§ [3RD ALLOTTED DAY.]
§ REPORT [11TH MARCH].
§ Resolutions reported,
§ NAVY ESTIMATES, 1926–27.
§ 1." That 102,675 Officers, Seamen, Boys, and Royal Marines be employed for the sea Service, together with 450 for the Royal Marine Police, borne on the hooks of His Majesty's Ships, at the Royal Marine Divisions, and at Royal Air Force Establishments, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927."
§ 2." That a sum, not exceeding £ 11,718,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Wages, etc., of Officers and Men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and Civilians employed on Fleet Services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927."
§ 3." That a sum, not exceeding £ 2,375,300, he granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Works, Buildings, and Repairs, at, Homo and Abroad, including the cost of Superintendence, Purchase of Sites, Grant-in-Aid, and other Charges connected there-with, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927."
§ 4." That a sum, not exceeding £4,423,200, be granted to His Majesty', to defray the Expense of Victualling and Clothing for the Navy, including the cost of Victualling Establishments at Home and Abroad which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927."
§ 5." That a sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty, to make good Excesses of Navy Expenditure beyond the Grants for the year ended 31st March, 1925."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed," That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Sir MALCOLM MACNAGHTEN
I desire to call the attention of the House to one matter of some public importance in connection with the Navy, that is, the position of the naval engineer-officers. It is rather a thorny question and one in which interest has been aroused in the last few months by an Admiralty Fleet Order issued in November. In days gone by, when engineering was but a novelty in the Navy, one could hardly expect that engineer-officers would be 910 accorded the same position as those who were the heirs of the traditions of the Navy, but, as time went by, it was recognised that their position ought to be improved, and as long ago as 1902 or 1903 a scheme, devised under the guidance of Lord Selborne and Lord Fisher, provided for the common entry into the Navy of officers who were going to serve both on deck and in the engine room. That scheme provided that a man might be an engineer-officer and, in course of time, change over and take command of the ship. It was found by experience that that did not work, and by 1922 the Board of Admiralty had come to the fixed and unalterable decision that those officers who specialised in engineering must remain in that branch of the Service, and forgo all chance of obtaining executive command of a ship.
With that decision, made in 1922, no one, as far as I know, quarrels. It is recognised that the duties which devolve upon the engineer-officer are of such an exacting character and specialisation is so great, that it is impossible for a man who has specialised in engineering to fit himself to take executive command. But when, in 1922, the Admiralty came to that decision, they came at the same time to the decision that those who enter through Dartmouth must at that time select whether they will specialise in engineering or in the executive branch, and they decided that those who elected to specialise in engineering should be treated as belonging to the military branch of the service, and both as to rank, as to uniform, as to status, and as to position, should be on an equality in the eyes of all men, including the Board of Admiralty, with those who were in the executive branch of the service. That was the decision arrived at in 1922, and on the faith of it there is no doubt that a number of cadets at Dartmouth have elected to specialise in engineering and forgo all right to the command of ships in the future. The promise was made to them that they should remain in the military branch and should continue to enjoy the status so accorded to them. Unfortunately, as it seems to most people, in November last the Board of Admiralty came to another decision.
They decided to abolish the military branch of the service altogether, and instead of having a military branch, they 911 4.0 P.M.
established an executive category and an engineering category, so that those who had elected to specialise in engineering and who had been promised that they should remain in the military branch found themselves put into a new and separate category called the engineering category, and, what to some of them at any rate seems worse, not only are they put into a separate category, but they have to mark themselves out in a distinct manner by wearing a purple stripe on their sleeves. Up to that time, they were allowed to wear a uniform similar to that of the executive officer, and anybody, I suppose, can appreciate what an honour it is to be able to wear the historic uniform of an officer of the Navy. Under this recent order, they have got to wear the purple stripe, and for the purpose, I suppose, of rubbing it in the Fleet Order says that they have got to wear a stripe very purple. It appears that the Admiralty tailors have been rather apt to take a delicate shade of purple which might possibly he mistaken for blue, but the Admiralty Order of November was going to put an end to that, and it was to be purple and plainly purple, so that there could be no mistake about it.
My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has said that he would be proud to wear a purple stripe. I am sure that any of us would be proud to wear a naval uniform of any sort, but the question is: Would not he be prouder to wear the naval uniform without the purple stripe? Anyhow, if that be the view of the engineer officers, why not gratify their whim or fancy? What is the object of putting upon them something which they dislike and which they regard as a disparagement? I know perfectly well that my right hon. Friend has not the smallest desire either to disparage or to discredit the naval engineer officer. I am sure he in most anxious to attract to the service the best class of young men, and I would put it to him whether it is not even row possible to go back upon what seems to me the unhappy decision of last November, restore the engineer officers to the military branch, and allow them to continue To wear the uniform which has been theirs since 1922. I believe, if only he will con- 912 sent to adopt that course, he will find that the agitation which has been aroused, I think throughout the whole of the engineering profession in the country, will abate, and that he will attract, as I know he desires to attract, the best class of young men to the service of His Majesty's Navy.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
am sorry that I cannot agree with the whole of the views put forward by the hon Member for Londonderry (Sir N. Macnaghten). I think they are based very largely on a misapprehension. I remember the whole of this controversy from the day of its beginning, because it only started when Lord Fisher became First Sea Lord and introduced revolutionary changes in the Navy, many of which have had to he reversed. This was only one of them. His attempt was to create a common system of entry and training for all the so-called executive branches of the Navy, among which he included the engineering branch. Step by steps this scheme had to be abandoned. A great part of it was never put into force. The common training right through was found quite impractical. With the growing complexity of the materiel, with the growing power of the engines, with the great use of electricity, with the great complexity of the hydraulic and other machinery on the ships, it was found necessary to specialise these officers in the junior ranks, and once specialised they had to remain specialised. Lord Fisher's dream remained only a dream with him, and a few outside busybodies, among whom I do not include the hon. Member for Londonderry, who are continually agitating on this subject.
Lord Fisher's conceptions were many of them mistaken, and this was one of them. He did not throw sufficient weight on the side of war and on the study and practice of tactics, and he put far too much weight on the material side of the profession, and he suffered from this fact. The training of a, naval officer is becoming more complicated. The introduction of flying involving the necessity of officers having a knowledge of aviation and aeronautics has added a new subject since Lord Fisher's conception, and it has been found impossible, on the one hand, to make a. good engineer and on 913 the other a good sea officer and tactician. It is said that great strategists are born. It has also been said that great engineers are born. This I do know, and the First Lord will bear me out from his observations already: The training required to make a good engineer and the mentality required to make a great engineer are different from the training required to make a good admiral and from the mentality required to make a. great strategist. Therefore, the Admiralty are right in going back to the separation of the two branches, and I think that has bean the experience of the War.
The engineer officers, first of all, wished to have the executive curl, and, in granting that, I always thought the Admiralty were right. Engineer officers have the right now to sit on courts-martial, and the only difference is that they do not rise to command of ships. On the vessel it self, they are not eligible for navigating work or for the strategic work of the Fleet. I think the Admiralty are perfectly right in that matter. It is the life work of the cleverest man you can produce to master the technicalities of marine engineering. A special type of mentality is needed for a great engineer and a different type for a great strategist. As for producing great strategists, great leaders at sea and great Sea Admirals, well, yen can only train a great many and hope that you may have the luck to find one here and there born with these rare qualities and who has the good fortune to serve with officers who appreciate him. That is the only chance of getting a great Sea Admiral. We hear no agitation on behalf of the medical branch because they wear a red stripe or on behalf of the accountant and paymaster branch because they have to wear a white stripe. Yet all these officers run the same risk on board a man-of-war. They all do combatant work at sea. Accountant officers work, control decks in action or even occasionally spot from aloft in action. There is no question of any slight on these excellent officers, and I am quite certain that neither the Admiralty nor anyone among the senior ranks in the Navy has any intention of belittling the status or value of the excellent service we have always received from engineer officers.
I wish to deal for a moment or two with a parallel question, and I hope I 914 may have the support of the hon. Member. I wish to see the Officer Branch of the Navy democratised all the way through. I do not want these unnecessary and artificial—I do not like to call them privileges—but theoretical duties placed on the engineer officers of the Navy. I wish every boy of talent to have the opportunity of entering the executive or engineering branches of the Navy, and not to be debarred by the lack of means of his parents. I consider that the Admiralty should democratise the Navy in that respect. They have refused the marriage allowance to officers let the sons of officers pass through the training establishment without charging them fees. By so doing the Admiralty will open the doors to the sons of poor men who may be admirably fitted for the Navy, but who are now debarred by lack of means. The poor officer to-day cannot afford to put his sons through these training establishments. He must have substantial private means before he can pass his boy through Dartmouth. I think this is very wrong. If in the American and Japanese navies, against the officer corps of which I have never heard any suggestions of inefficiency, there are no fees charged at all, and any poor Japanese or American boy, if he has the talent, can pass through the respective training establishments, then that ought to be the case in this country with regard to our own Navy.
Another step in this direction would be to increase the number of special entry cadets. We had experience some years before the war and during the war of the so-called public school cadets, and compared with the boys who came from Osborne and Dartmouth they did extremely well after they had been at sea for six months. I think the Admiralty would be well advised carefully to reconsider their method of training officers. I rather think that the early entry age might be abandoned with some other of Lord Fisher's revolutionary changes. Some of those changes were good, and some have been proved by experience not to be good, I believe that we should get better value by raising the age of entry and having a larger proportion of special entry cadets. At the present time, the country is paying for the training of young boys in the ordinary school curriculum which could be well done in the great public and grammar schools. 915 A great deal too much money is being spent at Osborne on the boys being given a fine culture and training which could be given equally well at school. The length and cost of this training debars boys who might prove fine material through the lack of means of their parents and through lack of opportunity. I throw out this suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, because I cannot do other than raise it as a suggestion. It is not a matter than can be fought on the Floor of the House, but I do hope that it will receive his sympathetic consideration.
§ Mr. AMMON
I want to raise one or two points concerning the engineer officers arid executive officers. This question was brought before the Admiralty about two years ago, and then it was not so much a question of a distinctive stripe as the fact that the engineer officers felt it was looked upon as a badge of inferiority. With all due deference to the professional knowledge of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy), I would like to say that it is not quite the same position between the two classes of officers mentioned by him. Owing to the increase in the use of mechanism on battleships, the engineer officer has become an increasingly more important person. The position was that they should have the right to reach executive rank, and rank with the ordinary naval officer. I was under die impression that, about two years ago, something like a satisfactory agreement was arrived at which met with acceptance from the engineer officers, and I believe it was left to be put into operation when the last Government resigned office. I would like to ask what has happened to alter this position. As far as my memory serves me, the difficulty did not arise from the interference of busybodies outside, but from the engineer officers themselves, who felt that their position was becoming more and more important in the Navy, and that they were filling an increasingly important part, which was bound to grow with the passage of time. They were under the impression, rightly or wrongly, that it was a question of social position. They were not drawn from the same strata of society, because the 916 engineer officer came in with a training as a mechanic outside, and, therefore, was not drawn from quite the same rank as the executive officer. The engineer officer was under the impression, because of that, that a certain social stigma remained and that social snobbery was at the bottom of it all. That kind of thing operates to the disadvantage of the Navy and ought to be swept aside.
What I require information about is what has happened since that time I think an agreement was accepted whereby some of these officers could rise to executive rank. The question was discussed, and I thought there was some measure of agreement. With regard to the other point raised by the hon. and gallant member for Central Hull there was also some agreement and some memoranda drafted with a view to democratising the officer ranks of the Navy, and there were questions considered as to whether it would be possible to make an opening for lads from the ordinary public and secondary schools to supply the material to make officers. After all, we have splendid material in all ranks of society and they should not be allowed to suffer from any social stigma in this respect. The Labour Government left certain recommendations and suggestions for their successors to carry out, and I would like the First Lord to give us some information with regard to that point I should also like some more information in regard to the increase in the personnel of the Navy. Is this due to the manning of the new ships which have been laid down, or have people been transferred from the ships which have been scrapped in order to make up this slight increase? What has been done in regard to manning the ships and has there been any depletion of the service by the scrapping of certain ships which have lately been put out of commission?
