HC Deb 16 March 1933 vol 275 cc2236-63

8.50 p.m.


I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words: in the opinion of this House, it is essential that special attention should he paid to the provision of ample qualified personnel, both on the active and reserve lists of the Royal Navy, with an adequate margin for drafting and training, and to the maintenance of the high standard of training necessary to meet the increasingly responsible duties caused by modern naval developments. In moving this Amendment I do not intend to dwell at any great length upon general considerations. The necessity for this country to maintain an adequate and efficient Navy has not only been dealt with in this Debate but has been maintained by men of practical intelligence for many centuries past. However much we may deplore it, the fact remains that whatever negotiations have taken place with the nations of the world since the War have not encouraged us to place any reliance in, or to leave our people dependent upon, such security as may be attained by international agreement. So long as this country remains dependent not only for its prosperity but for its very existence upon its trade routes, so long is it absolutely essential that we should maintain an adequate force to protect us from such weapons as may be employed against our trade routes by our potential enemies. I know there are people in this House who take the view that the developments of aviation since the War should cause us to take an entirely different view of the methods to be employed for the defence of this Realm and the Empire. Whatever may be said for the co-ordination of the Navy and the Air Force I still maintain that the main work of protecting the trade routes must rest upon the Navy. Aircraft, both military and civil, can be countered by anti-aircraft guns and by other aircraft, and if aircraft are to operate over our trade routes it is absolutely essential that they should have bases from which to operate. These bases can only be provided by ships, and ships of His Majesty's Navy. Ultimately, therefore, whatever may be said for co-ordination between the two Services, the main duty of defending the -trade routes must remain with His Majesty's Navy. Furthermore, as aviation develops, and aircraft operate further and further from their home bases on land, it becomes more necessary that the trade routes of the country must be forced further and further afield from the normal trade routes, which will entail not fewer ships but more and bigger ships for their protection.

The case for a strong and efficient Navy being made out, what are the Lords of the Admiralty doing to maintain that strength and efficiency? I note in the Estimates that provision is being made for new construction. Whatever criticism may be offered in opposition to this expenditure, and there has been considerable criticism, I maintain that in view of the delayed Programmes for construction in the last few years the increase of £3,000,000 in the present Estimates for this purpose is a very small one. In addition, there is the further consideration. that this new construction is giving employment to thousands of men who otherwise would be unemployed. It is estimated that 80 per cent. of the cost of a ship is for labour, and that 80 per cent., and perhaps more, is being paid or will be paid in wages to men who otherwise would have no means of livelihood for some time to come.

Arguing from that basis alone, the laying down of these new hulls is justified. I know that there are people whom the First Lord described as "bloody-minded pacifists"—I think he called them, or "blood-thirsty pacifists"—who main-main that this is a wrong method of spending money on employing labour, but it may be far better to build battleships and have bread than to preach pacifism and starve. That is a view which I am quite sure is taken by many men in our private shipbuilding yards and dockyards. While I welcome the fact that the Estimates provide for an increase in materials and ships, I deplore that corresponding provision is not made for the personnel. I deplore the fact that the personnel has been reduced by an additional 1,100 officers and men this year. That is a very dangerous tendency. When you consider that the personnel has been decreased by 13,000 in the last five years, it makes us wonder if the Lords of the Admiralty are placing far too much reliance upon the mechanics of the Navy and are not sufficiently considering the old argument that it is the men who man the ships and that it is a question of the man behind the gun.

The London Naval Treaty places no restriction upon personnel. It is interesting to notice what other great Powers have done and how they have taken advantage of that fact. In 1914 the United States had 67,258 officers and men, and in 1932 they had 107,000 officers and men, an increase of 40,000. Japan in 1914 had 50,645 officers and men, and in 1932 89,000, or an increase of 39,000. Italy in 1914 had 40,023 officers and men, and in 1932 53,000, or an increase of 13,000.

Great Britain in 1914 had 146,047 officers and men, and in 1932 91,410, a decrease of 54,637. The United States from 1914 to 1932 increased their personnel by 59 per cent.; Japan in the same period increased her personnel by 75 per cent., and Italy by 32 per cent. Great Britain decreased her personnel by no less than 37 per cent., until to-day she is on the same basis as Japan, whereas according to the London Naval Treaty the Japanese Navy should have been at a ratio of three to five compared with ours. In view of those figures, I am inclined to ask whether the Lords of the Admiralty are sufficiently considering the necessity of maintaining a personnel, as well as ships and guns, to man the Navy in the future.

I come to the question of training. I am very pleased to learn from the Memorandum accompaning the Estimates that provision is being made for the training of the active personnel. I was pleased to hear from the First Lord that greater attention is to be given to the individual responsibility of young officers and petty officers in the Service. On the whole, that seems quite satisfactory. It is regrettable to hear that the Admiralty have had to cut down on the question of sea-training. I know that there are many arguments, in these times of economy, for cutting down expenditure, but I ask if it is wise to cut down so severely in sea-training. The questions of fuel and of the wear and tear of guns and machinery are strong arguments, but nevertheless I have always been of the impression that an essential part of the training of a sailor and of a seaman was in seamanship and navigation. Unless officers and men are to be given a chance of sea-training, I cannot see how they can be prepared to meet an emergency when it arises. I share the regret of the First Lord that sail-training is not looked upon with favour by the Lords of the Admiralty. That is very unfortunate. It is, to my mind, a very economical form of training, because no fuel is required and no machinery is likely to be in any way damaged. You have the opportunity of sending cadets to sea for long periods to get the experience of seamanship and navigation which every sailor should have.

