HC Deb 17 September 1931 vol 256 cc1104-22
Captain W. G. HALL

I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."

No one regrets more than I do the fact that I find myself in the position that I do to-night. It can be no satisfaction to any of us, certainly not to myself, that the unfortunate events which have recently occurred in His Majesty's Fleet have led to a good deal of publicity in the Press, to questions having been asked in this House, and to your leave, Sir, being given for me to move the Adjournment to discuss them. I have the honour, in company with two hon. and gallant Gentlemen who sit on the other side of the House, to represent the oldest and largest naval port in the world, and it is, therefore, a matter of the supremest importance to the people I represent that matters affecting their conditions and the livelihood of themselves and their dependants should be, as far as possible, and as reasonably as possible, ventilated in the mother of Parliaments. I have been warned by many friends in all quarters of the House that I should be dealing with what is a very delicate subject. No one realises that more than I do, and I hope to deal with the subject with restraint, simplicity and, as far as l can, as I see it, with fairness.

What are the facts? Last night at midnight, so the newspapers tell us, the Atlantic Fleet sailed from the Cromarty Firth for their home ports. That was the culminating point in a swift chapter of incidents which might have been fraught with very great possibilities for ill. I saw the news, in company with other Members of the House, on the tape on Tuesday night. We read that the Atlantic Fleet, which has been carrying out exercises off the coast of Scotland, had been recalled, and later we heard that a certain amount of unrest had eventuated among the ratings. We are told—I do not know whether it is true—that this trouble began on Sunday, so that for some days a considerable portion of His Majesty's fleet, to wit 15 ships, have been in a state of unrest, and I suggest that it is only fair, right, and proper that we should discuss such an untoward incident in the life of the British Navy. We are also told that ratings occupying various positions on board those ships have carried out what might be described as passive resistance.

These are the brief facts known to all of us and from them certain definite things emerge. The first is that this gesture was not the work of a few, or taken part in only by a few, but was universal throughout the whole of the Atlantic Fleet as far as the ratings were concerned. Another thing that emerges is that the Commander-in-Chief, in the absence of Admiral Hodges, who is unfortunately ill, acted with promptitude, with despatch, and with great common sense. We remember previous incidents that have happened in the Navy when officers in charge have perhaps not seen their duty so clearly as the present Commander-in-Chief. Another fact that I should like to bring out is that the sole reason for this action, so far as I see it, was the decision taken by the Government of the day to make certain alterations in the rates of pay for all ranks under the Economy Bill.

I should like to deal with certain conclusions which I think arise from these facts. The first is, given that the unrest is due to variation in the rates of pay, we should ask ourselves, as the supreme Legislature of the country, and, therefore, responsible for the Navy and the condition of the men who give their service and their lives to it, whether these cuts were just, whether they broke any obligation made to the men, and whether there was any other remedy open to them other than the action that they took. First of all, are the cuts just? They are based, of course, on the findings of the Anderson Committee. The rates of pay of the men in the Navy were based on the findings of the Jerram Committee, which reported in March, 1919. That report was acted upon by the Government of the day in May, 1919. It is on the recommendations set up then that 75 per cent. of the men still serving receive their remuneration. In 1923 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) set up the Anderson Committee, which reported at great length both on the remuneration paid to members of the Civil Service, and to the remuneration paid to the members of the Fighting Services. I should like to read two brief extracts from the report. They say on page 14 that: The standard of remuneration should be such as will induce a continuous and sufficient flow of suitable candidates and keep them in a contented state while in the naval service. Lower down on the same page they say: All evidence seems to show that the pay of naval ratings was not too low in 1914. In parenthesis, may I say that, the ordinary seaman then got 1s. 3d. and the able seaman 1s. 8d. It is now too high, and, in our judgment, it should be reduced parallel with reductions in the pay of the rank and file of the Army and in correspondence with -the wages now paid in civil employ. It is the rates which came into force later on as the result of the findings of that Committee to which exception is now taken, as I understand it, by about 75 per cent. of the ratings of His Majesty's Navy. A Labour Government came into office in 1924. It had a very short term of office, and in the following year the Conservative party was returned and the Anderson Report was implemented. It was not put into operation so far as men then serving were concerned. The decision was that the new rates of pay based upon the Anderson Report should operate for all men coming into the Service from October, 1925.