§ Major Sir BERTRAM FALLE
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut. - Commander Kenworthy) has been devoting himself to" laying out" the late Lord Fisher. I know that Lord Fisher was generally supposed to have had very little help during his career, but he was considered to be the very finest power connected with our 917 Navy. I am aware that the hon. and gallant Member has very small consideration for him.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I cannot allow that statement to pass. I have the greatest respect for the tremendous ability and high professional standard adopted by Lord Fisher, but that was not the point. My point was that he made mistakes like other people.
§ Sir B. FALLE
We all know that those who do not make mistakes do not make anything. If I chose to be on the side of the angels I should much prefer to be with Lord Fisher in this matter rather than with the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Lord Fisher was a man of worldwide reputation and knowledge, and I would rather find myself in agreement with him than with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull. Be did much for the engineer officer, but the point is that the engineer officer has agreed that he does not want to command a ship, and that that particular part of the naval officer's duties shall not be his, but what he wants particularly is to be delivered from this stripe. Until recently the position occupied by the engineer officer and officer E was of military branch given to him as reward for service during the War. That cannot be too much emphasised, and it is a mistake to compare him with the medical branch or accountant branch. What he feels is the taking away of that right and giving him the purple stripe of a Particular description. Every day the position of the engineer officer is increasing in importance. I see that Italy is laying down a battleship of 150,000 horse-power, and we are going to give command below deck to an engineer officer who must be of inferior social status. [HON. MEMBERS:" No !"] It is easy to say no, but that is what they feel. They had the status of military officers and it has now been taken away from them. It is not correct to say they agreed to this, as was stated by the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon). They did not accept the conditions of the Admiralty. What 918 happened was that those conditions were forced upon them. There is all the difference in the world between a condition which you accept and one which you find, after many years' service, you have either to accept or clear out ! This distinction remains with the individual all his life, but it does not remain with the bluejacket who is competent, and rises to be a mate. He is not labelled through life as coming from the lower deck and that is why engineers object in regard to the social side of their profession. They think this fact is of great importance. They do not ask for command of the ships, but they do ask that there should continue to be common entry and that they should belong to the military branch. I should be very much obliged if the First Lord would make that point clear. While the present Government lasts I hope there will be common entry for the officers of His Majesty's Navy. I saw the other day that the First Lord warned the public against thinking that the Navy is obsolete, and I should like to warn him against making the Navy a profession that no able man will willingly join. If we reach that point we shall have very able and competent men on the quarter deck and the lower deck, but below where the order is given to go into action or if necessary to keep out of range of the enemy then we shall have an inferior set of men looking after the engines, and in that case we do not know what might happen.
Another point I wish to raise is in regard to the engine-room artificers, which is a very important branch of the Service. It has been in existence for 57 years. Up to the year 1925 engine-room artificers have been taken on as boys after passing a stiff examination, and at 15 they enter training establishments. They enter those establishments, and they are waited on by civilians, ex-chief petty officers and petty officers. The boys are very proud of their profession, and they were given the right of wearing brass buttons. If hon. Members take themselves back to the age of 15, they will agree with me that at that age those little matters weigh very heavily with the boys and their parents. As I have said, they used to be waited upon by men who were chief petty officers, etc. When they left the training establishments they were made chief petty officers, but they are now made petty officers only and their braes buttons 919 are taken away from them and they are given horn buttons. I know when this point was mentioned a number of hon. Members opposite raised a laugh, but it is no laughing matter. These boys are going to be made a lower grade. Not only this, but every man in the engineer ranks feels that a slight is being put upon him because he feels that his profession has been lowered as well as his social status.
§ Sir B. FALLE
There is no economy in it. Even if there were a saving of so many thousand pounds, I would still say that it must be done. You do not, however, save a copper, but only injure a great profession. I may say that there are 55 engineer-lieutenants in His Majesty's Navy, and 42 of these are old engine-room artificers. There are 172 engineer-commanders in the engineering branch of the Navy, and of these 169 are taken from the engine-room artificers. There remain, therefore, only 13 engineer-lieutenants and only three engineer-commanders who were taken from the whole Navy. The matter is a little difficult to understand, because there are both engineer officers and officers (E), but that is, of course, a technical point, though I admit it is a little troublesome to some to follow. There are four commanders (E), 44 lieutenant-commanders (E), and 42 midshipmen (E), and all of these, of course, have been promised certain definite things, which are now going to be taken from them.
Although anyone who desires to serve His Majesty in any capacity may not be able to make a contract, there is such a thing as an honourable interpretation of an engagement, and it ought not to be changed during that engagement. If an arrangement were made to reduce try salary by £200 a year, although, frankly, I do not absolutely need the money, I should make the very devil of a fuss. I was opposed to the grant, and I am opposed still to it. I was opposed to the granting of a railway ticket to a Member's constituency, but I should not like to have mine taken away from me now, unless it were taken away from the whole House, and then I would gladly vote for it. I hope that these matters in connection with engineer officers will be very 920 seriously considered by my right hon. Friend. I am quite sure that, if he gives his mind to it, the grievance will be remedied. Of course, however, I am perfectly well aware that the head of any great Department must necessarily be in the hands of his advisers, and a great part of the Navy is, I will not say opposed—I should, of course, be wrong in using that word—but they are not all altogether in favour of the engineering department, and, therefore., it is the duty, as I am quite sure it will be the pleasure, of my right hon. Friend, if he looks into this matter, to see that these men's legitimate grievances are looked into.
The same thing applies also to a very honourable body of men who have risen from the lower deck, and are called Mates. It is an exceedingly difficult business to rise to the position of mate. As the House knows, the boys are taken at the age of 15 and are trained, and at the age of 18 they are entered in the Navy as men. If they pass a high educational test, and if they are recommended by their captains, they go before a selection board, and if that selection board accepts them—and it does not base its acceptance on the ground of a candidate's being first in the examination or of his educational ability—if they are selected, then they are made, for 12 months, acting mates. At the end of 12 months their rank is confirmed, and at the end of two years they are made lieutenants in His Majesty's. Navy. Then they know that, if they serve as lieutenants for eight years, they are bound to become lieutenant-commanders.
There is no question that anyone who wants to succeed in the Navy must specialise, whether in gunnery, navigation, torpedoes, or something of that kind. My "grouse" is this: I should not like to say that these men are not allowed to specialise, but the fact is that, out of the whole number of them in the Service at the present time, there is, I believe, only one who specialises, and be specialises as a surveyor! The consequence is that these gentlemen, who have worked very hard to take themselves out of the ranks in which they found themselves to begin with, are absolutely blocked; they cannot, anyhow, rise beyond the rank of 921 commander, and it is very difficult for them to rise even to that point. I think that that ought to be changed, and, if I might venture to suggest the way in which it should be changed, it would be that the whole system of mates should be done away with, and that he best boys, taken from Greenwich or elsewhere at the age of 15, should be allowed to go for a period to Dartmouth, and pass under the common entry system. We do that in the Army. A statement was made the other day about a young officer who entered through the ranks, and, after three years, sat for the necessary examinations and swept the board. That man, in the Navy, might have got his captain's recommendation, he might have passed the Selection Board, he might have been made a lieutenant, he might, with the ability of Lord Fisher himself, have been made a lieut-commander after eight years; but then he would have been shut out. The boys who work up in this way are the boys who will make the Navy of the future, and I cannot impress that fact too strongly upon my right hon. Friend.
There is only one other point, and have finished. It is that the men who are invalided out of the Navy should be given an appeal board. I was a medical student myself, and have been for 30 years, and I say it is absolutely wrong that any doctor who says," Your eyesight is wrong," or" Your hearing is wrong," or" You have this or that complaint," should be the one authority to put a man out. A friend of mine—he was in the Army, I admit, so the case is not quite the same—is suffering from tuberculosis. He was sent to Arosa, and he got comparatively well there, but he returned in the summer because he was utterly bored with the life up there. He returned from Arosa, and the doctor here will not send him back there, but tells him he is just as well where he is. It is no more use trying to move that doctor than it would be to try to push down the Nelson Column with your shoulder. He has never been to Arosa in his life, and thinks the air of Brighton is just as good as it, is at Arosa, 6,000 feet up. That man is now slowly dying, because he is obliged to remain in this climate with the wind that is now blowing.
That is utterly wrong; there ought to be an appeal board for every invalided officer or man. My right hon. Friend 922 told me the other day that 53 officers were invalided from the Navy last year for tuberculosis alone, and in only five of those 53 cases was the disease held to be" attributable" to service in the Navy. There were also 217 men invalided out for tuberculosis alone. Now, the physical standard of the Navy is higher than in any other profession whatever. You must not have flat feet, you must not have the smallest trouble with either eye, your chest measurement must be magnificent, and you must be able to blow it out to a tremendous extent; and yet there were 217 men invalided out of the Navy last year for tuberculosis alone. They had been passed within the last few years as absolutely super-fit, and yet, in how many cases was the disease held to be attributable to their service? Only three!
§ Sir B. FALLE
Of course, I bow to your ruling instantly, but my point is that it is the Admiralty which settles this matter. I do not want to bring in the medical branch at all; it is the headquarters that decide these matters. I do not even want a medical board; I am quite prepared to have a civil board—a board—
§ Sir B. FALLE
I am much obliged to you, Sir, for having allowed me to go as far as saying that out of these 217 lower-deck cases, only three were, attributed to service in the Navy. That is the whole matter, and I want to impress that upon my right hon. Friend. I shall not trouble him on Vote 12, but do ask him to give his careful consideration to that point. I am quite sure that it is not a question of money; I do not think it would cost the Admiralty as much as it does to throw these men out.
§ Commander FANSHAWE
I entirely agree with what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) with regard to the engineer officers of His Majesty's Navy. My only regret in connection with the Fleet Order issued by the Admiralty last November lies in the 923 fact that that opportunity was taken to emphasise that the engineer officers must return wearing purple as laid down in the Uniform Regulations. There is no doubt that for some time past this purple colour has been departed from by the naval outfitters, but I do not think that that was the exact moment at which to raise that particular point. I do not believe that there is any ill-feeling amongst the engineer officers of the Service at all with regard to what has been called their social status. Their social status is exactly the same as the social status of any other boys coming up from the public schools or from Dartmouth. I have one boy myself at Dartmouth now, and another who, I hope, is just going there. Both of them may be called upon to become engineer officers in His Majesty's Navy. They may be executive officers or engineer officers; I, as a parent, take the risk. I have also a nephew who is an engineer officer in the Navy, and I think that all this loose talk, if I may so call it, about the difference of social status between one officer and another, does no good, and does not help at all, but tends to raise bad feeling in the various messes of the Fleet.
Of course, in times gone by there has been ill-feeling. There is no doubt about that at all, and the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull knows it as well as I do. The engineers were not officers to begin with at all. In the old days, when the ships of the Navy were propelled by sails as well as by steam, as soon as a ship got out of harbour it was" Down funnel" and" Up screw," and she proceeded under sail until she made her landfall again, whether on the other side of the Atlantic or in some other part of the world. The engineers then were not highly trained or highly skilled—there was no necessity for it —and they were not officers. But gradually, as ships have altered, and as they have been filled with machinery and lost their masts and yards, naturally a new form of officer has grown up.
§ Sir B. FALLE
I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend does not wish to misrepresent me. Personally, I am a civilian, and it was only because I have received large numbers of complaints from engineer officers, both here and in my constituency, that I have raised 924 this point. Had there been no call for it, I should certainly not have troubled the House on the matter.
