the effects of the injury, and he has the greatest difficulty to establish his claim for compensation, because he has no proof of his injury except the fact that he is not accepted by other employers as an entirely fit man. He did not go to his 2839 panel doctor or to any other outside doctor at the time he received his injury, and there is no written proof that he received any injury at that particular time, because the doctors who examined him at the time are in the employment of the Admiralty and their reports are the private property of the Admiralty. Consequently that man has no proof except, the condition in which he may be, perhaps years after he received his injury, that he received in the dockyard an injury which entitles him to compensation.
All these are burning questions in the dockyards, which affect the men and which they wish to see remedied as soon as possible. There is no doubt that inside our dockyards they cannot have a very healthy opinion about our nationalised system so far as dockyards are concerned. The wonder is that there is a living Socialist inside one of our dockyards, considering the experience of the men in these establishments. The hon. Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) referred to the time taken to construct some battleships inside the dockyards. I think the explanation is—I am speaking as a layman—to some extent the overhead charges inside the dockyards. If we are going to have developments, such as some of us would like to see, inside the dockyards, that is to say, if the time comes when we require to adopt a peace policy, what are we going to do with our dockyards? We on these benches are prepared to utilise the dockyards for the building or repairing of merchant ships or any other purpose to which the dockyards can be put.
We want to see a progressive policy pursued in that direction, so that if ever again we are faced with such a situation as was created at Washington, with schemes which go much further in the direction of reducing naval as well as military armaments, and we reach the time when we may find that there is no work for the tens of thousands of men who have been brought together inside these dockyards, we shall be prepared for that time in every possible way. We want to see our dockyards produce something more than naval armaments. If that time is to come there requires to be a change inside the dockyards, because my information is that there 2840 is not only too much red tape, but a great deal of too much gold lace, and I do not know if the gold lace is not worse than the red tape. If our dockyards are going to compete with private enterprise, we are willing, but we will require two separate sections, one that will attend solely to the needs of the Navy, and the other section that will be in a position to compete with private enterprise on equal terms. At present, if the dockyards were to try to compete with private enterprise, my impression is that the overhead charges inside the dockyards would make it impossible.
In connection with the dockyard which I represent at Rosyth there is one grievance which should be known to this House. We are very proud of the Navy; we consider the Navy one of the best things we have got: but there are some things in connection with our dockyards of which we arc not particularly proud. We are not proud at Rosyth about what is known as Tin Town. Here we have rows upon rows of houses that were erected during the construction of the dockyard. These houses are still occupied by Government workers. We want to see them swept out of existence. They are not suitable houses. They are not worthy of the Admiralty. We wish to see in their place decent houses for the workers at Rosyth. The housing conditions at Rosyth are nothing to boast of. I agree that in some respects they are an improvement upon the ordinary "but and ben" which is only too common in Scotland. But even the houses in the garden city are no particular credit to the Scottish National Housing Association or to the Admiralty. But bad as these houses are they are nothing to what are supposed to be houses within the dockyard grounds themselves. I hope that the First Lord will try as speedily as possible to get these houses swept out of existence and decent houses erected for the workers at Rosyth. There are other matters to which I would like to call attention, but I expect that opportunity will occur on another occasion.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I agree with my Noble Friend the Member for Battersea (Viscount Curzon) that if we are to have a reduced Navy, such as we have at the present moment, we should do everything in our power to have that Navy as efficient as possible. The Navy 2841 has always been regarded as our first line of defence, and I am very sorry to see it has been reduced to the extent to which it has been reduced, On page 6 of the very interesting table which the First Lord of the Admiralty has given us I see that in 1914–15 we had in the Navy 199,451 men and the wages of the officers and men were £13,637,330. In 1923–24 we are to have 100,923 men, in round figures one half the former number of men, but the wages are £14,055,700. Though we have only half the number of men we are actually paying more than we paid for the larger number in 1914–15. That is not all, because further down the table you will see that in 1916–17 we had 349,578 men at a cost of £29,399,358. Nobody will deny that in 1916–17 the Navy was in a very efficient state. We were able then to get the 349,000 men for £29,000,000. When we get to 1919–20—and I do not think that anybody will say that the Navy was any more efficient then than it was in 1916—we actually paid £32,000,000 odd for 176,000 men. The country is at present very poor, and it wants to get everything it can for its money; and it does seem to me absurd to ask for these enormously increased sums for a very much smaller number of men.
Not only is it wrong from the financial point of view, but even from the professional side. Surely, if you are to have ships, you should have them out at sea and going through various exercises, and we cannot have the ships doing that if we have not got the men to fill them. Therefore, not only is it a mistake to reduce the number of men to pay this enormously increased wage, but it renders the rest of the Navy inefficient. Apparently, all this arose in 1919–20, when, unfortunately for this country, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was at the head of affairs, and he thought, or said he thought, that a sort of millenium was going to take place, and he increased everybody's salary and wages. Everybody in the Civil Service was increased. Men receiving £1,000 or £l,200 a year were increased to £2,000. In one case which I remember, a man put into the Civil Service at £500 a year was then getting £3,000, and that enormous additional expenditure was incurred, apparently, under the impression that there was going to be an enormous increase in the prosperity of the country. That has 2842 not come about. The House ought to remember that a great deal of the rise in the wages and salaries given to people in the Civil Service, the Army, and Navy was on account of the increased cost of living. But in the Navy there is no increased cost of living except for the officers, because there everything is provided.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am unwilling to enter into a controversy with my hon. and learned Friend on that point, but my impression is the contrary, and that practically everything necessary is provided. There is here a Victualling Vote of £4,742,000, in addition to the pay.
Lieut.-Colonel WATTS - MORGAN
Read the next item with regard to the doctors, and sec what is their increased pay.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
What have the doctors to do with it? I am trying to deal seriously with a question that is vital to the country, that is, the spending of money. I only wish that the hon. Member would come to the conclusion that, however nice-it may be to give everybody £500 a year, we have not the money to do it. The cost of living docs not come in here, because clothing and victualling, or seven-eighths of the cost of them, are supplied by the State. There is no question of married men being concerned, because an allowance is given to married men. I do not know what agreements have been made with the officers and men with regard to this enormous increase in wages. It is quite possible that there may have been entered into certain contracts which cannot be broken. If it is not possible to reduce the wages of those who are now in the Navy, it is possible to reduce wages in the case of those coming into the Navy. I suggest that in view of the very serious situation which might arise if our Navy was too small to meet a possible emergency, these matters ought to be considered. I do not believe the statement of the Geddes Committee that we are not to have another war for 10 years. I do not see how those who formed the Geddes Committee could in the least know that we shall not have another war. I hope it will not come 2843 within 50 years, but it might come within another year. We have no reason to neglect the safety of this country by diminishing the Navy in any way, or in the way we have already done. I have tried to outline a method by which, without increasing the cost to the taxpayer, we might be able to increase the size and efficiency of the Navy. I hope that the First Lord will see whether something cannot be done in that direction.
§ Mr. FOOT
I shall take the same course as I took in the Debate in Committee, by calling attention to one particular grievance. When the First Lord made a speech in Committee on 12th March, he said:As regards the dockyard personnel, we have, I trust, also come, with the last heavy cut of some 10,000 men, to the end of the period of unsettlement and discouragement inevitably consequent upon a period of reduction. Apart from any question of new shipbuilding programmes, there is plenty of work to keep the present staff fully employed for some years to come, a condition of things which ought to enable us not only to retain our men, but to get the best work out of them. "— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1923; col. 1091, Vol. 161.]That statement gave great satisfaction in the part of the country with which I have the honour to be associated. I know that I do not represent it in the same sense as does the hon. Member for Devon-port (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke), and it would, perhaps, have been better if I had had an opportunity of speaking after him; but I know that he will be able to reinforce the point which I am putting. Not only did the First Lord's statement give great satisfaction in the district, but it followed upon the statement or Memorandum circulated by the First Lord only a few days before, in which we were quite definitely told that we had come to the end of the period of discharges in the dockyards. You can imagine the amazement, and indeed the dismay, caused in that district when on Saturday last there were served upon something like 100 ex-apprentices notices to quite the Service within 14 days. I ask the attention of the House to the position of these unfortunate men. They are ex-apprentices, the very best product of our elementary schools, who have been able to reach their present positions very largely by the sacrifices of their parents, who have passed one examination after another, 2844 who have been trained for highly specialised work, who are practically unfit for outside competition, who have attained in the dockyard a skill which is most important in the work for which they have been trained, and their dismissal leaves them at an utter disadvantage as far as the outside market is concerned. It means that dismay is brought into at least 100 homes.
I know that in the same speech the First Lord drew attention to the fine training and the high ideals of the Cadet School at Dartmouth, and that he quoted the inspiring words of John Milton as to the encouragement to be given to the youth of this land. These ex-apprentices, although they come from the elementary schools, have just as much claim upon the sympathy of the First Lord as have those who go through the Cadet School at Dartmouth, In many cases they are the bread-winners of their homes. I hope it will be possible for the First Lord to make some reassuring statement, that at any rate as far as some of the men are concerned an opportunity for service will be secured elsewhere. I do not know whether the notices apply only to the Devonport district. I believe they do not apply to Portsmouth or the other yards. In other yards some work might be found for these men. As they are young men at the beginning of their careers, I ask that what is almost a sentence of death shall not be pronounced upon them. I hope that they will have an opportunity of completing the careers which they have taken up, and of devoting to the country the services for which they have been specially trained.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
I did not mean to intervene in this Debate, but it is very evident from the speeches that have been made that the majority of the Members who represent the dockyards look upon the Admiralty Vote as a system of Poor Law relief for their constituents.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I object to that statement. We do nothing of the kind. I do not think it is a proper statement for the hon. and gallant Member to make, and it is not true.
§ Lieut. - Commander BURNEY
The statement I made was that it appears to me, from the speeches which have been made by Members who represent the dockyards, that they look upon the 2845 Admiralty Vote as a measure of Poor Law relief for their constituents. If I have not to withdraw that statement, I hold to it. I wish to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will not have the whole system of the dockyards inquired into by a Committee of the Naval Staff—not by a Committee of the whole Admiralty, including the Civil Department, because the Civil Department and the right hon. Gentleman himself are subject to political pressure. I would like the whole question of the dockyards inquired into, so that the Naval Staff may report to the Admiralty whether, in their opinion, it is necessary for the Navy at the present time to keep up as many dockyards as are now maintaining. The Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) and the hon, and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut. -Commander Kenworthy), with whom I am not always in agreement, raised the question of Chatham Dockyard. Personally, I have held for two or three years that Chatham Dockyard is of very little use to the Navy. Nothing has reinforced that opinion more than the speeches of the hon. and gallant Member for Rochester (Lieut. -Colonel Moore-Brabazon) and the hon. and learned Member for Gillingham (Mr. Hohler). The hon. and gallant Member for Rochester could think of no use for Chatham Dockyard, except that it kept the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull out of the House and let him in, and, although we are very glad to see the hon. and gallant Member for Rochester here, he did not quite achieve his object, because the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull got in elsewhere.
The hon. and learned Member for Gillingham suggested that Chatham Dockyard was quite safe from aircraft because in the last War aeroplanes came over nearly every night and did no damage other than the blowing up of one of the drill halls. It must be remembered that the enemy at that time had very few aircraft which they could spare for attack on ports, and that their object was to try to disorganise the factories and the train services of London. If one considers the dockyards one is reminded that Chatham was built largely for the Dutch wars, Portsmouth was developed for the French wars, Rosyth for the German war, and now, owing to the entire change and 2846 reorientation of naval power, we have to construct new dockyards abroad. The first instance of that is the new dockyard at Singapore, for which the First Lord is asking for £11,000,000. I suggest to the First Lord, therefore, that we might investigate very carefully where the money should be spent on dockyards.
The Washington Conference had one remarkable effect on dockyard policy. The size of ships has been limited to 35,000 tons and the number of big capital ships has been limited. It follows that the amount of work that has to be done on large ships does not call for quite such large docks. With regard to the smaller ships, the light cruisers, destroyers and so forth, there are plenty of private dockyards throughout the country which can build the ships and carry out repairs. I know that one of the great arguments used in favour of the Royal Dockyards is that they prevent armament rings and the charging of high prices for armaments. That may be a very sound argument for keeping dockyards, but I suggest we should concentrate upon the smallest number of Royal Dockyards which would give us that result, and we should concentrate chiefly on Plymouth or Devon-port as being further from the Continent and more secure against present-day air attack than any of the others. Another argument, apart from the question of the building programme, often raised in regard to retaining dockyards, is the difficulty involved in getting firms to tender for repair work. It is thought if the vessels are refitted and repaired in the hands of private contractors it will be very difficult to check the prices and the charges which are made. I have no doubt that is a very difficult question, but the Pacific and Oriental Line and other firms of that nature manage to get over that difficulty, and I think the Admiralty should be able to get over it also. There is one other point I should like to make in connection with the dockyards. Although it may be necessary to have a naval port at each dockyard, it seems unnecessary to have a large number of separate manufacturing and repair works for the Navy which has been cut down very largely as to the number of ships. I believe we could get a very great economy and a very considerable lessening of the overhead charges on the dockyards to-day by reducing the number, 2847 and so increasing the amount of work for those dockyards which we retain. We would thereby enable the Admiralty to obtain the money necessary to develop their bases abroad, which are rendered necessary by the re-orientation of naval power. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the setting up of a Committee of the Naval Staff so that he may be advised as to their views on that reorientation of naval power which is due both to the destruction of the German Navy and to the Washington Conference.
Major-General Sir R. HUTCHISON
I wish to raise a question which might be raised on any of the Votes for the Services as it is common to all. I choose the Naval Vote for the simple reason that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has a good knowledge of Army affairs, and I thought the subject I am about to raise would receive sympathetic consideration from him. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) has just pointed out that the Navy is too small. We have seen recently in the Press that the Air Force is too small, and I have no doubt we have those who say that our Army is much too small. It seems to me that in the near future we shall be faced with a very large expenditure for additions either to the Air Service or the Navy, and the thought crosses my mind that we have no real authority in existence which can decide as to the just and proper expenditure on our Forces. The Prime Minister would be put in a most unfortunate position if ho were pressed first by one Service and then by another as to what is really necessary for the safety of the country. If we have to expend more money on the Air Service, possibly the Naval Vote will have to be reduced, and the Minister responsible for the Navy in that case will immediately go before the Cabinet and say that he cannot be responsible for the safety of the country as far as the Navy is concerned if his Vote is cut to any extent. The same point applies to the Army Vote, and the Prime Minister is, and must be, very largely in the hands of experts, experts of the Army, experts of the Navy and experts of the Air Force as to what it is right and proper to spend for the safety of the country.
The experience gained in the War has been wasted, largely because we have no 2848 central staff to deal with the defence of the country. I suggest we ought to press very strongly for a combined staff inside the Committee of Imperial Defence to see that the money devoted to the Services is expended in such a way as to give us and give the tax-payer the best possible value. It is well known that during the War co-operation between the various Services was not all that it might have been. The right hon. Baronet has said that we may possibly have a war within another year. I am not so pessimistic but I think we ought now to take advantage of the experience gained in the War and put our house in order, so as to be able to devote the services of the country to the defence of the country with the least possible expenditure and to the greatest possible advantage. Everyone knows that during the past War the Committee of Imperial Defence practically disappeared and took no part in the arrangement of plans or in the direction of the forces of the country. What took its place was the secretariat to the Cabinet and the secretariat to the War Cabinet. If we had during peace time a small staff to advise the Cabinet and the Prime Minister it would be a protection to the Prime. Minister against the Ministers responsible respectively for the Army, the Admiralty and the Air Force. In that way we should secure a co-ordination of effort and do away with overlapping in a manner which would largely benefit the pockets of the tax-payer.
I am satisfied that a Ministry of Defence with a staff under it is not a part of practical politics to-day. The system of War Cabinets which existed during the latter part of the War is possibly from the point of view of this country, the best method of conducting war, but in peace time we want to make arrangements for war; we want to make arrangements for the executive which is going to carry on war and which is going to apply the Army, Navy and Air Force against our potential enemies. To this extent it is perfectly obvious that the only executive which can handle all the forces of the country and all three arms, is an executive working under the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is really the Minister for Defence and he with his War Cabinet must be the executive. But in order to be an executive it must have the information and what is necessary is a small staff 2849 drawn from all arms, and combined in the Committee of Imperial Defence during peace time to be utilised in war time as an advisory body to the War Cabinet. At present we have some very distinguished officers in all three services who had great experience in the War and who realise what co-operation means and how far during the late War we missed the effects of good co-operation. If we leave this matter over for a few years we shall lose the real value of the lessons of the past War. I beg the Government and particularly the First Lord of the Admiralty—because I know he carries great weight with the Cabinet—to go ahead with an inquiry as to how best we can form such a general staff, so that we may get really good value for the money which is being spent on the three forces. An hon. Member has already spoken with great force and knowledge on the overlapping of the various administrative services, and it is in order to do away with overlapping, not only in the direction of affairs, but in the provision of material, in personnel, in movement and in all that concerns the three Services, that I suggest we should have a general staff working in the Committee of Imperial Defence. That system I believe would save the country a great deal of money and I press the suggestion on my right hon. Friend.
§ Major Sir BERTRAM FALLE
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) and I was delighted to hear him say that he spoke with diffidence on his plan for scrapping some of the dockyards. That is a plan which I had the honour of mentioning to this House some years ago, but the hon. and gallant Member and I do not altogether agree as to the particular yards which should be scrapped. Portsmouth is, of course, the headquarters of the Fleet, and I am glad to find the hon. and gallant Member agrees with me that Portsmouth would have to remain as it is—the headquarters of the Fleet. There are some minor dockyards which he considers might advantageously be scrapped, and he suggests in that way a certain amount of money might be saved. We heard the other day from the First Lord, a speech which was, as is usual with him, a very model of ability and lucidity, and I say that all the more readily because I do not think that all he said on that occasion 2850 had his complete approval. I do not think he is prepared to justify the gamble which is now going on in both the Navy and the Army. That gamble with our security was started at the time of Lord Tweedmouth and carried on to the days of the late First Lord who, it may be said, absolutely gutted the Navy and left the pieces to be put together as far as possible by the present First Lord. The right hon. Gentleman admits that nothing has been done by any nation except ourselves following on the Washington Conference, and it is already a considerable number of months since that Conference was held. Acting as we have done up to our promises under that agreement which has not yet been ratified by the other countries, we have sunk not to a one Power standard, but we have positively sunk to the position of a second-rate, Power.
