Motion made, and Question proposed,
That 97,050 Officers, Seamen, Boy6 and Royal Marines be employed for -he Sea Service, together with 500 for the Royal Marine Police, borne on the books 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, 1931.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
In the course of the Debate some hon. Members opposite have shown a most undue super-sensitiveness to what has been said on this side of the Committee. For instance, it has become the custom for hon. Members to object to any sort of comparison with the United States.
The hon. and gallant Member is not entitled to discuss in Committee what took place in Debate in the House.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I shall confine myself to a general statement. I think it is inadvisable to show super-sensitiveness in regard to comparisons with the United States. Nobody on this side of the Committee thinks for one moment that we are going to war with the United States. The United States has claimed parity with this country, and also a proportion of 10 to 7 in regard to Japan. The United States has a great fleet in the Pacific. It is a point for us to make that if the United States is making such-and-such preparations, we are very likely to be right if, with far greater interests on the sea, we imitate the United States. The super-sensitiveness of hon. Members has been shown on such questions as the holding of manœuvres, or grand manœuvres as they have been called. The Board of Admiralty are carrying out ordinary tactical exercises, not grand manœuvres. We are the only one of three great naval Powers that has never carried 1821 out grand manœuvres since the War was ended. We have carried out the ordinary tactical exercises without mobilising special ships. Such sensitiveness exposes us to the charge of hypocrisy. If we were to abandon the ordinary tactical exercises, the natural result would be that the nations would accuse us of hypocrisy. The other side show no such super-sensitiveness about laying down the law in regard to matters on which they differ from the war staff—the experts who are advising the Admiralty. I saw a petition the other day signed by 206 Members of Parliament in favour of the abolition of the battleship. Not merely that, but the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty advocated the abolition of the battleship, although I know that the war staffs of all the great naval Powers consider that it would be madness to abolish the battleship.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
There may be one or two, but they have been largely misquoted. Some admirals have pointed out that if you abolish the battleship, then the cruiser becomes a battleship, but they do not advocate scrapping the existing battleships. You may be able, here and there, to find an admiral who would not be accepted as a great expert, who has perhaps never held any responsible position on the war staff, advocating such a view as the total abolition of battleships. I saw the names of some admirals given the other day, but I would not accept the opinion of one of them as against that of the War Staff. It is very different when Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond is quoted, but all he said was that he would reduce the size considerably and he did not, as far as I remember, advocate the scrapping of the existing battle fleet. We have that fleet now. Some hon. Members seem to think that our cruisers can function without the backing of a battle fleet, but cruisers without a battle fleet behind them would be in exactly the same position as the German cruisers which we eventually hunted down during the War. The battle fleet is the secure foundation on which all sea power rests. You could not defend your commerce in the Pacific unless you had a battle fleet in the Pacific to face, say, the Japanese fleet, supposing 1822 that there was a war with Japan. Without a battle fleet your commerce would come to an end. Here you have in existence a fleet of battleships ready to secure peace.
Consider another point. If the battle fleet were abolished the cruisers would become a battle fleet and it would be necessary to have a fleet of cruisers on which your other cruisers could base their operations. You would get a repetition at sea of the tactics of the Boer commandoes which gave us so much trouble in the South African War—at one moment they dispersed, at another they concentrated. You would have to build a big fleet of cruisers to function in place of the battle fleet and you would require another fleet of light cruisers to protect your commerce, and so, instead of escaping from a building programme, you would add to the building necessities of the country. That would be the only result of the abolition of the battleship. By all means, scale down the size of the future battleships, and reduce the number, as long as you have a fleet, but the abolition of the fleet of battleships altogether would not be economical and would endanger our whole position, unless we built a large number of extra cruisers.
I recognise the inadvisability of any comments which might embarrass the Prime Minister or the First Lord in the negotiations which they are conducting. I think that on the vexed questions still under discussion of cruisers and destroyers it is better to defer any remarks that we may have to make, until we come to the shipbuilding Vote. There is, however, one item which has been more or less passed over in the Conference, and that is the question of the submarines, on which one is perhaps entitled to make a few remarks. There is a great deal of misconception because the possibilities of the submarine in a future war are judged by what took place in the last War. It is true that we lost 20 merchant ships for every submarine that we sank belonging to Germany, and that we went through a very trying time in the spring of 1917. It is true that there was one period when we had only three weeks grain supply in the country, and when we lost 237,000 tons of merchant shipping in one week.
I understand that it has been the custom in previous years to allow a certain latitude in the Debate on Vote A, and I am prepared to follow that custom as long as the matters brought under discussion are linked up with the question of personnel, but obviously I cannot allow a discussion going into all kinds of details such as the question of ship construction, details of submarines. Therefore, I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will keep as closely as possible to the question of personnel and its relation to the other matters he desires to raise.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I do not question your Ruling, of course, Mr. Dunnico, but, speaking from a long experience, may I say that we have always been allowed to carry on a Debate on general policy on Vote A.
I have ruled that there can be a very wide discussion on Vote A, but that it must be linked up with the question of personnel, which is the Vote before us.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I do not know quite how far I can go under that Ruling. I have taken part in many of these Debates, and I have always found that full discussion was allowed on naval policy.
I do not wish in any way to limit the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech. I am only anxious that he should not wander too far from the subject matter of Vote A.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I do not suppose that I shall wander too far. I was going to deal with the question of the Root Resolutions also, because those Resolutions, by limiting submarine warfare, would necessarily save us the provision of a large number of ships. There are two considerations in regard to the submarines and their possibilities in any future War. First as regards merchant shipping. We were not prepared for the submarine warfare on merchant shipping in the late War, and nothing like the success achieved by the German submarines would be achieved by submarines in any future war. In the second place, as regards warships, it is true that we lost 191,000 tons by submarine attack, but I venture to say that only a small percentage of such loss from submarines 1824 would be incurred under modern conditions with the proper provision of destroyers and so forth.
That leads me to my point that if you can abolish the submarine, and convince other nations that the submarine is not of the utility to them which they think—just as I imagine we have convinced Italy of that fact—if you can do this, you will necessarily bring about a great economy in naval force. You will economise in cruisers, very largely in destroyers, and in minelayers, because minefields are to a large extent laid in order to protect submarine exits. If we had destroyed the German High Seas Fleet in the late War, we would have been able to bring the submarine menace to an end within a week, because we would have destroyed the mine field, which was the means by which submarines made their exit into the high seas. So long as the High Seas Fleet existed, it was a complete protection to the maintenance of the minefield. Therefore, if you get rid of submarines, you get rid also of a large number of minelayers, minesweepers, a large number of small craft used for depth charges to destroy submarines, and so on.
Even if this Conference fails to achieve many of the things that we had hoped, the Entente that has been created with America will be one very solid achievement upon which the Prime Minister may plume himself. That is a great thing. There is, in addition to that, as far as I can see, the fact that we have got France to the point at which she has once more reaffirmed the spirit of the Root Resolutions. At the last Conference, France found herself faced by the public opinion of the world, because she demanded 10 battleships of 35,000 tons, and she had obstructed the Washington Conference at every point. Finding herself faced with that, she agreed to the Root Resolutions, by which every vessel had to be stopped and searched, and the searchers had to be satisfied as to the nature of the vessel and had to provide for the safety of the crew and passengers. Some 17½ months elapsed before France ratified the Washington Treaty, and she never ratified the Root Resolutions. I think that at this Conference it is very necessary that every nation should pledge itself to ratify the Resolutions of the Conference within a year.
1825 That is one thing that we have gained, as I have said, France's assent to the Root Resolutions; but here is the difficulty. The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), speaking from the Liberal Benches, pointed out that the air ought to be under the Admiralty. I entirely agree. We would then have brought into the Conference this whole question of the air menace to our merchant ships, and it is a very serious question in the Mediterranean. Surely, if the submarines have to search merchant vessels and provide for the safety of the crew, the same rule ought to apply in regard to the air attack on merchant vessels as well. Yet this Conference, owing to the British Navy having nothing whatever to do with the administration of the air services, is not even discussing the question of the air in this connection. We do not know what provision we have to make, because we have so little to do with the air in regard to these matters, and I think the Government would be well advised, now that the Air Force has been established for so long, to have a public inquiry into the whole of the relations between the air and the other fighting Services and civil flying, such as was carried out in America under Mr. Dwight Morrow, who is one of America's representatives over here. In fact, the First Lord of the Admiralty could not do better than find out exactly how that inquiry was carried out, and what an amount of good it did in America.
I wish the First Lord of the Admiralty the utmost success in his work. I really think the Conference will succeed, in spite of the pessimism of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) and others. I believe it will succeed in a measure, and that that measure will lead to fresh successes in the future. I think that France, rather than face the public opinion of the world, will come down considerably in her demands. Such is the state of the finances of this country that we have to get naval and all armaments down if we can, and we have to rely more and more, as time passes, on the Kellogg Pact. I believe that that Kellogg Pact is the first successful attempt to substitute the precepts of Christianity for those of Machiavelli, and in its attempt to carry that Pact to further and further successes, and to bring it into the atmosphere of 1826 the world, so that people may come to believe in it, I wish the Government all success.
§ Sir BERTRAM FALLE
On a point of Order. Do I understand that we are on Vote A only, or are we on Votes A and 1?
§ Captain W. G. HALL
I am sure the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) will not think it amiss if I do not follow him in the line of argument which he has pursued. I wish to direct attention to other points which opportunities such as these—and they are all too few—give to those of us who represent dockyard and naval towns to make points upon which our constituents feel strongly. The first point that I would like to make is this: By questions and privately, through the Whitley Committee and otherwise, a good deal of attention has been directed towards getting the Admiralty to stop a practice, which has grown tremendously in recent years, of employing naval ratings in the dockyards. The trade unions, naval men, and the men who work in the yards all agree that this practice is one that ought to he kept within much narrower bounds.