I remember on returning from a cruise, a couple of years ago, being on the bridge one day with the captain of the ship when he said: "Will you look through that glass? You will see a very fine sight, one which you will never see again." I said "What is that?" He replied, "It is one of the last of the windjammers." I looked through the glass and I did see a very beautiful sight. Against the skyline, in full sail, was a four-masted, full-rigged ship. I knew that everybody on board would be anxious to see it on a pleasure cruise, so I asked the captain if he could change his course and go up nearer. He did, and everybody on board —there were about 2,000 people—rushed to photograph the ship. There is no one who does not treasure that photograph to-day, because there is no sight more pleasing to the eye than a ship in full sail. That ship was the "Bremen," and we were informed that it was a training ship for German cadets. When it drew up nearer, we were told that they had been practically six months at sea, and that they were 14 days out from Amsterdam. Surely that is the kind of training that is needed. Training ships could be obtained from the mercantile marine. Lying on our mud banks are many ships suitable for the training of cadets and officers. Why should they not be commissioned and sent to sea? I regret very much that the Lords of the Admiralty have turned down the, to me, very welcome suggestion of the First Lord as to the adoption of sail-training for naval cadets. It makes me feel that the Lords of the Admiralty to-day have no romance in their souls; it has been driven out by steel and oil.

There is one other question with which I want to deal, and that is the question of the reserve. It occurs to me that surely, when the active personnel of a Service is being cut down, it becomes all the more necessary to concentrate on the reserves of that Service. One finds that, although the Army is provided this year with £900,000 for the training of Territorials, the Navy is provided with only £355,000 for the training of its reserve. I submit that that is too low a sum. I regret very much that there has been a decrease of £3,000 in Royal Naval Reserve expenditure, and I notice, from the Memorandum of the First Lord, that this is due to smaller requirements for the training of officers and the obligatory training of men. I should like an explanation as to why there is a smaller re- quirement for the training of officers at a time when the active personnel is being cut down. I should have thought that it would have been all the more imperative, in such circumstances, that greater reliance should be placed on the training of reserves. I think that this tendency is a very unfortunate and very dangerous one.

I also regret very much that the training periods both for the Royal Naval Reserve and for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve have been reduced this year. In the case of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, the only provision made on this Vote is £63,000. Surely, that is a very modest sum, particularly as there are so many Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve officers and men to-day in the Mercantile Marine who are unemployed, and who would jump at the opportunity of putting in some time in training for His Majesty's Navy. I would ask the Financial Secretary if some consideration could not be given to the question of providing further training for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, particularly at the present time, when there is so much unemployment in the Mercantile Marine.

I notice another list, headed "Officers on Retired and Emergency List," and for the training of that list the sum of £200 is provided. What is this list It contains the names of about 150 officers. I wonder how many of these have had a single day's training since they left the Service? I notice that the name of the First Lord is on that list, and I think that, perhaps, he is the only officer who by virtue of his position has had any connection whatsoever with the Navy since he retired. He shares the honour of being on the list with a captain 77 years of age. I am wondering what kind of emergency would bring that veteran hurtling back to the Colours, and whether he would be allowed to bring his bath chair with him? Surely it is time that these lists were gone into further. If it is necessary to have an emergency list, there are 10,000 retired officers who could be drawn upon, instead of having a redundant list, such as this, of officers who in many cases are over 70.

We have heard a good deal to-day about the training of cadets. In that connection there has been a good deal of vacillation in the past. I think the first idea was that boys should be entered at a very early age, 13 or 14, that they should spend four or five years in the "Britannia," and should then be sent to sea. Subsequently, it was decided that they should spend two years at Osborne and two years at Dartmouth, with a year at sea. Since then the "Britannia" has been scrapped, Osborne has been scrapped, and all that remains of the old system of training is Dartmouth. One or two speakers, who have, perhaps, a greater knowledge of the Navy than anyone else in the House, and particularly my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burnley (Vice-Admiral Campbell), suggested that the percentage of selected candidates for Dartmouth is too small. In fact, my hon. and gallant Friend even went further and said that Dartmouth should be done away with altogether. I do not go that far; I think there is room for Dartmouth; but there is room also for cutting down in the cost of that institution. It cost about £50,000 this year over and above the fees paid by the parents of cadets. I think that that is rather a large sum, and could be cut down. I agree, however, that there is scope for a greater number of cadets for the Navy being chosen from public schools. I think, myself, that the age of 13 or 14 is too young for a boy to be expected to decide definitely what his future career is to be, whereas at the age of 17½ he has some idea of what his qualifications and his desires are, and has a far better chance, if he enters the Service at that age of making a success of his career than if he is pushed into it at 13 or 14, sometimes, perhaps, against his will, and expected to make a success of it.