Shall we ever recover from that position, and if we do not recover, what is our position in the world? Figures are very boring to quote, and I do not propose to quote many, but if this Washington Conference is not carried through, the United States of America will have 41 capital ships, we shall have 23, and Japan will have 23 also, and what is much more important is that of post-Jutland ships we have absolutely none, the United States will have three completed and 13 building, and Japan will have two completed, four building, and four projected. We shall not be a second-class but a third-class naval Power, and that, although an enormous part of the world and an enormous population are under our flag. The Royal Navy of Britain saved Europe, and it saved also the United States of America, and we have let it down, because in academic discussions we cannot find a possible enemy. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) and, I think, the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) went through those nations with whom we might possibly have a disagreement, and they could find none. There is no doubt about it, however, that the enemy is there. He is bound to be there, because we have every single thing in this world that every other nation covets, and if we are not strong enough to retain these things, other people will take them. We do not want Biblical proof for those kind of matters. We have at the present moment 2851 no fear. We have the valour of ignorance, and we are correspondingly bold and brave. Hon. Members will remember the old quatrain which says;When Mounseer lay in Quiberon Bay, you sent us beef and beer,Now Mounseer's beat we've nowt to eat, because you've nowt to fear.Our enemies change, and France is our friend; but the principle holds. Because we see no enemy we think that there is none. I repeat what I have said before in this House, that in the fortnight before the 1870 War broke out, the Foreign Minister in the other House said that there was not a cloud on the horizon, and within a fortnight of that we had one of the great wars of that century, after the Crimean War, which involved in its train the dreadful War through which we have just passed. We have let the Royal Navy down. The Washington Conference limited us in capital ships. It did not limit us in torpedo boats, torpedo catchers, light cruisers, or submarines. What are we building this year? We are building one submarine, and that one submarine is all that our money will allow us to do. The clasps for the Navy have been spoken of, and that is a question which the First Lord was kind enough to give me an answer upon the other day. These clasps to medals were approved by His Majesty two and a half years ago. Their total cost is £100,000, and although those clasps have been approved by the highest authority, they have been put back because the Army require, and insist on getting, their clasps at the same time. Their clasps have not yet been considered or approved, but they cost £1,500,000, and because of that the Navy is expected to wait until the Army is satisfied. Again, we have not been able to pay what I consider, and what everybody who knows the subject considers, a debt of honour to the retired naval officers who were called up during the War and who served, some of them with as much as 40 years' rank service before they had retired and were called up, and they have received not a copper of their retired pay. The same applies to the pre-War naval pensioners, and while these things are going on we are wasting money in every Department, here, there, and everywhere. We spend our time in skinning the Navy, on which everything in this country de- 2852 pends, and which has many and varied duties all over the world. In doing that we absolutely flout the experience of the past, the lessons which the past has taught us, and we are laying up a repentance for ourselves of panic legislation and panic expenditure, or defeat.
Far worse, however, than scrapping the ships and not replacing them is the fact that we have broken faith with a large number of officers and men. That breach of faith will go down. I was going to say through the ages, but, at any rate, for a great many years, and it will be said that the State to which they trusted has deliberately gone back on them. We have broken continuity of service, and we have discharged some 20,000 officers and men, whether they liked it or not. It is easy enough to build ships, but it takes years and years before you can make sailormen such as ours are, men who are worth "all your tons and all your guns," as Newbolt truly says. These men entered into definite, clear terms of service, and they kept them honourably. There was no legal contract with the Crown or the Admiralty, I know, but for all that these were honourable terms, and now these people are thrown out of the Service, and they are offered in exchange a small sum of money. The First Lord thinks that those terms were generous, and he thinks the generosity of the terms was proved by the fact that so many men volunteered for discharge. I am pretty frequently in my constituency, for I have a house there and spend every week-end there, and my friends tell me that it is not as my right hon. Friend thinks, but that the reason is their disgust of the terms offered, and I believe that that is the fact. They had relied on the word of the Government, and on what had happened in the past, and when they were told they were going to be thrown out, they said, with a few other words, "If we are going to be thrown out we will go now," and they did. It is breaking an honourable understanding, and it is bitterly resented, and the result is not yet, but it will follow, Every principle and every method of selection was violated, and, as the First Lord says, we are '' running no small risk.''
Who gave the Government the right to run these risks, to play fast and loose with the Royal Navy, our first and last defence? My right hon. Friend calls the 2853 Conference at Washington an act of faith, but it is not so looked upon by foreign nations. It is looked upon rather as a breach of trust, and it is much more like a breach of trust than an act of faith. It is done by a Conservative Government, and, if you can do that, you can do anything. See this morning the apology of the United States to this country for having wrongly stated that, while we were not building ships, we were so altering them and arranging their guns and their decks that we were not holding to the terms of the Washington Conference. This act of faith is no more an act of faith than the confidence trick, and this has been done without telling the country. There was a very honourable and well-known Member of this House, who sat below the Gangway and who is now in another place, who told this House—and I think he was perfectly justified— "If you are going to cut down the Navy to nothing, go to the country and tell them so." The Government did not do that. This country is stripping herself, not only of her armour, but of her power for good. Remember that the, uses of the Navy are many and varied, and while we are cutting down the Navy we waste money in doles, with which I do not in the slightest degree agree, money with which we should be making ourselves absolutely safe. We are spending these millions in what I look upon as pernicious expenditure.
If this cutting down of the Navy had been done by the hon. Members opposite, what would have been said? Some people fear they would do it if they sat on the Government Benches, but, for myself, I do not think so, for I am sure that if Labour ever sits on these Benches, a sense of responsibility will come to them, but if it were done by those hon. Members, the country would ring with denunciations, and rightly so. There is not a man who sits on that Front Bench who would not "shake his little fist," and tell the country that they had got what they deserved, and that they were being let down, who would not bring forward the iniquity of the act of risking, as we are doing now, not only our safety, but the safety of the Empire, who would not say: Thank God he had had nought to say to the squandering of the honour of the Fleet and the great heritage which belongs to this great country. If we are not to have any ships or men, there 2854 seemed one bright spot in my right hon. Friend's speech at any rate, where he spoke of Singapore. Everybody in this House knows how we lighted upon Singapore. We blundered on Singapore, the gateway of the East, and nothing, as we all know, can go on from the far East without passing through Singapore. What are we proposing to do there? We thought we were going to have an effective, strong, fortified dockyard, and we proposed spending £11,000,000 on it, and this year we have spent £200,000 there. If we go en at that rate, it will be 55 years before Singapore is in a position to be a fortified dockyard, and by that time it will be another Rosyth.
It will be remembered that Rosyth was not ready, even when the War came. We had spent many millions on it, and if we had only hurried it a bit, it might have been a great deal more use to us than it was, but as it was the millions that were spent on it were, I will not say for the most part wasted, but we did not get the full benefit out of them, and apparently in the same way, at Singapore, we are to spend £11,000,000 and to be 55 years in spending it. It is possible that by that time the Fleet will not be—certainly will not, if we continue as we are doing—our first line of defence. And Singapore- would be more useful than Rosyth to a temporary victor. We believe, of course, that ultimately—and our history tells us so—we do muddle through, but if we lost Singapore, it would take a great deal of getting back and would be exceedingly useful to the nation which held it in the meantime. But if we are to spend this money on Singapore, what is the use of building a dockyard there if you have no dockyards at home? The hon. Member for Colne Valley, in his speech the other day, made what to mo was a remarkable statement when he said he was firmly of opinion that the Royal dockyards should have the precedence in all work over private yards. As a matter of fact, private yards spend two or three times as much Government money as the Royal dockyards arc allowed to spend. It is not because I am a dockyard Member and senior Member for Portsmouth that I think Portsmouth dockyard is the most important dockyard and should be kept up to where it ought to be, and where it is, namely, the first dockyard in the Empire, notwithstanding my hon. Friend behind me.
§ Sir B. FALLE
It is the headquarters of the Fleet, and it has no commercial advantages, such as have some little dockyards on the western fringes of civilisation, which have large numbers of oceangoing steamers calling there also. It is no use having dockyards abroad if we have no dockyards at home in which the ships can be built, and in which the ships, if they are damaged, can be docked. As a matter of fact, the only dock that will take a capital ship at the present moment is the Portsmouth Yard, and it is a scandal that there is not a slip in any Government yard—of course, you have got Rosyth—in which you can build a capital ship. Those things should be remedied, and should be remedied before we build big docks at Singapore.
I want to change the note for a moment, and speak of somewhat smaller matters, but which, though small, are of very great importance. I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the fact that he has finally given the petty officers their uniform. It is called the "fore and aft" rig, and is given from the date of confirmation of rank. It is a matter which was fought in the last Parliament. The principal advocate was my old colleague who sat for Central Portsmouth, and in his case the good he did lives after him. I congratulate him and the Dockyard Committee also in having got this concession from the First Lord. I should like to call attention to one other detail of the same kind, which will cost no money. It is the chief petty officer's badge. They want their badge, and they would like to have it as soon as the First Lord can give it to them. Then there is the cut of the shirt collar for Classes 1 and 2, and even more strongly do they ask for the abolition of those white ducks in which they work. There is nothing that can be said in favour of white ducks-nothing. The blue jean is much preferred by the men, and is much more serviceable. There is another point, and it is one which would appeal to the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) were she here. It is that, while the non-commissioned officers of the Army are allowed a fully-licensed bar, the chief petty officers of the Navy are not allowed a fully-licensed bar, and they feel the distinction, 2856 more especially as the Admiralty instruction was that these gentlemen are to feel that the Admiralty have every confidence in them. They have every confidence in them, but they do not give them a fully-licensed bar. [Laughter.] It is very easy to jeer, but most of us like a glass of beer—I do. During the War, one of my greatest troubles was that I was foolish enough to make a vow that I would not drink alcoholic liquor while the War lasted, and I have not the smallest hesitation in telling the House that I suffered accordingly. What is more, my doctor, on my return, told me I was suffering, and I promptly set to work to remedy any weakness in that direction.
Finally, I want to thank my right hon. Friend for what he has done with regard to the artificer engineers in their fifth year. These men are being thrown out of the dockyard, which would have meant that they could never become fully qualified tradesmen. They were going to be thrown out—intelligent boys who had passed good examinations, and on whom the Admiralty had wasted thousands of pounds. It was brought to the notice of my right hon. Friend, and I think that if there be any value in words, he has met us as fully—or almost as fully, shall I say—as we could hope, for these men are to be allowed to go into the Air Service, to serve for 12 years, and, after that time, they will, of course, be fully qualified tradesmen, and will not simply be thrown into the gutter. Of those who cannot get into the Air Force—of course, the number is limited—I understand it is possible that some may be taken into the Royal Navy as naval schoolmasters. As I say, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that. It has, I think, given all those Members who sit for dockyard constituencies very considerable trouble. I dare say it has also troubled my right hon. Friend, and I do not think that we should have succeeded as well as we have if it had not been for the right hon. Gentleman who sits for Portsmouth South (Colonel Leslie Wilson).
§ Mr. AMMON
I must preface my remarks by saying that all those who heard the statement made a few years ago about the new world must have listened with a good deal of regret to the speeches made here, where we appear to have learnt nothing, and are simply going along the same old road, preparing and 2857 looking for war, just as we did in the days gone by. The hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down deplored somewhat that we had not an enemy at the present time, but he assured us we would find one.
§ Mr. AMMON
That is the way to raise enemies in the future, and we are not likely to get any forrader. It does seem a pity when, at a time like this, the whole world is groaning under the weight of armaments and from the reaction of the War, any nation that had the courage to make a great gesture would have been applauded by the rest of the world, who would have been only too glad to fall into line. And those other nations to which reference has been made, are they not Allies at the present time, and, therefore, is it that we want to arm against them?
I really rose to answer some points raised by the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). He enjoyed, as usual, a tilt against members of the Civil Service as being partly the cause of increasing expenditure on the Navy, and he made some references to the increased payment to the naval ratings. The point I want to make is that, compared with the Civil Service, the higher ranks in the Navy have had their pay increased out of all comparison in every respect. A large amount of the expenditure is due to the tremendous increases both in their ordinary pay and in the pensions accruing to the naval officers. I can do nothing better than quote the answers I have had to questions in this House from the First Lord of the Admiralty. On the 4th April last year I asked, in regard to the right hon. Gentleman's favourite tilt at the Civil Service, the number receiving over £3,000 a year. There happens to be only one civil servant in the country who gets over £3,000 a year, but there are in the Navy no fewer than 35 officers who get over £3,000 a year, including table money, and, excluding table money, 10 officers.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
That is an absolutely untrue statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] That statement is incorrect. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) was referring to the whole of the Navy and the whole of the pay.
§ Mr. AMMON
On the 5th April I put another question, asking what were the emoluments of the First Sea Lord in addition to his salary of £3,000 a year and a furnished house, and I was told that his emoluments had increased by £1,300 compared with what he received in 1914. That is a much higher rate than anyone in the Civil Service has yet received. On the same day, I put another question, calling attention to certain civil servants on scales of pay up to £800 a year, and what had been reckoned their equivalent ranks in the Army and Navy, and I asked how much increase of pay each had received during the last few years. The reply was that the Civil Service—that is, those from £850 to £1,000 —had increased to the equivalent of £1,157 to £l,307 per annum, and ranked equivalent in pre-War days to a Lieut.-Colonel or a Captain holding an appointment as assistant-director of Naval equipment. The equivalent rank in the Naval Service had increased to a very much higher rate, and quite lower ratings were getting the equivalent of £1,415 per annum. Later came the question of the pension rates, and it was shown that the maximum pension rates of civil servants had increased at the rate of 32 per cent., while in the Navy they had increased at the rate of 50 per cent. I had better give the answer:The maximum pension of a naval captain was in 1914 £600, and is now £900, an increase of 50 per cent.I want to suggest that this is largely where the increase in our naval expendi- 2859 ture has gone. It has gone, not on the lower ranks or in the Civil Service, but in the gold-braid already mentioned by an hon. Member, by the increases in the higher ratings. After all is said and done, we have got to be fair in our criticism, and if we are going to set up comparisons, our Civil Service, which will compare with any Service in the world, and serves us efficiently, has increased in pay nothing like that of officers in the Navy. On the other hand, one might expect that, after all the horrors of the War, hon. Members opposite would show some glimmering of a hope of more peaceful times in the future, rather than look forward to the hope that, if we have not an enemy now, we shall soon have one.
§ Mr. GERSHOM STEWART
Did the figures which the hon. Member gave with regard to the Civil Service include all the bonuses?
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I wish to preface the remarks I have to make by calling attention once more to the unfortunate speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Commander Burney). The hon. and gallant Member is a very young man, and has only just come into the House. I should not have thought that a man who has himself a distinguished career and who comes of a distinguished family would have made the observation he did and which I asked him to withdraw, but he would not. With regard to my intervention during the speech of the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I thought, at the time, he was referring to something the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) had said.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I quite understand, now, that he was alluding to something he himself had said some time ago. The right hon. Member for the City of London is a great economist. We all appreciate his desire for economy, but in the statement he made to-day, though he told us that he had looked into these things very carefully indeed, and had had the best advice upon them, I am very much afraid that the advice came from a wrong source. The fact that 2860 so much more money is appropriated for, the personnel of the officers of the Navy is not, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell said, because of the gold braid of the officers. It is mainly because the men are being more highly paid, and they deserve it, and ought to have it. Before the War the pay of the Navy was disgraceful. One hundred years passed without the pay of the ordinary seaman being raised. A paltry 1s. 4d. a day was paid to the seaman when the War broke out. Of course, that sort of thing could not exist any longer, even if the War had not broken out it would have been necessary to raise the pay of the men in the Navy. The fact that their pay has been raised is a thing at which we ought to rejoice. It is not right for the right hon. Member for the City of London to find fault with the pay of these men, they deserve the rise, and everybody is delighted that they have got it.
I do not know why the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy)—who, I am sorry to see, is not at present in the House—moved a reduction of this Vote, seeing that the whole of his speech was occupied in paying compliments to the First Lord of the Admiralty and in congratulating him on the things he had done. It is true that the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull said he had initiated all these things. That was only natural, because everyone who knows the hon. and gallant Member knows that he does initiate everything. No doubt he has assisted Mr. Trotsky, during his stay in Moscow, in the conduct of affairs in Russia. Possibly he knows something about that Bed Navy, which the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Nowbold) told us the other night was in process of being got ready. The hon. and gallant Gentleman devoted his speech to two things. First of all, he ran down the dockyards, and almost said they ought not to exist. He mentioned Devonport, but not even he would dare say that in regard to Devonport. He also said, "I cannot see why we want two new battleships." I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member is so shortsighted. I remember a story—probably some other hon. Members remember it—of Doctor the will, the Master of Trinity, who, when a freshman failed to take off his hat, said, "You did not take off your hat, Sir." "No," said the freshman, 2861 " I did not see you, Sir." "Oh," said Dr. Whewill, "puppies do not see till they are three days old." I am surprised that the hon. Member for Central Hull did not see why these two battleships should have been built.
I should like to call attention once more to the question of ratification. Ratification was much discussed in the last Debate, when the First Lord said that the countries which had not ratified the Washington Conference were soon about to do so. In one of the London morning papers to-day it is stated that there was uncertainty about the United States ratifying the Treaty at all, in its present state, but that there was a possibility of their soon amending it. I should like to know whether that statement is correct, and whether the First Lord has any doubts about the United States ratifying the Agreement. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at page 4 of the very excellent Memorandum he has prepared he will see this statement:We do not propose to lay down any new ships in 1923–24.On page 12 we find the statement that during the next yearprogress will be made with other new construction and reconstruction as well us with the normal programme of refits and repairs.Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the new construction to which he refers? Again arc we to have no new cruisers laid clown?
