HC Deb 15 March 1928 vol 214 cc2261-4

Motion made, and question proposed, That, a sum, not exceeding £4,062,000, 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 3lst day of March, 1928.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

We are now asked to take another Order dealing with a fresh subject. On this side we are not going to sacrifice our right to express our opinion on the Navy Votes in order that hon. Gentlemen opposite should be able to steal a march upon us by talking about sugar beet. When the Greeks come with gifts, we should look upon them with some suspicion. The amount of money required for victualling and clothing is £5,000,000, and on this Vote I want to refer to the question of supplying British meat to the Navy. I am not interested so much in agriculture, but I am interested in supporting the farmers in every possible way. May I point out that it is only on Christmas Day that the seamen of the Navy are allowed to have British meat? On every other day of the year they are fed upon chilled meat from the Argentine. That is most unfair to the farming community of this country. We can afford to spend £10,000,000 on Singapore, and surely we can afford to supply English meat to English lads and Scottish meat to Scottish lads. It is quite simple to provide Scottish meat, which is very excellent, for the Scottish seamen, and I see no reason why that should not be done. There used to be an article of diet supplied to the seamen known as salt pork, but for some extraordinary reason or other salt pork has been dropped and the only supply now is salt beef. I think that is a very great mistake, because salt beef has always been rather under a cloak in the Navy where it is known as "Fanny Adonis." The story is that

Adams had a domestic difference with his wife, and, after murdering her, he cut her up into small pieces and sent her out to sea in a salt beef cask.


I do not see bow the First Lord of the Admiralty is responsible for that.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I will bring the responsibility to him in this way, that, since he has held his office, he has dropped salt pork altogether out of the seamen's dietary, and they only get salt, beef; and there is an old-standing prejudice against salt beef, because no One knows that Fanny Adams has now been safely eaten, and some unfortunate ship—


This is of historical interest, but I cannot see how the First Lord is responsible for it!

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I would rather go into this matter of salt beef as affecting the Navy than into sugar beet as affecting the farmer, and I was reinforcing my argument that, when fresh meat is supplied to the Navy, at least it ought to be British meat. All modern ships now have refrigerators, in which meat can be kept for weeks, and salt provisions are almost a, matter of, as you say, Mr. Hope, historical interest. Because meat can be kept in this way there is less waste, and that is all the more reason why British meat should be supplied. I hope that some hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent farming constituencies will support me in this matter. I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) will not allow this insult to the Yorkshire farmers, and that the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish), who represents a part of the country where the best mutton is produced, will also support me, because mutton is allowed to be served on, I believe, two days a week, or it used to be.

With regard to clothing, there is one matter to which I should like to refer, and that is the kit of the newly-joined boy. Is he now allowed to have it made up for him, or is it still supplied ready made The old custom used to be that the cloth was cut up and made to fit the men, and that conduced, I think, to a very much better appearance. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, during that unforgettable period when he was First Lord, suddenly thought it would be better if the men were supplied with "reach-me-downs"—ready-made clothing—and so they were not any longer encouraged to cut out their own clothes, and the boys were not taught to use their needles, as all good seamen should; they were not encouraged to cut out and make their own clothes, as they all did in the cid days. Have we returned to that system of the men making their own clothes, or do they still have ready-made clothing?

Then the First Lord spoke of the boys who are now going to be housed m a converted prison, which he is going to call the St. Vincent Home. If it is going to be named after an admiral, I should have liked it to be called the Sir Cloudesley Shovel Home, because Sir Cloudesley Shovel entered the Navy as a seaman boy, and rose to the highest rank, and to use his name for a new training establishment would show every boy that in his kit-bag he carried an admiral's flag—in other words, it should be open to any boy entering the Navy to-day to rise to the highest rank by merit alone. That, unfortunately, is very rare indeed to-day. The mates are only given that rank late in life; they become lieutenants still later, and it is very difficult for them to get promotion before their age takes them outside the promotion zone. We are getting a very fine type of young boy in the Navy now, well educated and from good homes, many of them the sons, grandsons and great-grandsons of petty officers, and every facility should be given them, on their merits, to rise to commissioned rank, and instead of calling the new training home after Admiral Jervis, Lord St. Vincent, who was not our most successful admiral by any means, though it was a very glorious battle, I would rather have had the home called after Sir Cloudesley Shovel or Admiral Benbow. [An HON. MEMBER: "Kenworthy."] No; I want to commemorate one of the old seamen who started before the mast and reached flag rank. In these days I should like to see more opportunities given for the youths of such good quality whom the First Lord has under his care to reach commissioned rank. That is my principal question on the clothing. Are the boys encouraged to make their own clothes, or are we to continue this very retrograde step of issuing ready-made clothing?

The other matter deals with mess traps—Subhead K, £81,000. Mess traps are the kettles, plates, dishes, bowls, cups and cutlery and everything to do with furnishing the table. [Interruption.] The hon. Member is recently married and knows what it cost him to set up in his own house with these things. There should, I think, have been a greater saving in mess traps because of the general mess system which is almost universal now. Ninety per cent. of His Majesty's ships have the general mess system. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us how many ships remain without the general mess system. When you had the whole ship's company divided into messes and all prepared their own food and took it to the galleys to be cooked, they needed more utensils, but now that you have the cooks under the Paymaster preparing the meals for the men in one general mess there should surely be a saving, and I think this sum of £81,000 is rather high, especially as there is an increase of some £6,000 on last year. [Interruption.] I presume all the mess traps are British. I have never thought of that question. With a smaller Navy and with other economies, some explanation should be forthcoming of this item. I should also like to know whether the Navy is supplied with British beet sugar or cane sugar.

Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has no doubt spoken with great ability and has asked a great many questions. My only difficulty was that I could hardly hear him. If I miss anything in my reply, it is through inadvertence and lack of hearing power. It was almost impossible to hear what he said.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I will write to you.