I should like to ask whether the Navy is not to-day too much at the mercy of the technician? We seem to be pouring out money on technical improvements in the Navy. We are spending as much as £1,500,000 on a small ship, and as much as £1,000,000 on reconditioning an old ship nearly 20 years of age, but, nevertheless, we find that the cost of the active personnel and reserve is continually being cut down. I cannot help feeling that that policy is dangerous and unwise. I would like to know, as others have indicated to-day that they would like to know, whether the Admiralty is not a little too expensive. When we consider that the active personnel has dropped by 37 per cent. since 1914, while the civilian personnel at the Admiralty has increased by 65 per cent., it makes us wonder how these people are employed. I know that the clerical work of the Admiralty has greatly increased since 1914, but it seems to me that that percentage is thoroughly out of proportion, and that the matter should be looked into. I see that, by certain changes which the First Lord enumerated to-day, a saving is to be made, but only a saving of £10,000. When one considers £10,000 in relation to £53,000,000, it is a very small amount indeed to save on that Department.

I think also there might be a great saving, both in money and in efficiency, if sailors were not retired at such an early age. Forty years of age, when they are at their prime and at the height of their efficiency, is far too early and is far too heavy an expense to be borne by the taxpayers, because that adds to the non-effective Vote, which has gone up from £8,000,000 two years ago to £9,000,000 this year, and it will be increasing each year. Surely a great deal could be saved by keeping men on after the age of 40. It would save not only in the efficiency of the Navy but in other ways. The men who retire are swelling the ranks of the unemployed among the mercantile marine. That is a very serious matter, and it is causing a good deal of feeling between the Services. Why the men should be retired at 40 when an officer only reaches that stage at the age of 50 and is kept on the active list until 65 I cannot conceive. Perhaps the Financial Secretary will give some explanation. I hope he will take these suggestions and criticisms that I have made as constructive as they were intended to be. It is very difficult to find anything fundamentally or radically wrong with the personnel or training of the Navy. I have come in contact with them a great deal, and I say without hesitation that a finer, or a more efficient body of men will not be found in the world. But in spite of that, I do not think it does to look upon the matter with too much complacency, and it is because I believe that on the strength and the efficiency of the Navy depend the security not only of this country but of the whole Empire, and the peace of the world that I move this Amendment.

9.18 p.m.

Commander MARSDEN

I beg to second the Amendment.

I do so with the greater pleasure because I think my hon. and gallant Friend has certainly struck the right subject for discussion. As far as construction goes, we are more or less tied down by our various Treaties, but in the manning and training of the Fleet we have a subject on which the House can do a lot of useful work, I do not say by adversely criticising the existing training but rather by helping the First Lord by urging him on to further efforts in that direction. At the first glance it would appear that, in regard to the numbers of the Navy, we are very much down on last year, but I now appreciate the fact that the lowest ebb of the whole of the financial year is to-day. Every day after this we shal have more men. There are 800 more boys under training this year than last. Then there is the direct entry of ordinary seamen, which started last October. Allowing about 200 men to each of the three ports, at the end of the financial year I estimate that that will give about another 800 men. I do not think that number is anything like satisfactory. I had it in mind to suggest something that my hon. and gallant Friend has already mentioned, and that is that we should utilise in some manner the unemployed in the mercantile marine. When we enter men on the short service system, as far as I know they need have no qualifications beyond possessing certain physical requirements and some sort of education, but not very much. It seems an extraordinary thing to enter men as seamen who need have no knowledge whatever of the sea. If you enter them for any other trade, the first qualification is that they should be really masters of that trade. So I suggest that we might consider the large number of seafaring young men along our coasts who would already have valuable qualities before they entered the Navy, including a close knowledge of the sea, probably greater than most men rated as seamen in the Navy would acquire after 22 years' service. They also understand discipline and know that the captain is captain of the ship and gives the orders.

My hon. and gallant Friend has suggested that the reserve should be enlarged and that these men might be used in the Fleet now. I should like to suggest another form of short service entry of five years for young men who can bring some certificate to show that they have some experience and knowledge of the sea. If they are entered for a short period, they have not a long term of years before them in case they do not like the conditions. We were told to-day that there were 42,000 unemployed in the mercantile marine, an increase of 5,000 in six months. Surely amongst them there must be several thousands whom we might enrol for five years service. It would be economical. We could explain that they could not get married and would not receive a marriage allowance and there would be no question of a pension for them, though I hope we could be generous enough to give them some reasonable bonus at the end of their term, always leaving an avenue open for a few who might be exceptional to remain on. I commend that suggestion to the Admiralty. The difficulty with the men is this, and it applies to the officers as well. The boys that we get are of the highest standard. They come in with very high qualifications and receive a very sound training, I imagine considerably sounder than officers got years ago, and they come to sea bursting with enthusiasm, thinking they are going to be immediately rated up to petty officers and, perhaps, chosen as sub-lieutenants and going on to higher ranks.