The economies suggested and the variations recently promulgated in Fleet Orders, which bring the pay and other allowances of naval ratings down to the level set up in 1925, is the root cause and the only cause of the unrest that we are now discussing. The Admiralty, in a statement issued yesterday not only acknowledge that unrest exists, but they admit that there are certain anomalies which penalise very severely certain sections of the men of the lower deck. When they come to give the percentages, it would appear that the cut proposed in the pay of able seamen is not so drastic as the figure that appeared so widely in the Press. Taking pay alone, the reduction in that one rating is at the rate of 25 per cent. The Admiralty in their new figures take emoluments and allowances to which sailors are entitled and make the percentage deduction a good deal less. They bring it down, in the case of a married man, to something over 10 per cent. and in the case of an unmarried man to 13.6 per cent.

May I say that argument does not altogether hold water. With a naval rating it is not so much the emoluments that he gets, necessary and good as they are; it is the amount of pay that goes into his home, and it is the salaried part of it to which his wife is, or should be, entitled to which exception has been taken. The Admiralty argument breaks down, too, when we remember that a good deal of the unrest which has been engendered is due to some men marrying before they are entitled to the marriage allowance, and the result is that they do not get it. The fact that, in addition to their not getting it, they have family ties and responsibilities, coupled with the fact that this drastic cut has come upon many of them suddenly, has made their plight extremely serious. A letter was published in the Press this morning addressed from the men of the Atlantic Fleet to the First Lord and the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty: We, the loyal subjects of His Majesty the King, do hereby present to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty our representative to implore them to amend the drastic cuts in pay which have been afflicted on the lowest paid men of the lower deck. It is evident to all concerned that this cut is the forerunner of tragedy, misery and immorality amongst the families of the lower deck, and, unless a guaranteed written agreement is received from the Admiralty and confirmed by Parliament stating that our pay will he revised, we are resolved to remain as one unit refusing to sail under the new rates of pay. The men are quite agreeable to accept a cut which they consider reasonable. If I turn to my own constituency paper, the "Portsmouth Evening News," it pub- lished last night a leader which gave in very sane and reasonable language pictures from their own postbag of the sort of difficulty from which the homes of many of the men on the lower deck will now suffer in consequence of the cuts. I, too, have had quite a number of letters and I take it other hon. Members have also had letters, human documents from people pointing out how this thing has fallen upon them suddenly, through no fault of theirs, and how now they are finding themselves with perhaps 2s., 3s., 5s. and very often less than 10s. a week with which to buy food.