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Amery)
It referred to the cruisers that have been started, but not yet launched. They have been laid down some time ago.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Provision is made for completing one only of the four light cruisers in hand. In view of the loss of the "Raleigh" surely it is not too much to expect that two cruisers, at least, would be passed into commission, especially as the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull said they were laid down seven years ago. The hon. and gallant Member tried to draw the conclusion from this fact that the men in the Royal dockyards were an idle, lazy lot of fellows, and did not do their work. That is the kind of ignorance one would expect from the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull. He ought to polish up his knowledge and get some information with 2862 regard to the dockyards. Let me give him some. These men in the dockyards are some of the best workmen the country possesses. They are able to turn out a ship in as quick time as any workmen in the country. No one can deny that. If, however, the Government does not provide money for these ships, of course the ships cannot be built. If you do not provide money for anything, the thing is not done, nor do men work on ships for which no money is provided. Their Lordships of the Admiralty, during the last seven years, have not provided the money for these cruisers. It is only reasonable to suppose that they have not had the money in hand, and so have been unable even to finish one of the cruisers. That is the explanation, which I wish the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull were here so that he might understand.
The question of fuel was referred to by the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) as all important. It is, of course, no use building ships if they cannot steam under their own fuel. I should like the First Lord to explain the reference in the Naval Estimates to merchant shipbuilding. I see a note,that nothing at present is being done in this direction.Are we to understand that the Admiralty have given up all ideas of building merchant ships in the Royal yards, or is that only under present conditions? There are one or two points in regard to the dockyards to which I should like to refer, chief of which is the matter of the recent discharges of the apprentices and ex-apprentices. A very great mistake has been made in this direction. Here are boys who have been trained with a great deal of care; whose parents have spent a large amount of money on bringing them up, and giving them the school education necessary in order that they might pass the examination, success in which they naturally had some reason to believe would give them a position for life. Instead of that, they have been practically turned on the streets. I am amazed that this should be done after the First Lord's statement, the other day, that apart from the new shipbuilding programme there would be plenty of work to keep the present staff fully occupied for some years to come. No sooner had the right hon. Gentleman 2863 said that than 100 apprentices in Devon-port Dockyard, with five and a half years' training, were sent adrift. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] What are these men to do? They are men who have worked their way up as apprentices; they are worth something to the country; and it is the duty of the country to see that they are provided with some kind of work. I understand that a deputation was at the Admiralty yesterday upon this very subject. The same deputation came to me. I should like to ask the First Lord whether he received that deputation, and what answer he gave to the points they raised.
There was a Question which was down on the Paper in my name to-day, but which was not reached. I wanted to know, from the First Lord of the Admiralty,if he will consider the desirability of allowing men in His Majesty's dockyards who are so desirous to retire and receive the pension or gratuity to which they are entitled, thus avoiding the discharge of younger men now under notice?Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me if that is possible, and if not, why is it not possible? I want to say a word about the unestablished writers employed in the Royal dockyards and the naval establishments, who entered after 4th August, 1914, and who are required to pass a qualifying examination before being placed on the Established List. Those failing have to be discharged. That seems all right so far as it goes, but lot us look a little further. These men passed a Civil Service examination in order to obtain entry into the dockyards. They were not allowed to compete at the examinations held for absorbing the temporary staffs, although the temporary staffs had no Civil Service examination to pass. The majority of these writers have boon in the yards for six or eight years. Some were not of age when they went into the yards, but since they were admitted to the yards in the naval establishments, they ought to have the opportunity of getting on with their work. They were allowed in many cases to go to the War on their coming of age. Boy writers admitted to the yards and naval establishments in February, 1914, are being established without further qualification. It is unfair to make this distinction between them. We have been told that hired writers de- 2864 siring appointments to old Class Dockyard clerks, grade 3, were required to take part in a limited competitive examination. That may have been so, but unfortunately no examination has not been held since 1914, and those who failed have been assimilated and established without further effort.
There is one other point in regard to Dockyard employees. The established workmen in the yards claim that they should have some kind of leave, with pay given to them, during the time they are absent on leave. Civil servants in other walks of life, except dockyard men, get leave with pay, for some days during the period of their work. Unfortunately, the men in the dockyards are not given this privilege. They have also to submit to a deduction from their pay in order that they may attain a pension. This deduction for superannuation allowance is a somewhat severe one, and if a man dies he gets no compensation for it. In addition to that, I would point out that when a man gets what is called "an appointment" in the Civil Service—it is a pity that the hon. Member for North Camberwell is out of the House at this moment—he obtains what is called a rise, a little extra pay, equal to or above the amount he has to pay for his superannuation. Why not apply that to the men in the dockyards? Why should they not have a little extra pay, instead of having their pay cut down as they do now?
My hon. Friend below me has spoken about the naval reductions, and told us what he has done. No doubt he did a great deal, and no doubt other hon. Members did a great deal also. I will not say what I have done. The great thing is that it has been done, and whether it was done by the hon. Member or by myself does not make much difference. We want the House to realise that this is not fair to discharge these men with a paltry £20. They have to pay £70 if they want to buy themselves out of the Navy, and yet, on compulsory retirement, their engagements are practically broken, and they have to be content with a paltry £20. A great number of these men have their homes in the West country. It costs them a fair amount of money to get up to London, and a man coming up to town from the West country is not likely to have much of the £20 left after a few weeks are out. I would, there- 2865 fore, suggest to the First Lord of the Admiralty to see if he cannot give them a little more.
Then there is the question of commissioned marriage allowance for officers, including air warrant officers risen from the ranks. Five units out of six, taking the Services altogether, are receiving this, but not naval officers. Then men in the Army, Navy and Air Force receive a marriage allowance, and so do the men in the Navy, but not the officers. I trust the First Lord will look into the matter. Again, there is a question of officers' widows' pensions. Ordinarily pensions of widows of officers of and from warrant rank up to 13th August, 1920, were £25 for warrant officer, £30 for commissioned officer from warrant rank, and £50 for a lieutenant. Since that date the pensions of the widows of officers have come up for consideration, and those from commander to Admiral of the Fleet have been amended, but the rates for the widows of warrant officers were left over for consideration. The higher officers have increased pensions, but that is not the case with lieutenants' widows. They are still on the same basis as before the War. It is quite impossible, for things to go on in that way. In the current quarterly Navy List, what do we see? That this matter is still under consideration. But it has been under consideration for two years, and I think hon. Members in all parts of the House will consider that the time has arrived when something should be clone to settle the question.
I come to the question of the coastguards. I do not say much about the men being transferred from one Department to another, for I have no doubt they will have a certain amount of compensation, and I have no doubt the Department in which they are now engaged will look after them just as much as the Department from which they have come. But bear this in mind, the men in the Navy always looked forward to fill these positions. As a reward for long service at sea they became coastguards. You go into the Navy now with no chance of ever becoming a coastguard, or of getting a "cushy" job after long years of hard work at sea. That is all swept away and nothing has been said about it. I think it only right that the First Lord should have something to say on 2866 this point. Then with regard to the ventilation of the ships. Complaint is constantly made that ships are not properly ventilated, and there is a good deal of truth in this contention. We know what happened to the "Vindictus," that went out to Hong Kong the other day. She was overcrowded, and although she had to go through the tropics, was without refrigerators, both the accommodation and the ventilation on the ship was very bad.
In conclusion, let me put this one more point to the First Lord. We have heard a good deal of what the Overseas Dominions are going to do for the Navy. But no definite statement of any kind has yet been made. They did something during the War both in ships and contributions; but what is to be their position in the altered circumstances? The First Lord says that owing to the Washington Conference the Dominions cannot build any more ships. Hence the Navy to-day stands responsible for the defence of the whole Empire. That being so, I think that the time has come that the Dominions should consider what proportion they are going to pay. I should like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty to lose no time whatever in calling together a Naval Conference from all parts of the Empire so that we may know on what footing we are in regard to what I should like to see—an Imperial Navy!
§ Mr. HARDIE
I have listened to the Debate to-day and also yesterday on the Navy and the air. As a layman I thought I might get some education on those things which had not been previously part of my life's work. To-day in the Debate we began with the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), who might be best described in this Debate as "the artful critic." I had hoped that from men with experience at sea in His Majesty's ships that something would come from those men, by way of the Debate, that would educate the laymen whose life's work lay not in ships but in some other form of labour. Furthermore, in the Debate we find a keen competition between Portsmouth and Devon-port for supremacy. Nothing has been said about the actual Navy Estimates. Nothing is said by these men claiming to have experience about ships. We are told about white collars, white ducks, 2867 and licensed bars as if these were essentials in times of war. I am not a war man, but I am surprised to see that men claiming to be not only in favour of war, but having that necessary knowledge which should guide us and place us in the arms of peaceful slumber, telling of the things they by their experience were able to accomplish. The hon. Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) even went to the length of telling what is called an English joke. I noticed not even the Englishmen laughed, and a Scotsman like myself, having no sense of humour, wondered what there was to smile at. And this all happened in a serious study of a serious question!
We have then the First Lord of the Admiralty coming in fresh from a life's experience of sea in Tothill Street, Fleet Street, or the Strand, or perhaps bringing the unscented breezes of the Fabian Society into the place; but we have not had from the men who have had experience in the Navy to-day any real information as to what are the class of ships that we should have. As a layman I know-that when the Great War—which was to end all war—broke out, that our Scottish lochs were used as places, when they were deep enough—and we could get something to protect them from the torpedo—in which to anchor our great boasted capital ships, hailed in song and story as being the great iron wall of defence! Locked up in Scottish lochs because of submarines! Why have the men skilled in these affairs not told laymen like myself the real truth? You cannot any longer guise laymen like myself that by giving information you are giving away secrets that other countries ought not to know, for what we have been told of that in the past has proved to be so much bunkum.
When the Navy was at war what are we told by the airmen? We find the airmen charging the naval man with all kinds of scientific inaccuracies. One made a statement that when an aeroplane was up and making its mark at something moving that the airman could hit the mark within 50 yards, and another said that the missle could not be shot within 200 yards. What are laymen to think of experts in this science of warfare who find themselves at such great variance? Is there really any science in running the British Navy, or are we as laymen just 2868 to conclude that if at any time we have been successful it was the result of a series of accidents and nothing else?
We had yesterday a statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) that, though we did win the battle of Jutland, we were unable to reap the fruits of that victory because of deficiencies on the part of the Navy. Then on the other hand you had the airmen attacking the Navy for their inefficiency in air matters. It seems to me that I cannot in any line of thought that I would like to take in this House feel that there is any seriousness so far as the defence of this country is concerned. Men who were really serious in the matters of defence of this country, whether Navy, Army, or airmen would not be jealous of each other's position; but the last two days' Debate has shown me that the whole of the three Departments mentioned are riddled with jealousy. The whole results to-day show hon. Members trying to show that they as dockyard Members are doing their best for the local dockyards; thinking of the hard cases there. To make a claim of efficiency at sea and to get experts both of air and water unable to produce a single argument to prove that men should listen to their guidance is bad. Then there was the try to prove whether or not a false statement had been made, that whether or not there is any further use for your ships, and the suggestion that the whole of our defence must rest upon our capacity to deal with war from the air.
Here you have the two schools. The one used to be called the big-headed school, and the other the heavy-bottomed school, but I look upon the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Sir B. Falle) as belonging to the blue-funk school. Here you have statements made by experts, and yet they are in such contrast, nay, such contradiction, that those who are trying to find what is the real truth of the matter cannot, from the arguments put forward in this House, make a single deduction that is relevant to what is being discussed. If the experts say that our great battleships are no longer of any use because of the power of the aeroplane, then put forward the arguments to show that that is so. If, as Navy men claim, we are still dependent upon our Navy, why do not they put for- 2869 ward invincible arguments? The reason, as I see it throughout this Debate, has been that one section is contending with the other. When men, discussing Navy-Estimates in a serious way, come down to collars and white ducks, I think that that is an insult to the intelligence of the British people. I do not think that anyone is really serious when they get down to details like that, when we are discussing something that is supposed to be of real importance.
Then we are told about co-ordination—so much co-ordination cant, because you know, while you are pleading that the one shall link arms with the other, and all become one great united force working for the nation, that you are not going to do that. The whole of the three sections are looking askance at one another. Then we hear what is said by hon. Members from the shipyard towns where we have the national shipyards. The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth said that he agreed with the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) about the organisation of national shipyards being such that they should at all times take in outside work apart from the War Office needs. But that has always been our proposal. All our proposals are based upon organisation; but you cannot organise any part of a business that is not continuous, and where you have intermittent demands made upon your skilled men or your machines. Where it is intermittent the costs must always be high. I have no hesitation in saying that hon. Members opposite have always, designedly, kept those yards running under those conditions, in order to try to show that individual enterprise was superior to anything done by the State. That is a definite charge, and I should like to hear any hon. Member on the other side put forward a case to confute it.
Then we come to the question of comparisons as to Powers. We were called a second-rate Power, and here again you have the Naval man talking without the slightest consideration for the arguments put forward by the Air Force man. The naval man talks as if nothing had been done to improve upon the ship; the airman talks as if nothing can float in the sea that can be superior to the aeroplane; and the Army man laughs at them both. Nevertheless, the country is asked 2870 to believe that the Government are capable of putting their case either in parts or correlated as a whole, for defence; but, if the verbatim reports of the speeches from those benches to-day go into the average household, it will be found that the most intelligent of their readers will be absolutely unable to come to a conclusion that would lead them to that state of mind where they could make a decision upon which they felt any sense of security. Then we come to the quotation about "All your tons and all your guns "; and I reply to that by saying that all your tons and all your guns locked up in Scottish lochs are nothing but a waste of money. We have not been told in this Debate anything about the submarine. We have not been told whether its day has passed, or whether its day is to come.
§ Mr. HARDIE
That is what I am trying to get in on the other side, and I am glad that the Noble Lord has said it. Why, then, did the War show that? Why are not the Government logically following out what happened and giving the results? Why should there be anything to hide? To me, the whole of this Debate has appeared to be a farce, and were it in my power to dole out money I would refuse to give to the men who claim to be in charge here to-day as experts any money at all. And if it came to a question of a fleet, if I had but rowing boats I would not hire you out one.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
The course of this Debate has well illustrated the difficulty that we have in this House, and the difficulty that the Government has, in promoting economy. I venture to say that, if we approach the problem only holding fast to what is vital to the safety of the country, we shall then, and then only, be able to do what is necessary. If we try to do what is useful, we shall not succeed in getting economy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) said that the Geddes Committee had no right to say that we must not anticipate a great European war for ten years, but that is the declared policy of the Government, as laid down for the fighting Departments by the last Government, and re-affirmed by this Government. I put down a question to the Prime Minister to-day, asking 2871 whether it was still the policy of the Government that, for ten years from 1919, we were not to anticipate any great war, and the answer was in the affirmative. I think that we are not running any great risk. The Washington Conference has laid down the proportion of battleships, and no fresh battleships are to be laid down except the two that we are now building. That means that the battleship will not fall obsolete. In fact, in regard to naval power, the battleship has more relative power now than it had at any time, for the simple reason that no newer battleships can supersede it. That Cannot be said of any other weapon, and I suggest to the Admiralty that they work out, in terms of life, the comparative cost of different types of vessels and aeroplanes, now that the battleship cannot fall obsolete for ten years or more to come.
I take the dockyards as illustrating the difficulty of bringing about economy. The dockyards have not been reduced to anything like the name extent as the naval personnel. We have reduced the naval personnel, since 1914, by over 50 per cent., but the dockyards have not been reduced to anything like that extent. Taking the figures for July, 1914, and February, 1923, the decrease in the home dockyards is only 3,534 men, while in the foreign dockyards there is an increase, since 1914, of 841, so that there is a net reduction of 2,693. Had the home and foreign dockyards been reduced in the same proportion as the personnel of the Navy, there would have been a reduction of over 17,000, instead of 2,693. That can only be attributed to the political pressure which is brought to bear by the dockyards. I would say to the House, since we have had such great difficulty in getting the dockyards down, for Heaven's sake, if the Navy expands, do not let us again build them up to great dimensions, because, when the time for economy comes, you will not be able to get them down, and the extra work can be just as well done by private enterprise. As regards the foreign dockyards, I suggest to the First Lord that Simon's Bay should be handed over to the South African Government, and that Gibraltar should be handed over to private enterprise, the Navy to have the right of pre-emption and the first call on its services. With regard to Wei-hai-wei, which is already 2872 earmarked for the Chinese Government, I think the personnel might well be withdrawn altogether.
There is one other point with which I should like the First Lord to deal, and that is the question of the Imperial Conference. An Imperial Conference is overdue, as far as the Navy is concerned. We are only getting a contribution now from the Empire of £159,000, and India contributes £100,000 of that. India says that she maintains the Royal Indian Marine at a cost of £700,000, and the Under-Secretary for India said that it had a definite fighting value. I put down a question to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and was told that the ships of the Indian Marine had no fighting value, but could be used for patrol or mining purposes. They had no fighting value as fighting ships. I suggest that we might go to India and say that that £700,000 a year could be better expended. Australia, it is true, maintains three light cruisers and three destroyers, New Zealand one light cruiser, and Canada two destroyers, one in the Pacific and one in the Atlantic. None of those crews can get proper training. To get training, ships must be assembled in a fleet. As for Canada, her Parliament passed a Resolution in 1909 in favour of a large naval contribution. They came to the Imperial Conference and suggested that the Admiralty should prepare estimates on the basis of £600,000 a year and £400,000 a year. The Admiralty did, and they said they could get five light cruisers and six destroyers, fully manned, for £600,000 a year, and three light cruisers and four destroyers, fully manned, for £400,000 a year. We gave them two cruisers for nothing in which they could train men in the meantime. We have never had that suggestion at the Imperial Conference made good in any way, and I submit that it was just as much a promise to this country of naval contributions as ever was the admission of Canadian cattle.