In practice the number who can do that is very small indeed, yet their qualifications up to a point are all equal, so it seems to me that, if we are going to satisfy the lower deck, we must have some other system. The more we bring in this sort of short service men, who can do a large number of duties in the ships which do not require any particularly skilled training beyond an ordinary sense of the sea and common knowledge, the better is the chance of promotion to the higher ranks of those who enter as boys and are trained for our service. Then, as they go on, they may get a chance of being chosen for sub-lieutenants. The expression "promotion from the lower deck" is entirely misleading, because those young seamen who are chosen for the rank of sub-lieutenant have been in the Service a very short time and have had no real opportunity of showing what they can do as petty officers. They merely show a certain promise that in certain conditions they may become good officers.

I am afraid that the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) was rather perturbed about these promotions from the lower deck, but it would not say ninth for our entry and our education through the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth if these seamen sub-lieutenants could reasonably compete. You may get an exceptional case, but, taking it generally, the seaman sub-lieutenant cannot hope to compete for promotion with the officer who has achieved his position either through the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth or is a direct entry public school cadet. Consequently as he gets on in life, he gets rather discouraged and sees no further promotion and settles down in that state of mind, which I dare say we can all appreciate, that he wants the best and softest job he can get until the day comes when he can get his pension. I suggest that the Admiralty should make sure of quite a different type of lower deck promotion. It is the warrant officer who has shown and proven his worth. It would mean promoting this type of man to lieutenant, probably in the early thirties. He would be lieutenant-commander when about 40, and could go on and retire with the rank of commander and full pension, well satisfied with his career in His Majesty's service.

These men also could often really better perform some of the duties which are done now by lieutenant-commanders who are passed over in promotion, and who go on waiting for their time to come. The promoted warrant officer is in an entirely different position. He has achieved something, and it is up to him to fulfil his job as well as he can until the end of this service. We come then to the commander—for the big jump is from lieutenant-commander, and then from commander to captain. The number promoted from one rank to the other is pitiably small. There, again, once an officer is out of the zone it is simply a question of waiting for the year to come when he can retire on the highest maximum pension. The First Lord has laid, great stress on age. There I do not agree with him at all. When I was a midshipman I used to think that 40 was quite old, but when I arrived at the age of 40 I was not at all of that opinion. After all, what is age? Experts tell us that you cannot judge a lady by the years she has lived, but rather by her looks. I know perfectly well that you cannot judge a man by his age. I would not judge a man even by his agility. We want a man whose brain is strong, who can visualise a position and give strong orders and see that they are carried out. What have years got to do with that? It is the man himself.

It was not the young man that you called in in the awkward situation in the Fleet about two years ago. We did not send for any young admiral but for one of the oldest seagoing admirals of the Fleet and a man who, if he had not had that opportunity, would probably never have been employed again. So I do hope the Admiralty will keep out this idea of age and come to some other arrangement which will ensure that the best officers are retained irrespective of age. The First Lord said that thanks were due, as they undoubtedly are, to the six senior admirals who have gone in order to start the flow of promotion right down to lieutenant-commander. That was very noble and patriotic of them. It was not quite satisfactory for the captain who was employed and who might have been employed a year or two longer, but who has had to come to the top of the list, without the slightest desire to do so, and has had to be promoted and retire the next day, but it was satisfactory for the commander who could get promotion to captain. Although that may have covered an emergency, I hope the First Lord will not look upon it as a regular or permanent method of keeping the circulation of promotion going. All that has to do with men and officers.

May I say a word about the actual training of the Fleet at sea? I do wish more money could be spent on fuel and munitions, because training is everything. I, personally, had some considerable experience in small ships at sea, and I know full well what it means. Take the ordinary destroyer, and compare it with what destroyers used to be. At Cowes last year I saw a beautiful destroyer, shining with enamel, and perfect. I went down into the engine-room to pass the customary compliments to her engineer, remarking that the engines must have been made by Cartier.

The vessel was very wonderful, but I do not feel altogether sure that that ship would be any more effective in a night attack in a rough sea against the enemy than the ships of 15 years ago with the very experienced type of officers to command them—not that I am saying anything against the present officers. On a ship the man is everything. I know full well that in the War if any commander-in-chief had to send out a destroyer for a certain job he would not say, "Has that ship a good gunnery or torpedo record?" He would look at the list of officers and say, "That is the chap; send him to me. I do not care what the ship is; it is the fellow I want. He is going to be in the right place and do the right thing." If you accept that, you can balance the ability, training and experience of the commanding officer against all the other assets of gunnery, torpedoes and everything else. Therefore, I ask the First Lord to give every opportunity to these ships to undergo the fullest system of training as near active service conditions as possible.

That brings me to one other subject, training in sailing ships. I did not quite agree last year with the possibility of training all boys in sailing ships. I knew what that meant. It meant having small sailing ships going round the coast, attached to somebody, for in the Navy you always have to be attached to someone. Those ships would have gone out for sailing purposes and training with orders to be back on a certain date because of arrangements made for them ashore. I, myself, was in favour of rather a different form of training, and I still hope it may be brought about. I have in mind rather the training of men who have shown themselves good seamen and men who would become good petty officers. Out of these there may be selected a certain number to go to sea in sailing ships, not in the small ship, such as a brig or sloop but a well-found ship of some size, with a complement of 300 or 400 men who might make a long voyage round the Horn or to Australia or the Cape. I do not think that there is any man who knows anything about it who will disagree with me when I say that if that ship went off under no orders but those of her captain, the men would return in a few months much better men than when they went.

