HC Deb 22 January 1930 vol 234 cc273-94

I beg to move, That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that marriage allowances should be given to naval officers of the rank of lieutenant and above. The Seconder of the last Motion, after seven years in this House flattered himself that he gave his whole time and attention and ability to the service of the House and the country. I can follow him in that respect. This is the beginning of my 21st year of service in this House. I, wish I could say what was said by the Mover of the last Motion, and claim the indulgence that he had the right to claim for a maiden speech. None the less, I do ask for the indulgence of the House, and I apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House, that I cannot present my case with that order and that skill that I would wish. My reason is, perhaps, absence of ability, but there is the further fact that it was only yesterday that I was fortunate enough to know that I should be able to move this Motion. The time since then has been taken up with putting some notes together and collecting a few of my friends to support me on what we look upon as a vital matter.

I know that I am engaged in a more or less thankless task, but it is a task in which I am very greatly interested, and I rejoice whole-heartedly that I have the opportunity of bringing the question forward, although I sincerely wish that there had fallen to someone more capable than myself the duty of bringing out the necessary points. I am, and have been for many years, devoted to this subject. I dare say there is not a Member in the House who does not agree with me in saying that if you are too devoted to a subject that you bring forward you are apt, perhaps, to do it a little less than justice—less than would be the case if you were more of a free-lance and did not care quite so much to be absolutely accurate in every statement that you make. I know that the subject does not arouse any enthusiasm. It does not arouse even a hundredth part of the interest that it should arouse in Members of Parliament and in the constituencies that send them here. I do not know that even in dockyard constituencies Members are pushed as they should be to carry forward this matter. For that I will give the reason later. If country Members do not realise the intense importance of the Motion and of the marriage allowance for officers, it is because they do not realise the value of His Majesty's Navy, and of the officers, petty officers and ratings. That may seem to be a strange statement, but I think it is true. The country takes the Navy as an institution, a glorious and perfect institution. It takes it as a great existing fact, just like its own daily bread. The simile of the daily bread is not a bad one, for it is to the Navy and to the Navy alone, the Navy which keeps open the trade routes, that the country owes the ability to get its daily bread. There is no other force that I know of that could take its place and ensure the feeding of the people of this country.

We have just come through a great war. It was the Royal Navy and the Royal Navy alone that stood between this country and invasion, between this country and starvation, and between this country and intense suffering under the heel of invaders. This fact has not been sufficiently realised by the people of this country or by a large number of Members of this House. Perhaps that is because a great deal of the work that the Navy did was unrecognised and unrewarded. That is the whole fact. Battle clasps were not granted to the Navy. It was said that if they were granted to the Navy they would have to be granted also to the Army and the Air Force. That was not a valid argument. If any particular service did remarkably good work it was entitled to the reward for that work.

The country cannot real se, and it is difficult to realise, I admit, that there might be such a thing as a Navy which is not contented with its terms of service. Yet without a Navy and without a guarantee of the security of our food routes it is perfectly clear to everyone that we should starve. Should an enemy stop our food supplies it could impose any terms it wished upon us without landing a single man on the shores of this country. Contentment is a beautiful thing and it is fortunately stable in this country. But discontent can grow and spread with amazing rapidity. We saw in the War one of the most disciplined nations in the world. When the men of that nation who were fighting discovered, as they did finally, that their women and chidren were starving at home, discipline fell away like a snowfall from a roof. The officer who knows that his wife and children are suffering because he has not sufficient money to keep them in comfort, fights with one hand tied behind his back.

Mr. BEN SMITH (Treasurer of the Household)

And what about the men?

Commander SOUTHBY

They have got the allowance.

7.0 p.m.