§ Commander FANSHAWE
I do not want to misrepresent the hon. Baronet, but I have, after all, lived in the Fleet for 25 years and have not only gone down to visit it sometimes. The root of the whole matter is that some of the engineer officers have not liked having that purple between their stripes. I believe it would be a very good thing if they were told they need no longer wear it. Some people say fine feathers make fine birds. The purple between the stripes is more distinctive than the ordinary blue, and if they do not like it let them drop their plumage and become like executive officers of the Fleet. Anything to get rid of any bad feeling that might exist in that respect, but do not let us exaggerate these things unduly.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull has spoken of the charges in regard to training, particularly I think at Dartmouth. I think the public school entry does not come into the matter quite so much. Of course fees have been doubled, but they have only been put up in line with the fees charged by all preparatory schools in the country. Apart from that, when your boy is summoned to appear before the Interview Board, you are sent an appeal form to fill in against payment of this £150 per annum for his education, and if you are successful in stating your ease on this form, he will be taken at the old charge of £75 a year. Anyone who has been to Dartmouth will no doubt agree with me that if a man can afford £150 a year for his boy to be educated there it is really money well spent. It is one of the finest educations a boy can possibly have. They go there as little schoolboys, without any idea of responsibility, and when they come home after their first term, you begin to see them growing up into little men. It is a fine training, and I think we can, as we get a good stamp of boy, really leave the fees as they are, at £150 for those who can afford it and £75 for those who cannot afford it quite as well.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman also said he would like to do away with Dartmouth, train all the boys at public schools and then take them to sea. It is a very old tradition of His Majesty's 925 Navy—catch them young. It is only by catching them quite young that you can imbue them with a proper sense of and liking for the sea. If they begin to be seasick at 18 they are not as good boys as if they are seasick when they are 14.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The whole point is that they get this 3½ years' training on shore in the college. They are not at sea at all.
§ Commander FANSHAWE
Only the other day my boy went round in a sloop to see the launch of a cruiser at Devon-port. They are trained on shore, certainly, while the hon. and gallant Gentleman and I were trained on the hulk" Britannia" in the river. At the same time, they go to sea more from the college than we did from the old hulk lying in the river.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has also spoken about the Admiralty Order with regard to doing away with the military branch of the Service. I agree entirely with what he said. Everyone on board a ship, when the ship goes into action, has his part to play. They are at called upon to work the fighting machine. The paymaster, doctor, and engineer are just as likely to get killed as the executive officer. They are all military branches. The hon. And gallant Gentleman said Lord Fisher had made a mistake. He tried to make the engineers common with the executive officers of the Fleet. My father worked hand in glove with Lord Fisher at Portsmouth, and thoroughly believed in hip scheme—he was one of the few flag officers who did—but he told me only the other day he considered Lord Fisher had made a mistake. Everyone is liable to make mistakes. It was a great idea, it was a great thing to try, but not only in peace time but in war as well it has been found in point of fact that the scheme has broken down. Therefore, I very much hope no one will raise imaginary grievances, and make things worse. I hope the training that is being given to our boys now will be continued. I believe it is the best in the world.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Bridgeman)
The hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) asked me how it was that the numbers on Vote A are almost exactly the same as last year. It has been accomplished in this way, that 926 savings have been made in the manning of the Fleet by putting certain vessels in reserve and scrapping others, and those savings are almost exactly equivalent to the number of men required for manning the new ships as they come into service. Apart from that, the Debate has been mainly on the absorbing subject of purple stripes and brass buttons. Perhaps I can offer a word of comfort to my hon. Friend behind me about the engine-room artificers. They came a few days ago to the Admiralty as a deputation to put their ease, and I am sure it will be given as much consideration as it deserves. I went the other day to see the engineer apprentices, and I was immensely struck by the spirit in which they set about their work and the keenness and energy they showed under very trying circumstances. There is an arrangement by which an engine-room artificer apprentice can be nominated, if he is thought to be up to the standard of education, for a place as a midshipman in His Majesty's Navy.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
No. Of course, the difficulty has been—and I think the hon. Gentleman experienced it when his own side were sitting over here to find the money for these things You cannot do it without money, and the difficulty is almost as insistent, if not more, than it was in his time There is really only this question of the Admiralty Fleet Order and the position of engineer officers. I think it is a very great pity that small points of this kind should be exaggerated, as this has been. I think a misunderstanding arose at the very outset. Perhaps the Fleet Order was not very well worded, or perhaps it was not well explained in the Press. Certainly there was an idea that the effect of the Order was to deprive engineer officers of their military status. That is not the case. They are not deprived of anything of the kind. It is a total misdescription of the meaning of the Fleet Order. What the Fleet Order enjoined was that the term"Military Branch," which up to then had included executive and engineer officers, should no longer be used because it had no particular meaning. Therefore, if engineer officers have lost their military status by the term being done away with, 927 so has the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, because the military branch no longer exists. Everyone knows and recognises that the engineering side is just as indispensable and becomes more and more important. As mechanical contrivances increase and engineering plays a larger and larger part in the work of the Navy, they become as absolutely indispensable as executive officers are for the working of any ship. I never would have agreed to the Order if I had thought that the position of engineer officers was in any way being degraded or altered. It was done for the sake of simplicity, and because experience has proved that it is quite impossible for one man to occupy himself with both executive and engineering work.
Now we come to the purple stripe. I am, perhaps, not the best kind of person to enter into all the niceties of uniform, and the kind of stripe that differentiates one officer from another. My friends sometimes tell me I do not know the difference between a colonel and a sergeant-major, and there may be some truth in it. Perhaps, therefore, I do not pay quite as much attention to the purple stripe as I ought to do. The reason why the engineer officers who join under the common entry scheme have been asked to wear it is because the old engineer officers wore it before them, and we wanted the older and the newer officers to be distinguished by the same decoration. It is suggested that there is something degrading about it. It is not suggested in the Army that the difference between the uniform of one regiment and another makes one inferior to the other. The whole thing, I think, has been looked upon from a purely sentimental, and I think rather puerile, point of view.
§ Sir B. FALLE
When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of the military branch and the executive branch he is aware, of course, that the commission of the executive officer is to take" charge and command." The engineer officer's commission is nothing of the kind. It is to" discharge the duty of an engineer and to be obedient under such command." There is nothing in common between the two. Between the two regiments the right hon. Gentleman mentions there is everything in common.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Then to that extent my simile does not work, but there is nothing in this Fleet Order which alters in any way the position of the engineer officer. He commands as many people as he did before. It has not made any difference to the situation. It is this perpetual sentimental idea that there is something degrading in being asked to wear something which distinguishes you as an engineer. As I have said in this House, I should be only too proud, if I had the qualifications which would entitle me to do it, to wear the purple stripe. I have been asked by one hon. Member whether I would not rather have the executive uniform. It all depends whether I was a good engineer or a good executive officer. If I were good engineer and proud of my profession, as most of them are, I should like to have the purple stripe to show that I was a good engineer. If, on the other hand, I was not a good engineer, but I might be some good as an executive officer, I should be content to wear the executive officer's uniform. It is not the coat that makes the gentleman, nor the stripe. It is a question of conduct and behaviour. When people first meet a man they do not look at his coat or his stripe, but they look at his face to see what type of man he is, as well as they can judge.
I do not think that those who have raised this question are doing any service to the engineer officers in the Navy by trying to magnify what I think is a very trifling irritation. The way to get rid of the irritation is, as I believe and hope the officers in the Navy, both executive officers and engineer officers realise, by good fellowship among themselves and by showing among themselves that they are an equally indispensable part of a very great Service. I do feel that the ventilation of this grievance has gone quite far enough and that it is not doing any good to those on whose behalf it is professed to be raised. To tell me that we shall not get the best class of young men because they might be afraid of wearing the purple stripe on their arm, is to draw an imaginary picture of the young men of to-day. Engineering is a very popular profession with a great many young men, and if they are keen about their job I do not believe that they will consider this question of a stripe, when they are con- 929 sidering whether they should go in for the engineering profession or not.
I believe that one of the causes which, perhaps, make it not very easy to recruit the very best of the engineering world into the Naval Service, is much more because there are not a large number of high posts in the engineering service for Naval officers in that branch to attain. If it were possible to find more positions higher up in the Navy, I think it would have a very much better effect than any suggestions such as have been made to-day in regard to uniform. I am very glad to say—and I hope it will show that in the mind of the Admiralty, in my own mind and in the mind of the Navy, there is no idea of degradation or lower status for the engineer officers as compared with the executive officers—that the King has been pleased to accept a recommendation that one of the new aides-de-camp of His Majesty shall be an engineer officer. That, at any rate, is some indication that we do not regard their position as having fallen, because that post has not been held hitherto by an engineer officer. I hope that this imaginary grievance, as I think it is, will be allowed to die out and that it will be replaced by a feeling of good comradeship between the two branches in the Navy, both realising that in their own way they are both indispensable, both proud of the Service, both proud of the particular branch to which they belong, and that they are both desirous, not of creating and fomenting irritation, but of making life in the Navy pleasant and happy.
§ Sir B. FALLE
Is it not a fact that 40,000 professional engineers, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, naval engineers, electrical engineers, marine engineers North-east coast Institute of Engineers and Shipbuilders, asked to be allowed to meet the right hon. Gentleman and have met him and laid this matter before him? When he calls it an imaginary grievance, does he mean to say that these 40,000 professional engineers are, moved by an imaginary grievance?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I used the same arguments to them as I have used to-day. I do not know whether one-half of them realise that the engineer officer has not lost any prestige. It may be true that they are not all satisfied, even now, but I have long since given up any 930 hope of satisfying everybody. The fact that there may have been 40,000 engineers represented, does not prove that these people had studied the subject with sufficient care to understand all its intricacy.
§ Sir GERALD HOHLER
I had not intended to refer to the question of the engineer officers, had it not been already raised. This matter has been the subject; of private correspondence between the First Lord of the Admiralty and myself, and I thought that the matter might have been settled in that way. However the right hon. Gentleman looks at it, and whatever he may say, the feeling is widespread amongst the officers affected. Their view on the question of wearing the purple stripe is, that it was not in the terms on which they entered the Navy, that this stripe has been put upon them since, and that they appreciated and were proud of wearing executive uniform undistinguished by a purple stripe. Something might have been clone to satisfy that pride, and sentiment, or whatever the First Lord might like to call it. It would not cost the Admiralty anything. Under the terms on which these officers entered the Navy the uniform which they appreciate was theirs of right, and I do respectfully submit that the Admiralty were unwise in treating this as a mere matter of sentiment. As it is not a question of cost, why not restore to the engineer officers that which they prefer? When one comes to think the matter out, there may appear to be very little in it, when one does not speak as an officer in the Navy; but, undoubtedly, the feeling in the matter is widespread.
In a like way, there is feeling among the engine room artificers respecting the black buttons. I have had many complaints not so much from the young men themselves as from their mothers. [Laughter.] This is not a matter for amusement. It is true that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. The mothers seem to think that it is some sort of degradation when their sons come home wearing black buttons. It may appear to he a small matter, but if we want to make the Service popular, not only with the young men, but with their parents, it is a matter which ought to be rectified. I gather that the First Lord is considering this 931 particular question. It is a point on which he might very gracefully yield. I would like the Board of Admiralty and the First Lord seriously to consider whether, having regard to the fact that the Vote for marriage allowance which was voted last year has not been carried out, and that there is no proposal to carry it out this year in view of the demand for economy; it is wise in the year 1926, now that the Great War is over, to continue the enormous subsidy which we pay to merchant cruisers.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
I understood that we were entitled to carry on the general Debate on the Report stage.