The cost is not great, not so much as a modern destroyer, and the ship's life is five times as long. The actual consumption of stores is also very small. I hope engines would not be put in her at all. She might be tempted to start the engines going out but on the way back I can see the engines not functioning at all, and the company waiting three weeks outside Plymouth Sound in order to come in under full sail at the proper time. I hope the First Lord will stick to it. He has been talked off it, and I hope he will again show his great powers of persuasion and get this done. I hope it will be realised that you cannot have training without money. Money must be spent in fuel and ammunition, and I do feel that an extra £200,000 or £300,000 spent in that way would be far more to the advantage of the Fleet than large sums we are now spending on reconditioning capital ships. The "Repulse," for example, has just come in for 2 to 2½ years refit costing probably the best part of £750,000. Whatever we have in the way of numbers of ships, I feel sure that the Motion will commend itself to the House. It is merely to ensure that however small and insignificant our Fleet may be, it shall be the best manned, most efficient and best equipped fleet of its size in the world.

9.36 p.m.


I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) and the hon. and gallant Member for North Battersea (Commander Marsden) have been members or not of any of the economy committees about which we have heard so much in recent days, but, apparently, neither of the hon. and gallant Gentlemen is satisfied with the proposals which have been put before the House to-day involving an increase in the Navy Estimates of over £3,000,000. Both of the hon. and gallant Gentlemen are asking for more, and I cannot refrain from making a few comments in view of that fact. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight used the phrase that he thought the Admiralty in these days was too much at the mercy of the technicians. Does he think that the Admiralty are their own masters in a matter of that description? Is it not rather that if the Admiralty did not pursue certain policies in regard to technical development they would be ousted by their competitors in other parts of the world? Is it not a fact that if technical developments were not initiated by the Admiralty they would be forced upon them by developments elsewhere, and are not the same processes going on in technical warfare as are going on in industry? Surely, the hon. and gallant Gentleman must know, when talking about the decline in personnel, that part of such decline is due to technical changes. In 1914 we had 39,000 stoker ratings in the Navy and now we have only 18,000 which is largely due, of course, to the change from coal to oil. Obviously, these technical changes bring about reductions in personnel. It is extraordinarily difficult to follow the arguments put forward by the hon. and gallant Member in regard to increasing the personnel of the Royal Navy, when he must know from his own experience and from his knowledge of the Navy that the continual technical changes which have taken place analogous to changes in industry are calculated to reduce personnel, and not to increase it.

I did not hear the opening sentences of the hon. and gallant Member's speech, but when I came into the House he was talking about the protection of trade routes. I cannot help thinking that although the trade routes will be there for a long time, the trade along those routes will be non-existent if His Majesty's Government continue to pursue their present policy much longer. The routes will be there, but there will be no trade to protect if present policies are pursued. Consequently, that may result in the naval economies which many of us on these benches desire. Everybody has been impressing upon us the great need for economy. Ministers have told us about it, and so have back benchers and Members who support His Majesty's Government. I am certain that all Chancellors of the Exchequers would desire to reduce taxation. It is only because of the geographical and the historical traditions of the Admiralty that probably they have this year been able to wring additional expenditure out of an unwilling Chancellor of the Exchequer. He must have been unwilling in view of the very great difficulties. I see that the First Lord shakes his head. I am very glad to know that in certain directions the Chancellor of the Exchequer is willing to spend some money. He is certainly not willing to spend money in the direction I want him to spend it. At any rate, I must take the word of the First Lord that he was not unwilling on this occasion. If you spend money like this at a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have great difficulty in balancing his Budget, I think that before we go into the Lobby hon. and gallant Members who have made speeches in favour of a larger Navy and increased personnel which involves increased expenditure ought to be asking themselves certain questions. In four or five weeks from now they will be asking for reductions in the Income Tax, and I suggest that it is to-day they ought to be thinking about that matter.

Commander MARSDEN

My hon. Friend must realise that having made my suggestion for spending money, I put in a suggestion that the money should be taken off the amount now being used for refitting the big ships and used to better advantage for training. It would not mean any extra expenditure on the total Estimate.


That may be the position with regard to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who seconded the Amendment, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Mover made no such qualification. I must accept the word of the hon. and gallant Member when he says that he does not want additional expenditure. He thinks that all he requires through the instrumentality of this Amendment could be obtained without additional expenditure. I take his word for it, but that does not alter the general argument. I am asking hon. Members who are in favour, of economy and who four or five weeks from now will be asking for reductions in Income Tax to think about the matter to-day. On that occasion there will be another group of hon. Members—perhaps I shall be among them—asking for a reduction in the Beer Duty, but it is to-day that we ought to be thinking about that matter and not in a month's time. If to-day hon. Members go into the Lobby and support proposals which will make it difficult for the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer to balance his Budget, let alone reduce taxation, how inconsistent will it be in four or five weeks' time to ask for reductions in taxation? Let hon. and gallant Members think about it now, and when a Division is taken go into the Lobby with us against the proposed additional increase in naval expenditure.