The final point that I wish to bring before the First Lord is this. A considerable propaganda campaign is going on in the United States. For some reason or other—it does not look like German or Irish propaganda—this country is being continually misrepresented in regard to its naval ambitions. Bismarck declared, in 1888, that the imponderables are more weighty in war than material. I suggest that imponderables, like propaganda, are 2873 even more weighty in peace. That has got to be counteracted, and it was because of the necessity for counteracting it that I put down a Private Notice Question to the First Lord of the Admiralty the other day, in reference to a statement of Mr. Secretary Hughes, the Secretary of State, that we were increasing the elevation of the guns on our capital ships. Mr. Roosevelt, the Assistant Secretary of the American Navy, had also said that we were increasing the armour plating on the decks of our capital ships. The inference in the American Press was that we were trying to get round the Washington Conference. The First Lord of the Admiralty gave an absolute denial to that, and I am glad to see in the "Times" to-day it is recorded that Mr. Hughes and Mr. Roosevelt had unreservedly withdrawn their statements. That is what one would expect of them. We may be sure that they made those statements in good faith, and that they were the victims of some insidious propaganda when they made them.
I will take another case, about which I would like to hear a denial from the First Lord of the Admiralty. M. Clemenceau, speaking in New York on the 21st November, 1922, said:America's guarantee was obtained by the suppression of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, whilst England got a guarantee by letting the German Fleet sink. That Fleet was not solely England's property. She was to keep it, but she let it go to the bottom.That statement, said to an American audience, was made stronger by the fact that M. Clemenceau at that time was Prime Minister of France. We know the statement is not true. It was not our responsibility that the German Fleet was never even surrendered. It was interned. It was due to President Wilson at that time favouring the German view that the German Fleet should be interned and not surrendered. When a fleet is interned you cannot put guards on board. There-fore the British could not put any guards on board. The Conference in Paris decided that the German Fleet was to be interned at Scapa Flow, where there is deep water. It was not our responsibility at all. We could not tell what went on in the inside of those ships by watching them from the outside. I hope the First Lord will deny absolutely the statement made by M. Clemenceau, and which has never been really denied up to date.
2874 There is another instance which I will give. The Washington correspondent of the "Sunday Times," in his telegram last Sunday, speaks of the intention of Britain to lay down light craft unrestrictedly as a new phase of armament, after the Washington Conference. Surely the British correspondent of a British newspaper ought to know that the 1923 Estimates, which are before us, do not provide for the laying down of one single ship. Probably that is the first time that has happened in the course of the history of our Navy. I do appeal to the Admiralty to do their lest to counteract this insidious propaganda in America and these false statements about our naval improvements, when it is known that the Admiralty and the Government are doing everything they can to stop the race in armaments, and will welcome another Washington Conference to limit armaments still further.
§ Mr. AMERY
It is not easy to deal with inaccurate statements in the Press in this country or in other countries; but certainly, if other countries wish to have a correction of these mis-statements, it could not be given more fully than it is in the present Naval Estimates and the statements which accompany them, which make it abundantly clear with what good faith we have not only acted upon the findings of the Washington Conference, but have anticipated all other Powers in taking action, and have given them a lead in the hope that they will follow. I was much obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) for the particular question which he asked about the modernising of our guns and certain other things, which had created a false impression in the minds of even the highest authorities, in the United States. The Debate has ranged over a very wide field indeed, and has dealt with subjects, some very great and some very small. If I may, I should like to deal, first of all, with the broad considerations which were raised by some of the members who spoke earlier in the Debate. The hon. and gallant Member for Kirkcaldy (Major-General Sir R. Hutchison) asked whether something could not be done to secure a closer coordination of the different Services, so as to get the very maximum of defensive efficiency with the greatest economy. That is precisely what the Government are 2875 now setting their minds to, and the object to which they have asked a special Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence to devote their time and their efforts, in order to secure the right answer to that question. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), who moved the reduction, was perhaps less critical than he has been on other occasions, and I am very glad to find, in certain broad aspects of the question, that we are in entire agreement. I am glad that he takes the view, which the Naval Staff take, and which I take, very strongly, that the particular phase which was represented by the concentration of the Fleet in the North Sea to meet the German menace is over, and, to use his language, we are destined to revert to the general conception of naval policy which dominated our safety in past centuries. After all, the safety of this country was secured in the past not so much by naval action in the narrow seas as by victories like those of Rodney at the Saints or of Nelson at Trafalgar or on the coast of Egypt. Even in the late War, actions of no small moment to the security of the British Empire were fought so far away as Coronel, on the West Coast of South America and the Falkland Islands. It may very well be that the security of this Empire will depend far more in future years on whether we can obtain command of the sea in the Pacific and in the distant South Atlantic than on anything which happens in these narrow seas. The hon. and gallant Member was perfectly right in holding that this will, as time goes on, influence the whole organisation of the Navy, and the importance to be attached to certain dockyards and various naval establishments.
If I may venture to criticise, however, his views on reconstruction, I think he was a little too drastically reconstructive, and a little ignored the fact that the Navy and its dockyards and other institutions are existing things, which you cannot abolish by a wave of the hand, or place in other spots where it might be theoretically desirable to have our dockyards. He approves entirely of our policy of gradually establishing a base at Singapore, but in view of the present financial situation, and for other reasons, that base cannot be con- 2876 structed in a moment. It is not going to take 55 years, which I think the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Major Sir B. Falle) worked out it would take, because it was only going to cost £200,000 this year; but it will certainly take eight or nine years to finish. The same considerations of time and cost affect the question of reducing the existing yards.
It is perfectly true that, if we were beginning entirely de novo, we might not start a great naval dockyard and establishment at Chatham. At present, however, Chatham is one of the great naval dockyards. It has dry docks which are essential for the ordinary routine refits of the Navy, and in place of them new docks would have to be erected at great cost, if Chatham were closed down. Chatham has also great barracks, and one of the finest hospitals in the world, and there is a great population centring round it which could not be moved except at an enormous cost.
It is quite true, as one hon. and gallant Member remarked, that the objections to retaining Chatham arc also objections to retaining the Capital of the Empire here in London. There is a good deal to be said in the abstract for removing both to the shores of the Humber, where they would be more secure from air raids; but the cost is prohibitive, and under present conditions I imagine it would be a better policy, certainly a more economical policy, to provide a stronger Air Force as a defence against air raids, than to attempt to move the whole basis of our establishments to another part of the world.
While that is true of Chatham, a similar criticism, I think, applies to the suggestion that we should move Gibraltar. It is quite true that in one almost unimaginable contingency—a war with Spain—Gibraltar is liable to bombardment. If such contingency happened, there are measures which we could take. To move Gibraltar just because of that conceivable danger would involve not only the enormous cost of setting up a new Gibraltar somewhere else, but there are very few other positions where so valuable a base could be created. He mentioned Ceuta, but that would require a much larger military force to defend it, and would, therefore, entail much larger running expense as well as capital expense. Certainly we did act on the 2877 principle which he advocated with regard to Rosyth. Rosyth before the War was in the way of being made one of the great naval centres. After the War it was still in an incomplete stage. To have completed Rosyth, and to have made it habitable—and I quite agree with what the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. W. Watson) said about the unsuitability of some of the houses there—would have cost millions. The only practical policy was to reduce Rosyth to doing work which it could do better than other docks, namely, the docking of big capital ships, and to keep such a relatively small establishment there as could be usefully employed in the interval between such dockings.
The hon. and gallant Member also referred to Pembroke. The position with regard to Pembroke is perfectly clear. From the pure point of view of naval expenditure, it would be an economy of something not far short of £90,000 to do without Pembroke, and to distribute the work amongst the other dockyards. It is also perfectly true that the Cabinet has to face broad national considerations. It would mean the entire scrapping of a community with its houses—which are not easily found anywhere else at this moment—and with its waterworks and all the plant of a prosperous little town; and it did seem to the Cabinet, and I think rightly so, that it was better to wait, and go on employing men there—who were, after all, doing good work, though it might be somewhat more economically done elsewhere—until times got better, or until there was some possibility of that yard being taken over for private work. I quite agree that the time may come when the geographical position of Pembroke might make it desirable to employ it again as a naval dockyard.
The hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone referred to two smaller dockyards. One was Simon's Bay, which he would like to see handed over to the South African Government. We have already arranged with the South African Government that, as they find the money and gain the experience, they will take over the establishment of Simon's Bay and build it up as a dockyard for themselves; but they are not yet capable of doing so.
So much for the case of individual dockyards. A good deal has also been 2878 said, generally speaking, about our dockyards and their efficiency, and also their clamorousness on the attention of this House. In the Debate the other day the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) said a good deal about the influence of the armament ring, private interests, and so on. I can assure the House that if there is an armament ring I am not aware of it. What I am certainly aware of is that when tenders were invited for two battleships the other day a large number of very obviously competitive tenders came in, and those firms who did not get it were greatly surprised at the much lower figures of the other firms. If there is an armament ring there is certainly no tendency to use influence with the Admiralty or the Government. But the very legitimate interests of the workmen in the dockyards are also private interests. They are private interests which do exercise a very considerable vocal influence in this House, and, so far as they arc legitimate claims, do weigh with the Admiralty. A certain amount was said with regard to the work of the dockyards. Generally speaking, that work, which was very severely criticised by the Geddes Committee, has on closer examination stood the test. Certainly no one in the Admiralty would dream of trying to keep the dockyards inefficient in order to bolster up a particular economic theory. I never heard of such arrant rubbish.
§ Mr. AMERY
On the other hand, when it comes to new construction they are not as a rule so well equipped as some of the big private firms. In this connection I should like to disabuse the House in regard to a question addressed to me the other day by the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) who suggested that the two capital ships were sent to private firms and not to Royal dockyards because we were inclined to favour private interests rather than dockyards. The 2879 reason why in the first instance we decided that the four battle cruisers we were going to lay down should not go to the Royal dockyards was urgency. We were face to face with competition in the United States with which we had already fallen seriously behind; it was essential that these ships should be built quickly; and it would have taken 21 months at least to make even a beginning with the ships in the Royal dockyards. The fact that we made a beginning with these ships was a very valuable element in bringing about a settlement at Washington. If those ships had not been begun and we had not been in a position, like others, to make substantial sacrifices I do not think we should have got a satisfactory agreement. Having got that agreement, we were bound to lay these two down before the end of last year, and we could not wait 21 months to enlarge the docks at the Royal dockyards.
Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the. agreement at Washington was secured on some sort of intimidation?
§ Mr. AMERY
No, not at all a question of intimidation. But the fact that we were also forced into that competition, and building new capital ships, larger and better designed than any others, undoubtedly, added to the element of good will on all sides, afforded good practical reasons why others as well as ourselves should make sacrifices. In the same connection, the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull asked for an explanation as to the delay, and I agree, the very regrettable delay, in building the light cruisers under construction at the dockyards. These were begun in private yards and brought around to the dockyards for completion. The only reason they have been delayed is the shortage of funds. Every year we have faced the question of how much money we can afford to put into the hastening forward of these ships, and, very reluctantly, weighing all the different needs of the Navy, we came to the conclusion that we should have to postpone their completion. Three of them, "Capetown," "Despatch," and "Diomede," have been completed this year, "Frobisher" will be completed next year, and "Effingham," "Emerald," and "Enterprise" 2880 will be finished in 1924–25. I agree that it is not a real economy, in the long run, to build ships as slowly as that, and that it does not lead to efficiency in the dockyard. It is due to the peculiar conditions which have forced us to do this. The hon. and gallant Member also raised the question of fishery protection, and asked certain questions with regard to certain fishing boats. He will be glad to know that "Harebell" visited Icelandic waters in 1921, and "Harebell" and "Godetia" visited Norwegian waters on their way to Murmansk last year. We were compelled, owing to the very great difficulty with regard to the Murmansk coast and the kind of ship we were able to spare, reluctantly to withdraw those sloops at the end of last year. We are going to send them again as soon as navigation is possible, that is to say, by the end of this month, and we hope by next year to make arrangements to enable our fishermen to be looked after all the year through.
Certain other questions have been asked. The Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea expressed the hope that we should get our Navy out more into foreign waters. I agree that quite apart from strategy, from the point of view of training and the satisfaction of officers and men, foreign service is preferable to home service. I shall certainly consider sympathetically his idea, that when a little money becomes available a fleet of some size should make a foreign cruise, whether to South American, Australian or other distant waters.
The Noble Lord made a very anxious inquiry on the question of fuel. Regrettable as the reduction of the amount for fuel has been, the whole—and this applies to a good many criticisms—has been made by the Sea Lords, weighing the relative disadvantages of every course and endeavouring to get the Estimates within a certain fixed sum. If they have come to the conclusion that reducing fuel to the present figure is on the whole the least disadvantageous thing to do, I hope he will accept that decision as the best in the circumstances. With regard to his suggestion that we should do something with private firms in the way of providing storage, we have arranged with private firms at Shanghai, Kilindini, Calcutta, Bombay, Colombo, Singapore, Aden, and Port Said. That is for 2881 peace purposes. No private firm could possibly afford to keep anything like the large quantities required for strategic purposes, and thus we have to construct our own oil storage and tanks.
The Noble Lord, as well as other hon. Members, raised the subject of clasps. I regret very much that it has not been found possible to issue clasps either to the Navy or the Army as yet. I do not think the Navy should be said to be entitled to get clasps before the Army, and if the issue does involve very considerable expense which the Government in this time of difficulty considers it desirable to postpone, and if we have to choose between Navy and Army efficiency and clasps I am sure the gallant men who fought through the War will be prepared to wait a little longer for their clasps. The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Hohler) protested very strongly against our action with regard to the transfer of coastguards, and suggested indeed that it is wholly illegal. I am afraid he has not followed it closely. The Powers vested in the Admiralty by the Act of 1856 refer to Excise and Customs, and we shall have to legislate in order to transfer them to the Board of Trade in such few cases in which they may have to exercise them. But the life-saving and coast-watching have always been under the Board of Trade and exercised by the Admiralty for the Board of Trade at such places as the Board of Trade specify. They will continue to be directed by the Board of Trade and carried out by the same men who are now doing coastguard duties, and I have no doubt that in the future the Board of Trade will also wish to recruit old naval men for the service, so that the avenue of comfort in their old age which was depicted by my hon. Friend will not be closed to them in the future. Meanwhile, this transfer has led to very substantial economies, because the Departments that want the work done are also responsible for paying for the work and seeing there is no overlapping and no waste. There is another point the hon. Member for Gillingham raised with regard to established men's retired pensions. These depend not on the cost of living but on wages. I am by no means sure that when that was settled three years ago it was considered that might be unfavourable to the pensioners.
2882 In those days no one could foresee the rapid fall that has since taken place in wages. It is true that to-day they are not doing so well as they would do if the pension depended on the cost of living, and I certainly promise to look into that.
Now I come to the question of Holton Heath, raised by the hon. Member for Camborne (Captain Moreing). It was decided after full consideration that it was very desirable that the Navy cordite, which is so different in its use from Army cordite, and with which men have to sleep and live, should be made to the very highest possible standard of purity. I believe those works were put up at the lowest cost at which any works of the kind have ever been put up. They are producing stuff of very good quality and I believe they are giving every possible satisfaction both as to the cost and the quality of the material. The same hon. Member raised various questions as to economy. He suggests that we are cutting down essential services and keeping large numbers of unnecessary establishments on shore. That was the opinion at first also of the Geddes Committee, but the more closely the matter was looked into the more incorrect that impression was found to be. We have a higher percentage of actual fighting efficiency afloat than the other great naval Powers, and in so far as we are compelled to have shore establishments it is largely due to the need for research and shore training which has come with the much greater complexity of modern armaments. After all, the Sea Lords have had the fixing of the Estimates, and their whole concern is with fighting efficiency at sea. The hon. Member also raised the question as to whether there was not overlapping as regards medical and chaplains' work. I can assure him every endeavour is made to avoid it. There are a great many places where men of the Navy are attended in military hospitals, as for instance, at Gibraltar, and others where military men are attended in naval hospitals, as at Chatham. In Malta all the military chaplain's work is done by the naval chaplain. The same applies to contracts. It would be quite impossible, I believe, to have one single director of contracts for the three Services. They deal in very different kinds of goods, and have to cater for very-different tastes even in small things. But 2883 we have a standing coordinating council of the three directors of contracts in order to prevent competition and to see that they can get things as economically as possible.
I turn to the criticisms of the right hon Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). I agree with him on many things, but I cannot follow his argument as to the pay of the men in the Navy. That pay was shamefully inadequate before the War. It had hardly changed for 100 years. It is true that when the War began, and even in 1916 and 1917, while this country was fighting for its life, men were willing enough to come forward. They would have come forward with no pay, but that is not an argument for suggesting that because we got 350,000 at one rate of pay in 1916 and 1917 we could get men at that rate of pay to-day. It is possible later on, if the cost of living continues to fall, that the question of the men's and the officers' pay will have to be revised, but these matters were gone into very carefully by the Jerram Committee, and the Committee that sat on the pay of officers, and they decided that, apart from the momentary rise in the cost of living, there ought to be a substantial increase of pay. The pay of officers was raised 85 per cent.; 20 per cent. of the pay may be reduced again as the cost of living falls. The pay of the men was raised 150 per cent. I mention that in answer to the suggestion that we paid more attention to the claims of officers than to those of the men.
I have been asked a good many questions about discharges. The total number of compulsory discharges, out of some 12,000 that we had to make, at the end of the year was about 540. We have offered 80 of these engine-room apprentices positions in the Air Force, but I am sorry to say, for reasons which are difficult to understand, none of them are prepared to go into the Air Force. They would sooner go out of the Service altogether. We are trying wherever we can to absorb this very small proportion, only about 5½ per cent. of the total number of men in the home yards and home establishments, but it may be that a few will still have to go compulsorily. Of those it is only a very few, those with under five years' service; who will only 2884 get £20. The others are getting substantial sums.
The hon. Member for Dunfermline spoke of the refusal of the Admiralty to receive representatives of the Industrial Council with regard to the relaxation of the 15 per cent. rule to ex-naval men entering the dockyards. The Admiralty already have, as President of the Industrial Council, Lord Linlithgow, who was able to report fully all the views of the trade union side of the Industrial Council, and the only reason we relaxed that restriction was that it seems to me right and proper, when so many ex-service men have been turned out of the Service, that a slightly larger proportion should be allowed to be taken on for dockyard work. We are treating the ex-dockyard men who have been turned out of the dockyard service on exactly the same basis as if they were ex-service men and giving them the same preference as the ex-service men.