No. I thought Mr. Speaker had already made that plain. On these Votes on Report, the Debate must be confined to the subject matter.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
If that be so, surely we have been very unfairly treated. It has been the invariable practice on Vote A and Vote 8, to discuss the general questions of the Navy.
Not on the Report of these Votes, but in Committee of Supply. It must be assumed that hon. Members know the procedure of the House.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
I will take good care another time to keep the Debate going in order to raise my point. As this point cannot be raised now, I can only say that I have referred to the subject which I have in my mind, and I hope there will be occasion when it will be debated and that the Admiralty will look into it. We could save £90,000 in this way.
§ Sir LESLIE SCOTT
Although I was not able to hear the whale of the Debate which has taken place, I wish to add a few words on the subject of the recent Fleet Order as affecting engineer officers. Two questions, it seems to me, are raised by that Order, one as to whether it involves a breach of faith with individuals already in the Navy who have joined the engineering branch, and the other a question of broad public policy for the future. I have no doubt that on the former of these two aspects the House is already in 932 possession of the facts as understood by those who feel that there is a case for saying that there has been a breach of faith committed. Therefore, I desire to add very little on that subject, except to say that the point, as I see it, is not one of amour propre, or of sentimental opinions not based upon any reality, but a question of the position of the engineer officers in relation to those whom I would call the executive officers. When the engineer officers joined the engineering side, they did so on the definite understanding, expressed perfectly clearly in King's Regulations, that they were part of the military branch. From one point of view, a civilian is as honourable as anyone, but it is idle to say that to belong to the military branch of the Navy is not a great honour and a great glory. It is that fact which underlies the whole of these discussions. From that point of view, those who think there has been a breach of faith have good cause for saying so. I realise that the Admiralty in its recent Fleet Order did not intend to do anything that could possibly prejudice the position of any one of these engineer officers, I realise that they had no intention to degrade their status or affect their position, but I believe it to be the fact that throughout the engineering branch generally there is a strong feeling that the game has not been played in their ease. If instead of having two separate categories," the executive category" and" the engineering category," the Admiralty were to revert to the simple expression of" the military branch" and let the engineer officers and the executive officers alike be members of the military branch, then the main point against which objection is raised would be removed.
I recognise quite freely and candidly that there can be no interchange of duties. The specialisation of to-day is such that it is impossible to make the duties of a highly technical order in each type of work interchangeable. I do not think the engineer officers themselves desire it, nor do the great industrial bodies in civil life. They, too, recognise that the differentiation of duties is right and must continue, but what they do say is, that, as science progresses, the ship of war, of whatever size, must become more and more a mechanical instrument worked by engineers through the art and science of 933 engineering and, therefore, the handling of a fighting ship in action is just as much the task of the engineer officers as it is of the executive officers. For this reason I respectfully urge that those who complain and protest are justified in saying that they are really persons who belong to the military branch and that they should have the glory of belonging to that branch with all its great traditions.
One word as regards future policy. Though the question of good faith is all important I think the question of policy is equally important. We want to draw into the Navy the very best engineering brains in the country. We want to draw them from all sources; we want to draw the very best young brains with a taste for engineering into the Navy as distinct from civilian engineering. I earnestly submit to the Admiralty that they could achieve this essential by restoring the status of the military branch, including in it the engineer officers, and abolishing this distinctive mark of the purple stripe which to-day separates the engineer officers from the executive officers. This may seem a small thing to us civilians from the point of view of the future efficiency of the Navy, but it is vital that the same glory, the same honour, the same status and the same position should attach to the engineering side as to the executive officers and I think the Admiralty should retrace their steps and should say frankly that they had no intention of making any alteration which would be derogatory. The Admiralty should recognise the strength of the feeling that exists and the arguments against the change and should frankly say that they have made a mistake and undo it.
§ Mr. DUNCAN
I think a case has been made out for the abolition of the purple badge. It is a badge of inferiority, because it is intended, definitely and purposely intended to distinguish one set of officers from another. There is to be superior and inferior; that is what the badge indicates. One can understand that men who are giving their whole lives to the Navy should feel a little more about the distinction that is sought to he imposed upon it than civilians, but what rather amazes me is this. It would not have been difficult, before this change was put into operation, to find out what was 934 likely to be the attitude of the people concerned. If a feeler had been put out to these officers it would have been the easiest thing in the world to find out how they were likely to take it. Further, in these days we are out for economy. I do not know what the purple stripe will cost, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer would delight in the cutting down of an expenditure due to the abolition of these stripes.
Why is it necessary that this feeling should be allowed to exist? The First Lord has told us that to him it is a simple matter of detail, a matter of sentiment if you like, and to a large extent I agree that that view may be taken, but as far as the men are concerned it may be also a matter of sentiment but it is also a matter of their particular standing in the Navy. I cannot understand why there should be the slightest suggestion of any inferiority in regard to the engineering section. Anybody who knows anything of the Navy and its development will agree with hon. Members who have spoken that an immense change has takers place in the Navy during the last 20 and 30 years. The warship of to-day is simply a floating machine shop from top to bottom and from side to side, and only men of the highest possible skill are likely to bring out the best there is in that machinery. The very success of a ship of to-day depends on the manipulation of the machinery when the ship goes into action. The captain or the admiral may give his orders, but those orders amount to nothing until the men who have control of the machinery put it into motion; it is only when the whole of the implements of destruction are put in operation that the admiral is able to effect the purpose he desires. It seems rather late in the day now to begin to bring into existence distinctions between these two sets of officers.
§ Mr. DUNCAN
I heard the speech of the First Lord on that point, and I agree with him that to some extent it is a question of sentiment with the men. If that is all there is in it, and it is obvious this feeling does exist in the Navy, is it not a very simple thing to put an end to it? These men are in the ship, and does anyone suggest that the men in the ships do not know the difference between 935 officers? Is it to be assumed that an engineer officer would go about giving orders that should only be given by an executive officer? That is too simple to be used as an argument in this connection, and the best way out of the difficulty is to abolish the stripe and let the men work together with good feeling. Then you will get the best out of the men, and also get the type of men that the Navy is after, men of high quality, of good education, who will make the Navy their whole aim in life, and do the utmost in their power for the Service.
Question," That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution?", put, and agreed to.
Second Resolution read a Second time. Motion made, and Question proposed," That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. AMMON
There are one or two points on which I should like to ask the First Lord for a little more information. When the Estimate was before the House on the last occasion some criticism was made as to the cost of the medical services in the Navy, and he promised to look into the matter. The complaint is that, compared with the other services, the cost per head is excessive. I should like to know whether any inquiries have been made during the year, or whether anything has been done to bring this within more reasonable limits than obtain at present. I should also like the First Lord to give some consideration to the suggestion made on the former occasion, that some economy could be effected by the pooling of the medical services of the three services. Could he also give us some further information as to the decrease in the marriage allowance in the Navy? Presumably that arises out of the reduced rates of remuneration, though possibly there may be some other reasons.
A more important subject to which I wish to refer is the reduction in the rates of pay of seamen and petty officers. I believe I am correct in saying that it is little more than two years ago when there was an increase given to the men in the Navy, and that, normally speaking, that had been the first increase since the days of Nelson. It seems somewhat extraordinary that, so far as the boys and ordinary seamen are concerned, there should be a very considerable reduction 936 made. For instance, the boys lose not less than 9d. a day under the new rates, seamen lose at the same rate, and in the following two years they lose 1s and 11d. a day respectively. Economies, it is said, must be made, but it appears to some of us that they are being made at the wrong end. I also want a little information with regard to the Appropriations-in-Aid for £89,000 odd. What proportion of that is received from India for the maintenance of the new naval force to be set up, the Royal Indian Marine? I raise these points in order that the House may obtain more information than was given on the last occasion when we discussed this question.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I want to raise the question of the marriage allowance. Last year there was a Vote of £350,000 for marriage allowance for officers in the Royal Navy. The House is aware of the great disappointment which has been felt in the Navy at the non-payment of that allowance, and the First Lord must be aware of the grave distress which would prevail among the officer class if there should be no hope of reinstituting the Vote for that allowance in the future. If it should he found impossible to give this allowance to the officers in the Navy, I want to ask whether it would not be possible to give them children's allowance, such an allowance as was payable in the years 1918 and 1919. Navy officers are having considerable difficulty in educating their children and in meeting ordinary household expenses. I earnestly plead with the First Lord to have some sympathetic regard for the urgency of their case. They are considerably worse off than their fellow-officers in the Army, when one compares the rates of pay received by Army officers with those received by Navy officers. In the Navy there are not anything like the same allowances for the officer class, or, indeed, for the men. Wives have to travel at the expense of the officers. When these Estimates were introduced the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) pleaded that travelling allowances might be given to these officers in the same way as they were given in the Army. The First Lord on that occasion did not think fit to give an answer to the question. I hope that he will find an opportunity this afternoon to outline 937 the policy of the Admiralty towards these officers.
I see, too, that in this Vote there figures some provision for housing allowance. I want to ask the First Lord whether he is aware of the very great difficulty which Navy officers and their wives are finding in getting houses at reasonable rents in the naval ports. The Admiralty cannot dissociate themselves from the responsibility of providing proper housing accommodation for those who man the Fleet, whether they be officers or men. The First Lord must be aware that, owing to the policy pursued by the Government in closing the dockyards at Rosyth and Pembroke, the housing congestion in the English ports has become so serious that neither the officers no: the men are able to pay the rents which are asked of them, and to keep their families in the style to which they are accustomed. I am surprised to see that the First Lord now seeks to dissociate himself from responsibility in the matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when speaking on this subject in 1913, he then being the First Lord of the Admiralty, said:We are bound to study the social and domestic aspect of the naval service. The ultimate strategy of the British Navy consist in housing contented men in prosperous and healthy homes, from which the children, generation after generation, can return to the ships which their fathers taught them to honour.Those are very impressive words, and when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer uttered them he was speaking under the humaner auspices of a Liberal Administration. I hope that the First Lord will endeavour to imitate his example, and will be able to hold out some hope that the housing arrangements for the men and for the officers will be properly looked into by his Department. The right hon. Gentleman has adequate resources.
In the past year there has been a reduction in the pay of the Navy, and it is a reduction which has taken place in defiance of the most specific pledges to the contrary. When the new rates of pay were introduced in 1919 they were expressed to be permanent, and it was said that they were being introduced to remedy the injustice that existed for a large number of years. The pay of the men had not been revised or raised appreciably for at least 50 years, if my 938 recollection serves me right. At any rate, there was a very grave agitation, and the Naval man was the last man to have his pay raised, compared with the other Services and with industries. He got that increase, and, in the words of the Fleet Order, it was expressed to be permanent. Some years afterwards, under a previous Conservative administration, a Committee was appointed known as the Anderson Committee. It was a Committee on which the Navy was not properly represented. The Naval man was compared with a farm labourer, and the grossest and vilest and most unjustifiable attacks were made upon him, and he was indeed treated as if he were a person who was of no service whatever to the community.
That Committee recommended certain reductions in the pay of the Navy. Those reductions have now been put into operation, and in a peculiar way. Of course, it was impossible for the Admiralty to break its contract with the men already serving, and everyone appreciates the fact that the First Lord saw to it that that contract was not broken. But for those who entered the Navy after 4th October, 1925, the lower scale of pay was instituted, and that lower scale is stated in the Estimates in this particular Vote. What is the result? You have two men in the Navy working side by side, performing exactly the same task, and having similar obligations to discharge in respect of their own welfare and the welfare of their families, and yet getting two different rates of pay. For instance, an ordinary seaman under the old contract gets 2s. 9d. a day, whereas under the present contract he gets 2s. An able seaman gets 4s. under the old contract, and 3s. per day under the new contract. Here you have two men working side by side, doing exactly the same work, and at the end of the week drawing different rates of remuneration. Such a system is bound to result badly for the Service, and it is bound to create discontent. The man on the lower scale is entitled to claim that he is putting his energy and strength into his work with the same fervour and patriotism as his brother who is drawing the higher rate.