Of course, the ratings have got the allowance, and if the hon. Member who interrupted will bear with me I will tell him about it. The Army and the Air Force have the marriage allowance. But the officer of the Navy to whom I have referred thinks and dreams in a bitter spirit. As he is a human being it is impossible that he should do otherwise. Let me give the recent history of the marriage allowance. The Admiralty a few years ago appointed a Naval Committee to go into the matter. The Committee was composed of senior officers. The most junior of them was a Commander, and he was the only one of that rank. My sympathy was entirely with him. No doubt he was a thoroughly honest man, but his position was an intolerable one. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why"?] A Commander, of course, is selected for his next post, and in most cases by the voices of his seniors in the Service. It surprised no one that the Committee decided against marriage allowance; the older officers, to whom the marriage allowance did not mean the very existence of their wives and children, did not mind voting against the marriage allowance. They may have thought that it would be a good thing if the young naval officer did not marry. There is possibly a great deal to be said on that point. There was a great commander in Egypt at the time I was there, and the first thing he told his officers was, "You are receiving a large salary, but you must not marry. The moment you marry you go home." He recognised that the charges they would have to bear for wives and children might stop even the most foolhardy. The ancient birds on the naval committee decided that the young ones should not marry until they reached at least the rank of captain when they would not require the marriage allowance. That committee reported, and the Government sheltered behind their decision and have done so ever since. If that committee had been composed of officers junior to the rank of captain, I have no doubt that its decision would have been exactly the opposite, but in that case the Treasury would have been beaten, the Government would have had to pay up, and the Service would be more contented than it is at present.

The First Lord in 1922—First Lords have always held out for marriage allowances—put marriage allowances in his sketch Estimates. There are shadow Cabinets and there were sketch Estimates. He apologised when the time came very sincerely and very honestly at having to withhold marriage allowances which he himself had put into the sketch Estimates. When he was appealed to to allow marriage allowances as compensation for the children's allowances which had previously been taken away, he said it was only financial reasons that prevented him giving these allowances and concluded with the words, "Marriage allowances must be omitted this year." That was in 1922. In his last year of office as First Lord, Mr. Bridgeman introduced marriage allowances into the Navy Estimates, and those Estimates passed. It was with great joy that all those who wanted a contented personnel and contented officers saw that done. We thought that we had got it at last, but the Government dashed that pleasant cup from our lips. That was as near as marriage allowances ever got to the open light. I trust the time may come when they will be granted, and I believe the party as a whole, the First Lord and the Navy are all in favour of them. As not infrequently happens, wisdom and experience went down before the pressure of finance.

I look to a Socialist Government to do better in this matter and to be more generous, than their predecessors. I know little of the financial situation, but I know that millions have been devoted to the extension of a certainly unsatisfactory dole. The Government should consider that this country's first and only real line of defence, which has kept this country immune and will, I trust, continue to keep it immune, the defence on which everything is based, only needs a comparatively small sum—about £350,000—to satisfy the most deserving branch of the Navy. An act of such common sense and courage would almost make me a Socialist, and force me to vote with them. In my part of the world, which is the headquarters of His Majesty's Fleet and the premier dockyard of the Empire, there were three Socialist candidates, and every one of them promised to bring in marriage allowances if they were returned. The Government should remember those promises.

Let me compare the senior service and the sister services. The comparison is unsatisfactory in the age at which the naval candidate is chosen, the physique required of him, the responsibilities imposed upon him, and the certainty of his being put "on the beach" not merely if he is responsible but if an accident occurs for which he may be only technically responsible. There was a great admiral in this House who had been on his bridge for more than a day and had gone below for a few hours' sleep, leaving the ship in charge of his second-in-command with orders to call him immediately if necessary. While he was getting his first doze the ship went ashore, and he was "beached." I know another admiral who was told to land his guns. He did so, and, while he was ashore, the second-in-command ran his ship ashore, and he was "beached." That does not obtain in the Army, and, as to the Air Force, if an officer has an accident in the air, the subsequent proceedings do not interest him much. This Government-stands for equal pay for equal work. Let them put their theories into practice in this matter. If you make a careful survey of the pay in the various ranks of the Army and of the Navy, you find that in certain cases the naval officer can receive a little more than his Army brother, but that is the maximum, and only about 1 per cent. or 1½ per cent. ever arrive at that maximum. You might as easily say that the Members of this House are in receipt of £5,000 a year, because certain Members of great perseverance, extraordinarily ability, and all the other qualities succeed in reaching the Front Bench. You could not fairly say that the salary of a Member of Parliament was £5,000 a year, nor could you say that the maximum pay a naval officer "an obtain is the pay of a naval officer. The naval officer and the Member of Parliament are both under-paid, the one for the work that he has to do, and the other for the work that he ought to do.