§ Mr. AMERY
Because the views of the deputation were already fully represented by having the President of the Council a member of the Board. What would be the good of having him there if the Board could not get the views of the council through him? With regard to another point raised by the hon. Member, it is not the ease that the official information with regard to compensation claims as to a man's previous injuries are not accessible. On the contrary, the Admiralty only too readily put the official evidence at the disposal of the man if it is necessary for him at any subsequent time to prove that he suffered injury.
The hon. Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) raised the point of established workers in the dockyards not getting leave like other civil servants. But they are not civil servants in the same sense as members of the Civil Service. They are given the privilege of being what is called "On the Establishment" and of being able to look forward to a pension later in life. Otherwise their position is in every way the same as that of the other workmen. We could not give them a long period of leave and deny it to the unestablished workers. The same hon. Member raised the question of rates of pensions for officers widows. They have been in- 2885 creased since the beginning of 1919, and an allowance of £5 per head for each child has been added. The whole of these scales are still under revision and, I hope, will soon be satisfactorily settled. As regards the Devonport ropery, it is possible there might be some economy in having only one ropery, but it would involve considerable capital expenditure in enlarging it. The matter is still under consideration, but I doubt very much whether it would be worth while removing one ropery. At any rate, there are advantages from the point of view of expansion in having two roperies. The hon. Member also raised the question of apprentices and ex-apprentices who have been discharged. We have discharged no apprentices, because we wanted to give them their full apprenticeship and to give them a chance in life afterwards. Having to make discharges, it would be surely unfair to discharge the older men, with family responsibilities, who probably actually trained these apprentices, rather than discharge the young ex-apprentices, who have less responsibility and have a better chance of finding work. We want to do the best we can, and find alternative work for any we can employ, but it is less unfair to discharge young ex-apprentices than these older men.
§ Mr. AMERY
No. I think the hon. Member is under an entire misapprehension. Under the Superannuation Acts, which bind the Admiralty, we are not entitled to let men simply volunteer at any time to go to pension. They go to pension when they have reached the full pensionable age or, if they are compulsorily discharged, before they reach it, but it would be impossible to leave it optional to anyone to leave the Service in order to get a pension in order to give an opportunity for others to stay. I have covered a good many points, and if I have not dealt with any of them adequately, I hope I shall be able to deal with them on other occasions, or by private correspondence. I hope the House will now allow me to take these Votes.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move to leave out "£14,055,700" and to insert instead thereof"£14,054,700."
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
Does any hon. Member second the Amendment? The Question is, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 218; Noes, 124.2887
|Division No. 59.]||AYES.||[8.28 p.m.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Blades, Sir George Rowland||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Blundell. F. N.||Chapman, Sir S.|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Churchman, Sir Arthur|
|Amery, Rt. Han. Leopold C. M. S.||Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Apsley, Lord||Brass, Captain W.||Clayton, G. C.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Colvin, Brig -General Richard Beale|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bruford, R.||Cope, Major William|
|Banks, Mitchell||Bruton, Sir James||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff. South)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Burney, Com. (Mlddx., Uxbridge)||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Becker, Harry||Butcher, Sir John George||Croft. Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page|
|Bell. Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North)||Crooke, J. S. (Derltend)|
|Bellalrs, Commander Carlyon W.||Butt, Sir Alfred||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Berry, Sir George||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Cassels, J. D.||Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Jarrett, G W. S.||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Doyle. N. Grattan||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel||Robertson, J. D. (Islington, W.)|
|Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Rogerson, Capt. J. E.|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godtray||Lamb, J. O.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Fawkes, Major F. H.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Foot, Isaac||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Russell, William (Bolton)|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Foreman, Sir Henry||Lorden, John William||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.|
|Forestler-Walker, L.||Lorimer, H. D.||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Lougher, L.||Sandon, Lord|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Forness, G. J.||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Shipwright, Captain D.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Margesson, H. D. R.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Martin, A. E. (Essex, Romford)||Singleton, J. E.|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Mercer, Colonel H.||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Gray, Harold (Cambridge)||Mitchell, W, F. (Saffron Walden)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Greaves-Lord, Waiter||Molloy, Major L. G. S.||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hackn'y, N.)||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Sparkes, H. W.|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Guinness, Lieut-Col. Hon. W. E.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Gwynne, Rupert S.||Murchison, C. K.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Nall, Major Joseph||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W.(Liv'p'l,W.D'by)||Nesbitt, Robert C.||Sutcliffe, T.|
|Halstead, Major D.||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Sykes, Major-Gen, Sir Frederick H.|
|Hannon. Patrick Joseph Henry||Newman, sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Harvey, Major S. E.||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson||Thornton, M.|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Newton, Sir D. G. C (Cambridge)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Hay, Major T. W (Norfolk, South)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Nield, Sir Herbert||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hewett, Sir J. P.||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut-Col. Sir John||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Hiley, Sir Ernest||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Wallace, Captain E|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Ht. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-opon-Hull)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Paget, T. G.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Parker, Owen (Kettering)||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)|
|Hood, Sir Joseph||Pease, William Edwin||Wells, S. R.|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Penny, Frederick George||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Hopkinson. A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Houfton, John Plowright||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)||Perring, William George||Winterton, Earl|
|Howard-Bury, Lieut-Col. C. K.||Peto, Basil E.||Wise, Frederick|
|Hudson, Capt. A.||Pielou, D. P.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hughes, Collingwood||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Price, E. G.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Hunter-Weston. Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Raine, W.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Hurst, Lt.-Col. Gerald Berkeley||Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C.||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian. N.)||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Remer, J. R.||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel Gibbs.|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Remnant, Sir James|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Gosling, Harry||Jones, R. T, (Carnarvon)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Jowett, F. W. (Bradford. East)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central).||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Greenall, T.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Barnes, A.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coine)||Lansbury, George|
|Batey, Joseph||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lawson, John James|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Leach, W.|
|Bonwick, A.||Groves, T.||Linfield, F. C.|
|Brotherton, J.||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Lowth, T.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lunn, William|
|Buchanan, G.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)|
|Buckle, J.||Harbord, Arthur||M-Entee, V. L.|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Harney, E. A.||McLaren, Andrew|
|Buxton, Noel (Nortolk, North)||Harris, Percy A.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Cairns, John||Hay, Captain J. p. (Cathcart)||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.|
|Cape, Thomas||Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Klnc'dine, E.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hemmerde, E. G.||Maxton, James|
|Clarke, Sir E. C.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.)||Middleton, G.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Millar, J. D.|
|Collins, Pat (Walsall)||Hill, A.||Morel, E. D.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hinds, John||Muir, John W.|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. p. (Preston)||Murnin, H.|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Hogge, James Myles||Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)|
|Duffy, T. Gavan||Irving, Dan||Nichol, Robert|
|Duncan, C.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Oliver, George Harold|
|Dunnico, H.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Paling, W.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Pattinson, S (Horncastle)|
|Phillipps, Vivian||Sullivan, J.||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Ponsonby, Arthur||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Whiteley, W.|
|Potts, John S.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Richards, R.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Tillett, Benjamin||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Ritson, J.||Turner, Ben||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)||Wallhead, Richard C.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Saklatvala, S.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Salter, Dr. A.||Warne, G. H.||Wright, W.|
|Shinwell, Emanuel||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Watts-Morgan, Lt. Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Smith, T. (Pontefract)||Webb, Sidney||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Snell, Harry||Wedgwood. Colonel Josiah C.||Mr. Hardie and Lieut-Commander Kenworthy.|
|Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.||Weir, L. M.|
|Stephen, Campbell||Welsh, J. C.|
Resolutions agreed to.
§ REPORT [15TH MARCH].
§ Resolutions reported,
§ ARMY ESTIMATES, 1923–24.
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 170,800, all ranks, be maintained for the service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at home and abroad," excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, "1924.
§ VOTE ON ACCOUNT.
That a sum. not exceeding £20,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for defraying the Charges for Army Services which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924, namely:
|Heads of Cost.||Amount required.|
|Head I. — Maintenance of Standing Army||12,000,000|
|Head II.—Territorial Army and Reserve Forces||2,000,000|
|Head III.—Educational, etc., Establishments and Working Expenses of Hospitals, Depots, etc.||2,000,000|
|Head IV.—War Office, Staff of Commands, etc.||500,000|
|Head V.—Capital Accounts||700,000|
|Head VI.—Terminal and Miscellaneous Charges, etc.||800,000|
|Head VII.—Half-pay, Retired pay, Pensions, etc.||2,000,000|
|Total to be voted||£20,000,000|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.'
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
As one who introduced in this House the largest Army Estimates which the world has ever known, I hope that it will not be regarded as inappropriate if I venture to offer a few remarks on this Vote. First, I desire to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State for 2890 War upon his exceedingly able, lucid and considered statement. I would also add my congratulations to the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Gwynne).I believe that this is the first occasion on which we are likely to hear his voice in Debate on the Army. I hope that he will have a happy association with one of the most virile and formidable heads of a Department whom I know anywhere. Both my hon. Friends will agree that the criticism which has been volunteered particularly from this section of the House has been fair, and, I hope, helpful, and no word of mine will deviate from that.
I do not think that any mention has been made so far in the Debate of the discipline and moral of the British Army, and I may say one word. In Ireland for a long time they served under the most unfair and harassing conditions, and they behaved like British gentlemen. At Cologne, where wisdom and discretion and restraint are essential, they are the best beloved of all the armies, and at Constantinople they have established once again the prestige of Britain for fair play, and I am glad to think that the general officer commanding-in-chief is an old friend and colleague of my own—General Sir Charles Harington. I think that it is very often not advisable to mention any distinguished general in the House of Commons, because in the Army there is rivalry, as there is in every other profession, but I think that I might venture on this occasion to congratulate that distinguished general for the notable part which he has played in that particular part of the East.
There is no doubt that a very large part of this Estimate is accounted for by the pay of the soldiers, and I, for one, am glad that no criticism which I have heard in the course of the Debate has ever been levelled at the amount paid to the British soldier. I say that because, if. I may talk about myself for a moment, I 2891 did my level best when our soldiers during the War were paid a much less rate than at present, to increase their pay to what, I hoped, was regarded by them at that time as an adequate amount. At present it is not rumours of war that we are hearing but rumours of peace, and in view of the fact that the British soldier during the last two or three years has been placed in a most unsettled condition, never knowing for a single moment to what part of the world he might be sent, or that he might not be asked to campaign in the most difficult conditions, I believe that this country does not think that the present pay of the soldier is a bit too much.
In the old days the War Office was regarded as slow and extravagant, and bound hand and foot by red tape if not by red tabs. My experience of the War Office is that that is not the case now, and I think that my two hon. Friends, and my Noble Friend the Secretary of State are to be congratulated upon the success of their endeavour to cut down expenditure consistently with the safety of the State and of the Empire. But while I say that—and I willingly admit it—I think that there are one or two items which are causing, shall I say, disquietude and alarm in the minds of many men like some of my colleagues who believe that you will never get efficiency unless you have economy. When I say economy, I do not mean the false, stupid economy of depriving a Welsh regiment of its flash or a Highland regiment of its kilt So long as we have got a voluntary Army we have got to attract men to the colours by those symbols, emblems of territoriality and love of country which they are accustomed to associate with the regiments of their country. But there are one or two points upon which there is a certain amount of disquietude.
The first to which I may refer is the Headquarter Staff of the War Office. Some of my hon. and gallant Friends, and particularly my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Loughborough (Brigadier-General Spears), have drawn particular attention to this point, and I am delighted that my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State was able to assure us that a Committee was appointed to inquire into this particular point. I congratulate him upon the per- 2892 sonnel of the Committee. I believe that it is a first-class Committee, and I hope that he will take the first opportunity to tell the House of Commons and the country, for a reason which I will give in a moment, the effect of the findings of the Committee. What the man in the street cannot understand is why are we cutting down the British Army, and why are we- in the course of time going to cut down the pay of the British Army when we have got a glorious superstructure at the War Office?
My hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State dealt with that point, but I wish that he had dealt with it more fully. He has made it plain, and I agree with him, that you have on the general staff at the War Office some of the best brains in the Army. They are hardworking fellows one and all. I know the work which these men do and their genuine desire, in the interests of the Army, to have both economy and efficiency. I know that these men must be kept on because they have got a great many post-War problems to consider which are either secret or are not understanded of the man in the street. We do not realise the problems which an intelligence staff have got to consider after a great war. That is one of the reasons why I can imagine these officers are kept there at present. Again the British Army, as I have tried to show is, at the present moment, engaged in the most difficult and delicate operations in many parts of the world, and the Cabinet, if it is a Cabinet at all, requires the most expert knowledge and assistance to be given to it, and it can only get that by asking the War Office to devote to each sphere the most capable men that the British Army has serving in it at the present moment. I ask my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary to go more fully into that matter.
It seems a reductio ad absurdum, but it is true that the smaller the Army the more highly officered and the more numerously officered that Army should be. Our Army to-day is an Army of only two effective divisions. It must be capable of immediate and effective expansion. That fact seems to me to be a good justification for the presence of these officers there, because at any moment—I hope it may be far distant—our two divisions might be asked to increase themselves to six or nine divisions, and from 2893 that to a great national effort of 60 to 70 divisions. Just now, after the Army has been cut down, I believe it will be false economy to get rid of our brilliant General Staff, men who have all had experience of war and who are able so to arrange the skeleton of the Army that, with the greatest economy and efficiency, if a struggle should ever occur again, the Army could be expanded to what I have called a national effort.
I turn to another point which, again, is one which the War Office in its own interest has to meet. There has been a great deal of loose talk about the Army Council. I believe that some of my own colleagues on the Liberal Benches have been guilty of such loose talk. For two years I had the proud honour of being the chairman or vice-president of the Army Council. There is no doubt that you must at once go back to pre-War days, so far as the Army Council is concerned. The Army Council as now constituted is too large to be effective. I see that the Deputy-Chief of the Imperial General Staff has gone. He was created during the War because, in the midst of the War, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff rarely had an opportunity of looking after his own particular business in the War Office. We had two very distinguished Deputy-Chiefs during my time there. One of them was the present Adjutant-General, and the other was my friend sir Charles Harington. That office has gone. I ask the Under-Secretary of State whether it is proposed to get rid of the Master-General of the Ordnance. An hon. Member behind me says it was proposed.
I have my own special view with regard to the Army Council and its personnel. It is ridiculous to say that if a man is a member of the Army Council he is paid on that account. That is not true. A man is a member of the Army Council because of a particular office which he holds. You have the Quartermaster-General and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. You have had up till now a Master-General of the Ordnance, and you have the Adjutant-General, the Secretary of State and my two hon. Friend's who represent the War Office in this House. There is at present an addition which is wholly unjustified. I refer to the two Secretaries. In my day, the Secretary, that distinguished civil servant, Sir Reginald Brade, was the Secretary of the 2894 Army Council. But he had no voting power. I am quite certain that the work was just as effectively done in that way. But now—it may be only a temporary difficulty—you have two very distinguished civil servants as members of the Army Council. I do not know the reason. I believe they have voting powers too. I beg the Under-Secretary of State to reconsider that point. The two civil servants are thoroughly worthy of being on the Army Council, but it creates disquiet to see this body, which is supposed to consist of selected men, having so many men on it compared with the days before the War. Some hon. Members opposite have said that the Army Council should have on it the Director-General of the Territorial Force and the Director-General of the Army Medical Service. I do not think that that should he so. The Director-General of the Territorial Force is represented on the Army Council by the Under-Secretary of State. I am convinced that the interests of the Territorial Force are very carefully looked after by the civil member of the Army Council. It is the same with the Director-General of the Army Medical Service. That is a Service which is subsidiary to the Adjutant-General and the Adjutant-General is always most careful to look after the interests of that Service.
There has been a good deal of discussion with regard to the amount in these Estimates for education. I am a Scotsman, and I am always glad to find any money spent in the education of anyone. But I would like to ask one or two questions on the subject. First of all, I welcome the handsome grant which is set aside for research. If before the War we had had such a sum set aside we should have had much less death, and I am convinced that that grant will be of very great benefit to the Army. I regret that the Under-Secretary has withdrawn the capitation grant for Cadets. An hon. Friend who sits near me raised this point, and I would ask the Under-Secretary to reconsider it. For the sake of £40,000 it is a great mistake to make such a false economy. During the War the Cadets were a very fine asset. I am convinced that for this £40,000 the War Office and the country would be well served by having as an asset the power of the Cadet movement.
I am anxious about the decrease in the number of entrants into Sandhurst. 2895 What is the reason for it? So far as I can gather, the cost of a Cadet at Sandhurst is now more than it was before the War. It is fatal and false economy to make it more difficult for fathers and mothers, who are now taxed almost out of existence, to send a boy to Sandhurst. I took a great interest in this matter when I was in the War Office I do not believe myself it is the stiffness of the examination which is keeping down the umbers in the college, but I am not a believer in stiff examinations for young fellows who wish to enter into the Army. We made an experiment in that respect for which I was largely responsible and about which some questions were asked in this House at the time During the War there was a competition, and we selected 15 who could not pass into Sandhurst, but who were fine types, and in most cases the captains of their respective college football teams. We found that at the end of their course, 11 of these 15 beat all the others and came out on top. I know my hon. and gallant Friend is sincerely interested in this matter, and I know the Secretary of State is also anxious about it, and I ask them to consider whether It would not be possible to do something now to make Sandhurst College a college into which men will be eager and anxious to go—to ensure that it shall continue to be what it always was, the finest training school for officers in the world.