I would like to know whether the First Lord thinks that this system can last to the complete satisfaction of the Admiralty and the country? It is creating in the minds of the men a feeling that when the 939 lower scale ratings reach efficiency the higher scale ratings will be dispensed with, that on the conclusion of the first period of their engagement they will be allowed to go on to the labour market, and that men will be re-engaged into the Navy on the lower scale of pay. Without developing the point, it is obvious that discontent is bound to arise when there are two different scales of pay for the same work. You have a particular grievance in the thought that these men have their wives at home, that they have rent to pay and families to keep. In the serious economic situation of the country it is not fair to reduce the men's scale of pay by such a method. How long is it intended to keep this system in operation?
What is the effect of the new short service that the First Lord is re-instituting in the Navy? Hitherto the Navy has been considered as a life service. A man has been taken young and kept throughout his working days in the Service. The Admiralty have now reverted to a system by which a man may serve for a few years and then be sent on to the labour market. What effect does the First Lord think that will have upon the spirit of the Navy as a whole and upon its traditions? Does he think that it is a good thing to treat the Navy as we treat the Army—as an occupation which is followed for a few years only and then is left completely behind by the person who has served in it? It is an entirely new idea in modern times to regard the Navy as a short service. I feel most strongly, naturally, about the manner in which the officers have been treated about marriage allowance. I do not know whether I should be in order, but, as a protest, I would like to move a reduction of the Vote by £5.
That ought to have been done when the Vote was read out. The Question has now been put," That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
With regard to the short service, I do not think it possible to say what the effect will be. It is an experiment on a small scale at the present time and I do not like to say more about it. With regard to the reduction of pay, the hon. Gentleman 940 who has just spoken must remember that the scale which was in existence for those who were in the Navy up to the time this change was made was based on a period when the cost of living was 120 per cent. above the pre-War level. Therefore, the new rates are fixed not so much with regard to pre-War rates as with regard to what was thought to be a proper reduction from that 120 per cent. cost of living to the cost of living at the moment, and, comparing the present rates with the pre-War rates, I do not think anybody can say that there is any great cause for complaint on the part of the new entrants. An able seaman gets 3s. now compared with 1s. 8d. before the War; a leading seaman gets 4s. 4d. compared with 2s. 2d. before the War; and a petty officer gets 6s. compared with 3s. before the War. I do not think, on the figures, anyone can say that the scale is not a fair one in view of the cheaper cost of living.
The hon. Member also asked how we reconciled ourselves to a scheme under which two men doing exactly the same kind of work were paid at different rates. What is the alternative? Either you must, for all time, maintain the scale at 120 per cent. above the pre-War cost of living and perpetuate that scale, or else you must do what the hon. Member himself described as an injustice to the men who joined the Navy under that particular scale. This is the only intermediate course. Otherwise, you must either say to the men who were in the Navy that their pay will be reduced or else you must for all time pay at the highest rate ever reached. The hon. Member knows that fact quite well, and can explain it better than I to those who may question him about it. He then referred to housing and said it was the duty of the Admiralty to provide houses for their employés. That has never been held to be the duty of the great Services.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The Treasury to-day do not take that view, and I think the Treasury at most periods have not taken that view. I sympathise with the difficulty experienced in the hon. Member's part of the world but that difficulty is not the creation of the Admiralty so much as it is due to want of enterprise 941 on the part of the local authorities. Why is it that the local authorities, having a shortage of 5,000 houses, are not doing anything to meet it?
The local authorities had nothing to do with closing Rosyth and Pembroke, and it is of that we complain.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I consider that the Admiralty by taking men from Rosyth and Pembroke to Devonport have enabled Members for Devonport to draw attention to the housing grievance in their particular borough—which is not due to the 400 or 500 men we are sending from Rosyth or Pembroke, but due to want of foresight by the local authorities.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I was asked a question about housing by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), but I do not want to go into the matter further if it is out of order.
Had I understood the effect of the question at the time, it would not have been allowed.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Member also referred to marriage allowances. I think he knows that. I had great sympathy with this claim and did all I could last year to secure marriage allowances for naval officers, and he must also remember that I said when the Estimates were introduced:Much as I sympathise with the appeal for marriage allowances for officers, it is not quite true to say that the thing is yet a fait accompli."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1925; cols. 2520–21, Vol. 181.]Therefore the House knew that the expenditure of this money which was down in the Vote depended on the decision of the Cabinet. I regret that so much disappointment should have been caused on that occasion and I am sorry I was unable to persuade my colleagues of the strength of the case which I felt 942 myself. I think that was made perfectly clear last year. With regard to travelling allowances I feel it would be impossible to give any undertaking. There are now travelling allowances for long appointments ashore in foreign countries. I do not know how far it would be possible to extend that system, but I am quite ready to look into the question. I certainly cannot promise anything, and, like all other questions of the kind, it will require to be considered in comparison with the other Services.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of approaching the railway companies with a view to getting the same facilities, such as are now given to the general public at week-ends, extended generally to Navy officers and men on leave? Under ordinary conditions weekend tickets at reduced rates are issued to the public, available from Friday to Tuesday. It would be a great boon to officers and men of the Navy if they could get tickets at that rate for their leave period, whether it was at week-ends or in mid-week.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I will inquire into that question and see if there is any possibility of carrying out the suggestion. The hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) referred to the medical expenses which he suggested were excessive. I think as a matter of fact we are rather more economical in this respect in the Navy than the other two Services. The point of his remarks was that we should aim at more co-operation than exists at present. A great deal of advance is being made in that direction. As far as the hospitals arc concerned, we are gradually trying to use more of the hospitals for the other Services as well as our own. Sometimes we abolish ours and use theirs and in other cases the procedure is reversed, and I think in that way an improvement is undoubtedly possible. With regard to a common medical service for the three branches, there are a great many difficulties in the way, and I doubt very much if you could recruit doctors when they did not know to which of the three Services they would be attached. The hon. Member also asked a question about the appropriation-in-aid in respect of India. We still get £100,000 from the Indian Government 943 towards the services of His Majesty's Navy on the Indian coast. Although the new Indian Navy will shortly be in existence, we still get that appropriation-in-aid.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I cannot answer that question offhand, but I will ascertain and let the hon. Member know. The Appropriation-in-Aid I think is still £100,000. The hon. Member also said that savings had been made on the pay of the men rather than in other directions. I have already pointed out that only new entrants are affected, and he knows quite well that the pay of the officers is revised according to the cost of living, and therefore I do not think there is any inequality.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
In the case of the men, new entrants for five years came in on the top scale, and it is the last new entrants only who are reduced. On the last occasion when the hon. Member dealt with this subject he referred to savings effected in tobacco and soap supplied to the men. He probably realises now, that this is only a repayment service and the men buy what they want, so that there is no question of reducing their allowance in any way. I think I have now answered all the points that were raised, and I hope the hon. Member for North Camberwell will allow me to give a further answer to his question as to the Appropriation-in-Aid when I have ascertained the facts more fully.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the small concession he has made to us in Hull. The Admiralty in their pursuit of economy took away the capitation grant for the sea cadets corps which exists in different seaports and form a very valuable recruiting ground for the Service. The Secretary of State for War acted in the same way in regard to military cadets, but after an agitation restored the grant. We then approached the Admiralty in the matter of the sea cadets, and the Admiralty has now restored that grant, for which I am indeed grateful. We are now getting 3s. 6d. a head for every efficient cadet in 944 these corps. These boys are drawn from the poorest districts in the seaports and the money is extremely useful for this work, which is carried out by gentlemen who simply do it for the love of the thing. There are no charges for administration or anything of that sort. I have the honour of being president of the Hull corps, and there are other corps in other ports, and the instructors do the work of training, evening after evening, without receiving a penny piece. I do not wish to appear like the daughter of the horse leech and, having been given something, I hesitate to ask for more. Still, I may ask, why is it that the military cadets are allowed 5s. a head and the sea cadets only 3s. 6d. a head?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I am looking into that matter, and I will certainly do what I can to get an equally fair amount for the s a cadets.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am glad to hear that from the right hon. Gentleman. I thought this was a good opportunity to raise the matter, and I feel sure that I have support in all parts of the House. I am glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman will do what he can in the matter, and I hope he will see that we are put on a par with the junior Service in this respect. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he will get very good service in the future and very good value from these corps of sea cadets.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir B. FALLE
I agree with most of what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) as to the need of equal payment. I do not know, and I shall not pretend to give, a solution of the matter, but we have the experience of the War to show that you cannot get two men serving alongside each other loins the same duty at different rates of pay. We tried that for three years, and in November; 1917, although this House and the Admiralty were warned again and again, it took something like an emeute in the Grand Fleet before the Admiralty recognised that men fighting side by side should have the same amount of wages, and the men were paid, and paid retrospectively. Now we are going to suggest that men shall for 20 years receive, one 4s. a day and the other 3s., for doing exactly the same work, and we are going to land our-selves in a very great difficulty. I think 945 perhaps the men themselves might put up with it, but I am sure that their wives will not, and when one wife, Mrs. Sailor-man, finds her neighbour is receiving more than she is, there will be trouble, and if there is trouble there, that trouble will immediately after be made by the sailor who is serving. There is one point in regard to short service in regard to which I did not follow my right hon. Friend. He said it was experimental, and only for a certain number. There are 1,000 boys less this year, I believe, so that there will be 1,000 short service men to take their place.
§ Sir B. FALLE
I am glad to hear that. I was going to say that, at the rate of 1,000 a year short service men, we should in a very few years' time have the whole Navy nothing but short service. I am all in favour of these cuts being begun at the top. I speak as a civilian, and I do not pretend to lay down any law, except the law as it appears to me. I know that for a layman to pretend to lay down the law or to interpret the law is the act of an imbecile, so I speak as a civilian, and only as a civilian, but I should like to see cuts from the top. When I look at the Atlantic Fleet and see six battleships and five gentlemen flying their flags or wearing the broad pennant, and when I turn to the Mediterranean Fleet and see six battleships and eight gentlemen flying their flags, it seems to me that a reduction of pay for the men is a mistake. I want to thank my right hon. Friend for what he did in regard to the marriage allowances. We are all more than grateful to him for the stand he made for the marriage allowance, and we are quite assured, and we quite understand, that had it rested with him the officers would have had it. The question now has been beaten underground, but it is still there, and it is still very insistent, and the allowance will have to come.
The only other point I wish to make is one on which my right hon. Friend did not touch in his speech, and that was the question of the men who are invalided out of the Navy. I was not allowed to raise that question on the last Vote, but I would like to know what the right hon. Gentleman proposes to do with these young men who are invalided from the 946 Service without any appeal whatever. I believe be is with me on that point, and I should like to hear if he has any proposals to make, or if he can think of any way in which these men shall have, at any rate, the fair chances that are given to almost everybody else.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of ADMIRALTY (Mr. J. C. Davidson)
I only rise in regard to the question of the grant-in-aid received from the Indian Government. If the hon. Member for North Camber-well (Mr. Ammon) will turn to page 8 of the Navy Estimates, he will find the sum of £100,000, and on page 9 he will see how it is distributed through the Votes. Then, if he will turn to page 20, he will see that the contribution this year is the same as last year, namely, £28,000. As regards the point which the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir B. Falle) raised about appeals, we have answered a question already on that subject. The Admiralty have taken the matter up with the sister Services, and more than that I cannot say at present, but we are looking into the question.