It will be said that there are no serious complaints reaching the Admiralty. If the Admiralty were to read my post bag, they would realise that there are very serious complaints indeed, piteous complaints, threats, almost always anonymous because most of the women tell me, "We dare not give you our names because we have no confidence in the Admiralty, and, after all, we must first of all look after our husbands, our children, and ourselves." When I first received these complaints, I was surprised that anybody should distrust such an innocent, charming, and delightful Department as the Admiralty, but time and the continuity of the complaints make me believe that there may be something in them. It is practically impossible for the Royal Navy to protest. In the acting ranks it would be madness; they had better go out and hang themselves. The retired officers might protest, but there are few people in this world willing to undergo a certain amount of odium for the sake of others. The wives and dependants might protest, but the Service, man, woman and child, is the most loyal Service in the world. It may be that it is a little innocent in thinking that the Government would trouble about them if they keep quiet and merely do their duty. The House knows the story of the bullfinch and the parrot. The bullfinch starved and died, but the parrot was fed; one sang a sweet song while the other screamed and made himself a nuisance.

I will recall something that occurred at the outbreak of the War. All the retired officers were called back in the first week, and when they got back to their ships they received pay and pension. They worked and took war risks alongside the men who were eligible for pension but only received pay. I and many of my friends raised the matter in this House, took it to the Admiralty, and worked as hard as we could in pressing it on the Admiralty during 1914, 1915, 1916 and 1917. It was only in November, 1917, that a sincere individual with common sense arose in the Admiralty and pointed out the enormous risk we were running. Then pay plus pension was given to all those who were serving and eligible for pension. The anxiety to please was such that not only did they give it, but they made it retrospective to August, 1914. Would that such a man would arise now in the Admiralty and do his duty in the same way. It is to be remembered that naval ratings enjoy this marriage allowance. The Army have it and the Air Force have it; but it is denied to the naval officer and no legitimate reason of which I have ever heard has been given for that denial. The naval officer does not receive any children's allowance and remember that he has always to keep up two establishments. Are his wife and children to suffer? The children are not even given that two shillings' weekly allowance of which we have heard so much in this House. Of course it is absolutely insufficient, but the naval officer's children do not even get that although these men are serving their country in a very special manner.

The pay of the naval officer has just been cut by between 6 per cent. and 7 per cent., but I do not think that his expenses are diminished by as much as a quarter of one per cent. I believe the cost of living has dropped a point or two recently and the reason stated in "The Times" is that there has been a reduction in the price of eggs. That is of great interest to the poorly paid naval officer and his wife and children. His house rent, his household expenses, the school fees of his children, doctors bills, the maintenance of two establishments, the cost of his different uniforms—their name is legion and they are for the most part covered with costly gold lace—the expenses of his mess—unlike the Army officer he has to pay mess expenses except in very rare instances even if he lives at home—all these items have to be considered. Again, half pay is much more frequent in the Navy than in the sister service and operates for much longer periods. The naval officer gets no married quarters and gets practically no assisted passages for his wife. There can be no valid reason why the naval officer should be treated worse than his brethen in the sister service. The reason given is finance but that is a hollow reason. I will not say it is untrue but it is not exact. If the naval officer were paid according to his deserts, according to what he represents, according to what he is worth to this country and the Empire, the Front Bench would have to look to its pay sheet, and to its laurels.