9.44 p.m.


I am sure that all Members of the House who are interested in naval affairs will join with me in thanking the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) for raising a subject which is of such paramount importance to the Navy in the interest both of the efficiency and welfare of the Fleet. I need hardly say that we on this bench fully endorse the terms of his Amendment. In his opening sentences he gave us an interesting comparison of the numbers of our personnel with the numbers of the personnel of other countries. I do not propose to follow him very far in that direction, but I would point out that the size of Vote A is determined by the size of our Fleet, and that again is controlled by various agreements which have been come to at Washington and in London, and also by the decision of the Board of Admiralty as to the number of ships which are to be kept in commission. A Debate on those lines would, therefore, be most interesting and, I venture to say, most profitable. But it raises the whole question of naval policy, which I think is far too wide for this Amendment.

I would ask hon. Members not to pay too much attention to actual numbers. Every country has a different method of manning its ships different countries' ships of the same tonnage and armament might have an entirely different complement, and it must not be assumed from that fact that the ship with the smaller complement is any the less efficient. Efficiency is determined by the quality, not by the quantity, of the men in the ship. You might as well suggest that to level up the difference between Oxford and Cambridge you should put another man into the Oxford boat, but I do not think that you would find much gratitude for that suggestion. He would only get in the way, and he would find nowhere to sit down. The same condition would apply in modern ships. You only put in enough men for the work that there is for them to do, and—what is in these days very important—for the accommodation which is available for them. I can assure hon. Members that full weight is given to the highest standards of training and of fighting ability when the complement of our ships is fixed.

But I would rather deal to-night with a point of more pressing importance, and that is our actual requirements and our present difficulties. This is a very opportune moment to raise this particular discussion. For many years past cuts have been made in Vote A. It has been a very popular form of economy, and I cannot blame my predecessors, who have all been hard pressed, for having availed themselves of this measure. It is a very simple matter to put a ship into reserve, and so to be able to produce economies, and that reduction goes the whole way through the Votes, not only in the pay, but in the clothing, the victualling and the expenses of keeping a ship in commission. So it will be widely understood that that has been a popular way of making the reductions which have been enforced by economy. Now the full effect of that reduction has not been felt until this year. You can put a ship into reserve in a very short time, but it is obviously impossible to get rid of the men in the same time. That would be an arbitrary and unfair way of dealing with them: because their ship is put into reserve, to get rid of them at very short notice. You have perforce to keep them until the period of their engagement has expired.

In recent years, therefore, we have been carrying more men than the fleet actually requires. We have had the use of them, and therefore have not until this year felt the problem to its full extent. This condition, as the First Lord told us in his speech, no longer exists. We are now down to the low limit; in fact this year there has got to be some small increase. The figures at the end of this financial year are going to be 89,350; by the end of the next financial year, for which these Estimates have been framed, it goes up by nearly 1,000. This, then, is the key year. We have reached the datum line, or the limit, which has been mathematically calculated according to the number of ships in com- mission and other requirements of His Majesty's Navy, with, in addition, a small margin which is in no sense a pool for emergencies but simply sufficient extra men to enable the machinery of drafting to work. Mathematically, we make no allowances for illness, leave, and other reasons of absence of that kind, but in practice, of course, we have to make allowances for that and for the time taken up in transport. For this reason we have to have a small margin simply to enable the machinery of drafting to work at all.

I can assure the House that drafting is one of the most difficult problems which the Admiralty has to face. It is dependent on so many human factors and so many varying conditions. In working on our various drafting plans we keep two main objects in view. The first is to make as few changes in commissions as possible; that point has been fully stressed not only in this Debate but even more in the Debate last year, and I do not think that one can possibly exaggerate its importance. If you can only get these full two-year commissions without any large number of changes in the personnel, you give a chance to the men to settle down, to the officers thoroughly to know their men, and to the men thoroughly to know their jobs. Our second object, equally important, is to get a fair division of every man's time between foreign service, service in the Home Fleet, and shore service, that is, in establishments on land. It can be readily understood that this fair division is a question of the very greatest importance, particularly to the older seamen who have got wives and families on shore.

In order to achieve these objects and to counteract the present shortage, we have adopted several administrative expedients. One has been that active service ratings in certain shore establishments have been replaced by pensioners. Another one has been that ships on a foreign station have come home and paid off before the new ships which are to relieve them have commissioned. Now it is quite obvious that these expedients. are not good in themselves. They are not expedients which we could recommend for general adoption, but we feel that they are, on the whole, better than the major evil of continued changes in the ships' companies during commissions, particularly in the Home Fleet. We are now engaged in working out a scheme of drafting which we hope, in combination with the increase in Vote A, will prove to be a real cure. Sailors, whether they be officers or men, must realise that a little over half their time must be spent on foreign service. When they are at home their time is divided equally between service in the Home Fleet and shore service, which covers barracks and training establishments. It is very clear that if you want, say, a two-years' undisturbed commission in the Home Fleet —which is the period at which we aim—then officers and men do approximately five years abroad and five years at home, the five years abroad almost always being broken by a spell up to six months at home. This is the principle upon which we propose to work in the future, and which we hope will meet with success.