§ Mr. DUNCAN
I was rather interested in the attitude of the First Lord in regard to the housing question in Plymouth. I think it is obvious that the Government itself is responsible for the additional difficulty in the housing question at Plymouth, caused by the closing of Rosyth and Pembroke Docks, because the Admiralty are, as a matter of fact., transferring men from these two dockyards to Plymouth. What I would like to know is this: Is the Government leaving it entirely to private enterprise to make provision for the men who have been transferred to Plymouth? Has the Government no responsibility in the matter, or is it shirking its responsibility? Does not the First Lord think it must obviously be a very great hardship to men to be transferred from these places and sent to places like Plymouth or Portsmouth, where the housing conditions are admittedly of a very difficult character, and to be put in competition with those who are already badly housed?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is hardly relevant to the present Vote.
947 Question," That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.
Third Resolution read a Second time.
Motion made, and Question proposed," That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. AMMON
I have no wish to weary the House by again going over all the arguments, so far as policy is concerned, with regard to Singapore, which were dealt with on the last occasion when the Vote was before us, nor do I wish to enter into any detailed remarks as to the closing of Rosyth and Pembroke Dockyards. I want, however, in regard to Singapore, to repeat a question that I raised when the Navy Estimates were before us a few days ago, as to what had caused the alteration in policy on the part of the Admiralty in deciding to put in place the floating dock before they had completed the graving dock, as was the first intention. The other question is as to the decision not to go forward with the reconstruction of the ex-German dock, but rather to scrap that and build an entirely new floating dock. I know that in the White Paper issued with the Vote the right hon. Gentleman says that experience has shown the reconstruction of the German clock to be impracticable, and a new dock has accordingly been ordered, but surely it is fair to ask what new experience has arisen to show that to be impracticable, because all these considerations were under review at least a year or two ago. The matter was considered by the naval experts, and such difficulties as getting the dock through the Canal and all those things were considered, and it was decided, even up to the time when the right hon. Gentleman presented his Estimates last year, that they could then go forward with this dock and would be able to utilise it.
Now, something else has evidently transpired, which was not then under consideration. I suggest vary respectfully that this ought to have been foreseen by the Admiralty staff, and that it ought not to have got to this stage before they suddenly discovered, after repeatedly saying that the ex-German dock was suitable, that they could no longer use it, and that we must be put to the extra expense, for doubtless it will be an extra expense, of building a new dock. The House also 948 would like some explanation as to why there is a decrease under Vote 10, and whether it is in a measure due to the slowing down of the Singapore scheme or not. Looking at the Vote as a whole, one is bound to say that there does not seem anything very tangible in the so-called reduction. The reduction, it is true, may be all right for this year, but it looks remarkably like deferred expenditure, and as if we are going to have a very much heavier bill next year. That, after all, will not help us very much, as we have no assurance that the position will be any more satisfactory next year than it is now. Anyway, it will help the House considerably if they can have some further enlightenment on that matter.
I want to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman can give us any comfort with regard particularly to those men who will be displaced by the closing of Rosyth and Pembroke. Through no fault of their own, those men find themselves displaced from their homes, and sent to other dockyards to seek work in places where the housing question is already a. very difficult one, even before the advent of these large numbers of men with their families. Is the Admiralty itself going to undertake any responsibility and do anything towards promoting housing schemes to house their own particular people who have been transferred? There is some sort of moral responsibility imposed on the Admiralty in this matter, and they could no doubt co-operate with the local authorities and help them with their housing schemes, at least so far as their own men are concerned. There is, I see, a considerable decrease in regard to ordinary repairs and maintenance. Does that mean that we are going to have, with regard to a particular ship, a repetition of the position that arose when I was on that bench, and when some humourist put the question to me in the House as to how long it would be before His Majesty's Ship" Methuselah" was completed? That was in regard to the number of years it took to build a ship owing to it being kept hack for" stand-by" work, rather than going forward with the construction of the vessel as a whole.
Those are the main points I wanted to raise, but particularly I want further information with regard to the Singapore 949 scheme, why there is a changed policy as to the order in which the docks are being completed, and what new reasons have arisen for the Admiralty deciding to scrap the German dock in order that we should build another floating dock of our own. Further, I should like to know if there is any likelihood of us getting a purchaser for the new German dock, or will it be put in any other part of the British Empire?
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
I should like to congratulate the First Lord of the Admiralty on having successfully carried through his policy of closing down both Rosyth and Pembroke dockyards, but there is one question I should like to ask him in regard to Pembroke. I have heard rumours to this effect: Is he or is he not being advised to put such stringent conditions upon the contract for the dispoa1 of Pembroke Dockyard as to make it very difficult for those who are considering the acquisition of this dockyard to make out a satisfactory contract with the Admiralty? I would suggest to him that they might be able to make this contract very flexible, because the Admiralty has full power to take over anything during a time of war, and it is of very little use, if the right hon. Gentleman is wishing to dispose of a dockyard, to tie it up with conditions which the commercial interests are not able to carry out.
The main reason why I rose was to put a more serious matter, not only to the First Lord, but also to the hon. Member who is at present leading the Opposition, to see whether or not it is possible for both the Labour party and the present Government to co-operate in a policy which would secure a certain amount of economy in the near future. The present position in regard to Singapore is that the proposal originally made, and for which the various Dominions and Dominion Governments made offers, has altered, and at the present moment the whole policy is only settled and arranged for a matter of two years. I would like to remind the House of the present position and to give the financial figures. Hong Kong gave £250,000, and the Malay States £180,000 and land. That amount was given for the big scheme. Australia offered £1,000,000, but has since withdrawn its offer. New Zealand, I think, offered £250,000, but has since spent that 950 money upon a new cruiser. Therefore, as far as the general policy is concerned, nothing has been done to reintroduce the ten-year or big programme by the present Government, because apart from that, as hon. Members will remember, the scheme as originally proposed was altered when the Labour Government were in power. Therefore, if we are going to get continuity of policy, it is very desirable for the two parties to come to some agreement before the Imperial Conference meets in October of this year. The Dominion Prime Ministers will be coming over in October, and they will require to go into many questions of national defence, and, obviously, they must, go into the naval question which concerns them perhaps more than either the aerial question or the military question. On this point another consideration arises, and one also brought about by what happened when the Labour Government were in power.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
Well, in office—it does not matter. When the Labour Government were in office they threw over the Singapore scheme at the same time that they increased the Air Vote in this country for the protection of these islands. The effect, therefore, upon Imperial and Dominion sentiment was to create the feeling that the British House of Commons is willing to vote money for the defence of England, but is doing so at the expense of weakening the defences of the outer Empire, namely, the Dominions. Accordingly, when we realise that the whole naval power of the world has undergone a great reorientation, that now the Pacific is the centre of any future naval activity, and that the Dominions which border that ocean will have to provide the basis for our more modern naval power, it does become a very pertinent question as to whether both parties in this House have a common naval policy and common defence policy. Otherwise, the question will arise, that whereas the Dominions may make contributions towards the naval expenditure, they will not be very reassured in making that expenditure if they think it possible that when the Labour Government again come into power, they will reverse the policy which is being carried out by the present Government. Therefore, I would ask the 951 hon. Member who is at the moment leading the Labour party, whether he would not represent to the Leader of the Opposition, in view of the Imperial Conference this year, whether it would not be possible for the Labour party to come to an agreement on general policy with the existing Government, so that the Dominions would at least realise that, upon a change of Government in this country, the question of their own naval defence would he safeguarded.
That brings me to another question with regard to these dockyards. At the present moment, although a reduction has been made both in Rosyth and Pembroke, we have twice as many dockyardmen per tonnage of shipping at present in the British Navy compared with what it was before the War. We are developing Malta Dockyard; we are going to develop Singapore Dockyard. It is obvious, therefore, that if the whole naval strength of the Empire has to undergo this reorientation, due to the naval centre shifting to the Pacific, we do not want the same dockyard accommodation in this country that we wanted for the Dutch Wars, the French Wars or the late War. Therefore, I would press upon the First Lord of the Admiralty that he must face, this question of dockyard policy in this country with a broad view as to what are the possible developments in future. So far as Chatham and Sheerness are concerned, we have continually attacked the maintenance of those dockyards as being obsolete, out-of-date, and absolutely useless from the general aspect of naval power as it is to-day.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
You can recruit from anywhere. I really think it is an extraordinary argument of a party, which is rather pressing economy upon the Government at the present time, to suggest to the Government that they must continue to maintain a dockyard at an expense of £2,000,000 per annum for the purpose of recruiting.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
Yes: but it is a factor of such a minor character, that I think one can disregard it, when we come to consider the whole general naval policy. So far as Sheerness is 952 concerned, I know the First Lord of the Admiralty is anxious to get rid of it, and it is only used as a provisioning base. But I would ask him to be drastic in that respect, and really close it. Chatham is a more difficult matter, because not only have we to prepare for a fight by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gillingham (Sir G. Hohler), but, at the same time, there is a plausible, but fictitious, case which can be made out for retention. Various suggestions can be put forward that the stores are there, and otherwise would have to be kept, elsewhere; that they have a lot of plant there which would otherwise be scrapped, and in every case, when Committees have been set up by the Admiralty to investigate this problem, it has always been investigated upon the basis that Chatham should be used as a private shipping establishment or for normal private commercial work. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that no one in his senses would use Chatham as a shipbuilding establishment, unless there was a strategic reason lying behind. It is much too far away from the coal, iron, and great engineering enterprises of the North Country. But the way in which I think it could be used is as a port. Suggestions have been made before in this House that there should he a real investigation as to the commercial possibilities of making Chatham an extension of the Port of London, putting a tunnel under the Thames so as to connect it with a direct line, and allow Chatham to supply goods to the North of England without their having to go through London. I understand there are great possibilities in a proposition of that kind.
Then I would press upon the right hon. Gentleman to set up a committee of independent business men to go into this question, and endeavour to find out some proposal which would make Chatham an asset from the commercial point of view, since it is perfectly useless from the naval point of view—perhaps it is going too far to say" perfectly useless at the present time"—but comparatively useless, and bound to become more and more useless as our naval strength centres upon the Pacific, and as our aerial strength develops in this country. I think if the first proposal I made in regard to cooperation between the Labour party and 953 the present Government for a continuous policy as to Singapore were coupled with the disestablishment of Chatham Dockyard as a dockyard, there would be no greater expense involved, and, in so far as the disarmament question is concerned obviously we have got to face facts. If the nations in the world do not disarm, the official Opposition would not support a proposal that this country alone should disarm. Therefore, whatever development is made at Singapore, it is made upon the assumption that if there is a general disarmament this country will agree to do its share of that disarmament, but that if there is no general disarmament, this country will show to the Dominions and Colonies that we are carrying out those great traditions which we have always carried out, and maintain the defence of this Empire from the naval point of view. I believe if that be done, we shall secure from our Dominions that financial cooperation and assistance which are year by year becoming more important to this country. It was only the other day that figures were given in this House showing that Canada made practically no naval contribution, and, I believe, largely because it felt that the whole naval policy is dictated from this country, and because money, which otherwise would be spent upon naval defence of the Empire, may under new conditions of aerial warfare be deflected from naval expenditure to expenditure upon aerial machines which will be used, not for its defence, but for the defence only of this country.