Major-General Sir JOHN DAVIDSON

I beg to second the Motion.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir B. Falle) has covered the ground generally in presenting the case for this Motion to the House and there are matters of detail which I understand my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) intends to put forward in relation to the pay of the respective Services. I take particular pleasure in seconding this Motion from a personal point of view. I have been for most of my life in the Army and, in the past, I have drawn the equivalent to this allowance, namely, separation allowance, and I cannot for the life of me see why the naval officer should not draw it in the same way as the Army or Air Force officer. To my mind it is purely a question of equity as between the three Services. If the lower ranks in the Navy get it and if the whole of the Army and Air Force get it, why select one particular class and exclude that class from the benefits of the allowance? I think that in this matter naval officers are suffering a great hardship and the sense of grievance which is felt on this matter is quite justifiable.

I am also delighted to second this Motion because I, perhaps more than any other Member of this House, come in contact with these people owing to the fact that I represent a Division which includes the whole of the suburbs of Portsmouth and the surrounding country districts. I can say without exaggeration that the whole of my constituency is strewn with these naval grass widows. I see them frequently from one week-end to another and I feel a great sense of responsibility in this matter. I am always delighted to see them; they are very charming people but I feel extremely sorry for them when I realise that they are suffering hardships which ought not to be imposed on them. One sees there a very large number of these people with their families, their husbands being in the Mediterranean or on the China station or elsewhere and, as my hon. Friend the Mover has pointed out, each family has to keep up two establishments. This involves considerable expense and since the War, notwithstanding pay increases, the cost of living is very much greater. I think the difficulty of living in a decent manner has been very much increased since the War.

Ever since I have been in this House I have consistently advocated that something should be done towards the coordination of the throe Services. I recognise that this is not the proper time to discuss the subject, but I believe that a measure of real effective co-ordination is not very far off. It distresses me to see this lack of uniformity, this inequality, in dealing with such important matters as pay, pensions and allowances, still existing between the three services. I cannot understand why the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry have not taken up this matter before because when two classes of people serving beside each other find themselves treated differently in these respects, without any explanation or excuse whatever being given, then grievances are bound to arise. As I have said, this is a very real grievance; it has been mentioned, I think, that this question was before the House a few years ago, but when the Estimates were before the House, and the question of the marriage allowance was raised the issue was confused. To-night the issue is not confused. It is a perfectly plain and simple problem; it is simply a question of whether these naval officers are to be treated in the same manner as the rest of the Services, and as this is to be left to a free Vote of the House, I trust it will be given to-night unanimously in favour of the Motion.


Like the two hon. Members who have so ably advocated this proposal, I can say that this is not the first occasion on which I have raised my voice in the House to support this plea. When I first came into the House I found that this question was exciting a great deal of interest. It was raised almost every week and the Government of the day always said that the matter was under consideration. Eventually the hon. Gentleman who is now the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty had the privilege of announcing that a committee had been set up under a distinguished Admiral to inquire into the matter. That was the Goodenough Committee. There was another Admiral and two paymaster-captains on the committee. They made a full investigation. All sorts of claims had been put forward; some had been rebutted, and it was the business of the Committee to ascertain the facts and put the Government in possession of those facts. Their inquiries were prolonged and thorough; they called evidence from every possible quarter; they examined the budgets of naval officers and inquired into the conditions under which officers' wives were living and officers' children were being educated. After a year they presented a report which recommended that these allowances ought not in justice to be withheld any longer, but ought to be paid to married officers in the Navy in exactly the same way as to married officers of the Army or Air Force. The Admiralty accepted the report and inserted in the Navy Estimates of 1925 a proposal to spend £350,000 upon these allowances. From every quarter of the House support was forthcoming, and the proposal was carried unanimously, with great rejoicing, as might have been expected, in the homes of naval officers when they thought that at long last justice had been done.