The Admiralty tell us that it is a necessary part of the training of the naval personnel, and we agree that that argument has a great deal of force. Jack is called a handy man, and it is essential that, when he is many miles from shore, he should be able to turn his hand to all kinds of repairs; but I would suggest to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty that this practice is now carried much too far, and is greatly overdone. The men from the naval barracks are taken into the dockyard at about 8.30 in the morning, whereas the dockyard men get there at seven. They then draw overalls and tools from the dockyard store, and they work till 11.30, when they are taken back to barracks. They come again at about 1.30 to do more work, either painting or some kind of engineering repair work, and at 3.30 it is "Liberty men ashore."
I would suggest that that kind of thing is extremely uneconomic. The men spend a great deal of time in marching to and fro, and when they get there, they are not long enough on the job to 1827 be able to do anything worth while. I am informed that there are 130 men working on His Majesty's Ship "Hood," 50 on His Majesty's Ship "Valiant" and 25 on His Majesty's Ship "Dauntless." His Majesty's Ship "Effingham" has just returned to Portsmouth Harbour after two and a-half years of foreign service, and is undergoing the same sort of treatment by the naval personnel; and men are being employed upon that ship who have had no leave since they returned home at the end of February. I hope, therefore, that these representations and those by others which will, I hope, be made to-night will have their influence on the First Lord, and in particular on the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty.
There is another point which I would like to raise, and that is this: Portsmouth has recently been greatly surprised to hear that a suggestion has been put forward that the School of Music, now situated in Eastney, should be removed to the Royal Marine Barracks at Deal. The "Portsmouth Evening News," by no means a journal which is given to overstating, has said that this will mean the loss of over 1,000 men and boys to the City of Portsmouth, with serious results to traders and others. Many of the men who are employed either as officers or warrant officers or instructors have bought or are buying their houses in and about Portsmouth, and they view with great concern the suggestion that this school should be moved. They feel that if they have to uproot themselves, they will have to sell their houses at a great loss, and when they get to Deal they will have great difficulty in finding similar houses. In fact, all the information goes to show that there are no small houses at Deal; rents are extremely high, and much difficulty will be caused to these men.
Another point which may be raised, and which has great force, is that a great number or the boys who go to this school are recruited from local homes, and when they are off duty they are under parental control which they will lose if they go to Deal. There has been so much feeling on this subject in Portsmouth, that I do not want to miss a single point that may have weight with the First Lord when he comes to make a decision. 1828 Eastney, Southsea and Portsmouth together are a much more healthy place than Deal can possibly be. Facilities there for outdoor recreation and games are not nearly so fine as the facilities which are offered at Eastney. The City of Portsmouth, apart from any question of the loss to the traders which the removal of the school will mean, is very proud of the School of Music; they find it extremely useful; for in concerts and charity concerts, and in other directions, the school has helped the city a great deal. Then there is the question of training; these men form an integral part of a ship when it is at sea; Portsmouth is adjacent to Whale Island and if the school is moved to Deal, the distance of Whale Island would cause inconvenience or even its loss to them. On the question of pay and allowances, hon. Members will remember that a few months ago there was a discussion in this House on the question of giving marriage allowances to officers.
The question of pay and allowances will come on Vote 1; it does not come on Vote A.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Captain HALL
I bow to your Ruling. I would like to offer a few observations on the question of promotion from the lower deck. I was pleased to hear the First Lord say that this matter was now receiving his careful consideration. Most of us here are very much in favour of an extension of promotion from the lower deck. The first commander ex-mate received his third stripe in 1926, and at least two years went by before the second commander was so promoted. I believe that during 1928 a good deal of pressure was brought to bear from the Admiralty, and as a result, owing to the new Government I hope, the third commander was promoted. If promotions are going to be made at that rate, it is much too slow, especially for a Labour Government, which believes in making promotions in the Navy as democratic as possible. I hope that the First Lord, when he considers this matter, will take into account the fact that almost universally there is a feeling that the word "mate" should be dropped.
I hope that he will consider also whether it is possible for the men who have received promotions in the mate class to be brought into line with those 1829 who have been cadets. At the present time, owing to the change in the pay and allowances for new entries since 1925, there are lieutenants and lieutenant-commanders, ex-mates, drawing £36 a year less than men junior to them, who came up from the cadet class; and it strikes me as unfair that this should continue, especially as the Conservative Government, when they implemented the Anderson Report, gave a distinct understanding that this should not affect any man already in the Service. We should look with confidence to a Labour Government which, of all Governments, might be called a Government of the mate class. Many of the Members of this Government have received promotion from the lower deck; that is why it is such a fine Government, and I hope that they will realise that in other walks of life, especially in the Service, men of ability on the lower deck should be able to rise much quicker and go much further.
With regard to the engine-room artificers, we hear a great deal these days about the enormous changes which have taken place in the Army and the Navy. They have become much more mechanical, and they employ the human body as a means of directing the machines which do the work of the Army and the Navy. Years ago a man went aloft to furl a sail; now he goes below to tighten a nut. Then he cocked an eye to the wind; now he fixes his eye on a clock or pressure gauge. It is the same with the compass. Compass bearings are important to the commander of a ship or the watch-keeper, but the engineer who watches the bearings of the engines is just as important. So the engineer on board ship has now become of the highest moment to the welfare of the ship, but, unfortunately, since 1925 the position of chief engine-room artificers and engine-room artificers has been reduced. This branch of the service seems to be the only one that has suffered a reverse in status and in pay, yet it is one of the most, if not the most, highly skilled of all the branches found in the Navy. Every day the duties of the engine-room artificers and chief engine-room artificers become more and more important, and I therefore hope that the private representations which have been made to the First Lord of the Admiralty by representative bodies and also by hon. Mem- 1830 bers who are interested in this question will receive his utmost consideration. If any body deserves well of the First Lord of the Admiralty it is the men of this rating.
Among one or two other points I wish to raise is the question of political privileges. In 1918 the vote was for the first time given to the sailor, the soldier and the airman, in the same way that it was given to women—because they had been good and had done their bit during the War. Prior to that the sailor as a sailor had no vote. Unfortunately, the new regulations of 1918, although acknowledging the citizenship of the sailor, took away from him privileges which he had before enjoyed. It then became an offence for a rating in uniform to take part in political meetings or in an election. I suggest to the First Lord that he would receive their gratitude if he were to restore to the men of the Navy that which they previously enjoyed. Some of us cannot understand why a man should be less of a citizen because he happens to be in the Navy. If he is considered respectable enough and educated enough to be in the Navy, he ought to be regarded as respectable enough and educated enough to take an active part as a citizen in elections and activities of that kind.
There is another point. Every Member of Parliament for a naval constituency gets letters from time to time from men who desire to take their discharge from either the Navy, the Army or the Air Force. At present it is quite possible for them to secure discharge if they are willing to pay a sum of money. In one case I had recently the sum demanded by the Government Department concerned was £80. That is a considerable sum for a man who is only an ordinary rating in one of the services. Although it may be essential that some money payment should be required, I ask that it should be more in keeping with the capacity of such a man to pay. Surely it is wrong in principle, especially in a country like this, where we can always get all the volunteers we require for the Services, to keep an unwilling man in the Army" the Navy or the Air Force. If, as was the case with the man who wrote to me, a man has excellent reasons for desiring to leave the forces, I suggest that it is the duty of the Minister responsible, 1831 especially under a Labour Government, to make it as easy as possible for him to get his discharge. I say it quite openly, sometimes a man has become a pacifist since joining the Service. For religious or other reasons he no longer desires to remain in a fighting service. It should be realised that men often enter a service at a very early age, and after some years find that their opinions about things have changed; and instead of making it impossible or difficult for them to leave, it should be made easy for them, or as easy as possible.
It is the custom in the Navy that men must take their share of what is called foreign commission service. No man entering the Navy can object to that, but one finds frequently that certain men get far more than their fair share of it. I have here a list of instances. I will not give the whole lot, but will just quote one or two extracts from this list of men now due for draft. There is a chief engine room artificer who came home from foreign service commission in December, 1929. He has been only three months at home and is now warned for further foreign service. Another man came home in June, 1929, and after nine months at home is now warned for foreign service again. There is a third case of a man warned again after being at home only eight months. I suggest that some latitude should be allowed to men who have been some years abroad and who, for various reasons, are either not fit or ready to go abroad again at once. I made representations on a case to the Admiralty some months ago which, in my view, was an extremely hard case. It was the case of a young man who had come home from commission in the Persian Gulf. He was by no means well, but he was not ill enough to prevent his going out again. He had married and his wife was expecting an addition to the family quite soon. But the answer I got was, "No." A decision has been laid down that this man must again go abroad, and in spite of all representations he had to go. There are many men only too willing to go abroad who have not yet been. They would like to see foreign parts. I suggest that now and again the human touch might be introduced into the Admiralty's administration when cases of this kind are brought to the notice of those in authority, and 1832 that decisions could be rescinded without any loss of discipline or dignity and men saved from going abroad even although they had been warned for draft.
Finally, I would like to say that the opportunities which Ministers of the Crown have ought not to be lightly disregarded. Those of us who have been interested in politics for many years know that politicians come and go and that very few remember them. How many of us could now give the names of the last three or four First Lords of the Admiralty? Those Ministers alone are remembered who have carried out some great reform, and if I may say so without offence I would like to remind my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend on the Treasury Bench that if they wish their names to be remembered, if they would like the men of the Navy to recollect them with gratitude, they should carry through some of these small reforms, adjust these small grievances which the men in the Navy now suffer.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
The Vote which we are discussing concerns the personnel of the Navy, but I understand that it is in accordance with precedent that a more or less general Debate should take place upon the Estimates. Speaking for a moment in regard to the personnel, may I recall what I think is in the minds of most of the public, not only in this country, but in countries abroad, and particularly in those parts of the Empire where there is a very keen interest in the Navy? The one question they ask, the one question which interests them very vitally, is whether the numbers provided for in the present Estimates are adequate. I think it is true to suggest that most people in this country would welcome any agreement which may be made for the reduction of armaments, and any agreement that would tend to lessen international complications with regard to armaments, but I think they would make one important proviso to the effect that, first of all, those responsible for the submission of those agreements should be satisfied that there is security for the mother country, security for our Empire, and security for our trade and commerce. That is the test which I would suggest that the First Lord of the Admiralty should apply. There is one thing which the people of this country are always ready to do. They will trust the 1833 occupant of the high office of First Lord of the Admiralty, to whatever party he may belong, provided that he does not allow himself to be persuaded by any arguments which do not take account of the fact that we are exceptionally placed, and that our needs are greater than any other country in the world in regard to naval matters.
