HC Deb 20 May 1931 vol 252 cc1949-54
11. Captain W. G. HALL

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is yet in a position to make a statement on the findings of the committee set up to inquire into the working of the mate scheme?

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. A. V. Alexander)

As a complete statement on this question would be rather long, I propose, with my hon. Friend's permission, to describe in general terms the principal features of the new scheme of promotion from the lower deck which has been approved by the Board of Admiralty as the result of the report of the committee on the mate question and to circulate further details in the OFFICIAL REPORT. In the first place, it has been decided to drop the title of mate and to promote selected candidates from the lower deck to the rank of acting sub-lieutenant and acting sub-lieutenant (E). The main drawbacks to the existing scheme have proved to be the somewhat high age at which promotion is achieved and the disparity in the qualifications on promotion between the mates and officers ex-cadet.

The new scheme recommended by the committee, and approved by the Admiralty, will, it is hoped, do a great deal to remove these disabilities for those who possess the qualities and application necessary to succeed. By a system of intense tuition, both in educational and professional subjects, in the early years of a young man's naval service, it will in future be possible for a candidate to reach commissioned rank in the executive branch at about the age of 21, and about 22 for engine room artificers and rather over 25 for stokers. Those ages compare favourably with the ages of officers ex-cadet. The time now spent at Greenwich College by mates of the executive branch is three months only. In future there will be a preliminary course at the college of three months, to be followed by the full sub-lieutenant's course of six months. It is hoped by this extra time to enable these sub-lieutenants to compete successfully with other sub-lieutenants, both in their examinations for lieutenant and subsequently in selection for specialisation. The course for the engineering branch will remain as at present.

I must add that the Board have not overlooked the desire of other branches for early promotion to commissioned rank, but, after full consideration of their claims, they have reluctantly come to the conclusion that such a system is not needed in the Navy and that the present scheme of promotion at a later age through the grade of warrant rank sufficiently meets requirements both of the Service and the branches concerned.

Captain HALL

May I ask why the writer branch have been left out? They have made numerous requests to be admitted to commissioned rank?


I can only say that that matter has been carefully examined by the committee and since by the Board of Admiralty. As I say in the last part of my reply, we have come to the conclusion that it is not needed in that case. They have quite enough outlet in our judgment for promotion to commissioned rank through warrant rank.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is it intended to publish the report of the committee?


It is not intended to publish the report of the committee, but we shall issue a much fuller statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT than I have read to the House.


In view of the far-reaching importance of the matter, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision, and publish the report in full? It could not do any harm, and it would be very instructive.


I should have to consider that, but, as the hon. Member knows, this type of report is not usually published.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say what will happen to the men who are mates? Will they have to remain as mates?


I should have to look at the point raised by the hon. Member, but my first opinion of the matter is that this scheme will apply to those who will enter under its provisions. Any necessary adjustments will be considered by the Board.


Is that scheme to take effect immediately?

Captain HALL

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an opportunity of discussing this matter, which is most important for the men of the lower deck?


That is not a question for me to decide. It must be addressed to the Leader of the House.

Following are the fuller details:

The following are the salient points in the new scheme for the promotion of officers from the Lower Deck.

It has been decided to drop the title of Mate and make use of the ordinary title of Sub-Lieutenant for officers promoted from the Lower Deck.

Sub-Lieutenants (Executive).

Boys in the Training Establishments and sea-going ships who show exceptional promise, and Ordinary Seamen who pass exceptionally well through the Ordinary Seaman training classes and are well fitted in other respects, will be given special opportunities of rendering themselves eligible for selection for Acting Sub-Lieutenant.

They will be drafted to capital ships and large cruisers only, so that all may have equal opportunities of advancing in their profession.

It will be possible for the rating of Able Seaman to be reached after a minimum of 12 months as Ordinary Seaman instead of 15 months as at present, and thereafter every encouragement will be given for such young Able Seamen to pass for Leading Seamen. Opportunities will be afforded to such of them as are candidates for a Commission to obtain the latter rate at the age of 19½ at the earliest. On being rated Acting Leading Seamen they will be sent to another ship to do Leading Seaman's duties.

After not less than six months as Acting Leading Seaman, and at a minimum age of 20½, a candidate for a Commission, if recommended by his Commanding Officer and provided he has passed the qualifying professional and educational examinations, will be eligible to present himself before a Fleet Selection Board. All candidates recommended for Commissions by the Fleet Selection Boards will subsequently be discharged to their Depots and be assembled as a class at Devonport Naval Barracks to go through a modified Petty Officers' Course; on joining this class to be rated Acting Petty Officer. Those not recommended for a Commission will be confirmed as Leading Seamen if recommended by their Commanding Officer.

On completion of this course candidates will appear before a final Selection Board of Naval Officers at Devonport Barracks. Those who are selected by this board will be appointed acting sub-lieutenants. The minimum age at which this rank can be obtained will be about 21. Those who fail will be confirmed as petty officers in due course, if recommended by their Commanding Officer.

Those acting sub-lieutenants will then join the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and for one term will form a class by themselves, receiving special tuition. At the end of this term they will join up with the ordinary acting sub-lieutenants for the two terms prescribed, and thereafter will undergo the same courses and pass the same examinations for the rank of lieutenant.

On finishing their courses they will be confirmed as sub-lieutenant and be sent to big ships where, as at present, they will join the wardroom mess. Their seniority as sub-lieutenant will be calculated on the same basis as applies to other sub-lieutenants.

The pay of these officers from the date of being rated acting sub-lieutenant will be the same as for officers ex-cadet, but their uniform grant of £150 will be continued.

Sub-Lieutenants (Engineering).

In view of the age on going to sea of ratings in the Engineering Branch, it will be impossible to regulate the age on promotion to acting sub-lieutenant (E.) so as to be as low as in the Executive Branch. This applies especially to the case of stokers. The arrangements to be made will, however, enable an engine-room artificer to reach the rank of acting sub-lieutenaant (E.) at a minimum age of 22, or about a year later than in the Executive Branch. In the case of stokers, who have to pass through the mechanician grade, the minimum age will be rather over 25.

Candidates for commissions in the Engineering Branch will appear before Fleet Selection Boards and a final Selection Board as in the case of the Executive Branch. Those that are appointed acting sub-lieutenant (E.) will then take the year's course at Greenwich College as at present, receiving the same pay and counting time for promotion in the same manner as an ordinary acting sub-lieutenant (E.), but retaining their present uniform grant.

On completion of their course they will be confirmed as sub-lieutenant (E.) and be sent to sea, joining the wardroom mess.

18. Mr. MORLEY

(for Mr. THOMAS LEWIS) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, as the result of the report of the inquiry into the mate scheme, a greater number than hitherto of officers commissioned from the ranks will be enabled to take the specialist courses; and whether these officers will be able to get more than one recommendation for promotion between the date of entering the zone and the date of selection for commander, observing that lieut.-commanders (ex-cadet) are able to get up to eight recommendations, that commanders (ex-mate) have been promoted at three years' seniority, and that the lower limit of the zone is now three years also?


This question, will, I think be found to be amply answered in the reply which I have given to question No. 11.