In conclusion, I would impress upon the right hon. Gentleman these three things, and I would like him, if he would, to give me definite answers to them. The first is that the conditions of sale of these dockyards should be made as flexible as possible, upon the idea that when they are required for war, the Admiralty can always impose, by Order-in-Council, what conditions it likes, subject, of course, to compensation; secondly, that he will undertake to set up an independent committee of business men to see in what manner Chatham can be made a commercial port, so that he may dispense with it from the Navy Estimates; and, thirdly, that he will give an undertaking that no further men shall be taken on either at Chatham or at Sheerness and put upon 954 the permanent and established strength of those yards. When I look in the Estimates, I find that the cost has gone up from £166,000 to £170,000 this year at Chatham, although the personnel has been reduced from 586 to 585. At Sheerness, the cost has gone up from £55,000 to £56,000. When we come to these questions of closing down the yards we are always faced with the difficulties of disposing of the men upon the permanent strength. Lastly I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will ascertain whether the Leader of the Opposition will agree to a general conference between the two parties on the question of continuity of policy upon naval bases; and whether he will consider immediately dispensing with Chatham in order that the expenditure upon our bases shall not be any greater. He might do that in acknowledgment and as a return for generally acquiescing in a naval policy for a period of years.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
My hon. and gallant Friend, I gather, has resigned from the Navy on half-pay. I further gather that he has entered upon commercial pursuits, where I trust he will be successful. I gather, too, that it is not as a naval officer hut as an ordinary member that he has just addressed his remarks to the House. He suggests to the First Lord of the Admiralty that it will not be difficult to draft in any contract in respect to a possible purchaser or lessee of Pembroke certain conditions—I am not quite sure what—but the suggestion seemed to be that if the Government required the yard again, any term they did not find in the contract of sale they could put into it. That is why my hon. and gallant Friend said—
§ Sir G. HOHLER
That is what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said, that you ought to have an Order-in-Council to put terms into the contract that were not there.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
What I said was that if a war came the Admiralty, if they had not got certain powers, should, under an Order-in-Council, take them, and put them into force from a national point of view. That is what has been done in past wars.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
Everybody, except it may be my hon. and gallant Friend, is well acquainted with the powers that the Government can take in case of war; but I gather that his suggestion had some particular reference to Pembroke. It is extraordinary what an elementary want of knowledge there may be in the progress of human affairs. Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot have forgotten that a few days ago we passed in this House a Trade Facilities Act, by which we have given power to the Government to guarantee a loan for £2,000,000 for coal mines in Kent. Here we have the hon. and gallant Gentleman putting forward erratic views. Has he forgotten the Medway? He talks about wanting a tunnel under the Thames, but we have to remember the Medway in that connection. He may have to wait for 500 years for a tunnel under the Thames. Has he considered the geographical configuration of the country? If we have this coal in Kent—and the Government had a Committee which sat upon this question and recommended that they should guarantee two million pounds—it must be fairly well evident to all, and except perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend, that it will not be necessary to have this wonderful tunnel under the Thames for another 500 years, and that is the age of Chatham dockyard.
My hon. and gallant Friend suggested the ungrateful nature of man when he actually put Chatham second, and Sheerness first. A question was put on the Paper not long since as to what was going to happen in regard to Sheerness. What did the First Lord answer? He gave an excellent answer to the effect that there is a very full programme at Sheerness, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not clear as to how the programme stands at Chatham. He does not know what it is; he has gone into commercial life. But consider what Chatham Dockyard is. Believe me, it really has 500 years of glory behind it, and that is my answer to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Does he remember the large and magnificent cruiser launched the other day,"The Kent"? I do not know whether he went there during his naval career, or whether he went to Devon-port or Portsmouth, but in regard to Chatham may I remind him it has got the finest naval barracks in 956 the country? The matter does not rest there. We have had an agitation, and quite rightly. One of the suggestions put forward has been that we should try and combine the medical service of the Army and the Navy. You have an opportunity to do that at Chatham. There is the finest naval hospital, I am satisfied, in this country; and if my hon. and gallant Friend had happened to be hurt in the Service of which he is so distinguished a member, and needed an operation, I am sure we could have attended to him there—and kept him there, perhaps, during the whole of the Session!
You have got one corps of the Royal Engineers, one of the greatest if not the greatest in the country. There are two other regiments there. Naturally they vary from time to time. We have barracks there too. We have got the Royal Marines. In regard to the possibility of saving expense, what better opportunities could you have of carrying them into operation than at Chatham? I wonder if the hon. and gallant Gentleman has ever considered the question of repairs. I do not know that these matters ever enter into the minds of naval men, but when he makes these attacks and puts forward these insults from lack of knowledge, he ought to know that the Government—that is the Admiralty—did try some years ago to have their ships repaired outside. What happened? The work was so badly done and was found to be more costly than they could do it inside for themselves. So the repairs, I think I am right in saying, are now undertaken by the Admiralty in the dockyard. They do them in the various yards.
Surprise has been expressed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman at the increase of expenditure, but let me tell him one or two things. There is, first, the" Kent" being completed. There are internal fittings to be put in. My hon. and gallant Friend ought to know that there are engines to be put into the ship. He does not seem to consider that at all. There is talk of extravagance. In addition to what I say, the repairs are a very expensive item. But it stands to the credit of the yard that, although the keel of the" Kent" was laid down six weeks after that of the" Cornwall," she was launched only five days after! We have 957 docks, and graving docks, and everything necessary for the purposes of the work done; therefore, I say that really I think it malicious to put this forward—it cannot be directed to me—but it is malicious to make these unqualified attacks, feeble in their character, and born of ignorance, in regard to Chatham Dockyard.
It is one of the great recruiting centres of this country. It is usual to attack Chatham and to say that Chatham must go. I do not know what part in the controversy as between Rosyth and Chatham my hon. and gallant Friend took, and I did not care at the time. But it is of great importance to remember these things. I wonder if Wales, I wonder if Scotland, ever contributed as many men to His Majesty's Navy as has Chatham and district. They have contributed practically the whole—I will not say the whole, but a large portion of the whole. The houses in the town are inhabited and owned by ex-naval men. It is true that they perhaps have not the means which the hon. and gallant Gentleman enjoys. They are people of moderate means; their savings and their homes are there. Their sons and relatives enter the Navy. It is hereditary. The sons follow the fathers into the Navy and have done so for years. They account Chatham their home. When a ship comes to Chatham the men go at once to their homes. All these advantages my hon. and gallant Friend ignores, because it suits his purpose. He has not shown any programme as to how this cutting down is to be effected, or what economy it is going to achieve. If he can show anything like what I have suggested one might say there was a glimmer of intelligence, but in these proposals of economy I do not see the least glimmer of any sort or kind. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will have nothing more to say about Chatham except how good it is, and that Chatham ought to be maintained whatever happens to the other places.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I will not dwell upon what the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Sir G. Hohler) has said in relation to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Commander Burney), but I think he might have left personalities out of it. This is not a personal matter. The reasons against Chatham are three, and they are unanswerable. In 958 the first place, the Navy does not need it, especially now that we have a dockyard at Singapore; the second reason is that the depth of water at all states of the tide in the Medway puts it quite outside the use of ships of a modern size, and the third reason is that it is dangerously exposed to air attack from the Continent. That danger is getting greater, and increasing every month. These are the reasons against Chatham. It is very unfortunate that there are many shopkeepers and others who will suffer in the closing down of the dockyard, but you have an analogous case in the closing of a coal mine where it may be necessary. What the Admiralty ought to do is to make plans over a number of years, and prepare some alternative employment, or some compensation, for those who are dispossessed. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke about the 500 glorious years of Chatham. That may be all well, but we have to face facts as they are. If the Admiralty contention is right that the basis of naval power has shifted to the Pacific, if they are right in spending about £10,000,000 on Singapore, then they must make compensation in the home dock-yards. There is no getting away from that. If you encourage the people and the Government to go on wasting money on both places, it will be wrong.
As to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge, I really disagreed with the first part of the speech as much as I agreed with the second part. I think he made a most mischievous plea to the House which may make it easier that we should spend money on the Air Force, because we are afraid of attack on London. He said that the Labour Government and also this Government had reduced expenditure on Singapore which would be of benefit to the defence of the Dominions. I think that is a very mischievous way of putting it.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
What I said was that when the Labour Government were in they had actually done that. My suggestion was made to prevent a recurrence of what the Labour Government did; not to shut down the policy of Singapore, while at the same time spending more money on aerial armaments in this country.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The two things have nothing to do with each other. Everyone knows that the Air Force 959 is miserably weak, that the capital of the Empire stands open to the most terrible form of attack, and everyone knows that the Labour Government's policy had to be taken as a whole. It was part of a general attempt at the pacification of the world. They had not time to follow it out. It was because of their policy in regard to Singapore that I regret they did not for longer get support from my party—for that and other things.
As Singapore has been mentioned, I do once more appeal to the Admiralty to consider this point from its broadest aspects. I do not think the Singapore policy, the policy of creating a great battleship base on the Johore Channel, is a good one. We can defend the Straits of Malacca with long-range heavy guns, with mines, with torpedo-carrying aeroplanes and submarines, just as Heligoland Bight was defended, and no capital ships would attempt to go through. The creation of a great battleship base at Singapore is unnecessarily provocative. I am not going into the arguments at length, but the principal reasons against it are that it is too far from the most probable scene of action should war come in that area. Singapore is at too great a distance to be of use in any possible land attack by the Japanese coming by way of the Caroline Islands or the Marshall Islands —the steaming distance is too great for Singapore to intervene. The climate is unhealthy and it is an unsuitable place to be a permanent base for a great fleet. The money would be far better expended in bringing Sydney up to the position of a first-class naval dockyard. A fleet-in-being at Sydney would make any question of the invasion of Australia impracticable. In any case I do not believe in this bogey of the invasion of Australia, because no single Power except ours has the necessary merchant shipping to carry the Army required to reduce the Australian Army.
I think the whole thing is a bogey, but still, there it is. We know that it is part of our Constitution that the Navy must have a hypothetical enemy, and the Admiralty, now that the Germans are destroyed, have turned to the next most probable direction in which there may be an enemy in order to provide a bogey for the"man in the street" here at 960 home and in the Dominions. At Sydney there is a healthy climate, there are churches and dwelling houses and ail forms of entertainment and recreation, in fact, everything required for a permanent base is there already. In Singapore all these things will have to be created. I still say to the Admiralty that it is not too late. Apparently they have not started their graving dock, or have only done a little road building and so on, and it is not too late now to bring Singapore up to date as a cruiser basis. Let us fortify the Straits of Malacca, and establish a sufficient air base there; but if we are going to base a fleet on the Pacific, it should he at Sydney and not at Singapore. For that policy I believe we could get a contribution from the Australian Government. Already there are the beginnings of a shipbuilding industry in Australia, and this policy would help to develop it. As regards recruiting, on which the hon. and learned Member for Gillingham spoke, Australia is a magnificent recruiting ground, and as the country fills up, and the population increases, looking two or three generations ahead, it will become more and more valuable as a recruiting ground. By that policy, also, we should not annoy and irritate our very good friend Japan, which in a trying and difficult time in the late War, in the critical opening weeks, when much of the sympathy of the Japanese people was with Germany, because they admired German organisation and science, was faithful to us and our alliance. It made all the difference. By the policy I suggest we can remove a great cause of irritation to our old friend at a time when we need friends. Recent events on the Continent—in Switzerland—ought to have convinced the Admiralty of our need of friends wherever we can find them, and of true friends of the type of the Japanese. Before it be too late, and before we go further with this expenditure, I would again press on the Admiralty that they ought to reconsider their whole policy with the view of recasting it on the lines 1 suggest.