Great though the cry may be, and sound though the cry may be, that the financial position is really stringent, I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty, when he comes to the real test, when he comes to making an actual decision as to whether he will take as his slogan, "Safety First" or "Financial Economy First," will not hesitate to take "Safety First." May I take advantage of the wide Ruling which has been given on this Vote to ask the First Lord what amount has been paid in connection with the Singapore Base by the Malay States, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. I understand that we are partners in that enterprise, and that the Malay States have offered £2,000,000, New Zealand £1,000,000, and Hong Kong £250,000, or a total of £3,250,000. That is a very large sum, and I should like to know-how much of that sum has been received, and especially if, in connection with the decision to delay the work, the opinion and the unqualified consent of those contributors were obtained. I would like for a few moments to devote myself to a question which is of a more domestic character. I suppose all dockyard Members of this House are regarded on this question by the Government as something of a nuisance. They have, of course, a great responsibility in the sense that they represent dockyard towns.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Robert Young)
That question would properly arise on Vote 10, and the hon. Member must not go into that question in detail.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I suggest that while we are having a general discussion it is not permissible to go into details in regard to these matters.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
I will, if I may use a nautical expression, say, "Aye, aye, Sir," and submit at once to your Ruling, 1834 and I will try to keep within the limitations which you have laid down. In connection with the dockyards, there are two factors which are most important in order to secure efficiency. I would like to ask, in the first place, whether the plant and machinery of the Royal dockyards is being kept up to date; and, secondly, whether the personnel of the dockyards is being fully employed, because if the machinery has not been modernised, and if the men are not kept fully employed, efficiency must be impaired. I have been looking forward to the time, as most dockyard Members have, when it can be said that we have reached the point of stabilisation with regard to employment, and in this connection I am glad to find myself in agreement with other hon. Members representing dockyard constituencies who have put forward the case of the dockyard men, and this applies to the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). First of all, may I ask, having regard to the decision to restrict naval construction, if the Royal dockyards are to be allowed to tender for outside work, and, if so, how much outside work was done by them last year. I understand that last year £40,000 work was done, and I think the First Lord of the Admiralty might give us some information as to the measures he has taken with regard to outside work as an alternative. I want to know it there is to be any real chance given to the Royal dockyards in competition with private yards to do outside work. I think the Royal dockyards should be modernised, and brought thoroughly up to date. The fact that there is any likelihood of the stabilisation point being reached in regard to the employment of the men depends upon outside work, and I should like to know if there is anything in the Navy Estimates providing for the improvement of the plant in the Royal dockyards. I would like to make an appeal that work should be undertaken from other Departments of the State, and that the Admiralty should use their influence to see that the Royal dockyards are used for that work.
There must be at all times new lines of development in regard to the Navy, both as to apparatus and equipment, and I should be glad if I might make a personal plea that the claims of Sheerness should not be overlooked. It is a very conveniently-situated centre for purposes 1835 such as I have indicated, for there new lines of development could be tested and tried. I am not quite sure when the present yard was put there, but in 1667 the Dutch captured it, and, according to the records, the first dockyard church was established in 1690. In 1823, something over 100 years ago, the dockyard was reconstructed at a cost of £2,500,000, which represents much more money to-day. I hope, therefore, as the yard is fairly old, that fact may make all the more apt my appeal that some regard should be given to the need for modernising the dock and putting our yards generally into a state which will make them capable of competing on equal terms with private yards.
There is one other point which I should like to mention. I hope I shall not be outside the rules of order for it is certainly a question which affects the workpeople employed. In his statement, the First Lord said it was part of the Admiralty's policy that its industrial employés should have one week's annual holiday with pay. That is a policy to which most of us would subscribe, and I only regret that in this instance it should not work out quite in the way it appears in the statement of the First Lord. I have looked up the figures, and I find that the wages in this work—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now getting outside the Estimates. He is quite entitled to make remarks relating to the policy of the Admiralty in that direction, but he is not entitled to go into details, and I must ask him to await the proper time.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
With regard to the policy as affecting the workers employed, I want to say that, so far as can be seen, the policy laid down is not in fact being carried out as measured in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. The policy which it is intended by the First Lord to carry out is to give a week's real holiday to those employés, but as a result of a calculation which I have made it will be seen that the wages of every employé in the dockyards is reduced by £5 8s. 2d. per year. It is perfectly true. I know I am very near the border line of order, and I do not want to go beyond it, because the Chairman has given me a great deal of latitude; but, if the First Lord will take the trouble to work out 1836 the amount provided in the wages of those employed in the dockyards, he will find that the average amount lost per man in the present year is £5 8s. 2d.
There must be no mistake about this, lest false impressions should be created. There is no reduction in the rates of wages, but it certainly is to be considered, when you have a smaller volume of work to be done, that the men themselves would rather take the ordinary weekly wages than work overtime while their companions are without work.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I do not suggest that there is any change whatever in connection with the rate of wages. I was merely showing what the effect was, and the figure I have given is quite correct. I hope he will look into it.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
With regard to the statement made by the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Maitland) that wages have been reduced in the dockyard areas, speaking as a dockyard Member, I should like to say that there is not a grain of truth in that statement, and wages are now at the same rate as they were a year ago. I am very glad indeed that the First Lord contradicted that statement, which has been made quite recently outside by another Member, and which has obtained considerable credence in the Chatham and Portsmouth areas.
With regard to the Vote under discussion, I should like to take the opportunity, as representing a dockyard constituency, to congratulate the First Lord and the Government generally on the endeavours they have made to disarm to a certain degree. I know that in Chatham, which is a dockyard town, at the last election, the vote in favour of disarmament was 64 per cent. What is true of these dockyard areas is true even to a greater degree of the rest of the country, and, however much hon. Gentlemen opposite may oppose this policy of disarmament, it is the desire of all the civilised people of this country that we should lead the world in peace as, under the Churchillian regime, we gave the lead towards war. We ought to lead the world in the policy not only of disarmament but of turning the money that has been spent on disarma- 1837 ment into productive channels rather than in wasteful and destructive channels as has been done under previous Governments. On behalf of the dockyard workers and others in the Chatham and Rochester area, I want sincerely to congratulate the Government on the stand they have taken up. I hope that the Conference will be a success, and that we shall see a resultant reduction in armaments.
With regard to the main question of personnel, there is one point to which I should like to draw the First Lord's attention, and which was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Portsmouth (Captain Hall), namely, the status of the engine room artificers. One of the iniquitous things which the last Government did was to reduce in 1925 the status of the engine room artificers. Prior to 1925 engine room artificers were graded as chief petty officers. The last Government graded all new entrants as first-class petty officers. It is a known fact that in the main engine room artificers have to undertake a greater degree of responsibility than any other lower deck rating. The Admiralty have already recognised that by giving them increased pay. It is our appeal this evening that the engine room artificers should enjoy the status which they enjoyed before the last wretched Government came into office. We want them treated with fairness, and they were under the Labour Government of 1924 and the preceding Liberal Government. We want this injustice removed, and I sincerely hope that the First Lord and his Board will give this matter very earnest consideration in the very near future.
There has been considerable prejudice in the Service against the engine room staff. They are looked upon as "oily devils from the furnaces down below," and there has been an endeavour to keep them down. People forget that when the engineer officer is absent the chief engine room artificer has to take control and is as much responsible for the battleship during that period as is the chauffeur for his car. I sincerely hope that this injustice of status will be recognised and that these men will be put back to the pre-1925 grade.
There is one other point which I should like to touch upon very briefly. I hope 1838 I shall be forgiven for mentioning it under Vote A. The new Estimates refer to two submarines to be placed at Chatham which may be cancelled if the Naval Conference is successful. I want to put one frank question to the First Lord. If these two submarines are not given to Chatham, what other work will be given in lieu? I understand that it is the policy of the Admiralty to keep the dockyards stabilised at their present level in regard to numbers employed and wages paid, but I should like confirmation that additional work will be given to Chatham should these two submarines be deleted from the new construction owing to the success of the Naval Conference.
May I finish with two additional words of thanks to the Board of Admiralty? The first is with regard to the week's holiday for the men. On behalf of the men in the dockyards, I sincerely thank the present Labour Government, and the First Lord of the Admiralty in particular, for this great boon, which places these men on a par with the best industrial workers outside. Further, I would like to offer to the First Lord my personal thanks for the policy that the Admiralty have adopted in treating the dockyards with greater consideration than they have had from any previous Conservative administration.
§ Major ROSS
I rather wonder that the hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Markham) should express a kind of eagerness that his constituents should be allowed to make deplorable and anti-pacific machines like submarines. After hearing the Beginning of his speech, I should have expected him to be only too eager to dissociate himself and his constituents from anything of that nature, because he tells us that he and his constituents are so pacific that the whole idea of naval defence almost shocks them. How can he justify himself in this very curious attitude, that, while decrying the defence which the Navy offers, he is prepared to welcome the construction of what I think we all admit to be the weapon that is, perhaps, the most open to criticism of any that is used in sea warfare, namely, the submarine? And yet the hon. Member wishes, as I understand, for the construction of two of these submarines in the constituency which he represents.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
It is most important that I should not be misrepresented on this point. We would rather do peace work—repayment work—in the dockyards than build submarines, and that is what we want. We want the dockyards to be turned to productive, and not to destructive, use.