I am very interested also in Blandford. That is a most interesting new experiment and I am sure the Under-Secretary is also interested because it is near his division. The War Office is, now going to train 1,000 boys and my hon. and gallant Friend might in his most interesting statement have developed that matter a little more fully. We are anxious to know how these boys are going to be used. As I understand it, they are going to be trained in technical subjects and in trades. It is all very well to do so, and I hope the boys will flourish, but I want to know, has the Army Council gone a step further? I believe not only in training the boys and helping them in every way. I believe in technical education for the soldiers themselves; but before you give technical training to men who are serving you ought to have them thoroughly trained as soldiers first and the technical education should he super- 2896 imposed upon the training as a soldier. I should like to know if the Army Council has made any arrangements with the trades unions. I warn them that they may have some difficulty if they have not done so. I found both in the War Office and in the Pensions Office, when I went in for vocational training, that some trades union leaders were most loyal and patriotic and were anxious that their unions should help the men, but some were not. Some were not though a great many were, and I think it is worthy of consideration whether, before embarking further on this scheme, the trades unions should not be approached and asked whether they will allow— because "allow" is the only word to use—the men vocationally trained in the Army to enter freely the labour market of this country. I strongly advise my hon. and gallant Friend to take up that subject now and to see that the men so trained are not placed industrially at a disadvantage after they have served a term in being technically trained to a trade and also served their country in the ranks.
There is one subject which I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend mentioned in his very comprehensive speech, a speech which covered in a way, commanding my admiration, the gigantic task with which the War Office has to cope. That is the subject of the detention barracks. The old days of the Army prison, with its rigorous discipline, are gone, thank God, and I have lived to see the day when a man, who was sentenced in the Army at Glasgow, Edinburgh, or anywhere else, could very well say that he was going to Aldershot on a six months' special course. I am glad to think that humanity was introduced into our system at that time. I visited these detention barracks, and I found the men there being educated—the old heavy chains lying in desuetude in a corner rusting, as they ought to have rusted before. The men are educated, they are trained in gymnastics, they are trained, in their own work, and, remembering the system which we had at that time, I hope it will flourish. When a man was there a short time and said he was quite willing to go to the front line, be was let off at once. It is worth considering whether that system should not go on, consistent, of course, with discipline and the proper 2897 punishment of bad offences, and whether the system could not even be improved. I hope I have said sufficient to induce my hon. and gallant Friend to look into the subject to see whether things are going well, and whether the old system has now completely gone and the brighter and more humans system has been brought into its place.
After all is said and done, the real policy of the War Office, as of every other Department now, should be economy along with efficiency. After every war a Committee has been appointed to collect and codify the experiences gained by the nation during that war. It was so after the South African War. One of the best Committees ever appointed was the Esher Committee. It did a great deal of good to the British Army, and I am going to press the suggestion that the Under-Secretary should approach my Noble Friend the Secretary of State and the Army Council and get another Committee appointed on the same lines I will go a step further, though there may be some in this House who do not agree with me. I will ask that Viscount Haldane should be appointed chairman of that Committee. I think my Noble Friend the Secretary of State will appreciate my statement when I say that scarcely a day passed at the War Office in the midst of all that crisis that we did not come across the effects of Lord Haldane's excellent work, and I am sorry to say that work was in many cases ill requited. The work which he had to do formerly was very much like the work which he would have to do now, because the situations are very much the same. A Liberal Government then was in power and, rightly or wrongly, it demanded a small Army. At the same time it demanded efficiency, and it was the colossal brain of Lord Haldane which evolved the finest army the world has ever produced, at a small cost. The problem to-day is identical. The Government is being pressed by the country to cut down and at the same time men who love their country say: "If you are going to do that, you must, on the other hand, have the most efficient Army in the world." The problem is two-fold. There is first, the problem of mobilisation and maintenance and, secondly, the problem of capacity for quick and effective expansion.
2898 The fact is that at the beginning of the last War this country had too many armies. It was not the fault of the system established by Lord Haldane. Lord Kitchener, one of the great men of our race, was Secretary of State but he was a law unto himself, and I am glad to think that he was so, on many occasions, but he had no knowledge of the Territorial system. That has been frankly stated, and it was known to all. He did not realise that Lord Haldane left the Territorial system as a skeleton, which at a time of crisis could be covered with flesh, as it should have been. The result was that you had Kitchener Armies growing up, the Territorial Army, the Regular. Army, the Special Reserve, all these very often with different equipment and with different methods of training, so much so that the whole situation presented, in my judgment, a source of great danger, even of death, to this country. In those days the Territorial Army was regarded in no high favour by the Regular. Army. Well, the War has banished that for all time. Every Regular soldier now is proud to fight with the Territorials, who covered themselves with glory, but the Territorial Army should be trained with the Regular Army.
The Special Reserve has now gone. The Special Reserve, as we all know—a very fine body of men, consisting mostly of men who had served in the Army—were used only as drafts, and quite rightly. They were never used as units, but any particular regiment: was filled up by drafts from the Special Reserve. Now the Special Reserve has gone, and, as I understand it, there is in its place the Militia, the name which was abolished under the Haldane scheme, and which was familiar to all those of us who lived in country districts in the old days. Our experience of the War, however, was surely this—and I think hon. and gallant Friends who served in the War will bear me out—that the Militia can no longer exist as units. It cannot be done. If you are going to have the Militia in the same way as your Special Reserve, whatever you might say to the men to attract them to join, it could not be done. Regiments can join themselves together, who played on the old village green together, and joined up as "pals," on the understanding that they are going to go to the front together and die-together. The Territorial spirit is un- 2899 quenchable. It is a great spirit, and every man of experience who has been at the front will tell you that if you get men who have played and romped about together on the village green, they form, in the hour of danger, a finer bodyguard of the Empire than any other.
The Militia ought not, therefore, to be a series of units. It ought to be a collection of specialists — signallers, mechanical engineers, skilled repairers, skilled men of all sorts, who join under no misapprehension about going out as units, because the very nature of their work makes it absolutely certain that they will have to go, in detachments, to the various parts of the field of operations. I believe that, attached to that body, you ought to have a panel of the captains of industry, men with experience of supplies, transport, housing, barracks, land, men who, in peace time, would be only too delighted, as they were in the War, to give us their services free. Attached to the Militia. you ought to have a panel of men of that type, who would be delighted to serve you, so that in a time of crisis you would have the best available information at your disposal, besides a body of men ready to go on with their work and to continue the work in the best interests of the State and the country.
The sum of £100,000,000 is a very large sum for the three Services, but it is most significant that the greatest part of that sum is devoted to what are called the auxiliary, ancillary or subsidiary services, namely, transport, supply and hospital services. Anybody who knew the last War will realise the great waste, the squandering, that took place, because there was no consolidation and co-ordination of these services. I tried an experiment, of having the chaplains the same for the three Services. I thought that religion in any case would not cause any difficulty in the three separate Services and that the chaplains, the "sky-pilots," would be there for all men, but not at all. One Service must have its chaplains dressed in one way and paid in another way, and so on. What was the result? One Service competed against the other— not for chaplains. The Army Service Corps man in the Army was attracted to the Air Force, because it was a new force, and there was better pay, and so on. The result was waste, real squandermania, 2900 waste on all hands, and dissatisfaction on the part of men who had to remain in one Service when they really wanted to go to another, while by a stroke of the pen it could easily have been arranged that those three Services should have their transport, their hospitals, and their religion provided from one source.
I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend to consider whether that is not the first step in what I think, and many of my friends think, is the ideal, namely, a Ministry of Defence. I may be wrong, but I cannot help thinking that if you have consolidation, first of all, of these subsidiary Services, it is a step in the path of evolution. Many men regard a Ministry of Defence as an ideal I think it is to be desired. I cannot myself see why you could not have one Cabinet Minister of eminence in charge of the three Services, with a Deputy Secretary in one Service, a Deputy-Secretary in another, and a Deputy-Secretary in the third. What is happening now is that any Cabinet Minister worth his salt, who is in charge of .a big Department, in one of the Services, is anxious that his Department should be better than the other two, and is perfectly prepared to defend his Department and support it right through, which is very good, and his permanent servants like it. They like a man of that type, but the country has got to be considered. If you appoint one man with equal power over the three Services, what happens? He brings an unbiassed and a fair mind to deal with each of the three Services, and I can imagine quite well now, when some of us have the greatest misgivings about the Air Service, that a strong man would have appealed to the country, and would have appealed to the country with success, for a larger amount to be spent on that Service than on any of the others. That is, as I say, in the path of evolution, and I merely put it forward now, as it may be in the eyes of many a counsel of perfection, but, in my judgment, the time for it in the interests of economy and efficiency is bound to come.
One last word. I would like to ask my hon. and gallant Friend what we are doing with regard to co-operation with the Dominions to secure uniformity of organisation, of arms, brigades, equipment, and training. Nothing was finer at the beginning of the War than the 2901 spontaneous desire of our Dominions to come to our aid. What happened? There was difference of equipment, difference of arms and of everything else. There was a difference in the line, from a stategical point of view, which a Dominion brigade could take over as compared with our own. All these things are of the most colossal importance, and I would appeal to my hon. and gallant Friend to ask the Secretary of State to look into this himself personally. I have worked with the Noble Lord, and I know he has got a courageous mind—a mind receptive of new and fresh ideas, and I hope these remarks which I have ventured to make, I fear at too great length—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—having a profound admiration for the British Army, and a great respect for the administrative capacity of the War Office as a whole—I have ventured to make these remarks in a helpful spirit, and I hope that some words of mine at any rate may be of benefit to the great British Army.
§ Lieut.-Colonel CAMPION
At the beginning of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman alluded to the very great reduction that has taken place in our Army. He referred to the fact that we are now, practically, for overseas purposes, reduced to two divisions, and I think everybody must share the feeling, which no doubt he holds, that we cannot look upon the present condition of affairs without a very great degree of alarm. Indeed, I think we are probably most of us aware that, in the event of any considerable crisis arising, the Territorial Army would not merely be recruited, as it is now, as a second line, but would very speedily become a first line of defence. I am quite sure that any member of the Territorial Army will only be too proud to feel that its existence should be of so much value. One does feel that if the Army be reduced —as I think it necessarily must be reduced, when we consider the importance of the claim of economy—when it is reduced to such an extent, I do think it is supremely important that the Government should, in making their economies, concentrate on economies in other directions, and not in the direction of the combatant Service. I think they have, so far as I can gather, very fairly followed that course in their finance that is now before us, but I am not sure it could not be further pursued, that more reductions could not be made, or more economies effected, in the 2902 direction of the Army Veterinary Service, and so on. I am personally glad that the Vote for education has been reduced, because I do feel that when we have to pursue these economies, we should concentrate any expenditure that we can on the maintenance of our combatant Service, and so preserve the safety of this country as far as we can.
I desire to draw attention to one feature to which the right hon. Gentleman has drawn attention, a feature which, I think must cause all of us a great deal of alarm, and that is the deficiency in the number of young officers prepared to enter our Army—the deficiency, for instance, in the number of cadets entering at Sandhurst. I entirely endorse what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the supreme necessity of having an adequate number —perhaps a large number—of well-trained officers, in order to cope with expansion in time of war. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the deficiency in the number of young men wishing to enter as officers at Sandhurst and elsewhere is due to the expense at present caused to their parents. I think it is due partly to that, but also to many other causes. First of all, I would say that, naturally, there is a reaction after a great war against military service, and a consequent disinclination to serve in the British Army. There is the question of expense. At the present moment, it costs a civilian parent £500 for the two years to maintain his son at Sandhurst. That is a consideration, but I am quite sure of this—and it is the experience of universities—that the expense has not the deterrent effect that one would anticipate. It does militate to prevent officers going to Sandhurst, but it has not that great effect that many would anticipate. There is another reason, and, to my mind, it is the principal reason that militates against our having sufficient cadets at Sandhurst. It is that parents in this country, and boys in this country, have a great feeling of uncertainty as to whether the Army will ensure them a career throughout their lives. I do urge the Government, if I may, to make, as soon as they can, and as far as they can, some definite statement that in the future a young man entering the Army can be assured that he has a career open to him for his life. I am quite sure if they feel that the 2903 position of the Army is stabilised, and their career is assured, we shall find a great many more young men, and the best young men of this country, coming forward as cadets to go through Sandhurst and to serve as regular officers in His Majesty's Army.
There are two other points I wish to make quite briefly. Very complimentary references, which all those who have ever belonged to the force must appreciate, I am sure, have been made to the Territorial Army in the course of the Debate. There are two events, to my mind—there may be others—which, I think, would do a great deal at the present moment to help the efficiency of the Territorial Army. The first is this. There has been a great reduction—and quite rightly—for the sake of economy in the peace establishment of the officers in the Territorial Army. The result is that in very scattered areas during the year it is very difficult for Territorial units to maintain efficiency, and to maintain the strength of their unit with the small establishment of officers. I do ask—and I hope that the answer may be satisfactory—that in cases of scattered areas, we may be allowed to have a supernumerary establishment of officers in order to carry on the administrative work of the year, provided that no more than the reduced peace establishment of officers is taken to camp.
One other consideration. It is very hard indeed for many of the unite to maintain the increased efficiency required on the grant of money available. Undoubtedly in many cases too large a proportion of the grants issued from the War Office for the administration of the Territorial Force is absorbed by the County Territorial Association. I urge, and urge very strongly, that so far as it is possible pressure should be put on. Efficiency, I am sure, will not suffer; I believe it would gain. I am quite sure it would be more economical. Pressure should be, so far as possible, applied in order to amalgamate the administrative offices—in other words, the secretariat of the different Territorial Associations. I would not at all interfere with the composition of the Territorial Association, but I would amalgamate the administrative offices. I believe that, taking a strong line with the secretariat of the Territorial Association and co-ordinating it With the division, it would be a great 2904 step forward in the promotion of efficiency and economy.
I regret I was not in my place last week when the Financial Secretary to the War Office spoke, but I had been in the House for a considerable time, and wanted some food. I take the opportunity now of replying to some of the answers that the hon. and gallant Gentleman then made. I would commence, if I may, by referring to the remarks I made on that occasion in regard to Chelsea Hospital. On page 102 of the Army Estimates on the account to which I drew attention there is an item of £20,400. The then Financial Secretary replied with an answer which I do not in the least understand, and I shall be so glad if the present holder of that office will give a further reply to-night. I do not in the least understand why the item should be a credit item. I should also like to know why it is that: the pensioners in this hospital cost the country 25s. per week by way of salaries for the administrative staff? Upon closer examination I find it is extremely hard to discover, and I wish to look on the situation from the point of view that the country is seriously hard up and seriously attempting to effect retrenchment. If we are serious we would like to have every hundred pounds that it is possible to put our fingers upon) I find there are 17 persons who, in addition to a very large salary, are receiving free quarters, fuel and light. Even the chaplain receives a salary equivalent to that of a Dean (d). Each one of these pensioners contributes an annual sum of £2 per year for his spiritual attendance. It is rather high!
A good deal has been said about Sandhurst, and I may remind hon. Members of the fact that each cadet that goes to Sandhurst costs his parent £104 per year and that the Government, give back to the cadets the sum of £80 a year by way of allowance. A young man having passed through, after a two years' course, goes to a job at £380 a year. I described that in my observations last week as a good job. There was an interruption to the effect, I think, that there was a shortage of cadets to-day, and that has been referred to to-day. Let us examine that a little more closely. Is there any other profession at all where a young map qualified commences right off with a salary of £380 a year? Is there any other 2905 profession where a man can qualify so cheaply? [An HON. MEMBER: These are taken into account!"] That may be, and doubtless, as is suggested, and we are all pleased to know it—the young men of the British Empire discounted various facts when they joined the Army. What, however, I want to point out is this: that the cadets at Sandhurst are recruited from one class absolutely. It is a class profession. Take any other profession. Take medicine, which is the most expensive profession to enter. You have to serve five years, and there is no payment, no allowance from the Government, and you certainly do not earn £380 a year when you commence. Take the Bar, which is worse, and where you are very many years after qualifying before you can earn any money. You can go through the whole gamut. I do not object to the conditions of the cadets, but what I would like to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman is, do the sons of the working-classes get an opportunity to go to Sandhurst? [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, they have the opportunity!"] I am glad to hear that. Is the fact put before them? I shall be very glad to know that what the hon. Member has said is advertised a little more, not in the House of Commons, not only on the Floor of this House, but outside, for there are many young men of my acquaintance who would be glad of the opportunity to go to Sandhurst, and who would make admirable soldiers. I am very pleased to hear that the case is as suggested by the hon. Member, and I ask that: the fact should be made a little better known; then you will have no shortage of cadets.
I come now to the discussion inaugurated last week on the Army Pay Corps. If I turn to column 1928 in the OFFICIAL REPORT I read—[Laughter]. I do not see why hon. Members on the opposite benches should laugh. I should like them to understand that I am applying myself to assisting the Government to save money. I do not appreciate the laughter, and I should like the hon. and gallant Gentleman to give these accounts very close attention. His colleague, the late Financial Secretary, made the following remarks in reference to myself:The hon. and gallant Gentleman took tremendous exception to the combatant officers going to the finance side. I took the trouble to go very carefully into that question when I saw it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. What did I find? That these 2906 transferred combatant officers were all skilled accountants. "—[OFFICIAL REPOKT 15th March, 1923; col. 1928, Vol. 161.]What are the real facts? The strength of the officers in the Royal Army Pay Corps to-day is 169; less officers transferred from regiments (one is a professional accountant), 14, and less commissions granted to temporary men (four of whom were professional accountants), 36. That is 50, leaving a balance of 119, which was the strength, less casualties, at the time of the Armistice. It is the system under which these 119 men were recruited that I am criticising, and the fact remains that they were not transferred because they know nothing about accounts. Out of 169 men, you have five qualified professional men, or less than 3 per cent. of them who know anything at all about their business. I am going to prove—as I hope to do later—that my remarks are correct on the point of this being extravagant. I again refer the House to column 1928 in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 15th March. This is the reference that was made to the Pay Corps by the Financial Secretary to the War Office.