The whole problem of drafting would be comparatively simple if all men belonged to the same category. You would then only need rough-and-ready divisions into those men you want for your foreign service, those for service in the Home Fleet, and those for service with the shore establishments. But it is greatly complicated by the fact that there are no less than 100 groups of men, all of which have to have their own particular drafting margins. These particular groups or grades of men are really necessary because they are the only men who can carry out particular work in such a complicated machinery as a modern ship of war. The comparatively simple problem which drafting must have presented in years gone by now becomes a jigsaw puzzle of the most formidable dimensions.

I cannot leave the subject of personnel without touching on the chances of promotion. This is obviously a matter affecting the interests and welfare of all ranks in the Navy. Numbers affect materially the chances of promotion. At the top of each rank there is a funnel through which only a limited number can reach the next stage. As far as officers are concerned we are working at it from both ends. We are clearing the top of the list accelerating promotion to captains by one year; and at the same time we are investigating the possibility of reducing the number of posts in a ship which need be filled by junior officers, thus limiting new entrants in proportion. Obviously, the fewer the number of new cadets in the Navy, provided that the senior appointments remain the same, the greater will be the chances of anyone in attaining them. This reduction in the duties of junior officers also fulfils another purpose. It gives a much needed experience to senior petty officers. If the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) had read the OFFICIAL REPORT this morning he would have found that several of his questions were answered last night. The number of promotions from the lower deck for the coming year have not yet been settled. In answer to a question yesterday I told the hon. Member that the reason only eight promotions for sub-lieutenants and four in the engineering branches were made, was that although a greater number had been selected these were the only persons qualified.

One word about the new scheme of promotion from the lower deck. I should like to assure the hon. and gallant Member for Battersea North (Commander Marsden) that the promotion of warrant officers to lieutenants is still going on and has not been interfered with in any way by the new scheme. Those interested in this matter will know that the object of the new scheme is to equalise the chances of lower-deck promotions with those who come in as cadets. Previously they were selected at a, rather older age than cadets, and quite apart from any disadvantage they may have in having less educational facilities there was the added disadvantage of starting life as a sub-lieutenant several years older than their colleagues from the special entry class or the cadets. The Whole point of the scheme is to remedy that evil, and to select them soon after they have joined the ship, give them as much training in the ship as possible, and eventually send them for a preliminary course at Greenwich before they are assimilated into the sub-lieutenants' course at Greenwich; and then go through the remaining stages of the Navy pari passu with those who come in by special entry and the cadets.

So far I have only dealt with the promotion of officers, but we are equally sympathetic with the desire of ratings for chances of promotion One of the disadvantages of the scheme propounded by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight to lengthen the service for men beyond the normal 22 years by another five years, would, obviously, be to retard promotion. The men would be much older before reaching responsible rank. It would also materially affect the number of reserves. I quite agree that we can give men in the ratings a better chance of promotion by taking in a larger number of short-service men, and that is one of the reasons why this year we have recruited just under 1,000 short-service men. The hon. and gallant Member for Battersea North went a step further and suggested that we should take in an additional 5,000 men, not only to help unemployment in the mercantile marine, but also to tide us over our present shortage of numbers. Although that is an extremely interesting and ingenious suggestion I am afraid it is one that we cannot accept because the number of short-service men is limited to the fixed proportion which is allowed in each ship for long-service and short-service men. Furthermore, it would be uneconomic to train short-service men for higher non-substantive rates and petty officers.

Our desire is to equalise the flow into and out of the Reserve. One of the difficulties we have to face at the present time is that our establishments are full because a great number of men went into the Reserve this year and, therefore, if we wanted more we have not room to train any new recruits. If we were to go back to thead hocmethod suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for North Battersea, I am afraid that in five years time we should be faced with exactly the same difficulty. The Admiralty policy in regard to recruiting and discharges is to avoid peaks whenever possible. I have been asked whether we are satisfied with the numbers we have got. I can only repeat that we have not room this year to train any more. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) asked whether Vote A numbers would be increased next year. I hope my right hon. Friend will not think me impertinent if I give him the answer given on many occasions by one of the most illustrious leaders of his party, wait and see, until next year's Estimates are introduced.

This is a test year. We are glad of the opportunity of telling the House some of our drafting difficulties, and to assure them that our future requirements will have to be based on the experience gained during the next 12 months. There is not much to be said with regard to training. The ground was fully covered by the Debate last year and by the speech of the First Lord to-day. But there are one or two points which I do not think have been sufficiently realised. One is that the fuel allowance which was cut last year has now been restored, and that the "Frobisher" taking cadets from Dartmouth and special entrants, has now nearly completed its first voyage.