§ Major ROSS
The hon. Member would like to see his constituents making sewing machines, or something equally useful, but he can be assured that, when there is not enough work to go round in other places, one of the prices which must be paid for a policy of naval disarmament—and, if it is the right policy for the country, it will have to come—will be the sacrifice of the dockyards. That is a matter of reality which, probably, the hon. Member and others in his constituency will have to face when we come to that point. We are now discussing what is perhaps the basic Vote for the whole Navy, and I would urge hon. Members opposite, in particular, not to think that anyone who wishes to see the naval defence, and the defence forces, of this country kept up to an adequate degree, is in any sense decrying what may be done by treaty and by agreement with foreign Powers. It is absolutely wrong to think that treaties and pacts are antagonistic to a proper and moderate scale of defence. Defence by treaty is complementary, and not antagonistic, to armament, and armament is complementary to defence by treaty. We cannot cast away the Navy which has been our shield in many dangers, and which is historically our one prime defence, until we are certain, until experience shows, that we can have an adequate substitute for that historic guard. To my mind, it would be just as reasonable to blame, say, the London County Council for being responsible for fires because they have the effrontery to maintain a Fire Brigade. There are many regulations to prevent the likelihood of an outbreak of fire, but they do not do away with the necessity for having a brigade to extinguish the fire when it breaks out. In the same way, the Navy and the Army are our ultimate protection when other and more diplomatic means of defence have failed.
One of the reasons why there is, on the other side of the House, what sometimes seems to me to be rather unreasonable criticism of a programme which I should have thought no one could have said was 1840 excessive, is that armaments are expensive to some extent, and a treaty is cheaper. Paper is always cheaper than steel, and so it is attractive from that point of view. But, if war is still possible, we must have, not only a Navy, but a Navy which is adequate for the protection of this country, because the question of the size of the Navy is not affected by the question of the frequency of war. If the misfortune should occur, even though it be unlikely, the fact that it is unlikely does not make an inadequate Navy better able to fulfil a task which is beyond it. In this Vote we find a very considerable reduction, and one which I understand is to continue. The personnel of the Navy is now being reduced to a degree that is unprecedented in this country. I think I am right in saying that never since the beginning of the century has a First Lord come to the House of Commons and asked for so few men to be in the sea service as the present First Lord is asking us to sanction to-day, and I think it is proper to consider in a little detail where the men are being cut out.
The first thing that would strike anyone looking at this Vote is the heavy reduction in the number of boys on sea service. In 1929, the number of boys on sea service was 2,077, and this year it is 1,232, showing a reduction of two-fifths. That is affecting the fleet of the future. It means that a much smaller number of the seamen class are getting proper training to be seamen, and the seamen are the backbone of the fleet. It is no use building ships of you cannot man them suitably and properly with trained men. It is a long job to train a seaman, and yet we have this very heavy cut in the sea service boys who are the new blood coming into the fleet. I would ask the First Lord whether, if he is driven to reduce the strength of the Navy, it is wise to reduce it in this way by cutting down the number of boys who are undergoing sea service. The number of other boys under training is also reduced, and I think it may well be that the seamen class boys are reduced to a greater extent than any other class.
From that there arises another question. There is no question of the two "Iron Dukes," which have been used to some extent as sea-going training ships. There is no doubt that their posi- 1841 tion in the fleet has been altered this year, and I should like to know whether they any longer form part of the seagoing fleet, or whether they have been so reduced in complement as to become merely one might almost say hulks, not capable of sea-going service with the fleet, as they have been accustomed to do in the past. It seems to be bound up with this question of sea-service boys, and I should like to ask the First Lord particularly about that. It is an astonishing thing to find this heavy reduction when fleet service civilians are not only not reduced but increased by 10.
I have a little diffidence in discussing dockyard matters. It is a little difficult to know exactly where one can get in the questions one wishes. In fact, one feels sometimes to be quite in order if one gets all at sea. I should like to ask as to payment by results. That system has been curtailed, and I would deprecate the curtailment of a system which is surely very satisfactory to the man who is really out to work hard and to the Government, his employer, who is anxious, no doubt, to get a good output per man. When this system was in vogue, it was possible for the Royal dockyards to tender against the private yards. Now, I understand, the system has been to a great extent checked, and I would ask the First Lord whether it is still possible for the Royal dockyards to tender with success against the private yards, because that is a matter of considerable importance from the point of view of national economy.
There is a suspicion which must come to the mind of anyone who has been through the Naval Estimates with any degree of care that there are many economies in them which are, in a sense, spending capital. It appears that nearly all stores are being reduced—victualling, clothing, even medical, and not only that, but fuel stores and, I suspect, ammunition. I hope to allude to these matters in more detail later on. It would be improper to do so at this stage in detail, but there is that suspicion, as you go through the Votes, that economy is being effected by reducing stores generally—and we know they were cut to the bone under the last administration—to a lower degree than is right and proper for the efficient conduct of the Naval service.
I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman was not present when I spoke earlier. I pointed out that I had to meet commitments this year made by my predecessor, a large proportion of which was in respect of additional stores.
§ Major ROSS
I was here when the right hon. Gentleman was alluding to that, but I am only going by his own Estimates. It is clear that there is a decrease in stores. For instance, on page 36 there is a footnote saying that in addition to the cash Vote of £3,679,000, stocks of victualling stores purchased in previous years will be drawn upon without replacement during 1930 to the extent of £153,000. That does not sound very like the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, because here we have stores bought by the previous Government which he is going to draw on. Now he tells us that the previous Government had not left him enough stores and he was having to buy them. There is another instance on page 47 on the question of naval clothing, soap, tobacco and allowances in lieu of clothing—a decrease of £113,000. That is due to the smaller average numbers and larger surplus stocks available for current requirements. Is the right hon. Gentleman using up stocks or is he laying in stocks, because the previous reference was undoubtedly drawing on old stores to effect an economy and a reduction. I should like him to say whether this is new or old. On page 57 we see reductions even in medical and surgical stores. The sum provided by the right hon. Gentleman for the provision of medical stores and surgical appliances has been reduced by some £11,000, and still he would complain that he has not been allowed a sufficient stock, or that sufficient had not been bought, and I suggest that he is not even keeping the stocks which have been supplied up to the standard. These are matters of such technical intricacy that it is impossible for anyone outside the Admiralty to do more than read this document and ask for some explanation as to what the situation really is. It seems to me that the stores are being cut dangerously low, and we are entitled to some explanation.
On the general question of naval reductions, there is one thing I would ask the right hon. Gentleman with some force. Would he not be frank with the country 1843 and tell them who is framing the naval policy that is being pursued? It is a technical question. There is no getting away from that. One hon. Member opposite suggested that it was appalling that the needs of the country should have any bearing upon naval strength, and I have been trying to think ever since upon what other basis one could possibly frame a naval policy. He also said, "Beware of anyone who deals with the matter technically." This is really predominantly, if not entirely, a technical question, and it is very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone who is not a sailor of experience to know what is an adequate and appropriate minimum, strength for the fleet. It is undoubtedly for the Government to take the responsibility, but they should frankly say whether these technical conclusions are theirs as politicians or whether they are the technical conclusions of the seamen on the Board, because otherwise it is not fair to the country. They see a decision on the number of cruisers or on the policy of maintaining capital ships. It is published in a White Paper. It has behind it apparently the authority of the Admiralty. They think that must be all right. How are we to know unless the right hon. Gentlemen are frank and tell us whether these views and these decisions are just the decisions of the politicians, of the Government as such, or whether they have the approval of the Sea Lords. If this country is to be governed on a popular basis and if the people of this country are to have their opportunities of deciding whether a policy is right or wrong, they must be told what that policy is and who is responsible. They must know whether their Government are following their own sweet will—their idealism if you like—whether it is just their view or whether it is the view which has the technical support of the experienced seamen who are the Sea Lords.
§ Major ROSS
I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman is trying to shuffle this discussion on to some other body. I dare say he has an excellent reason for doing so, but I would hold him to his ground. Whenever the question arises and I have the honour to address the 1844 House, I shall be very glad to deal with it. I am dealing at present with a technical naval question, and I intend to stick to the point which I have made, that any question connected with the strength of the Navy and its efficiency for the protection of these islands is a question, in the first instance, which is technical. We should be told whether it is merely the view of the Government, of the politicians, however eminent as politicians they may be, unsupported by naval opinion, or whether it is the solid view both of the political side of the Admiralty and of the Sea Lords. In my opinion, if the Government are not frank about this—and they are the trustees of our safety—they are acting contrary to popular Government.
§ Mr. MOSES
In rising to address the House for the first time, I must crave the indulgence of hon. Members, and I am sure that Mr. Speaker will afford me every kindness if I should transgress the Rules of the House. I should like, first of all, to congratulate the First Lord on the way in which he has been able to bring about a reduction in the personnel of the Navy. He has reduced the Vote at the dockyards, but he has done it so silently and so wisely that very few take exception to it. We recognise the very heavy toll which the country has to pay for Empire, and we recognise the difficulty which the First Lord finds in framing Estimates of this character. If our Colonies contributed a little more towards the expense of the Navy, we should feel that they were justified in asking continually for the protection which they demand and which this Vote represents.
In the reductions which are revealed we recognise that there is an attempt on the part of the Admiralty to reveal the spirit which is governing the Conference in London and which has brought about the very excellent meeting, upon which we are all prepared to congratulate the Government, between the maritime Powers of the world. I disagree somewhat with the statement made earlier in the day that the expression that the Navy is not a superfluity to us should not come from a Labour Minister; the Navy is us, and I quite agree with these sentiments as coming from a part of the country—[An HON. MEMBER: "City."] We have advanced a bit, 1845 although we are waiting to appoint our first Lord Mayor. The city from which I come has a reputation and is associated with the maritime history of England—we look upon Plymouth as being the birthplace of the Navy—and in the reductions which are involved in this Vote there is considerable apprehension as to how they will affect that city. Owing to the attitude of the last Government, we found that a very great deal of havoc was caused when they began to work out economies in this direction. We found that they devastated naval areas and caused a very great deal of distress in those areas where communities have been brought together because of naval needs. In such areas, there has been a retardment of commercial progress and development, because of the needs of the Admiralty in the years which have gone. When economies are suggested it greatly affects the business and commercial life, as it affects the development of areas where the naval element predominate. We have found that the policy of the past Government created considerable hardship.