The next point I should like to make is: Did they break their contract? I mean, of course, did the Government break their contract? I do not wish—nothing is further from my desire—to bring heat into this discussion, but I think that all who are fair-minded must admit that the State has a very definite obligation towards the men who have entered at the higher rates. I would remind the House that the history of the Anderson Committee shows that this point has been ever present in the minds of successive Governments since the War. The Labour Government in 1924, through its spokesmen, laid it down very definitely that they felt that there was this obligation towards the men who entered the Service under the higher rates of pay—that so long as they serve under the agreement signed by them the State has an obligation to them which should be kept. I believe that a previous First Lord of the Admiralty, now transferred to another place, very definitely was of the same opinion, and his own Government and his own party held the same view. I will read a letter which the present Prime Minister wrote just before the last election to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). I make no apology for reading it because the letter was widely published at the time and appeared in many periodicals, and I am sure I shall not be reading anything which was private and which was not meant for universal consumption: I am much obliged by yours of the 16th, telling me that a story is being put about in naval ports that, in the event of a Labour Government coming into power, Service pensions would be abolished, and also that the Navy would be reduced without consideration for any section of the staff, that officers and men would be turned adrift without any provision for their future. These statements are, I regret to say, part of a regular campaign of falsehood against us which is being conducted all over the country and adapted to local needs. My reply is brief and effective: the whole thing is absolutely untrue. A Labour Government, from its nature, is a Government which will carry out obligations, and every right acquired in the course of service will he rigidly observed. 1 therefore submit to the House that that obligation has been broken, and that we should he very jealous of our honour and the honour of our country when matters of this sort are under consideration. The final point I wish to make is this. Had the men any other remedy I noticed that in a very well-known newspaper this morning the leading article was headed: "Steady Boys! Steady!!" do not know whether that advice was directed to the men of the Navy or to the gentlemen who now adorn the Front Government Bench. At any rate, I should like us to realise how serious it is that a section of law-abiding men feel that the State has broken its contract with them and has gone back on its sacred word. I think—other Members may disagree with me—in the circumstances, knowing how cumbersome is the machinery in the Navy for ventilating grievances, that the action taken by the men was not, as that one newspaper this morning described it, mutiny. I think that all things considered the men acted with great restraint. They took, as far as they could, the usual channel by approaching their officers. I have read the papers very carefully and nowhere have I found any instance of rioting or anything of that sort. I think, too, that we should also remember that when the men had to consider the remedy at hand they were faced with the fact that those orders had been promulgated by the Admiralty. The thing, as far as they knew, was finished and done with, and all they had to do was to accept the variations laid down. Some of them perhaps remembered—I personalty remember and I hope all here will remember—that the present Government for reasons known to all the House are going to put the economies through by Orders-in-Council. It is therefore very difficult, if not impossible, for this House, as a House, to deal with such a situation. It is quite conceivable that had the men taken the slow and cumbersome method open to them, the House might have risen, stood adjourned or prorogued for some months, and by that time the thing would have been in operation for some considerable time and the whole point of their protest would have been lost. May I also say, and here I address my remarks to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that they perhaps more than any other party in the State lay great stress upon the need for keeping the British Empire together and of keeping it solid and strong and alive. In this connection may I quote a statement by the late Lord Birkenhead who for so many years adorned this House. He said in the course of a speech: We acknowledge the debt of gratitude we owe to those who, placed in power suddenly, became the trustees of the majestic fabric of the British Empire and of whom, will say plainly and frankly, were not unworthy trustees of the British Empire. I have in mind men of the calibre of Mr. MacDonald, Mr. Snowden and Mr. Thomas. I should like in the light of the words which I have just read to include the three right hon. Gentlemen who until recently were such shining lights and leading Members of the last Government. It would therefore appear that both among the Conservatives and among the Labour Members of the present Administration you have men who have all through been looked up to by the men on the lower deck as men who are anxious, not only to keep their word, but to see that the fair fame and name of the British Empire remains unsullied. Filially, may I, in particular, address my remarks to the First, Lord of the Admiralty. The First Lord, in my view, has, like the Commander-in-Chief, acted as a British gentleman should. He has by the statement which was issued in the Press to-day acknowledged that these cuts operate very unfairly and has definitely promised the men on the lower deck that their case shall be looked into. May I ask this House, and through this House, the First Lord of the Admiralty to implement the implied terms in all that has been said to the men.

I ask the Admiralty to go into this matter afresh and not to penalise other men in the Service in order to keep the cuts within the amount which has appeared in the Paper which has been circulated. If necessary, I would beg of the First Lord to remember that, although I have spoken chiefly of the men of the lower deck and although the incidence of the cut seems to hit them much more hardly than the officers, still all ratings and all ranks are suffering under those cuts. Obligations have been entered into by all of them and we should in fairness treat them all alike. May I ask, although I am sure there is really no need for me to do so, the First Lord not to penalise any of these men. It is perfectly obvious that in an incident of this sort, some men must have been ringleaders and the others purely passive in what took place, but I ask the First Lord to remember that they were suffering under a very definite sense of grievance and took the only remedy which they thought open to them. They thought of their women folk at home. In the light of all these things, I ask him to go into this matter sympathetically, to shift the incidence of the cuts as far as he can, and, if possible, not to penalise other ratings or ranks in the Navy in so doing, and to remember that, although some men were ringleaders, they were all in it together, and that we want to keep the Navy what hon. and right bon. Members think it should be, namely, a contented Service, a Service proud to be where it is, and a Service proud to wear the uniform that it does. Do not penalise any of them, but help them to be what they want to be, members of a contented and a useful Service.

Lieut.-Commander KENWC RTHY

I beg to second the Motion.

I believe that I shall be expressing the views of all parties in the House in congratulating my hon. and gallant Friend upon the lucid, restrained and moderate statement that he has made. He has covered the ground so well that in seconding the Motion I need not detain the House for very long. I will try and keep to certain essentials. In the first place, I am sure that I am speaking for all on this side of the House when I say that it must not be taken that we are in any way condoning or supporting insubordination or indiscipline among men wearing the King's uniform. I had the honour to command a ship in His Majesty's Fleet for five years. I served for 17 years as an officer, and I know the difficulties which the officers must have had to go through in these few days, the events of which we are now discussing. I am sure that the House must feel very great sympathy indeed for the officers and all ranks of the Navy as things are in the extraordinary and almost unprecedented events that have occurred.