That was in March, 1925. Then the coal trouble arose, This House was asked to vote £20,000,000 as a subsidy for the mines, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a moment of panic, decided to sacrifice this paltry little sum of £350,000, which was going to be paid to the officers' wives in the Navy, in order to help the taxpayers out of their difficulty. It was a very sorry blow, but it is no good re-opening the merits of the case. The merits of the case have already been decided. They were decided by the Goodenough Committee, and although the honour of announcing the recommendation of that Committee fell to a Conservative First Lord of the Admiralty, an ex-Financial Secretary to the Admiralty who belonged to the Socialist party was quick to point out that the credit was really his. This is what the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty said on that occasion, and that is why I await his speech this evening, on behalf of the naval officers, with so much confidence and assurance: We can also feel some satisfaction that the present Government are pursuing a policy with regard to marriage allowances for naval officers which the last Government took. They appointed the Goodenough Committee, which, I understand, has reported favourably to the Admiralty, and from the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman to-night the Admiralty have decided to press it upon the Treasury, and in so far as this is concerned, he has the support of this party, which initiated it and will be glad to see it carried through."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1925; col. 2626, Vol. 181.] That was five years ago. The Financial Secretary to the Admiralty has had to possess himself in patience for five years. He has persevered, he has struggled, he has waited, and at last he finds himself in the same position again, in a position to carry out, on behalf of his party, what he said he would be so anxious to carry out in the year 1925. That is why I have faith that he will say to-night exactly what he said in 1925, namely, that it is the policy of his party to give these allowances to naval officers.

My hon. Friends who have preceded me have spoken, the one with great vivacity, the other with deep feeling, and have put forward all the arguments with which the House is so well acquainted, so that it is hardly necessary for me to repeat that the naval officer, unlike the Army officer, has to keep up two homes, and very frequently more than two homes. Owing to the vicissitudes of the Service, he is moved constantly from one port to another port. He has taken the lease of a house, and made arrangements for his children to go to school." He has to sacrifice the lease for what it will fetch, and establish his home elsewhere. Frequently he cannot get rid of the lease, and there have been cases where naval officers have been saddled with three leases, while everybody knows that the rents in naval ports are very much higher than they are elsewhere, because the naval officer has to live there, and those who let the accommodation know that very well. He has to educate his children, not as the civilian has to educate them, because he cannot send them to a day school, owing to the uncertainty of his stabilisation in any particular spot; he must send them to a boarding school.

Exactly the same applies to the officer promoted from the lower deck. We want to democratise the Navy to some extent, and to lay it open to all sections of the community. The man who is promoted from the lower deck to-day has a harder task than he should have, because while he is on the lower deck he gets a marriage allowance, but the moment his ability is recognised, he loses his marriage allowance, and although he may get as much pay as, but no more than, he got when he was a petty officer, he has to keep up a higher status with that pay, although it is not increased in the initial stages of his career as an officer. If we want to draw the Navy from a wider section of the community, we must allow the same principle to apply to officers as applies on the lower deck, and we must allow the marriage allowance to continue. I have said enough to show that there is a really substantial case in this.

There is only one further anomaly to which I wish to call attention. On an aircraft carrier you have a young Air Force officer drawing more pay than a young Naval officer. He is married, and he gets a marriage allowance as well. It is not taken into account for Income Tax; it is free of Income Tax. He is working side by side with a young Naval officer, who is also married. There is absolutely no difference in the type of duty they are executing, but you pay a marriage allowance to one and withhold it from the other. As I have said, the Government is already committed, through the mouth of the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, to carry this into operation. Therefore, I need not argue with any greater force. I am sure we shall have a favourable announcement this evening. It would be a very happy concomitant to the Naval Conference. In the Naval Conference we are concerned with the numbers and sizes of ships. Tonight we are concerned with those who man the ships, and I hope this House will show the delegates of the various Powers to the Naval Conference that we are not only concerned with the first aspect of the problem, but that we are also prepared to look after the Navy, who look after us.