In Plymouth, where our historic associations prove what we have really done in the building of the Empire and how important the West has been in the contributions which have been made to the personnel of the service, the economies suggested there have been such curtailments of the naval services that we have almost been led to believe that we are simply going to make an historic district like that into a naval dormitory and nothing else. There is one ship which cannot be shifted at Plymouth, and that is His Majesty's Ship "Vivid." That happens to be the Royal Naval Barracks. But the late Admiralty, in the pursuit of economy, have taken away the Gunnery School Establishment, the Boys' Training Establishment and also the Engineering Artificers' Training Establishment, and we are practically left now with the barracks. What I want to plead with the Admiralty is, that in any reductions which they are making, consideration shall be given to the effect of these reductions in areas like ours. The reductions which are indicated in this Vote are considerable, and we are anxious to know how they are going to operate. In the past when re- 1846 ductions have taken place there has been a tightening up of the medical survey. Men have been selected for medical survey and, even when they have had little if any knowledge of any defect, they have found themselves invalided from the Service without any pension or consideration of any kind. Is that the policy that is to be pursued in the future, or are the Admiralty going to set up an Appeal Board, which will give the men an opportunity of stating their case? The setting up of such a board would create confidence so far as the men in the Service are concerned.
In conection with these reductions, will the Admiralty consider that whilst the Navy is looked upon as a protection for commerce it shall be used to that extent not from the war point of view, but from the peace point of view, and that instead of scrapping so many ships there shall be a utilisation of the redundant vessels, equipped for life-saving purposes? During the recent gales there has been a considerable loss of life because of the lack of patrols. The old coastguard service used to render very great service to the mercantile navy of this country, by their constant watchfulness. Cannot some of these redundant vessels be used for that purpose, and the men who otherwise would be thrown out of the Service be used in that direction? I recognise the very great service that has been rendered to the nation by the Royal National Lifeboat Institutions. Ought such a service as that be dependent upon voluntary effort? Ought not we to recognise that service in these peace days as part of our protective service? If our Navy is for the protection of our commerce, surely in the time of storm and stress it should provide protection in the direction I have indicated.
Instead of scrapping men and ships, are there not other peace services to which they might be devoted? In these Estimates I note that provision is made for a survey vessel for fishing grounds, to be manned by Service ratings. I congratulate the Government on that departure. Surely, we could utilise some of the redundant vessels for the improvement of our home fishing grounds. At the present time out home fishing grounds are strewn with wrecks, very great loss has been inflicted upon the fishing community, thousands of pounds have been 1847 lost, many men have been ruined, and the possibility of their livelihood has been taken from them. Cannot redundant vessels be used for that purpose? Could not those vessel that are engaged in coast patrol be fitted with the necessary appliances, such as were used for the detection and destruction of submarines I In that way, the wrecks could be destroyed, and our home fishing grounds restored. It is an excellent decision that we are going to use part of the depleted personnel in the survey of our fishing grounds. Will the vessel, when completed and manned, be stationed at Plymouth, where we have an excellent laboratory in existence? The survey vessel could be used in conjunction with that laboratory.
The efficiency of the Navy is the real point. The real strength of the Navy lies in its efficiency, but we cannot have efficiency in the Service, without contentment. Efficiency does not depend upon personnel. Reference has been made to-day to a Navy of 114,000 men, but it is possible to have a more efficient Navy with the figures mentioned in the Estimates when the reductions have taken effect. That efficiency can be produced only when we have real contentment in the Service. Those of us who have been associated with Service areas know the advances that have taken place during the last decade, in improvements, in pay, messing and accommodation, but I would impress upon the Admiralty that there is room for greater improvement. Has any consideration been given to the fact that there are two rates of pay in the Service operating at the present time? The Financial Secretary to the Admiralty stated at Plymouth, in reply to a question, that it could not be tolerated that there should be two rates of pay. Has any consideration been given to the fact that we have men in the Service to-day, ordinary seamen in the depleted personnel, who will be rceeiving 1s. 6d. a day and others 2s. 6d. a day?—a reduction of 1s. a day for the men who have joined the Service since October, 1925. They are men doing exactly the same class of work. The late Government introduced that principle. They dared not face up to a reduction in the pay for the men in the Service, and they decided that new entrants should be brought in 1848 on a reduced rate of pay. In the reduced personnel there will be greater contentment if there is only one rate of pay, and I suggest that it should be the higher rate.
There is also need for stabilisation in the officers' pay. We want to bring contentment to the men and also bring contentment to the officers. In that direction it would be well if the officers were considered in regard to marriage allowances, and that the young men of 25 in the depleted personnel should be given an opportunity to marry earlier. I believe that it is the policy of the Admiralty to discourage young marriages, but they cannot prevent Cupid's dart from striking the young seaman. I hope that, point will be taken into consideration. The depleted personnel will still be under the disability of having two rates of pension. I am very anxious that there shall be contentment in the reduced personnel, and that they will have a knowledge that whilst they are claiming for one pension the other pension, in the event of their being killed, will not be reduced. Why should there be one rate of pension for the war widow and another rate of pension for the widow of the man who has lost his life in a disaster, like the Devonshire disaster?
In connection with the depleted personnel there is to be a welfare conference called. Is it to be a real welfare conference or are these requests to be refused as before? Something has been said concerning the different branches of the Service and I want to ask whether grievances are going to be redressed. A hundred years ago, when steam was first introduced, the First Lord of the Admiralty at that time said that he was bound to discourage the introduction of steam vessels into the Service because it would strike a fatal blow at the supremacy of the Empire. The Noble Lord—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—I am sorry I may be a little previous—the First Lord of the Admiralty is rot confronted with that difficulty to-day. The engineering branch of the Service is most important. There are grave disabilities amongst the mechanical ratings. Engineer officers are suffering great disabilities. Why are they denied the special allowance of 6s. and also the tropical allowance. You cannot have contentment in the Service if requests of 1849 this character are refused, and also the 1s. a day for instructional allowance. Then with regard to the engine-room artificers—are they not the practical engineers of the Navy? Are they not the watch-keeping engineers? They have suffered badly at the hands of the Admiralty. Why is it that this class of man has been served so badly in the past? Indignities have been heaped upon them which cannot be accounted for in any way.
For 55 out of the past 60 years the engine-room artificer has been entered as a chief petty officer. Now they are entered as petty officers, wear an inferior uniform and suffer the loss of many privileges. I have seen boys who have gone through our schools and have entered the Service as artificers going home in their uniform for the first time with the gilt buttons quite proud, throwing out their chests and saying, "Mother, I have come, and here is a naval officer for you." To-day they are denied this because the Admiralty has thought fit to degrade these useful servants of the Navy. They now have to wear just the ordinary uniform. Why has an indignity of that character been placed upon these servants? A severe and unmerited blow of that kind cannot be vindicated, and I ask that they shall be placed in a position equal to that which they have enjoyed in the past. The mechanical side of the Service has never let the Navy down. Why should the Admiralty let the mechanics down? This lowering of status cannot be justified, and I ask that the uplift which has been indicated by previous speakers shall be given to the engine-room artificers and other mechanic ratings. Then, if we are to have contentment, there must be a stabilisation of pay. There must be retiring pay for officers in accord with the cost of living figures. When there is a constant threat of reduction there is bound to be discontent.
So, in pleading for an efficient though depleted service, I am asking the Admiralty to pursue the path of contentment as far as the various ranks are concerned. There is at the present time difficulty with the warrant officers. They find that they have to wait a considerable period for promotion. Could there not be a speeding up in that direction? The schoolmasters of the Service also suffer a disability. I ask that there shall be con- 1850 sideration given to the proposal that after 10 years' service they shall be recognised for promotion to senior masters, and, when not promoted, that they shall be allowed to retire at 45 years of age. This would make possible the advancements that should take place in these ranks of the Service.
While I am concerned about the men of the Service, I recognise what so many hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to forget, and what I am afraid sometimes escapes the notice even of some of my own friends, namely, that the Royal Navy and the dockyards are one, that they cannot be separated, that the one is dependent on the other. The dockyards and the Navy establishments are part of the great service, and efficient dockyards make for an efficient Navy. I am asking that if there are to be reductions they shall be made in the spirit which has been revealed by the First Lord in his application of the principles of economy to disarmament. As a representative of a dockyard area I would like to pay tribute to the splendid spirit that has been introduced by the Civil Lord. In dockyard establishments a very much better spirit than that which previously existed has been promoted. Dockyard hands are recognised now more as human beings. They are not subject to mere ridicule as was often the case in the past. There is a story told of a boy who was asked, "Where is your father working, sonny?" The lad replied, "Oh, he does not work now. He is in-the dockyard." That day has gone. Dockyards to-day are efficient and are on an economic basis.
I noticed that the First Lord, in introducing his Estimates, referred to the extension of the clocking-in system. If we are to have a reduced personnel and if machines are to be introduced, I ask whether full consideration has been given to the question. As to costs being compared with the system now operating, I ask, is it going to be real economy or will it make possible further reductions in the personnel such as are indicated to-day? I ask that the roads of the dockyards, the roads over which this reduced personnel will have to pass, should be put into better repair. I ask that consideration shall be given to all these matters, and that the First Lord shall take steps to sweep away the differences 1851 which now exist. Why should there be the differences which exist between the hired man and the established man in the dockyards? Why should the one man go out on a pension—a miserable pittance it is true—while the other gets nothing at all? I ask that the spirit of humanity which evidently now prevails at the Board of Admiralty shall be extended to the men in the dockyards so that there will be greater contentment, that grievances will be done away with, and the dockyards and the Navy together will form one great whole for the defence of this Empire.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I am glad that it should fall to me to be the first to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Moses) on his maiden speech. That speech has been awaited with great interest because of the distinguished part played by the hon. Member in the city life of Plymouth. He has wrought great havoe all around him. Indeed, he has slain the Egyptians on the Front Bench having first called down plagues upon them. He drew a very sorry picture of the plight of Devonport and Plymouth and described the wicked action of the last Government in taking away, first, the gunnery school, then the boys training establishment, and now the engine room artificers establishment, leaving us with our barracks and our laboratory. I am very glad that my hon. Friend has appeared at last to lead us out of the wilderness. I do not think that anybody else could have crowded so many questions into one speech and I look forward with great interest and some amusement to the task of my right Hon. Friend in answering him. I am sure my right hon. Friend will respond to his invitation and immediately increase the pay of the Royal Navy, reduced by the last Government, to say nothing of providing marriage allowances and better pensions and the incidental details which my hon. Friend the Member for the Drake Division advocated. I have advocated most of these items for many years and therefore am mot as optimistic as my hon. Friend.