I am very glad indeed that my hon. and gallant Friend has brought this matter forward It is easy to say, "Oh, the least said the better," but the newspapers have contained a great deal of information about these events on the north-east coast of Scotland. I have a Conservative paper here, the "Glasgow Evening News" of the 15th September, giving a most sensational account, some of which I have reason to believe is altogether false. We know that the Continental newspapers have shown little restraint in reporting these events, and I really think that from every point of view it is far better that the First Lord should have an opportunity of explaining the situation and making everything clear and letting us know exactly what has happened and what—most important of all—it is now proposed to do. I for one agree with the leading article in the London "Daily Mail" this morning which was mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend, in which it was said that the men of the Royal Navy have, after all, their remedy through Parliament. They are citizens. To-day, they are voters when they are out of their ships; they are on the register. They can appeal to and they have the right to look to Parliament to see that they are safeguarded and do not suffer oppression or injustice. If this House was not fit to discuss a matter of this kind—and it should be discussed—there would be an excuse for men in the Forces to think that only by direct action would they be able to get their rights. That is not the case. I believe that Parliament has a duty in this matter and that my hon. and gallant Friend has performed a service to the country and to the Fleet by moving the Adjournment.


I would ask the following questions additional to those of my hon. and gallant. Friend of the First Lord of the Admiralty: Will he not only explain the situation but also inform us what steps were taken to inform the men of the cuts and to explain to them what was in contemplation? Was there just a Fleet Order issued, and was it then left to the officers to explain to the men as best they could, or was it clearly expounded to them in some suitable way? Above all, what steps were taken to ascertain how the cuts would actually operate? My hon. and gallant Friend referred to the case of the younger unmarried seamen and stokers who are under the age to receive a marriage allowance. There are hard eases of that kind. In the Admiralty statement which was published in the papers this morning an attempt is made to minimise the disparity in the sacrifices which the officers and the men are called upon to face. Taking into account the messing allowances, lodging and the value of uniform, allowance, accommodation and the rest of it, the married able seaman with two children has a percentage reduction of 10.5 per cent. and the unmarried able seaman 13.6 per cent. When we come to the petty officers, we find that in the case of the chief petty officer, with a wife and two children, the percentage given by the Admiralty is 7.7. There is an attempt to explain the matter in the Admiralty statement, but that should have been done before the trouble occurred. That is my criticism, which I cannot avoid making, of the First Lord of the Admiralty.

Take the case of the officers. I would remind the House that the officers have been very shabbily treated by successive Governments over the promised marriage allowance, which was voted by this House under the late Conservative Government when Mr. Bridgeman, now Viscount Bridgeman, was First Lord of the Admiralty. Against the vote of Parliament their marriage allowance was withdrawn. In the case of the officers, it will be seen that the Admiral has a cut of 7 per cent., and the Lieut.-Commanders—the backbone of the Navy—3.7 per cent. only. The chief petty officer has a basic rate cut of 11.8 per cent. and the able seamen, as has been stated in the newspapers, a cut of 25 per cent. The able seaman, I would remind the House, is the general rank of the men of the Service. If a man is a good seaman, you usually make him an able seaman at the age of 18 or 20. If he does not get promotion to the rank of petty officer, he goes on for 12 or 20 years, with an allowance of 1d. a day extra for the first good conduct badge and 2d. a day for the second badge and so on. He may become a gun layer or other specialist and get a little extra, but his basic rate is 4s. a day, from which it is proposed to take away is day, or 25 per cent. It is the money that he can afford to send home to his wife that really matters.

The whole standard of life, the whole method of living in the Navy have undergone a tremendous change. In the years just, before the War the Fleets were far more in home waters. The men were not actually encouraged to marry, hut they did marry much earlier. In the old days one heard of men going ashore on their infrequent leave, getting drunk, painting the town red, and so on, but those days are gone. It is a sober, clean-living Navy that we have to-day. The men marry young and build up their little homes, of which they are proud and are eager to go to them and to keep them decent. They are well-educated self-respecting men. The old idea of the drunken adventurous Jack Tar no longer exists. The modern seamen are a very fine class. Many of them are seamen by heredity. In numerous instances fathers and sons have been Warrant Officers, coming in as boys and rising to the rank of Warrant, Officers. They are a fine class of men and they feel a cut of the kind proposed most severely.