They are skilled men, who went out and fought, and came back to the Pay Department as military accountants. One of them received the highest honour a man can get on the field, the Victoria Cross. "—[OFFICIAL REPOKT. 15th March. 1923; col. 1928, Vol. 161.]I would recommend the hon. and gallant Member to verify his facts and his information. There is not a single member in the Royal Army Pay Corps who has got the Victoria Cross. What do I find? He is referring to the Corps of Military Accountants [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]— well, I will prove it. For the benefit of the hon. Members who did not quite follow what I said. I will read the statement again:They are skilled men, who went out and fought, and came back to the Pay Department as military accountants. One of them received the highest honour a man can get on the field, the Victoria Cross.I say again, there is not a single officer in the Royal Army Pay Corps who got the Victoria Cross. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] The hon. and gallant Gentleman was referring to the Corps of Military Accountants, which corps I have never criticised on the score of recruiting at all. He was referring to a corps of some 105 officers, mostly made up, not of your old-time service soldier, who was at Sandhurst and Woolwich, but of men who 2907 left their professions, went through it, and were transferred to this new Corps of Military Accountants.
What else do I find about the Corps of Military Accountants which, incidentally, is the cheapest one of the whole lot on the financial side? It contains two V. C. 's, three D. S. O. 's, 30 M.C. 's, two O.B.E. 's, two M. M.'s, and one D.S.M.—a total of 40 decorations out of 105 officers. I begin to look at the financial qualifications of these men. I could not get this in the Army list, or in the Estimate, but I took the trouble to examine the list of the members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. I find that 50 per cent. of the Corps of Military Accountants are chartered accountants, fully qualified, and that 10 per cent. of them are incorporated accountants. That is to say, that not only did they scoop up decorations, hut 60 per cent. of them are fully-qualified professional men. I compare that with the qualifications of the men in the Royal Army Pay Corps to-day. Hon. Members may say, "What has that got to do with the question of economy? "I am coming to that. Last week, in my speech in this House, I proved that the cost per head in the Corps of Military Accountants was some £71 in favour of that body as against the Royal Army Pay Corps. I suggested that if the Pay Department, which does the same sort of work—that is, all financial work—reduced their Corps to the same level as the Corps of Military Accountants, £61,699 could be saved. That is what my hon. Friends on the other side are laughing at. [HON. MEMBERS: "No. "] I think I have proved my case. I admit that all these figures we rather boring to you. In my opinion, they ought to be considered around a table.
The unfortunate thing is that nobody pays any attention to these matters, unless they are raised in the House of Commons. That saving of £61,700 is directly attributable to the fact that there are 60 per cent. of qualified men in the Corps of Military Accountants, against three per cent. in the other body. The Financial Secretary to the War Office has been good enough, since the last Debate on the Estimates, to furnish me with a Return. In it I find certain information which has a distinct bearing on the suggestion made last week-not for the first 2908 time—that the Corps of Military Accountants and the Royal Army Corps should be amalgamated. I asked the War Office to supply me with a statement, showing how the various officers were classified. It is an extremely interesting statement. I should like the House to remember this, that if, afterwards, a test be made as to where that £61,700 can be saved, the information I am now giving will help them to find it. We find that in the Royal Army Pay Corps there are seven full colonels; in the Corps of Military Accountants there is only one; and in the Local Audit Staff there are eight who hold rank equivalent to that of colonel. Of lieut.-colonels there are, in the Pay Corps, 22; in the Corps of Military Accountants three; and in the Local Audit Staff, 12. Of majors, there are eight in the Pay Corps, 10 in the Corps of Military Accountants; and 30 in the Local Audit Staff—men holding a grade equivalent to the rank of major. I finish with captains—there are 88 men in the Army Pay Corps, holding the rank of captain and under. There are 83 in the Corps of Military Accountants; and 47 in the Local Audit Staff.
I have already proved that it is very much over-officered. The statements I have read indicate where this £61,699 can very easily be chopped off. I now want to refer to the Local Audit Staff. Details of that staff will not be found in the Estimates at all, but the Financial Secretary was good enough to furnish me with them. I find that the total cost of the financial staff of the War Office is shown at £157,327, after giving credit for three items, amounting to £11,983, which are really chargeable elsewhere. I also find the cost of the financial staff at out-stations shown at £122,911. If you add to that the salary of the Permanent Secretary of the War Office who deals purely with finance, namely, £3,000, that makes a total cost of £283,238. Nearly every staff will be found costed in the Estimates, but no mention is made as to the costing of the Local Audit Staff. The total number of the staff, so far as I can find out from the Estimates, is not given, but the statement sent to me from the War Office shows that the total staff, on which this sum of £283,238 is expended, numbers only 402. The cost per head per annum, therefore, of the Local Audit Staff is 2909 £704 10s. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] It is a shame.
I am trying. I have shown what might be saved if the cost of the Pay Corps per head per annum were brought down to that of the Corps of Military Accountants, but what could be saved if the cost of the Local Audit Staff could be brought down to the same basis? I have worked it out, and I find that, if the Local Audit Staff were conducted as cheaply as the Corps of Military Accountants, there would be a saving of £163,815. I have gone into this very carefully, as a man would go into the witness-box, prepared to back it up if he were cross-examined, and I think I can do so. I also stated last week, and I think I gave reasons for it, that the whole of the staff of the Record Offices should be dismissed. If that were done it would mean a saving of £33,950. The total saving, therefore, on the Local Audit Staff, the Pay Department, and the Record Offices would amount to £259,464. I put forward that as my excuse for what I am afraid has been a somewhat boring speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Last week the Financial Secretary to the War Office, referring to the Financial Departments, said:There is no doubt, in the judgment of Sir Charles Harris and others who thoroughly understand cost accounting, that amalgamation can take place. "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1923; col. 1927, Vol. 161.]Is there any doubt in the mind of any hon. Member in this House that amalgamation can take place immediately, and ought to have taken place many years ago? I hope the hon. Gentleman will give us a better reply to-night. I want to refer again to the statement supplied to me as to the Local Audit Staff at the War Office. It really is an astonishing statement. At the War Office the staff consists of 28 men, holding different grades, who belong to the officer class, and 89 subordinates, and I have taken the trouble to ascertain what these gentlemen are doing. I have not the privilege that the Financial Secretary has of going in and demanding to be told what they are doing, but one tries in the best way possible to find out, and I find that these civilian gentlemen on the Local Audit Staff are keeping books which are an absolute duplication of books which are 2910 very well kept already, and very satisfactorily kept, by the military authorities. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] I hope that my hon. Friends can disprove it. I hope they will be able to show me that that is not the case, but I do not think they can. I have gone further, and tried to estimate how much the Government can save there, and I have come to the conclusion that another £250,000 can very easily be saved by abolishing these men, who are doing nothing but duplicating work that is already very well done. I see, by a reply that was given last week, that a Committee is sitting, presided over by Major-General Sir Herbert Lawrence. It was also stated by the Financial Secretary thatThe most important thing that is happening with regard to it at the present moment is that it is being considered by a committee of experts, set up by the late Secretary of State in the last Government, under Sir Herbert Lawrence. ''—[OFFCIAL REPORT. 15th March, 1923; col. 1926, Vol. 161.]I have not the advantage possessed by my right hon. Friend who sits on the Front Bench of knowing the constitution of this Committee, and I should like to ask if there are any financial men upon it. In fact, I should like to know who the members are.
§ Mr. HARCOURT JOHNSTONE
Does the hon. and gallant Member impugn the financial authority of Sir Herbert Lawrence?
In view of the statements I have made, I will impugn no one until I know, but I will show what I am driving at. I want, in view of the economies which are demanded and are urgently needed, to know what we may expect from this Committee, and I should like to know, if it is proper to ask—and I think it is, because I hope the charges I have made will come before that Committee—I should like to know the constitution of that Committee, and should like to know if the Permanent Secretary of the War Office who is responsible for the financial side, is a member of it, and what position he occupies. At the present moment we find that, as he is responsible for the whole of the financial side of the War Office, he is responsible for the Pay Corps and the Local Audit Staff. Who ever heard of a secretary being the auditor of the company as well? That is what is found at the War 2911 Office. The thing is perfectly absurd. I have glanced down the names of the members of the Army Council, and I ask —[Interruption]—I say nothing about their military knowledge, or what they propose to do in the military sense, but when it comes to the question of finance I claim the right to talk, and I ask, are there any men on the Army Council who have sufficient knowledge to stand up against the present Permanent Financial Secretary to the War Office? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] They have not? Very well, what do you expect from this Committee? Is this Report to be made public? If not, why not? When are we likely to get it? I only hope that when the Committee do make their Report, they will have the courage of their convictions. I hope that they will have the courage to speak out, and to say what economies ought to be effected. I hope another thing, too, and that is that the Army Council, in turn, will have the courage to carry any suggested recommendations into effect; that the Army Council will pay no attention at all to vested interests, and that the only vested interests that the Army Council will pay any attention to at all will be the vested interests of the country, and the interests of sound administration. Then such a Committee, and such an Army Council, will deserve the best thanks of this House.
§ Sir KINGSLEY WOOD
Like the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Lieut.-Colonel Hodge), I propose to address a few questions to the Financial Secretary to the War Office, but I must crave the indulgence of the House, because I feel that I cannot command the confidence and assertion which the hon. Gentleman evidently possesses. As one of the Members for the Division of Woolwich, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary on his appointment. Woolwich especially welcomes a gentleman who, I believe, regards it as a compliment to call himself a "Die-hard," because, at Woolwich, where the national factory is situated, we naturally desire that the hon. Member who may be at the head of that Department should be one who places the security of his country foremost in his programme. The first question I want to address to my hon. Friend is in con- 2912 nection with the future of the national factory itself. There have been a good many statements made recently as to whether the Ordnance Factory should be removed from Woolwich. Contentions have been put forward that the factory might in time of war be readily accessible to air attack. Various objections of that kind have been advanced, and while his predecessor answered the question addressed to him a few days ago in the House, that, for the present, the national factory would remain at Woolwich, I shall be very glad if my hon. Friend will give me some further statement in that connection to-night.
Secondly, I want to ask him if he can give any further reason for the disbanding of what is known as the Stevenson Committee? That Committee was set up during the last Parliament, not only to consider the future of the Woolwich Factory, but also certain questions in connection with its improvement, and, if possible, I should like my hon. Friend to give me some further information on that account. Another point about which I should be glad of some information is as to how the work in connection with the Ordnance Factories generally is allocated. Does Woolwich gel a proper proportion of the work, and its fair share of the work? Another question which has caused grave anxiety in the locality is in connection with the discharges at the Arsenal. I hope my hon. Friend to-night will be able definitely to announce that these discharges have ceased. Can he say what is the minimum strength of the Arsenal? Has a decision been arrived at in that connection? I hope that I may receive an. assurance from him, particularly in connection with the older men who are employed there. There are many men who have given up the whole of their lives to work at the Arsenal, who are now between 60 and 65, and they are in grave anxiety as to their position, I hope some assurance will he given in that connection.
I also hope that the recent changes which have been effected at the Arsenal in connection with what is known as overhead charges may enable my hon. Friend to give some assurance that the Arsenal has now arrived at a condition when there is such efficiency as to enable the Arsenal to compete on proper terms with private 2913 firms. I am not one of those who ask for any undue consideration for a national factory, but I hope by this time they are able in a fair manner, at any rate, to meet in the competitive field the endeavours of private firms. The last question which I wish to address to my hon. Friend is in connection with the pensions' scheme for Woolwich Arsenal employés. The employés there, as I understand it, only ask for a contributory scheme—at any rate, a very large number of them, and I hope there may be some announcement in that connection.
Inasmuch as the work of the factory has been largely curtailed, I hope my hon. Friend will be able to make some announcement as to what opportunity will be given to private firms to come into the district and engage in manufacturing business. All these are questions which are of considerable moment to my constituency, and I hope my hon. Friend may be able to give some definite reply to-night.
§ Mr. SNELL
Everybody is desiring economy, but, in asking for it in regard to the Army Vote, one desires to get an economy which is well proportioned. In regard to the Army Estimates, one has to think of the Army in a rather wider sense than has been spoken of by the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Lieut.-Colonel Hodge), or by any of those who have hitherto taken part in this discussion. That is to say, the Army should mean not only those men who are actually soldiers; it should also mean those who are providing the material with which soldiers fight. It is on that aspect of the Army Estimates that I venture to ask for the attention of the House for a very few minutes.
I want to ask about the position of the men in the National Yards on the lines that have been indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood). One of the speakers to-night alleged that the Army was in some senses over-officered—that there was a disproportionate number of officers employed on the General Staff. That, he alleged, was justified by the necessity that existed for immediate expansion in time of crisis. You had to have, he argued, a larger number of officers than were needed for any given moment, because they were necessary in view of 2914 dangers that the future might bring. I am not challenging that statement now, but I ask that the same judgment should be applied, not to officers only or to men actually on the strength of a regiment, but also to the men who are employed in providing the material with which these officers and men would have to fight if the necessity arose. As far as the history of Woolwich Arsenal is known, there has always been a tendency after a war to reduce the personnel of the Arsenal far below what was regarded by those in charge and authority as being necessary to provide for adequate and immediate expansion. That was the lesson of the Crimean War, it was the lesson of the Boer War, and when the Great War came the fact that the Arsenal had had its staff reduced far below what the Chief of the Ordnance Factories thought was safe cost this country, it is safe to say, many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and, perhaps, also many thousands of precious lives. That lesson which one expected had been dearly learned in our history seems, after all, not to have been learned at all. Since the date of the Armistice men have been discharged in a wholesale fashion, and to-day the standard of the Arsenal is 6,600 people, some thousands lower than were judged to be necessary for safety and for that expansion which has been spoken of on the other side of the House. Therefore, the matter appears to be one which requires the immediate and very urgent attention of the War Office and the Army authorities.
I wish to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office a question as to the results of the policy which has been pursued. There are, in Woolwich to-day, some 12,000 or 13,000 men unemployed. These men were invited to come to Woolwich by the Government in a time of very great need. They were men of most exquisite skill, and were brought there because of their special qualifications to do the class of work the Government needed. But directly the Government had no immediate use for them they were turned upon the streets. These men were disbanded and are in a state of the very greatest suffering, with hardly any hope of immediate employment. And what is oven worse, from the national point of view, is that their skill, the skill upon which this nation would have to rely if, unhappily, 2915 a new war arose, is going to waste, and you might just as well expect these men, after having been turned adrift and their hands have lost their cunning, to do the fine work expected of them as you would expect the disbanded soldier immediately to assume all the perfection of regimental discipline or training.
There is also the point indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich that I desire to bring to the attention of the Financial Secretary for the War Office. It refers to the position of the old and trusted workers of the Government. A week or two ago, in answer to a question which I put to the then Financial Secretary to the War Office, I learned that there had been discharged from Woolwich Arsenal since the Armistice about 1,600 men of over 60 and 65 years of age who had had more than 20 years of service for the Government. I happen to know that there are many men who have had over 30 years, and some who have been in the Arsenal over 40 years, and who since the Armistice have been discharged. These old men, having given the best of their lives to the need of the nation, are turned adrift without any compensation, without any pension, and there they are waiting until they are 70 years of age to be entitled to an old age pension. These old men have been treated in a way which no fine firm, not the best firms of this country, would treat their old and respected employés. There is scarcely any private firm of repute which would use a man for 30 or 40 years and then turn him adrift upon the streets, and leave him in a position of not being entitled to the pension the State would give him for another five or ten years. How are these old men to live during that period? They cannot get new jobs, and are, therefore, thrown either on the local rates or on their friends, in any case, at the cost of real and great suffering. I realise, I hope as well as any Member of the House, that the nation cannot indulge in any unnecessary expenditure in a time such as we are passing through, but there are ways in which we could economise with more credit to ourselves than through the misery of the workers who have served the Government for so many years. Another cheese-paring economy which the War 2916 Office is making, there is the closing of the little hospital which exists in the Arsenal to deal with cases of immediate and severe accident, and I learn to-day that another economy is being proposed in regard to the work of welfare with boys. There are about 700 boys working in the Arsenal in the semi-skilled and unskilled trades, who have had the advantage of special welfare oversight. For boys of that age the oversight and guidance of some wider finer spirit is a real advantage, not to the boys alone, but to the community as a whole. I gather that this work which has been carried on for over seven years is costing something like £400 a year. That is to be abandoned at the end of this month.
I am not expert in discussing this question of the Estimates, and I hope the House will forgive me if I have seemed to wander rather wide of the technical issues involved, but I desire before I conclude to say that if it is necessary for us to maintain a standing Army at the present time we should have as its corollary the maintainance of a standing arsenal; our national factories should be considered as an integral part of our Army, and you cannot reduce the men who make guns any more than you can reduce the men who stand behind the guns without seriously endangering the whole position that Gentlemen on the other side of the House are so anxious to promote and maintain. I urge, therefore, with the very greatest respect that the War Office should consider whether a greater proportion of orders which it has to allocate could not be given to its own national factories, especially at Woolwich, considering all the issues involved and the fact that these thousands of unemployed men were brought there to serve the nation at a time of very great urgency and ought not now to be left in distress.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Gwynne)
There are three grounds on which I think I can claim the indulgence of the House to-night. The first is that it is only four days since I undertook the responsible duties of my office, which entail a great deal of work. The second is that my predecessor is a man very difficult to follow. In the short time he occupied the office, he gained not only the confidence of the Department, but of this House. My third ground is that, although I have been for many 2917 years in the House, my time and my activities have been occupied rather in seeking information than in giving it. Those are all difficulties which I hope time will remove. I hope the hon. Member who has just sat down will be satisfied, when he learns the result of the recent deliberations of the Army Council, that every step has been taken that is possible to secure adequate work for the Government factories at Woolwich. The question is not definitely settled, but arrangements are being made to place as much work, both from the Navy and the Army, with those factories as will, I hope, keep on full time the number of men already employed there. The hon. Member for Woolwich (Sir Kingsley Wood) asked whether the overhead charges have been reduced sufficiently to enable the Government factories to compare favourably with private firms. Recent figures show that a great improvement has been made in that direction. Overhead charges have been reduced and in many cases costs compare favourably with those of private firms. The hon. Member asked me why Sir James Stevenson's Committee being dissolved. The reason for that was that the Army Council came to the conclusion before the Committee had reported that the cost of removing the factories and stores from Woolwich would be so great that they could not entertain it at present, therefore there was no need to have the Committee in being, but another Committee has been set up which is considering the question of the re-arrangement and concentration of the shops, and as the result of that greater efficiency will be obtained. Then there was the point of the minimum establishment. That may be taken now to be between 6,000 and 7,000 men. The hon. Member also raised the question of a contributory pension scheme. I told him the other day that so far the employés are not able to put forward any scheme which would be self-supporting, and at present the Government do not see their way to start any large scheme involving heavy expenditure.