Having made at an earlier stage such general observations as I wished to make on this Vote I rise now only to ask two questions. The right hon. Gentleman said 1852 he was going to give his attention to the workings of the mate scheme, in order that men might rise with greater facility from the lower deck. Up to the present that scheme has been a complete failure. I think only three men have reached the rank of commander since it has been in operation, and that in itself is an exposure of the scheme. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is now going to make it work more favourably. I wish to know what is the nature of the inquiry which he is going to conduct and if there will be upon it an officer who has risen from the lower deck. Unless there is someone with experience of the working of the scheme and of the prejudice which operates against those who rise from the lower deck, I am afraid good results will not be obtained. The second question is as regards dockyard personnel. I would not spare my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has done in saving so many men of the Royal Dockyards from discharge. It has been a miracle almost equal to one of those of Moses, that, while keeping fleet construction down almost to zero, he has managed to spare these men. That achievement, I think, is chiefly due to the work and ingenuity of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, who is especially deserving of praise, because he has done what very few Civil Lords before him have been able to do, because of his great experience of this particular kind of work.
I want to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether we cannot look forward to the day when dockyard employment will be absolutely stabilised, and by that I mean that when a man undertakes dockyard work he shall have exactly the same kind of career and security as when a man undertakes police work. In all branches of the Civil Service there is absolute security, with a pension at the end, but the dockyards-man, who is a national servant, merely because he is in industrial employment has not that security, and I cannot see any reason why you should differentiate between an administrative and an industrial branch in the service. I feel that in addressing myself to the present First Lord, he, as a Member of the Socialist Government, cannot refrain from giving me a favourable answer, namely, that he will use all his endeavours to make an industrial service 1853 into a Civil Service, so that men in the future shall be spared being constantly under the threat of discharge and having their skill wasted, not only to their own detriment, but to the detriment of the country for which they have worked.
§ Mr. KELLY
I am concerned with the safety of the men, even of this reduced personnel, and I am anxious to know whether the Admiralty has satisfied itself with regard to the line-throwing apparatus that is in operation on His Majesty's ships. The further point that I would put is whether that line-throwing that is in operation on some, if not the whole, of the ships is capable of being used in the boats for the purpose of life saving. I am anxious for this matter to be dealt with, as we find that when difficulties arise, particularly inshore, the lightness of weight of many of the lines used prevents the opportunity of the saving of life. This has been raised with the mercantile marine and with the Lifeboat Institution, and I hope that each of them and the Admiralty will take the matter into its purview and will, even with the reduced personnel, make life safer for the seamen concerned.
§ Mr. D. G. SOMERVILLE
The first question I wish to raise is in regard to the stabilisation of officers' pay. I understand that it is looked over every few years, and that 20 per cent. of their salaries is varied according to the cost of living. It seems to me that it is high time that that factor was abolished altogether. It is many years now since prices have fluctuated very extensively. Prices are pretty well fixed now, and it is only fair to these officers that their salaries should be fixed definitely, and not altered every few years. Many of them live in foreign stations, such as Malta or China, and the cost of living does not affect them there. Again, they find that rents in dockyard towns are not the same as in other towns. In this cost of living there are taken into account the questions of rent, fuel, lighting, brushes, pottery, and so on, and unless an officer is married, these last items do not affect him at all, and it is difficult to see why he should suffer. I therefore suggest that this factor should be abolished. Further, the cost of accounting every three years and working out the different factors must be enormous and must cost the Admiralty 1854 a very large sum of money in working out the figures.
The next point I wish to raise is that of the number of officers on the active list. According to the figures given in the House on 12th February, of the admirals on the active list, only 46 are actively and definitely employed. I cannot find that the remainder do anything except give an occasional lecture. A number of commanders, lieutenants-commander and captains are in a similar position. It may be claimed that they have to be kept in reserve when they are waiting a transfer from one ship to another, but surely they can be more usefully employed than resting. It ought to be possible to arrange some position in the dockyards or land establishments for these officers when they are not actively appointed to a ship, and they could take the place of some of those civil employés whose number has considerably increased in the Vote. As the Estimates for naval expenditure are being so drastically cut down, we want to see that we get value for every penny that is spent, and I cannot see why so many of these high officers are kept on the active list when such a small proportion of them are actually engaged in their work.
A further point which I want to raise is that of Dartmouth College. There is provision for 630 naval cadets being trained there, but that establishment could be done away with altogether, for I cannot see that it has justified the expenditure upon it. Of 100 cadets being trained in 1918, I cannot trace that more than 40 of these officers are now serving. Surely it would be possible, if the Admiralty took boys from the public schools at the age of, say, 17—
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
Yes, elementary school boys too. In view of the Naval Conference, it is quite possible that the number of officers required in the future will be cut down, and it is hardly fair to retain all these young men at Dartmouth College and not be able to place them in the Navy, whereas, if the Admiralty took boys with a leaning towards a sea life from the public and elementary schools, they could have exactly the number required, and see that every lad who was taken was placed. I therefore suggest 1855 that Dartmouth College should be done away with; this would cause no loss of efficiency from the point of view of the Navy.
With regard to the question of the pensionable age of petty officers and seamen, I understand that these men are pensioned after 22 years' service at an average age of 40 years, or a little over. It takes a great deal of training nowadays to get an efficient able seaman, and with all the mechanical devices which there are to-day on board ship, it must take a considerably longer time to make an efficient experienced seaman who understands the requirements of the modern fleet. I suggest that, at the age of 40, it is a pity to lose the services of men who have got this training. I agree that a number of them would have had enough of it, but there must be a large number who do not want to give up the sea life and retire to shore on a small pension, and compete in a market where there is already far too much unemployment. If the First Lord would look into those points and give me an answer I should be very glad.
Finally, to come to the question of disarmament. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Portsmouth (Captain Hall) said in his speech that politicians come and go, and that it would be very difficult for many Members of the House to recall the names of the last three or four First Lords of the Admiralty. I hope that the present First Lord will be numbered among them, but that his name will not be handed down with abuse as the First Lord who did away with 66,000 tons of naval shipping, when no other nations, in spite of the Kellogg Pact, had scrapped a single ton. At present the limit is fixed at 50 cruisers. I understand that unless cruisers are replaced every year, or practically every year, that in 10 years' time we will have only about 26 effective cruisers. I would like to ask the First Lord if all the Lords of the Admiralty are agreeable to that proposal and are prepared to take full responsibility for it? It is a very great responsibility. There may be a dreadful legacy for the Government who come into power after this Government if they find that they have to make these replacements. If they have to start building ships, what effect will that create abroad? Will it not give a 1856 very bad impression to foreign Powers, and if such an eventuality should arise, should we have the personnel, should we have the firms who would be able to put the ships in hand? Is the First Lord not scrapping men whom it will be impossible to replace in an emergency? It takes a long time to train mechanics for armament work. They are leaving us and going abroad to other countries, and are not coming back.
From the point of view of employment alone this scrapping of capital ships is a very dangerous thing. I understand that every 10,000-ton cruiser means work for something like 3,000 men over two years. One of the hon. Members representing the Clyde said in this House a few days ago that it would be far better to build some of these ships in order to keep mechanics at work and to reduce the total of the unemployed, and to sink the ships afterwards. I think there was a considerable amount of common sense in that suggestion.
§ Mr. HAYCOCK
How many cruisers should we have to build in that way before we had solved our unemployment problem?
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
It is not a question of how many cruisers we should have to build. You have got a gentleman on the Treasury Bench who has been engaged for the last six months in struggling with the unemployment problem and has totally failed. You ask him. I would again ask the First Lord whether he is prepared to accept the responsibility for cutting down the Navy? Is he prepared to see his name go down to history as that of the man who held that high office and was content to see such a reduction, in spite of the fact that other Powers are not following the example of the country?
I think it will be convenient if the Committee allows me to reply to the Debate which has now gone on for two or three hours, and then we might get on with the other Votes. I have been very interested in the concluding remarks made by the hon. Member for East Willesden (Mr. D. G. Somerville) who seems to have been very much concerned about what my reputation will be in the future, in fact he is much more concerned about that question than I am myself. After all it is the duty of the First Lord of the Admiralty to see that 1857 proper security is afforded, from a naval point of view, to meet all the circumstances of the case. Hon. Members opposite do not seem able to get away from the circumstances that existed before the War, and they want to deal with the whole problem of providing naval security as if they were living in the same political circumstances.
I should have thought the hon. and gallant Member, with his long experience of political life, would have been able to answer that question for himself, but I will tell him what is the difference. When the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate for the Opposition this afternoon was First Lord of the Admiralty he said he was making a very large naval provision, and openly making it, with the very large funds he had got as he said from the Social Reform Budget, in order to build especially against Germany. Where is the German Fleet to-day. The German Fleet is at the bottom of the sea. Does the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) in spite of what has been said by his leader, believe that we are building against America?
I should like to clear up this case. I remember the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) saying, and I was very glad to hear him say it, that in the lifetime of his Government there never was, and never would be, any attempt to build against the United States of America. I should have thought that we should never have had a statement of the kind made to-night from the Conservative Benches. I am content to judge this matter from the point of view of naval security now as to what is required in the light of the changed naval situation. Secondly I should like to ask what advance has been made in political circumstances. Do pacts and treaties mean nothing to hon. Member opposite? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) took a very important share in the Government of the time which set up the machinery for bringing about the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, and subsequently the Government of which he was the head made the Pact of Locarno. They were also concerned in making pot merely the 1858 gesture but the actual signature of the Kellogg Pact. Since that time we ourselves, as a Government, have made another advance by signing the Optional Clause, and we hope that the general progress which has been made will expedite a general settlement of that question.