Nothing will excuse men disobeying orders and defying their officers, but when I hear of cases of insubordination in the Navy I ask, what was the order that was given, who gave it, and in what manner was it given? Usually in a case of disobeying orders or an act, of insubordination there is some misunderstanding on the part of the man or lack of judgment or tact, on the part of the superior officer. That is what I fear has been the case in this instance. The superior officer here is the First Lord himself. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not try to ride off by saying that he found certain draft instructions when he came into office. I have some sympathy for him. He was pitchforked into this very honourable post which he took at, very short notice, and he had to act quickly. That I appreciate, but he cannot divest himself of his responsibility by saying that he found a certain draft instruction, or whatever it was. That does not excuse him from a course of events for which I think some blame is attributable to the Board of which he is the head.

There will be, perhaps, some very hard things said about these men. I am sorry to see that one of the Commanders of the Army, one of the Army Divisional Commanders, has issued a sneering message about the officers and men of the Atlantic Fleet—the most powerful and most modern unit in the Navy. Many of the men and the petty officers are senior ratings and must have served in the Great War, and they have the same traditions now as they had then. I would remind the House that during the whole of the Great War there was not one case of concerted insubordination in the Royal Navy. The men of the Navy were on service under tremendous strain. The pay was very low. The 1914 rates were miserably low and were not raised substantially until after the War. There was, however, no failure on the part of the men of the Navy and no concerted insubordination during the whole War. It was the German Navy, with its military methods, with its boast of iron discipline, that broke in the end. Therefore, when hon. Members are inclined to follow the example of this gallant General and to sneer at the men of the Atlantic Fleet, I hope they will remember these facts. Do not let us sneer.

I would once more plead that in all these matters we must hold on to the constitutional manner of doing things as to an anchor. There has been a lot of loose talk for some years about a dictatorship, either of the right or of the left. So long as this Parliament is supreme, so long as its Constitution remains, the men of the Royal Navy and the officers will be able to look here for ultimate justice. I end by quoting the words that have to be read out by regulation once a quarter on the quarter deck of every man-of-war flying the pennant: It is upon the Navy, under the providence of God, that the safety, honour and welfare of this nation do chiefly depend. I believe that history will show that that was true in the last few days, just as much as it has been in the past.

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Sir Austen Chamberlain)

I desire at once to express my appreciation of the way in which the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Captain Hall) treated a very delicate subject. I shall address myself to him in the spirit which he showed, and I do not think that he will require more than I shall be able to say. I was particularly glad to hear the hon. and gallant Member pay a tribute to the senior officer commanding the Atlantic Fleet during these anxious days, in the absence of the Commander-in-Chief who, unhappily, is ill in hospital. The Admiralty have already conveyed to him their full approval of the action which he took and of his service during these times. The compliment which the hon. and gallant Member paid to him is one that is well-deserved and which, I am sure, will be most warmly received by the men of the Fleet.

The hon. and gallant Member went on to say—I believe with perfect truth—that there had been no disrespect shown to officers, no violence of any kind, and, although there was action which cannot be excused, I might almost say that, if such action were taken at all, it speaks well for the general discipline of the Fleet that it should have passed so quietly, without any disturbance except to the actual routine duty. There is one further observation that I want to make, because I think the statement which has appeared in the Press that the Fleet was recalled appears to have conveyed to the lay mind an inaccurate impression of what took place. When the unrest showed itself on the ships in harbour, certain ships had already proceeded to sea in pursuance of the routine work. The Admiral, in the circumstances, thought it desirable to recall those ships and to concentrate the Fleet. That was the whole of what is described as the recall of the Atlantic Fleet, in various statements that I have seen.