Commander SOUTHBY

I have no desire to occupy the time of this House to any great extent, and indeed much that I would like to have said has been most ably said already, and naval officers in general will be very grateful to the hon. Members who have preceded me. I have some diffidence in rising to address the House on this subject, because I am a naval officer, and it might perhaps seem as if I were a biased person, but at the same time the officers of the Service to which I have the honour to belong are in the main entirely inarticulate so far as putting their views before the country is concerned. It is impossible for any officer on the active list to state his views on this subject, and, therefore, I feel that on me devolves the duty, which I shall do my best to discharge, to put the views of the naval officers before this House.

This House has always, throughout its honourable history, been keen and ready to remedy injustices, and this is a matter of pure justice to a body of men who have not up to date received it. I do not believe that if hon. Members, on whatever side they may sit, really understood the facts—and I hope that now, from the speeches of those who have preceded me, they do fully understand the facts—they would do anything but vote, if there should be a Division, for this injustice to be remedied. I do not presume to say that my own party has been altogether blameless in the matter. The pre-War rates of pay to the naval officer were low. The rates of pay in the Navy have always been low throughout the history of the Navy. Before the War a lieutenant got 10s. a day, a commander got £1 a day, and it might reasonably be supposed that he might wish to marry. In those days there was no question of a marriage allowance. After the War, in 1921, the whole of this question of marriage allowances was discussed, and it was shelved then owing to the financial conditions, with the proviso that it should be brought up again in 1924. We have heard from the last speaker that it was brought up again, and we have heard what happened.

I do not think hon. Members realise the extraordinary discrepancies between the condition of the naval officer and that of the army officer. The naval officer has to keep up two establishments. It is far cheaper for a man to live in a home with his wife and family. The army officer lives in a house with his wife and family, he is paid a marriage allowance to help him keep up his home, and so much does the War Office realise the necessity for paying a man with a wife and family a little more that if that army officer is taken away from his home, he is paid an extra allowance while he is away. If he is given accommodation allowance and lodging allowance while he is away, he still continues to draw it for his home. Not so in the Navy. The naval officer may have to live abroad. He has to keep up a home in this country, and if he wishes to have his wife and family out to the station he is on, he has to pay for their passage. The army officer gets an assisted passage, and his wife and family go out to him free.

Another point worth considering is that the naval officer has many moves, and, therefore, his expenses in moving his home are very great. I have had some experience of it myself, so that I know what I am talking about. The army officer has relatively fewer moves, and, therefore, his expenses in moving are a great deal less. I have heard the argument put forward, as being one of the reasons why the naval officer does not get a marriage allowance, that the rates of his pay are so high that they really include the marriage allowance which is paid to the army officer and the air force officer, but if that be so, there still remains an injustice, because the army officer pays no Income Tax on his marriage allowance and his special allowance, nor are those allowances subject to triennial reduction, but the naval officer does pay Income Tax on the whole of his pay, and his pay is also subject to triennial reduction, so that if included in his pay is some measure of marriage allowance or some equivalent marriage allowance, he is still unfairly treated, in that he pays tax on it, whereas the army officer does not. When the naval rates of pay were fixed in 1919 it was assumed that the army rates, which contemplated a marriage allowance in addition, would not be fixed at such a rate as to place the army in a Letter position than the navy.