Are we to have no credence at all in the political treaties we have mentioned? I think we are justified in showing to the world that we are prepared to express our faith in the progress which is being made by the nations at large in this direction. One hon. Member who spoke on this subject said that he thought that pacts, and treaties, and armaments were really complementary to each other, and that illustrates my point, because none of the pacts and treaties of the kind which I have referred to existed before the War. If they are really complementary surely we can do with a smaller naval provision, and with a smaller general provision of armaments to-day owing to the existence of these political pacts and treaties.
§ Major ROSS
The point I was trying to make was that if a war should break out—I admit it is less likely with pacts and treaties—the fact that it is less likely does not make you any more able to win the war or avoid defeat with an inadequate navy.
How can you maintain that argument? You cannot take the two things separately. First of all, we have the advance in political treaties. I was quite prepared to hear the question put on this side to-day: "Who are you building against." We have no potential enemies in the world to-day such as we had when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was building up a navy in 1914. It is surely time we introduced a little sanity into these matters. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down took me very soundly to task for my announcement that we had cut out altogether 66,000 tons of various kinds of ships—some of them not very much of a combatant character—from the programme which we found when we took office. I did not hear the same kind of attack from Members of the party opposite when it suited the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the last Administration, which also lopped off something. How can hon. Members now talk about the 1859 scheme followed during the five years of the last Government as though it was something sacrosanct which had never been touched, and say that no one should dare to lay a hand on the Ark of the Covenant? If you look at the records of the last Administration, you will find that they were not above lopping off something from the programme which had been laid down. We have done no more of that sort of thing than the last Government was prepared to do when it suited them.
I should like to point out, also, that we have made it perfectly plain to the House to-day, in my first statement, as also in the White Paper accompanying the Estimates, that, when the conclusions of the Naval Conference and such results as we can obtain are known, we shall then be able to submit proposals for new construction. I do not think I ought to have to repeat that over and over again. I have made it perfectly plain. Hon. Members will then be able to discuss in greater detail perhaps than to-day what they regard either as the faults or the virtues of the Government in dealing with this question of construction.
The other point raised by the last hon. Member who spoke was the question of officers' pay. I should like to remind him that the officers did originally get an advance upon the basic rates of pay of 107½ per cent., of which 20 per cent. only was fluctuating according to the cost of living. The variable part of the pay was fixed to be dealt with on a sliding scale, and the officers had the choice as to whether they would have fixed emoluments or a sliding scale.
You cannot have it both ways. The officers asked for it to be on a sliding scale when the cost of Jiving was very high. Now they want it stabilised, because they are afraid that some of that is coming down. I know what has happened very often in the case of ordinary industrial workers. They have not been very successful in securing as an insurance against any further fall 1860 in the cost of living that their pay should be stabilised at the higher rates existing according to the sliding scale.
The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) asked whether we had a really efficient line-throwing apparatus. We are quite satisfied with our apparatus at present, but we never cease to try out any other kind of apparatus which is available for inspection and research. We have two main classes working, one fired by rifle and the other fired only by pistol.
The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) asked me two questions. He asked about the inquiry which I said I was making as to the mate scheme. I do not admit, in the first place, that the mate scheme has been such a total failure as the hon. Member seemed to indicate. I have already said, in answer to questions earlier in the year, that, considering the date when the mate scheme was introduced, just before the War, considering the special circumstances since that time, when we had a large number of officers, leaving a heavy surplus in different grades, and considering that, in spite of that heavy surplus, quite a number are now approaching the promotion zone, I do not think that the mate scheme has been such a failure as is made out. It must also be remembered that during this period, since the War, quite a number of those promoted to mate have been pensioned or have retired under special retirement schemes. I am, however, going to have a Departmental inquiry into the working of the scheme. I do not propose to set up a special committee; I think that nearly all the information on the matter is already available. I shall have a Departmental inquiry as to whether any improvements can be made with a view to doing what is very essential, namely, to get an adequate, number of applicants for promotion. I am not at all satisfied that the mate scheme, and especially that part of it which deals with the executive branch, is producing enough applicants for promotion.
I am sure that the hon. Member is not going to suggest that we should have a differential rate of pay—that we must offer a higher rate of pay to attract men from the lower 1861 deck than to other branches of officers. I think that what needs to be done—and this point was also touched upon by another hon. Member—is to consider, side by side with the general question of promotion to mate, the whole question of entry into the officer ranks of the Service. We are now bringing in a new system of national education, under which, we hope, sooner or later, there will be a free educational road right through from the elementary school up to the end of the secondary school period, and, if possible, on to the university; and, whatever branch of the public service is available, I want those who go through the national system of education, as apart from private and public school education, to have an equal opportunity of entering that Service. I believe that my inquiries will show that there is room for extending the special entry system, and for its including a larger number of candidates of the secondary school type than we have had in the past, and that we shall really democratise, if I may use that term, the officer ranks in the Navy, and I hope in the other Services, in such a way that a man will not be caused to feel awkward and out of place when, at an age, perhaps, too late, he is suddenly introduced into the officers' mess or the wardroom on board ship.
The other question that the hon. Member for Devonport asked me was as to what I propose to do about dockyard personnel. He particularly wanted to know when there is any likelihood of the personnel being stabilised. He might give me a little time. We have been dealing, as he admitted, with a difficult situation at a time when we were reducing shipbuilding, and yet the numbers in the dockyards have kept very stable indeed. I will only say that we have done our best to go along the road towards providing stability of service and employment, and I am certain that any Government holding the views which my party hold will always do their best to secure that end.
§ 11.0 p.m.
We have not done away with piecework altogether. I will 1862 deal with that on a point raised by another hon. Member. The hon. Member for the Drake Division (Mr. Moses) made a delightful maiden speech. I feel it because I am a West countryman myself. He is able to go back to his constituents and say, "If I did not get all my questions answered, and if all your disabilities are not put right, it is not for lack of the eloquence I brought to bear." It is a long time since I heard a more forcible and eloquent maiden speech. I will give careful consideration to most of the points-he raised. We have already had submitted to us the case of the Chief Engine Room Artificers and Engine Room Artificers, and we have that under consideration. I was not clear when he put a question to me whether he was speaking of marriage allowances for officers or ratings.
All I can promise is that I will give the matter consideration. He asked me whether in the suggestion I have made that we should apply to Devonport the same system in the yard that we have tried at Portsmouth there would be any danger of a reduction of personnel. All I can say, based on our experience at Portsmouth, is that he has nothing to fear at all. The results hare been so satisfactory that the system is worth introducing for its own sake. The men who have been displaced by the mechanical use of this system have all been absorbed in other occupations, and we shall certainly try to secure that the same thing happens at Devonport. I will do ray best to consider my hon. Friend's other points.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Londonderry (Major Ross) asked one or two special questions. Concerning the reduction in personnel, he said he would like to know why it was that there was a reduction in boys. I quite understand the reason for the question. It is because we want to adjust the general flow to a proper level, and if there is a need for reducing two or three thousand at a time, it is much better to steadily adjust your requirements, 1863 having a long view as to what your requirements are likely to be over a few years than to have to come to the House and ask for the special payment of a large sum of money for a retirement scheme at the other end. We are quite convinced, on examination of the problem, that the steps we have taken are the best. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked me about the third Battle Squadron. Of course, it is still available for ordinary use, but we are using it in the main at present for the training of boys.
They are not manned with the full complement of adult crews, but they could be manned within a very short time. I think the complement of full crew that they carry is about 50 per cent., in addition to which they carry hundreds of hoys, who are helping to do the work of the ship and are being trained in the process. I have given the percentage from memory but I think it is right. Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman asked me whether it it still possible for the dockyards to undertake work by tender against the private yards. Yes, certainly.
Yes, certainly. If the changes we have made with regard to a reduction in the amount of piece work and the rates of overtime turned out to show that the morale or the efficiency of the dockyards was decreasing, we should certainly have to take the whole position into account, but I have much more faith in the dockyard workers than that. I believe if the dockyard workers understand that they are being treated sympathetically and if in a time of difficulty we want to secure the largest amount of stable work for them, we are going to get as good and efficient work as possible from them. Then he asked me a question which has been asked by more than one Member, as to who was framing the naval policy? Whether our policy represents the view of the naval advisers at the Admiralty? I am going to say no more on that point than I have already said. I made the position perfectly plain in answer to a question 1864 in the House, and also in my opening speech to-day. I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Member was not here.
§ Major ROSS
I perfectly understood from the right hon. Gentleman's opening speech that he had consulted the Sea Lords and they did not agree with him.
I said we took no steps with regard to naval policy without full consultation with the naval staff, but that the Government took responsibility for the ultimate decision. The position there, surely, is the same as it would be in any other Department. Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest for a moment that every time the Government take a decision in any Department of State they have to come and say whether the officials agree or not? Certainly not. We want to make it perfectly plain that we give every opportunity, as we ought to do, to the technical staff and to the naval staff to state their opinion. That opportunity has been given on every occasion.
§ Rear-Admiral BEAMISH
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that when the matter is one of such extreme importance as the question of the strength of the Navy, the least the Government can do is to say whether or not they have had the backing of their technical advisers.
We did not ask from that side of the House, when the last Government reduced the number of cruisers which they had previously asked the House to authorise, whether they had consulted their naval advisers; not at all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) went down to Chelsea Town Hall the other day and made a speech in which he revealed the fact that he did not agree with the advice given some time ago by naval advisers that 70 cruisers were required. It has appeared to me, as the First Lord of the Admiralty in the present administration, that again and again the right hon. Gentleman, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, did his very best and succeeded in cutting down the demands of the Admiralty. Why did not hon. Members then get up when they were on this side of the House and ask whether the policy of the Government was in accordance with the technical advice of the Board of Admiralty? We 1865 are taking no different steps in this matter from those taken by their Government, and hon. Members opposite have no more right to ask whether we are taking naval advice than they had to ask their own Government when they were in power.