There was one sentence in the hon. and gallant Member's speech to which I take exception. I think he said that in this matter all were together, and the Fleet was a unit. That is not fair to the many who remained perfectly loyal, to the whole body of petty officers and chief petty officers who never deserted their duty, or, at any rate, the great part of them. So much I wish to say on the facts of what took place. Now I turn to the particular case which the hon. and gallant Member made, not in justification, but in palliation of what a portion of the Fleet did. It was profoundly distasteful to my colleagues and to myself—I am speaking of my political colleagues in the Government and of my colleagues on the Board of Admiralty—to have to ask these sacrifices of the men in the naval service just as it was profoundly distasteful to us to have to impose the other sacrifices which the financial situation of the nation renders necessary. The whole country is paying now for a course of policy to which each party, I am afraid, has contributed. No party can be considered wholly free from blame. It can be summed up in the words that we have been living beyond our means at times when our means are decreasing, and a remedy not having been applied earlier the actions which are necessary to provide a remedy when the crisis has arrived are necessarily more drastic and bitter than they would have been if suitable action had been taken earlier. Therefore, solely on the ground of a national emergency, which calls for sacrifices from all, are we asking this sacrifice of the officers and men in the naval service.

I have mentioned the officers. Let me say that as far as I know there has not been one word of complaint by the men of differential treatment of their officers, and the spirit between officers and men has been the spirit of comradeship and sympathy which has always characterised the Navy. It is not fair to make that comparison without at any rate recalling the fact that while the men's rates of pay have remained unaltered the officer's pay has been cut again and again. This is a cut on a cut, unlike the case of the other ranks to whom a cut is applied. What is the cut? It is not the establishment of a new rate of pay unknown to the Navy hitherto. What the Government asked was that the men who had enlisted previous to 1925 and enjoyed the rates which followed the Jerram Committee should now accept the rates which men in similar positions and doing the same duty receive if they have entered at any time after 1925. It is nothing more than that. It is not a general reduction in the scales of pay in the Navy; it is an assimilation of the pay of men who entered before 1925 to the men who entered after 1925. That is the whole of the change which is made in the pay.

That does not quite close the question; that I admit. The men may have been reasonably assured of the stability of their conditions. In some cases they have undertaken liabilities, and these cuts, which places them exactly on a level with men who never had these higher resources, renders their position one of exceptional hardship and unfairness. That is just the kind of case which has been represented and into which we are going to inquire, and I hope we shall find a method of alleviating the hardship. It is clear that the limits within which we can do that are fairly clearly marked out.

The general scheme of economy laid down by the Government and for which they are asking the sanction of Parliament is in their view required in order to give us any prospect of restoring national prosperity and regaining national credit. We cannot allow that scheme to be eaten away in detail. We are quite ready where there is a particular class, within the general scheme applied to their Service, as I think there is in the Navy, who stiffer exceptional hardship to look into that case and provide a remedy if we can. That is the purpose of the inquiries which will be opened at the earliest possible moment after the arrival of the ships at their home ports by the respective commanders-in-chief. We shall instruct the commanders-in-chief and inform the Fleet that it is our desire that these inquiries shall be conducted with the greatest expedition possible in order that we may have the benefit of the results which they may reveal, so that the final decision of the Government may be given at the earliest possible moment. It is in the interests of everybody to take care that a fair opportunity is given for those concerned to make their representations. It is quite as much in their interests as anybody else that the inquiries should not be prolonged beyond the point which is necessary to elucidate the facts required to form a reasonable judgment.

I return for a moment to the question of the pay. The hon. and gallant Member says that it is not quite fair to take the loss which a man suffers as a percentage of his emoluments as contrasted with a percentage of his pay. I think it is the fairest test you can apply. The Jerram Committee, whose rates are affected, based their recommendations not on pay alone but on emoluments, and the hon. and gallant Member's ease was that where there are hard cases it was in the effect on the salary alone. If there were no emoluments the sailor would have to find out of his pay what he now gets out of emoluments, and if the pay remained unchanged he could not allot what he has been habitually accustomed to allot. You cannot arrive at the sum he can allot, and has power to allot if he desires, and is willing to allot it, unless you consider not merely his pay but his emoluments, which are part of the resources of his life. These provisions, but for these emoluments, would have to come out of his pay, which would have to be readjusted if it were not for these emoluments.