§ Mr. LOOKER
There is one point in connection with the project at Singapore which, as far as I know, has not been raised in. this House before, and I would like to direct the attention of my right hon. Friend to it. The present is an appropriate time, now that the project of a floating dock has been scrapped— 961 and very wisely, in my humble opinion, because of the great risk of transit and safety—and that the Admiralty are proceeding to establish a graving dock. Unless I am much mistaken, a graving dock will mean a large shore establishment, with a large dock staff, who must lie accommodated on shore for periods of two or three years at a time. Some of apse men will be married, and it will be inevitable that they should want their wives and children to be out there with them. However healthy Singapore may be for men—and there may be two opinions about that; it depends a good deal on their mode of life—there is not the slightest doubt that it is extremely unhealthy for women, and more so for children. It is not too great an exaggeration to say that hardly a white woman, in any station of life, has gone out there, and remained there for any length of time, who has not come away weaker in health, and, in the great majority of cases probably, she has never afterwards been able to recover the leeway. It is inevitable if there is to be a shore establishment that the men will desire to have their wives and children with them, and for some reasons it is probably desirable that they should have them there. On the other hand, it would be more in the interests of the wives and children that my right hon. Friend should not permit them to go out there, if he can see his way safely to take that line. If, however, they do go out I hope he will turn his attention to the question of providing sanatoria of some description in the East, where they may go, if not yearly, at least every other year. I have heard it suggested, from a not unauthoritative quarter, that the Admiralty have in contemplation the establishment of health stations in the Straits Settlements themselves. I do not think that would be at all satisfactory. To, begin with, it would be extremely expensive, and rather too difficult to find an appropriate spot, and even if one were found the change there from the conditions at Singapore would not be of the nature required to set up the women and children in health. The only appropriate place where they could get the necessary change would be further to the north, at Hong Kong, and I would ask my right hon. Friend seriously to consider the setting up in Hong Kong of sanatoria to which the women and children can go 962 every year. I would like to see them spend at least two or three months there in order that they may have some chance of resisting the deleterious and weakening effects of the Singapore climate.
§ Commander FANSHAWE
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has again trotted out that hardy annual, Singapore. Even the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), though he is very fond of it, left it alone to-day. It was discussed at length on more than one occasion last year, and I think the necessity for Singapore must be established to the satisfaction of everybody, or very nearly everybody in the House. The hon. and gallant Member said the Straits can be defended by long-range gun fire, by aircraft and mines, and likened the defence of the Straits to the defence of the Heligoland Bight at the time of the Great War, but he conveniently left out the one vital factor that really defended Heligoland Bight, and that was the great might of the German capital ships—the High Seas Fleet always lurking behind. They were always the real defence of the Heligoland Bight. This base at Singapore is being enlarged to take our capital ships, because unless they loom behind those comparatively light defences which everybody would put up in defending the Straits any enemy could pass through the Straits, or any enemy could avoid the Straits and pass to the south and thus get into the Indian Ocean. I should advise the hon. and gallant Member to go along Victoria Street to the Navy League offices and buy a map—there is an excellent one there—and he will see that Singapore is the vital point in our Imperial defences in that region.
There is another little point, and that is the fact that by the Washington Convention we are not entitled to enlarge or establish a naval base anywhere to the east of longitude of 110 degrees. He left that out. He said Singapore is too far away from Japan. It may be, but it is the point which we are allowed to use under the Washington Convention. He said, also, that the Australian fear of an invasion by Japan is a bogey. I think he, had better go to Australia, or, if he has been there, he had better go again, in order to find out what their feelings are. Here in this House we cannot judge 963 of the feelings of Australia in this matter. I wish to point out that the total expense of this dockyard is to be £750,000. Out of that total expense Hong Kong has contributed £150,000, and the Straits Settlements Government have given a valuable contribution of land.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will look at page 166 of these Votes he will see that the cost of the naval base at Singapore is £9,414,000—that is the total cost, not counting machinery and various other items.
§ Commander FANSHAWE
I apologise to my hon. and gallant Friend. I may have made a mistake, but I was under the impression that no further sum than the £750,000 had been decided upon—at present. One of the chief points of the opposition to the Singapore base, in addition to those I have mentioned, is the fact that it causes irritation in Japan. The hon. Member for North Camberwell raised that point when the Naval Estimates were under discussion, but I think if he will look into all the utterances of responsible Japanese statesmen he will find they are quite easy in their minds about the establishment of this base, which is being established strictly under our Treaty rights, and I for one hope the Government will not be deterred from going on with this very necessary project to enable our Battle Fleet to operate in Eastern waters if that should be necessary at any time.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I wish to take advantage of the Prime Minister's presence to raise the position of housing and unemployment in my constituency arising out of the closing of the dockyards at Pembroke and Rosyth. The Prime Minister is not a hard-hearted man, and I feel sure I shall not appeal in vain for his sympathy in this matter. I hardly think he can realise the horror of the position in my constituency. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Commander Burney) expressed the hope just now that the calamity which has fallen on my constituency might fall upon Chatham. I pray heaven it may not, because it does not require very much imagination to appreciate the distress and sorrow which 964 such a decision as that causes. I am glad that my hon. Friend, who always speaks so thoughtfully and suggestively, proposes that a Committee should be set up to consider the problem well in advance, so that proper preparations might be made for the safety and well-being of the inhabitants of the town. The Government, of course, are well entitled, from the strategical or the national point of view, to close any dockyard, as they may think fit.
You cannot keep dockyards alive for charity, but what we complain of is the precipitancy with which that decision was taken. Year after year Members of this House have pressed, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Commander Burney) pressed this afternoon in the case of Chatham, that the dockyards which were redundant should be closed. The Government had plenty of notice of the demand by the strategists that the dockyards should be closed. How comes it about that they can pass sentence of death on two whole communities without making any arrangement whatsoever for the comfort and well-being of the persons concerned? You have Rosyth derelict to-day and Pembroke a deserted city. They might be Sodom and Gomorrah for all the Government cares. The shopkeepers are ruined, the churches are closed down, the bells are not ringing, the persons who have invested their savings in houses there find themselves with their investments gone, and some of these persons are being poured into Devon-port at this moment.
What is the situation in that very town? You have a waiting list for the council houses of 3,000 people, which was closed two years ago, and 3,000 by no means expresses the demand for houses. The Admiralty inspector came down to that constituency two years ago, and what did he find? Street after street in which the roofs of the houses were not solid and the walls were cracking. These are the homes of the men who are manning the Navy, and who are building it. I fail to understand how the Admiralty can divorce itself from this matter. The First Lord of the Admiralty professes to be amazed at anybody suggesting that the Admiralty should interest itself in this matter. He says that there is the 965 Ministry of Health for that purpose. I put a question to the Prime Minister on this subject, and he allowed the Admiralty to answer it. The Admiralty said that it was the business of the Ministry of Health, while the Ministry of Health say it is the business of the Admiralty. I think I am not failing in my duty as the representative of that constituency when I ask the Prime Minister who is going to settle the controversy as to who is responsible for these men and their families. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, acknowledged this responsibility when he said:The ultimate strategy of the British Navy consists in housing contented men in prosperous and healthy homes, from which the children, generation after generation, can return to the ships their fathers have taught them to honour.He acknowledged that responsibility, and I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty to accept the responsibility of any private employer. What is happening down there? These men are having to pay 21s. a week for a single room in which they have to put the whole of their families. The housing situation is worse there than in any other town in England. The rain streams down through the roofs, and buckets are placed on the beds to catch the water. Babies are being born in these rooms. Thousands and thousands of houses are decaying, because they have not been properly built, and on top of this the First Lord of the Admiralty— through no fault of his own, because he is one of the most humane of men and I am raising this in order that something may be done—is pouring men into Devon-port. I ask him how many men have arrived, how many are yet still to arrive. I ask him if he absolutely refuses to utilise the equipment and skill of His Majesty's dockyards to build steel houses or make some other provision for these men. I ask if the Admiralty refuses to act, if the employment of these men is going to throw other people out of work. More men are to be employed, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty tells me this afternoon that as a. result of these men arriving there will be more unemployed men in the town. The Government, by their policy, have added to the unemployment, the destitution, the misery and the sorrow of my constituency, and I appeal to the 966 Prime Minister to consider the seriousness of what the Government have done and to make some provision now, although it is very late in the day to do so.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I am sure that the housing situation in Devon-port is one that must appeal to the Prime Minister and everybody else in this House. I must at once point out, as I was about to do when the hon. Gentleman raised it before and I was called to order by the Chair, that the fact that there is a shortage of 5,000 houses in Devon-port, a town of 200,000 inhabitants, and the fact that some of these houses are streaming with water, as the hon. Gentleman, says, cannot be put to the door of the Admiralty. What we have done is to move about 500 men from Pembroke and Rosyth to Devon-port. About two-thirds of them are there now and about a third are to come. They have separation allowances, and therefore they need not necessarily take houses for their families, who can remain where they are while they go as lodgers. I quite agree that if there is anything we can do to mitigate the trouble we shall be very glad to do it, and I am investigating now the possibility of providing temporary accommodation, which may ease the situation at the moment.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I do not think that building steel houses in the dockyard is the proper way of dealing with the question, but if we can assist by providing any land or by using any temporary accommodation we have got we shall be very glad to do it. But, of course, the situation cannot be put right by anything we can do. If we build houses for these 500 men, there are still another 5,000 short, and the difficulty will be felt just the same. It is not right to put the whole retardation of the solution of the housing problem on the shoulders of the Admiralty. It is the fault of the local authority not having done anything before.
The hon. Member for North Camber-well (Mr. Ammon) asked me two or three questions which I should like to answer. First of all, he returned to what he said last, week, and to what he described as the change of policy on Singapore. He said that, at some pre- 967 vious time, it had been the policy, not of this Government, but of some previous Government, a Conservative Government, to build a graving dock first and a floating dock afterwards. I do not remember it, but, at any rate, I was not responsible for that decision, and I do not think it is an accurate description. I think the previous policy was stated to be to build a graving dock at Singapore, and I do not think—I am speaking from memory—that any floating dock was mentioned at all. Ever since I have been at the Admiralty I have said consistently and plainly that the important thing was to get a floating dock there, because it is a business that can be carried out in a short time, while the whole problem of a graving dock and all that accompanies it is a matter which would take seven to ten years, and the situation, therefore, would not be eased in the way of accommodating large vessels at Singapore until the whole programme was finished. We, therefore, thought it would be better to begin the floating dock, which would be finished in three years and will accommodate the largest of His Majesty's ships.
He asked me why we had decided to put in a new floating dock instead of using a German one. I mentioned it in my speech in introducing the Estimate. We had two German docks, one of which was utilised at Malta, and the other we intended to utilise for Singapore. In taking out the floating dock to Malta very much greater difficulties were experienced in towing her to her berth at Malta Harbour than we had anticipated. Fortunately, the difficulties were overcome, but they were such as to make us feel that it was a very risky and dangerous proposal to try and tow another floating dock all the way to Singapore, and for that reason we thought it better to have a new dock made, to be taken out in sections, while we hope to be able to sell the other German floating dock. He also asked about the reduction in Vote B with regard to Singapore. That is due to the slowing down of the storage of oil. The other question he asked was about the ordinary repairs. That is mainly brought about by a decision that we should not embark on repairs on very old ships which are near the end of their time, and possibly more repairs will be done at sea than have been done before.
968 The hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Commander Burney) asked me about the conditions for the disposal of Pembroke Dockyard. We are certainly prepared to try and meet the suggestions that have been made. The conditions have already been published. I have not yet heard what the objections are, but we are very anxious to meet any reasonable objections which are brought to our notice. He also asked about Chatham. Another hon. Friend of mine the hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir G. Hohler) made the most spirited defence of Chatham. I cannot deal with that. At the same time, one must always bear in mind any possibility of reducing the establishment at Chatham or Sheerness if it can be done without detriment to the Navy.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I should not like to commit myself to setting up a Committee of business men. Business men, if they want to, should make their own suggestions, but I do not think I can promise to set up a Committee of business men to advise us at this moment.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I cannot give a hard and fast undertaking about taking men on at Chatham, because we must have the men where they are most wanted. The hon. Member for South-Eastern Essex (Mr. Looker) spoke about the health of Singapore, but that is a question which has been under consideration for a long time. I may say that even now it is engaging our very careful attention and will be considered when we settle the final programme. I do not think there are any other questions that remain for me to answer. I know there is the general Singapore policy, but that was well defended by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stirling (Commander Fanshawe) and I agree very thoroughly with what he said on that subject.
Question," That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.