I cannot help thinking that the Coordinating Committee really let themselves be unduly influenced also by the suggestion that some naval officers reach higher ranks at younger ages than army officers. It is true that that is so, but at the same time they reach responsibility at a relatively younger age than in the Army. If you take the actual figures of pay for two ranks, a lieutenant-commander, who ranks with a major, is relatively a younger man, but if you take a senior lieutenant-commander at the age of 36 and compare him with a junior major of 37, you find an enormous discrepancy in their pay. The 1919 standard rate of pay for a lien tenant commander is £620 a year, and in addition his 1929 victualling or ration allowance is £24 a year, or £644 altogether. The junior major of 37 gets £574 as his standard rate of pay, plus a victualling and ration allowance of £28, and in addition he gets a marriage allowance, which with furniture, lodging, fuel, and also servant allowance, totals up to £209, making a total of £812, as against the £644 of the senior lieutenant-commander, who is senior to him in service rink, although about the same age. In addition to that, there is the anomaly of the married army officer who is separated from his family and who gets an additional allowance of about £78, so that he would have in all, if separated from his family, £890, as against the £644 of the naval lieutenant-commander, who would be keeping up another establishment at home in addition to his expenses in his mess in his ship.

The Army have this marriage allowance, the Air Force have this marriage allowance, and the naval ratings on the lower deck have this marriage allowance. In common justice, what is the reason for withholding it from the married naval officer? If anybody is deserving of this marriage allowance, surely it is a man who seldom sees his wife and family, who may be sent at a moment's notice to China and come back, as I have known in several cases, to this country with just three weeks' leave, and then be sent off to the Mediterranean. Surely he is deserving of this small measure of help from the House of Commons which he has learned to trust. I have asked questions in this House in which I have suggested that if, like Pharaoh, the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite harden their hearts, and cannot see their way to give this allowance, at least they might stabilise the pay of the naval officer at its present level, so that he should not have the fear of the future cuts that must come under the present regulations. That would be something—half a loaf is better than no bread—but it would be a very small penny bun compared with the whole loaf which a naval officer would get if he received justice.

There are several other advantages which the army officer gets over the naval officer. For example, he gets free medical attention for his family. That does not apply to the naval officer. He has to pay the doctor's bill for his wife and family, who may be left at home while he is abroad. In no circumstances does he get free medical treatment for them, although he may be living in the same dockyard port as his family. The army officer can call in an army doctor and get treatment. It used to be said that no naval officer under the rank of admiral had a wife who was recognised. The naval officer's wife is not recognised by the provision of married quarters, so he has always to pay for his home accommodation. If it is argued that the naval officer's pay is such that it counterbalances the amount of advantage which an army officer has over him, I submit that that entirely falls to the ground, because obviously the home expenses for the one must be much greater than the home expenses for the other.

This is one of those occasions upon which the House can regard the question as a non-party question, on which all sides of the House can unite to remedy one of those things for which the House exists, namely, injustice perpetrated in anyway upon any people in this country, whether they serve His Majesty in the Navy, Army or Air Force, or serve the nation in any shape or form. I beg the Financial Secretary to hold out some hope to the naval officer that he may feel that at long last this grave injustice will be remedied by a vote of the whole House irrespective of party.


I feel that I must support my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Sir B. Falle), and add my voice in urging the rectification of this grievance, being, as I am, one of the members for our great naval port of Portsmouth. It has always appeared to me an anomaly that the Army and the Air Force should give this allowance to their officers, but that the Navy should not. I know that people will say, "Probably it will not make an officer so efficient if he gets the marriage allowance." Before the War, a subaltern was not generally supposed to marry; it was supposed to be bad for the regiment, and many regiments would not have it. Now that that is all done away with, and there are marriage allowances in the Army and Air Force, it is an anomaly that it should not be given in the Navy, I hope and believe that hon. Members opposite will vote for this allowance, because they believe that, when a man becomes unemployed, he should get sufficient money given to him to keep not only himself, but also his wife and children. The same argument applies with a great deal more force to people serving in the British Navy.

As a business man, I have always, found that it pays well to make people happy and content, and to get rid of any possible grievance; although it may be only a little thing, it grows and rankles. I do not say for an instant that it affects the efficiency of the naval officer because he has this grievance, for we all know that the Navy is a sound; service, and that the officers will do their duty whether this grievance is' rectified or not, but the granting of this allowance will remove a grievance which is rankling there the whole time, and cannot be for the good of the Service. It is not as if it would involve the vote of a large sum, for it is only a paltry sum, as sums go now, of £350,000. If it will put the Navy on a par with the Army and the Air Force, it is only right that this House should take the first opportunity of remedying this grievance. It seems extraordinary that when a man is promoted he actually becomes worse off than he was when he was in the lower ranks, because his marriage allowance ceases. I hope that the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty will see his way to urge that this anomaly should be put right, and to get the Navy put on all fours with the other Services.