It is of course true that the confidence which the men affected by the application of the 1925 rate to the pre-1925 rate feel in the security of the pay to them as individuals as contrasted with the Navy as a whole was not unreasonably founded. When the new scale was introduced in 1925 for all new entrants it was thought very undesirable to disturb the men who had already entered under the expectation of a higher scale of pay. When the Prime Minister wrote the letter which the hon. and gallant Member quoted, the parties in this House, without exception, felt equally the inexpediency of disturbing the arrangement made with these men. I felt its inexpediency then, and I felt it even while I accepted the recommendation. Nothing justified the action we have taken but the national crisis and national necessity. Sacrifices are called for from everyone, from every class. The man in the Navy does not stand alone. Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor I would have stood at this Box With any Ministerial responsibility if it had been sought to solve the nation's difficulty at the exclusive expense of the men in any of the Services. We could only assent to that as part of the general sacrifice. I believe that when the men of the Fleet realise what the national position is, how universal is the sacrifice required, and when particular cases of unequal hardship on particular classes have been dealt with, they, like other citizens, and they before all other citizens in conse- quence of their great tradition, will loyally and cheerfully make their contribution to the nation's need.

The hon. and gallant Member made an appeal that for what was past there should be no penalisation. The past is past. It is in the interest of everyone in the Navy or out of it to forget it. I am not going to look back. I am going to look forward, and I count confidently on the tradition of the Service and of the men of to-day loyally to uphold them. In that case there will be no looking back to what has happened on this occasion, hut we shall go forward together in the service of the country.


I should like, first of all, to pay my tribute to the hon. and gallant Member who introduced this Motion, on the tone of his speech and the tone which has therefore been set to the whole Debate. It would have been a most serious position if a Debate of this kind had developed into anything like an acrimonious discussion of the events of the past few days. No one can have been called upon to servo in any position of responsibility in connection with the British Navy without having grown to love the Service, to love the gentlemen of all ranks in the Navy, and to appreciate the service which they have always rendered to the State. I think my hon. Friends on this side will agree that, in view of what has taken place in the Debate up to now, it will not be necessary to extend it in the direction in which some people feared it might be extended at an earlier period of the day. The statement which has been made by the First Lord means that he is implementing his promise of yesterday of an inquiry into grievances, that there shall be no prolongation of the inquiry, and that therefore any action which will be taken, remedial of the grievances, will be early. He has made what, I think, is a very great gesture by putting the events of the past few days into the past completely. That is an act which will be very much appreciated, and is one which I, having been at one time at the head of the Admiralty, feel is the right one in the circumstances, and one which the whole country will feel is the right thing to do.

I have only two other things to say to-night, in view of the course that the Debate has taken. The first is that if we are in a position to look back tonight without very serious regret at the events of this week, it is due first to the great stability and loyalty to service of the men themselves, and, secondly—it has been referred to in two quarters—to the very great service rendered in this crisis by Admiral Tomkinson. The sympathetic and tactful action which the acting Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet has taken is only what I would have expected of him from my knowledge of him.

The right hon. Gentleman has said that the cuts, which are now to be reconsidered with sympathy from the point of view of trying to meet grievances, are in his judgment necessary to meet the national crisis, and must be within the general scheme of economy which the Government consider is necessary for the crisis. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not quarrel with me if I sit down with this remark—that we must be free to decide, on another occasion in discussing the details, as to whether we agree that the scheme of economy presented by the Government is the one which would otherwise have been adopted.




Agreed, agreed!


I think the House is now ready to pass to the next business.


I do not wish to make a speech and to introduce a note of acrimony into the proceedings, but the First Lord made a statement with regard to the petty officers and other officers, and I wish to ask a question.


The First Lord was not the last speaker, and the hon. Member might have put his question when he was speaking.


I wish to end this discussion as quickly as anyone. I merely want to ask a question relating to those members of the union to which I belong, namely, the engine room artificers, and the complaints that have been made. If, as the First Lord states, they took no part in this disturbance, their claim, having regard to their skilled status, might well have that consideration for which they have asked.


As an old Member of Parliament and one who has been connected with the Navy, I think that the House has done itself credit in its treatment of this Debate. I would pay a great tribute to the hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion, and also express my gratitude to the First Lord and the late First Lord. I would suggest that it would be to the advantage of the House and of the Navy if the Motion could now he withdrawn.

Captain HALL

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


On a point of Order. May I draw attention to the fact that when you asked the House whether leave be given to withdraw the Motion, there were lend and persistent shouts of "No"?


They did not reach my ears.