§ Sir K. WOOD
Does that mean that the Government themselves are prepared to make any contribution if the men will do so?
§ Mr. GWYNNE
No. At present the Government do not see their way to 2918 embark on any scheme in that direction which would involve great expenditure.
Then there were a great many points raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Preston (Lieut.-Colonel Hodge). I will not deal with them in detail. The hon. Member complained very seriously that in the Army Pay Department there is duplication of books —he does not seem to mind the duplication of speeches. He treated the House to precisely the same oration to-night, in detail, as he did last week. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, in substance certainly. As he regretted that his constituents were not present, I imagine that he was only rehearsing his speech so as to give them an opportunity of hearing it. I cannot however allow to go unnoticed one statement of the hon. and gallant Member. He criticised, as being inadequate and incompetent, the Committee which had been set up, of which Sir Herbert Lawrence is Chairman. He suggested that that was not an expert Committee. From what he said, it would seem that the Government, the Army Council, and every other body at the War Office is unsuitable, and one might gather from his speech that he alone is the one person who would be suitable for all these posts. If Sir Herbert Lawrence has not the confidence of the hon. and gallant Member, he has the confidence. I believe, of every other Member of this House. He is chairman of Glyn, Mills, Currie & Co., he played a distinguished part in the War, and the Secretary of State is glad that he is able to look to him for advice in this matter. Another member of the Committee is Sir Gilbert Garnsey, of the firm of Price, Waterhouse & Co. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member thinks that he has no expert knowledge. The third member is Mr. Webster Jenkinson, who is a chartered accountant of great repute. If the other points raised by the hon. and gallant Member have as little substance and as little justification for complaint, I do not think that I need keep the House longer in dealing with them.
§ Mr. PALING
I have listened with great interest to the speeches on the Army Estimates, and I noticed that when the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) was speaking, that the burden of his speech was efficiency and economy, when he pointed out certain ways in which efficiency with economy could be secured in different De- 2919 partments, nearly everything that he said was greeted by hon. Members opposite with acclamation, and with very great respect, but I say, with the greatest respect, that most of his speech dealt with generalities. What struck me most in the speech, was the fact that he had not a word of complaint, but when the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Lieut.-Colonel Hodge) criticised the Estimates in detail he met with nothing but ironical cheers. I wonder whether hon. Members opposite can afford to be-complacent when the criticism was very general and consisted of platitudes, and immediately the criticism came down to detail and began to touch the inner circle of things they altered their complacency and became resentful.
I was rather surprised at the way in which the Financial Secretary to the War Office replied to the hon. and gallant Member for Preston. He treated the matter with a great deal of flippancy, if he will excuse my saying so. He accused the hon. Member in particular of repeating a speech that he had made the other evening, largely for the benefit of his constituents I believe he said, but the Financial Secretary has failed to reply to any of the criticisms that have been made, and I think that he would have been much better employed if he had tried to give an answer to some of the criticisms that have been offered. As to efficiency and economy, I agree with the hon. Member that this may be a rather big Assembly to try to deal with a huge book of accounts such as has been put into our hands, but the suggestion that these things could be dealt with in a Committee is one which might receive some consideration. I would suggest also that when the two speeches are received in such a different manner, it almost makes one think that there is some truth in the suggestion that has been made to-night that the Army is a. class Army, and I wondered when hon. Members were cheering so ironically if it was because of the fact that it was for the special benefit of their class that they resented any of these criticisms in detail being made about the Army which employed so many members of their class.
Hon. Members opposite, on Monday or Tuesday last, were very critical and offered a lot of comments upon the 2920 methods adopted by a bureaucracy or Government or State Departments. They said that they were extravagant and wasteful, that they cared nothing for the way in which money was spent; and yet when a Member from this side criticises the way in which money was spent and makes suggestions which may be helpful to get increased economy and efficiency, the very Members who do not believe in bureaucracy criticise the hon. Member, and receive these helpful suggestions with ironical cheers. I would ask the Under-Secretary, who I understand is about to reply, to explain further what exactly is to be the work of the Research Department which it is intended to set up and in what particular direction will the work run? The question of occasional training has been mentioned. To how many of the Army is this going to apply? Is it intended ultimately to apply to all the men who enter?
I understand that the idea is that when these men leave the Army they shall not be thrown on the streets merely as casual labourers, but shall have some definite training by which they can enter into, shall I say, open competition, in the trades in civil life. Criticism was made of a speech delivered when these Estimates were first before the House as to the reductions that were intended last. year. If I understood that speech aright, it was to the effect that the reductions had never been carried out to the extent to which it was intended. Is it intended to put into operation the reductions this year both in money and in men? Also is it intended that this reduction in money and in men, which some of us on this side regard with great satisfaction, shall be a progressive reduction year by year, until the Army is eliminated? I understood that the last War was a War to end war, and I have wondered whether in this reduction the Under-Secretary of State was trying to carry out that idea, and was emphasising his belief that the last War had ended war. In view of the alarm felt in the country and by certain people in very high places as to the competition in another arm of the fighting services, and in view of the fact that that service may become the most important service and the Army become increasingly unimportant, I wish to know whether these considerations cannot be taken into account in dealing with the question of economy.
Lieut.-Colonel DALRYMPLE WHITE
I wish to allude briefly to one subject—our garrison in Egypt. On the Committee stage the matter was referred to, more particularly by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), who asked why we kept this garrison of men in Egypt at great expense, and so on. I think the answer was fairly well known, but as the matter has attracted a certain amount of attention outside it would perhaps be a good thing if the Under-Secretary of State could deal with it in his reply. Take first the question of cost. I would like to know whether the cost per battalion in Egypt is much higher, if at all higher, than the cost per battalion at home. Quite apart from the political aspect of the question, even if Egypt were in a far less disturbed condition than it is at present, would it not be necessary to keep a fairly big garrison there, for the reason that, as we have no longer the use of barracks in Southern Ireland, we require barrack accommodation elsewhere? Further, is it not the opinion of the military advisers that one could not possibly find a finer training ground for troops than Egypt, that it is a very healthy station, and that it is most useful as a place where troops can be acclimatised before going on to India? Information on these points would relieve the anxiety of some people outside the House, who may think the garrison in Egypt is wasteful and unnecessary.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I seek information which I hope will assure the House that unnecessary sums are not being spent on the manufacture of futile munitions. We find in the Memorandum issued by the Under-Secretary of State that certain types of munitions are to be made in future, as the old stocks are almost exhausted. Tanks and equipment are going to be manufactured so that we may be able to place at least one fully-equipped battalion in the field during 1923–1924. What kind of munitions are going to be produced for the purpose of furnishing this battalion with its requirements? How long are these munitions to be used; how long are the tanks going to be useful after their manufacture, and what will be the wasting propensities of the munitions when they are made? I wish to draw attention to the fact that while economies are being effected in some directions there are, even now, other directions 2922 where additions are being made to the salaries paid in various Departments. We had before us a few weeks ago Estimates wherein certain employés were in receipt of £1,100 per year each, whilst another individual employé was in receipt of 25s. per week, and on page 100 of the Army Estimates I find that the salary of the chaplain in one Department has risen by £82 between 1922–23 and 1923–24, making a total salary of £1,009 for this individual.
I do not lament the fact that the pay of the private soldier is on the increase. Rather do I feel that not until we increase the pay of the soldier to such an extent that war becomes a non-paying proposition, shall we consider the advisability of abolishing war altogether. As the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Paling) said —and laughter burst forth from the opposite side of the House at his remark—I feel that instead of expending £65 out of every £100 of national expenditure on war and some £7 on education we should be expending the £65 on education and £7 or nothing at all in the other direction. I notice, notwithstanding the suggestion of economy, that salaries which stood at £1,400 in 1922–23 are bounding up to £1,500 in 1923–24. It may be true that in the aggregate economies are being effected, but individual officials here and there are receiving fabulous sums when compared with the universal poverty from which the nation is suffering at the moment. During the speech of the hon. Member for Preston (Colonel Hodge) reference was made to the case of the cadets, and it was suggested that in this exclusive Department there was little or no opportunity for the children of working-class families. I understood the Under-Secretary to interject that there was such opportunity. I wish for an explanation from him as to the opportunities afforded to the child of the average working-class home. Are those opportunities given such publicity from time to time as enable advantage to be taken of them by the poorer children who may be intellectually superior to wealthier children? Once the cadet has passed through the various stages and equipped himself for a life in the Army, he has established perpetual security for himself, such security as the average working-class child never reaches, so that I hope the Under-Secretary will clear the air with 2923 regard to the opportunities offered for working-class children to enter the cadet department.
The right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) referred to the uniformity that ought to be secured with the Dominions with regard to war. In a word, his whole philosophy was the old Victorian philosophy that to prevent future wars we must continue to prepare for war all the time. We must have a large Army and we must unify the various Departments, in the hope that we are going to prevent war by actually preparing for it! I would ask those who believe in that philosophy what would be thought of the average honest individual who did not desire to become a burglar, and who, to prevent himself from becoming a burglar, bought a- first-class set of burglar's tools? That seems to me to fit the philosophy of those people who desire to prevent war by continually manufacturing explosives. I want to see the philosophy of war slowly but surely fading away. War has been tried all down the ages; it has been most laments able from the point of view of human sacrifice, and it ought to be abolished. I am convinced that time could be more usefully spent on educational pursuits and other matters affecting the welfare of nations than by debating for hours on end the kind of munitions which we are going to manufacture for human destruction. Whether from the point of view of large or small Armies, high explosives or low explosives, I am one of those who desire to see an end to this kind of thing. If you produce gasometers, there is bound to be an explosion. We ought to explore every conceivable avenue that leads to peace by reason, instead of attempting to secure peace by force, as we have been doing for so long.
I hope the Under-Secretary will tell us, first of all, why the increases in the large salaries are taking place, how long these munitions are going to be useful when they have been produced, and what opportunities are offered for working-class children to enter the cadet department, and I am sure that the House will hear with interest and will be pleased to feel the class barriers are removed by opening the doors for all classes to enter this very luxurious department, where perpetual financial security is given.
§ Major MORRISON-BELL
I wish to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he will give us some assurance that he will give the utmost consideration to the pre-War pensioners. Everybody knows the very hard case of these well-tried and trusted servants of the State, who find themselves in a village or town eking out an existence on pre-War pensions, while young men, who have done comparatively very little service, are treated to the splendid pensions that the country pays to those who served in the late War. If the hon. and gallant Member can give us some assurance that he will deal with these cases with the utmost sympathy, I shall be very glad, and I will not now detain the House any longer.
§ Mr. PETO
I only rise to ask the Under-Secretary for an answer to a question which I really think must have some consideration. In 1919 modified persions were introduced. That was done for the purpose of reducing the Army, and saving the taxpayers' pockets. I find from an answer in writing which the right hon. Gentleman gave mo that soldiers mobilised from Section D for the duration of the War, who were discharged with 18 but less than 21 years' service, are not eligible for service pension unless they have been awarded pension for disablement under the Ministry of Pensions Warrant. That, I understand, means that unless a man has a disablement pension, he is not eligible for a service pension at all. I have called the attention of the Under-Secretary to the case of a man with as much as 20 years and 8 months' service, with 12 years' foreign service before this War, who had won nearly every medal open to him, had been in campaign after campaign on the frontiers of India and in the Boer War, and yet he is not eligible for a penny of pension, although he volunteered and served for 4½ years in the late War. I want to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether, seeing that there is a reduction of ten millions in the Army Vote, one million of which comes from pensions and retired pay alone, he cannot do something to meet these cases.
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness)
The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Pato) has raised the question of the hardship of 2925 the men with less than 21 years' service who do not get any service pension. The conditions under which they joined the Army were that they had to serve 21 years to get this advantage, and I do not think it altogether reasonable to say it is a grievance to them that new and generous terms have been given to disabled men with less than this qualifying period of 21 years' service. We should like to see all old soldiers treated as generously as possible, but we have to consider the very heavy non-effective Vote. Although we sympathise to the utmost with these men, we have to remember that £1 out of every £7 of the Army Votes nowadays goes in pensions. It is going up every year because the old men arc dying off from a low pension scale, and the men who leave the Army now are coming on with higher pensions, and in view of the heavy responsibility which we now have, for our national safety, much as one sympathises with the case which the hon. Member has made, and also with the hon. Member for Honiton (Major Morrison-Bell), I cannot, on behalf of the War Office, welcome the suggestion of further changes and further expense if it means cutting down our already insufficient establishment.
The hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) asked about facilities and the training of ranker officers at Sandhurst. We are most anxious to get these officers, and we hope to get a large number in the future. Unfortunately, there have been very few applications, and though last term we were anxious to get 35 to enter, we only succeeded in finding 32 suitable applicants, in spite of the fact that they get their education free and when they pass out they are senior to all the cadets who have passed through in the ordinary way. The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Paling) asked about vocational training. The two new schools only open a few days hence. They will each have a staff of five officers and 15 other ranks. The scheme is that they shall teach instructors, who will go back to the battalions and pass on their information, and also teach a selected body of men before they leave the Army. I cannot say how many men will be dealt with. The schools are not yet open. We hope that they will be a very fruitful experiment and that the instruc- 2926 tors will be able to spread the influence of this training very much wider than the actual instruction given at those two schools.
An hon. Member asked about research work. The object of this research is to try and improve our munitions, to test our guns, ammunition, and explosives, to ensure the safety of those who use them, and also to ensure the effective arming of our Army. The right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson), in the very helpful speech which he made in opening the Debate, pointed out that it was in the interests of the War Office that we should deal with the criticisms that had been made as to the size of the General Staff and the War Office establishment. I agree that with our cadre army, which has got to be an organisation ready to fill up in an emergency, it is disastrous if we are not to be allowed to have the necessary brain.
The other day the hon. and gallant Member for Loughborough (Brigadier-General Spears) made some very interesting comparisons between the British and French staffs. He gave figures which we have not been able to verify. For instance, he said that the staff of the French War Office was 485 officers and other ranks. We are informed from Paris that the actual figure for the French War Office is nearly double that, namely, 927 officers and other ranks. The trouble is that in most of these cases comparisons arc misleading, because we are comparing like with unlike. First, the task of the two armies is different. The French have a compulsory service army, trained on a uniform basis for continental war. Ours is a volunteer army, trained to meet a greater variety of problems. Partly because it is a volunteer army, we have a far higher standard of living and comfort, and have to spend more on physical training, games, education and accommodation. Our organisation, too, is quite different from that of the French Army. As an instance, a lot of the work done in our War Office is, in France, done by the Conseil de Defense National, which has as staff, a permanent Secretariat of 30 officers, besides a number of clerks. There is a different classification of staff functions abroad. Our staff classification includes, for instance, officers employed on the Quartermaster-General's service. The hon. Member said he had compared 2927 in the case of the French Army only the class which corresponded to our staff college officers, employed on general staff work. That is not a fair comparison, because it is necessary also to take account of those who do our Quartermaster-General staff's work. On this basis I believe that the number of staff officers to other officers in our Army is lower than it is in France. The hon. and gallant Member for Loughborough stated that the proportion was one French staff officer to 20.4 other officers. We can get no confirmation of that. The French War Office have given their figures for their Army of the interior and the North African Army, and they say that there are 1,800 staff officers, 5,300 officers extra-regimentally employed, and 14,000 others. Taking what I consider the unfair basis of the hon. Member that all these extra-regimentally employed officers are not to be classified as staff officers, you really get in the French Army, by comparison, one staff officer to 10.7, which is about half the proportion stated by the hon. and gallant gentleman. On the wider definition of a staff officer bur figure works out at 1 to 9.5. If you are to count the true proportion of extra-regimental officers employed who are doing the same work as our Quartermas-General staff officers are doing, I am advised our figures show a smaller proportion of staff officers than those which obtain in the French Army.
The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate wishes to see changes in the Army Council. I do not think the House of Commons presents a suitable means of coming to a decision on a technical matter of this kind.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I asked a specific question—if it was intended to get rid of the Master General of the Ordnance?
There is no proposal of removal at present, but the whole matter is before Lord Weir's Committee on Establishments, and I have no doubt they will take full account of the arguments used in this House. They may be in favour of a change in the Army Council. Reference was made to the Territorial Army by one hon. and gallant Gentleman. He objects to certain changes which were made at the instance of the Geddes Committee. I can assure him 2928 that we are going very carefully into that matter, and if we can possibly find the money to restore some of the establishment of the scattered battalions, we shall do it. Any help and suggestions, and any helpful criticism the House can give us on these lines, will be most carefully considered. May I say how much I appreciate the way in which the House has dealt with our Estimates? I hope we may now be allowed to get the Vote.
Ordered, That the Resolution which upon the 21st day of this instant March was reported from the Committee of Supply and which was then agreed to by the House be now read:
That a number of Air Forces, not exceeding 33,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at home and abroad, exclusive of those serving in India, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924.
§ Ordered, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide, during twelve months, for the Discipline and Regulation of the Army and Air Force, and that Lieut.-Colonel Guinness, Mr. Amery, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Samuel Hoare, and Mr. Gwynne do prepare and bring it in.
§ " to provide, during Twelve Months, for the Discipline and Regulation of the Army and Air Force, "presented accordingly, and read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 67.]
§ WAYS AND MEANS [15th MARCH].
That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the service of the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, the sum of £1,209,093 be granted out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom.
That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the service of the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924, the sum of £171,183,700 be granted out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by the Chairman of Ways and Means, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Major Boyd-Carpenter.
§ " to apply a sum out of the Consolidated Fund to the service of the years ending on the thirty-first day of March, one thousand nine hundred and twenty three and one thousand nine hundred and twenty-four, "presented accordingly, and read the First time; to be read a Second 2930 time upon Monday next (26th March), and to be printed. [Bill 68.]
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Colonel Leslie Wilson.]
§ Adjourned accordingly at One Minute after Eleven o'Clock