One listened with a large amount of interest to the remarks made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, for they show that the number of sins of omission and commission of the late Government which this Government are asked to remedy are beyond count. I am one of those who agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite that the naval officer should have this allowance. There is no logical argument against it, for the Army and Air Force have it, and the Navy should have it. I hope that it may be possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, upon the recommendation of the Financial Secretary, to allow this £350,000 to be paid. It may not be easy, with all the demands that have been put on the Exchequer by recent legislation, and that will be put on in legislation which we hope to bring in in the next twelve months, but it will be easy to do it if we scrap one battleship. Battleships are unnecessary; they are no good for offence or defence. It costs £8,000,000 to build one, and by scrapping one we can easily get the £350,000 which the naval officers are entitled to receive.


As one who has served in a sister Service to the Royal Navy in a comparatively junior rank, I would like to support this proposal, because I have seen the hardships which have been put upon naval officers working side by side with officers in the Royal Air Force and the Army. There is only one thing in the Debate which I regret, and that is the comparison which the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) made with regard to the flying officer on an aircraft carrier. I regret it, because comparisons are thoroughly odious in services where the pay is inadequate all through, and because nobody would grudge the money which the flying officer gets for the risks which he takes.

One point which has not been touched on is the position which an officer is forced to keep up. It would be very easy to say, Why should an officer get so much pay when somebody else in another walk of life is not getting anything like that amount? When, however, the position which an officer has to keep up is taken into account, it will be seen that the pay is far from munificent. There has been a suggestion that certain Cabinet Ministers should be paid higher salaries, and that is an assumption that certain people in an official position have to keep up that position, and must be given money to allow them to do it. In the Navy we handicap officers who have to keep up their position, and naval officers, who have wives and families to keep, find that it is impossible for them to keep up their position with the means at their disposal.

There is an added reason for reviewing this matter at the present time. It is that a certain percentage of pay is subject to reduction owing to the cost of living. I have never been able to make out why on one day in the newspapers we read that, owing to a reduction in the cost of living, the pay of Army, Navy and Air Force officers is to be reduced on a certain date, and in the same paper that, owing to the increase in the cost of living, certain civil servants' wages are to go up. The present situation has grown up in the past partly owing to the attitude which I, having close relations in the Navy, know exist—the attitude of the Admiralty and certain senior officers, which is to discourage young officers from getting married. These times have passed, and the more young officers are married, the better for this country. The more young marriages we have in every section of life, particularly in the Service sections, which have been the backbone of the past, the more we are ensuring the future of this country. Family life is something of which we are very proud, and which we should do everything in our private and official capacities to encourage in every way possible.

The old senior officers' attitude was that the ship was the young officer's wife, and that he should be married to the Service. There is no comparison there at all, because the ship would make a very hard wife. It gets you up very early in the morning, and to be married to the Service would mean that the husband would be receiving a pension from the wife, but I have never known a case like that. Here we are trying to get a pension which will enable the husband to keep his wife in the way that he should be able to do—an allowance which will enable him to keep his family in that state in which he has to keep them owing to his official position, a state in which his brother officers in the other services are keeping them, although with a struggle. We are trying to remove a penalty under which the naval officer has been suffering, a penalty which I am sorry to say the last Government did not remove. It is never too late to mend, and I hope to-night, when we hear the statement of the hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench, that the grievance of the past will be removed, and we should welcome that statement for the sake of those officers.

Mr. SANDERS rose

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,

The House was adjourned at Two Minutes after Eight o'Clock until To-morrow.