Hon. Members may draw their own conclusions. I thank the hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Markham) for his appreciation of and thanks for what the Admiralty have done. I can assure him that if by any chance the submarines which were mentioned in the 1929 programme are not ordered we shall take every possible steps to secure other work for Chatham. I think he had better leave it with me in that way.
I am very anxious to see that whatever work I can give is given to the yards all over the country, but I am bound to say that as the head of the Department my first concern is with the State yards. Moreover, I have to remember that even though we may build in the Government dockyards the hulls of these ships a very large portion of the work is put out to contract except in the case of the submarines, for which we also construct the engines.
I believe that so little had been done to the ship there, that it was cancelled completely, and it is not likely that it will be proceeded with. It must be remembered that the private yards are differently equipped than the naval dockyards. We have only a limited number of slips although we have a large number of docks, but the other yards have large numbers of slips and are so equipped that they can compete for commercial shipbuilding in a way that at present the Government dockyards cannot. From that point of view I think we are justified in seeing that our Government dockyards get their proper share of naval building.
I do not think that there is any point in the speech of the hon. Member for 1866 Faversham (Mr. Maitland) which I have not covered in dealing with other speeches. The hon. Member for Central Portsmouth (Captain Hall), in an interesting speech, raised a number of questions. He raised the question of the employment of naval ratings in dockyard work. I can understand the pressure that is brought upon dockyard Members in regard to these matters, but the hon. Member and other dockyard Members must realise that the Admiralty has to consider the general efficiency of the Fleet and that it is essential for us in dealing with the Fleet to have the ratings trained in such a way that they can carry out the temporary maintenance of the Establishment on whatever station they are situated. We are not in any way increasing the number of the naval ratings employed for this purpose. My own aim would be to see rather less than more of that type of work done by naval ratings, but I cannot promise, in the interests of the general efficiency of the Fleet and the varied character of the work to be done, that the naval ratings should not be employed in such a way as to keep them efficient in that direction.
The hon. Member asked me what was going to be done about the school of music at Eastney. There has been no final decision and I shall certainly consider very carefully the detailed report of his speech, and see what bearing the points he has made may have upon the final decision. He asked me if I was prepared to restore to the naval personnel certain political privileges. I am not aware that we have taken away any political privileges, but I am aware that they are to-day in an exactly equal political position with the Civil Service. Any question of the kind raised by the hon. Member will have to be dealt with by a general Government decision dealing with the cases of Government employés. The hon. Member asked me to consider reducing the charge for discharges. He suggested that a rating might develop religious or pacifist views that would make it impossible for him to remain in the Navy. That may be so. He rather suggested that it might be that they were going to get married, or there might be some other domestic change. It would be difficult on religious or pacifist grounds to have a general rule which would make it easy to get out of a con- 1867 tract for service, especially if such a type of reason was going to cover a multitude not of sins but of happenings like marriage, or employment elsewhere, and things of that kind. We have a voluntary basis for enlistment, and, therefore, if you make the enlistment attractive and enter into large capital expenditure for the training of the men in order to make them efficient, it is only reasonable, if the contract is broken, that there should be some reasonable compensation.
§ Captain HALL
The First Lord has rather telescoped two arguments. I referred to marriage in connection with another point. All I ask is for the human touch; that there should not be quite such rigidity of rule as has obtained up to now on the question of discharge.
When it is a case of real hardship, consideration is always given to the case, but the hon. and gallant Member is pressing me rather far, if I understood his speech. If he is merely asking for the human touch, he can depend upon it that whenever possible it will be used. I do not think there is any other point on which I need reply. The other speech came from the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs). He spoke in a general way on one or two matters on which I need not say much; matters which are the subject of consideration by the present Conference. Although he is not present I would say to him how pleased I was to hear the note, the encouraging note, upon which he ended his speech with regard to the hope of a successful issue of the Conference. Let me say to the Committee generally how much obliged I am for the sympathetic consideration they have shown during the Debate. It has not been easy for us to handle the situation during the actual progress of the Conference, but with the exception of two rather sharp speeches from this side of the House, the Committee has been exceedingly sympathetic and I hope they will now give us the Committee stage of this Vote.
§ Sir N. MOORE
I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the comprehensive way in which he has dealt with the various points which have been raised 1868 during the Debate. I only rise for the purpose of taking exception to the remarks of the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) in regard to the Dominions, when he urged the First Lord to impress upon them the necessity for taking some share in the defence of the Empire. I should like to point out that as far as the Colonies are concerned, taking the Singapore Base, that the Federated Malay States have contributed £2,000,000, New Zealand, a little country with 1,500,000 people, no less than £1,000,000, and that while Australia will not be contributing direct she has taken on an obligation of £7,500,000. That is some reply to the hon. Member who referred in rather scathing terms to what the Dominions have done.
§ Sir N. MOORE
As far as Australia is concerned, she is labouring under a debt of £400,000,000 in connection with the recent War, upon which she is paying 6 per cent. interest. The Dominions took their part in the War. When war was declared, the Australian and New Zealand forces at once came under the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. I can only say to the hon. Member that we have to realise that those two countries are right in the Pacific Ocean, and that if we are not prepared to give them some defence in the way of cruisers there is another nation which is only too glad at the present time to play with them and, provided it is put on the same preferential basis as far as tariffs are concerned, will be prepared to give them the necessary protection as far as the Navy is concerned. I remember in the old days, as a young Australian, the enthusiasm we felt when a British man-of-war came into one of our ports. People came hundreds of miles to see it, because they realised that it was a connecting link between the old country and Australia. Some years afterwards I saw an American fleet come there. We sent out our odd cruisers. We saw 16 ships of war in the bay underneath the flag of Uncle Sam.Built of Yankee steel,Flying top to keel,Yankee from the rudder to the ram.What did the Americans say? "You have a big brother in America—Uncle 1869 Sam." And the Australians began to think that America was a great naval Power. The Americans believe in the white Australia policy. At times we have to realise that the British Navy is the link that hinds us and the British Dominions together. We must not forget it. I would not have risen had not the hon. Member rather touched me on the raw. We know the sacrifices that the Dominions made in the War, and are making at the present time. It ill becomes any Member of the British Parliament to speak disparagingly of what the Dominions are prepared to do in the case of a national emergency.
Dr. VERNON DAVIES
I am sure it has been a pleasure to hear the gallant defence of the Dominions by my hon. and gallant Friend. We have no fear in regard to the Dominions. Our fear is in regard to the present Government. Many people think that the Government are taking an undue risk in reducing tonnage and personnel. I was rather sorry to hear the First Lord say that his personal reputation did not concern him very much. I hope he will reconsider that point. He is the First Lord of the Admiralty, "the ruler of the King's Navee," and we all hope that when he leaves that position he will leave it with credit to the Navy and honour to himself. He stated that the Government had to make a decision. We recognise that that is so. Although he is First Lord, the right hon. Gentleman is also a politician and a Member of the Cabinet. The difficulty that we have is to know how far the political element is allowed to outweigh the service element and the expert advisers. The opinion that I hold—I have heard it expressed by other people—is that the Board of Admiralty, men of knowledge and science and experts, are the safeguards of the country, and that if any Cabinet, any political body, simply presses those Gentlemen beyond the point which they consider safe for the country, they would resign. We, in this country, are not trusting to the First Lord, or to the Cabinet, but to the honour and sense of duty of the Board of Admiralty, believing that if any political party wishes to go beyond the danger line those Gentlemen rather than give way to the politicians will resign their offices. 1870 The First Lord in his original statement was rather perturbed at the lack of medical men. The right hon. Gentleman is reducing the personnel of the Navy by 2,750, and he said he could not understand why the medical services, not only of the Navy but the Army, were not more popular. I suggest that, probably, the terms are not quite good enough and yet the terms are very good. The right hon. Gentleman visualised a time when boys from elementary and secondary schools would pass through the University and into the services of the Crown. They are doing that now in the medical profession, and that is the difficulty which you are up against. If I may say so without offence, medicine is becoming more of a trade and less of a profession. Many of these young men have no money; they have spent all their money on their education. They have become qualified, and they are out to do the best they can for themselves. They have several opportunities before them in civil life. A young doctor can set up in a National Health Insurance panel practice, and there are other openings, but if he goes into the Navy even on the short service system, even though he can go out with a gratuity of £l,000, he has to give three years or five years of his time. He has to go abroad. He dare not get married because you will not give him a pension. On the other hand, those who do not go into the Service, and who stay at home, can earn as much money; they can get married and have home life. They have before them specialised services, such as tuberculosis service, school medical services and others in which they can work for six or seven hours a day on five days of the week and earn from £600 to £900 a year. With that prospect on shore why should a young doctor go to sea? He would be very silly to do so unless he had a great love of the sea. The right hon. Gentleman may make up his mind that the medical services of the Crown will have to be amalgamated It is no good asking the heads of the separate medical services to agree to such a proposal, because they are not going to commit hari kari. The Government will have to make up their minds that when they want medical men they are in competition with the great civil medical services of the country, both national and municipal. The suggestion 1871 which I would make for what it may be worth is this: Would it not be possible to give to men who have served in one or other of the services for five years a preferential claim on all medical appointments under the Crown or in the municipalities? [HON. MEMBERS: "Trade unionism!"] I do not know whether it is trade unionism or not. It is really a question of a choice between a man who has given five years of his life to the service of the country voluntarily, and the man who has stayed at home. When the Government want a medical man for the Ministry of Health or any other Department, the man who has served his country for five years should have a preferential claim. By offering an inducement like that you would get these young men into the Service. Unless you have an efficient medical service, you are not going to get a healthy Navy, and if you do not get a healthy Navy, you will have an inefficient Navy, and, as you remember in the War, it was the medical men who won that War. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] There was never a war in all history where there was less sickness and disease or where more people were cured after being disabled. It was the medical profession absolutely that won that War by keeping your men fit. It is no use having your ships unless the men are healthy and fit, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be discouraged at the lack of flow into the medical service, but that he will recognise that there are more tempting offers made outside, and that it is up to his Department to see if they cannot make the Service additionally attractive to these men.
§ Question put, and agreed to.