I think a word or two ought to be said on the subject of Dartmouth. Several speakers have expressed doubt whether we were getting full advantage from selecting recruits from Dartmouth, and whether we ought not to rely on the special entry, so that we would not have to pay for so many years of their education. Comparisons are odious, and I certainly do not intend to compare the present products of Dartmouth and the special entry. We are getting admirable results from both. I feel convinced that we are now getting the best value for our money. We have promised that at least 25 vacancies shall be given to the special entry for next year. Personally I think that is about the highest number that we will get from civil educational establishments and yet keep up the high standard that has so far been shown. I think the numbers that are now allotted to our own educational establishment are those best suited for the purpose. I must admit that when I first came to the Admiralty I felt some of the doubts that some of my hon. Friends have expressed this afternoon, but I feel quite convinced that the proportion which we are now allotting is the correct one, and that the only criticism which could fairly be levelled against Dartmouth, namely, that of expense, has been fairly met in the Estimates now presented.

In conclusion I would take an opportunity which is very rarely given of paying a tribute to the Royal Marines, the engineering, accounting and medical branches, and to all classes of Reserves. They carry out their work with such quiet efficiency that they do not get the credit to which they are fully entitled. There are one or two points of interest that the House might like to hear about these various branches. The Royal Marines since the War have suffered from very slow promotion of the officers, on account of reductions which have been made. I am glad to say that that is now adjusting itself and that there are good prospects for young officers in the years to come. With regard to the engineering branch it is important to realise that there is a common entry for cadets in Engineering and Executive Branches and their early training is the same. They then go on to Keyham, where they have a technical education second to none. Both in the Service and out of it they have good prospects. They have particularly good prospects on retirement, owing to the technical education which they have been able to get during their time in the Navy. The conditioning of the "Frobisher" as a sea-going training ship has enabled us to send paymaster cadets to sea for training before their appointment to ships in the seagoing fleets, and that I am sure will be found most advantageous to all concerned. I regret that in the medical branch the shortage of officers still exists. I think the shortage is felt by all the Service departments. It is now the subject of an inquiry by an Inter-Departmental Committee, and we hope soon to find a correct solution of the difficulty.

Now a few words about the Reserves. I am sure that the House will learn with pleasure that it has been decided that four captains of the Royal Naval Reserve and two captains of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve are to hold the rank

of commodore. The rank is to be given to active and retired officers, and is to be held for life. I hope it will be taken in the spirit in which it is given, as a tribute to the service which they have rendered. I am sure that the whole House will greatly appreciate the patriotism and the devotion to duty shown by the personnel of the Reserve, to whom the Royal Navy owes a deep debt of gratitude.

The Amendment and the speeches this afternoon have been very comprehensive and have covered practically every branch and department and sphere of activity for which the Admiralty is responsible. I hope that in the speeches which have been made from this bench most of the questions that have been put to us have been answered, and that as a result the House is satisfied that every aspect of the problem affecting the personnel, both in its training and its welfare, is receiving and will continue to receive the closest continuous attention of the Lords of the Admiralty.


I would thank the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty for his comprehensive reply to the points I raised, and, in view of its satisfactory nature, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

The House divided: Ayes, 189; Noes, 30.

Division No. 85.] AYES. [10.12 p.m.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Caporn, Arthur Cecil Emrys-Evans, P. V.
Albery, Irving James Carver, Major William H. Evans, Capt. Ernest (Weish Univ.)
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.) Castlereagh, Viscount Fermoy, Lord
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Clarke, Frank Foot, Dingle (Dundee)
Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Clayton, Dr. George C. Ford, Sir Patrick J.
Apsley, Lord Cobb, Sir Cyril Fuller, Captain A. G.
Aske, Sir Robert William Coiman, N. C. D. Ganzonl. sir John
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Gillett, Sir George Masterman
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Cook, Thomas A. Glossop, C. W. H.
Balniel, Lord Copeland, Ida Gluckstein, Louis Halie
Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Craven-Ellis, William Goff, Sir Park
Bernays, Robert Crooke, J. Smedley Goodman, Colonel Albert W.
Borodale, Viscount Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas
Boulton, W. W. Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Greene, William P. C.
Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald Cross, R. H. Grimston, R. V.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Crossley, A. C. Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.
Broadbent, Colonel John Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Gunston, Captain D. W.
Broekiebank, C. E. R. Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset,Yeovil) Guy, J. C. Morrison
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Dickie, John P. Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y) Donner, P. W. Hanbury, Cecil
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Doran, Edward Harbord, Arthur
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Duggan, Hubert John Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Burnett, John George Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley) Elmiey, Viscount Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Slater, John
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Holdsworth, Herbert Moreing, Adrian C. Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)
Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Alton) Moss, Captain H. J. Somervell, Donald Bradley
Hornby, Frank Nail, Sir Joseph Somervllie, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Horsbrugh, Florence Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Howard, Tom Forrest Normand, Wilfrid Guild Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Nunn, William Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
Hudson, Capt. A. U.M. (Hackney, N.) Pearson, William G. Stones, James
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Percy, Lord Eustace Storey, Samuel
Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Perkins, Walter R. D. Strauss, Edward A.
Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Peters, Dr. Sidney John Strickland, Captain W. F.
James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Petherick, M. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Jennings, Roland Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bllst'n) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada Sutcliffe, Harold
Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Pownall, Sir Assheton Templeton, William P.
Ker, J. Campbell Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Thompson, Luke
Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Kerr, Hamilton W. Ramsden, Sir Eugene Thorp, Linton Theodore
Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Rea, Walter Russell Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Law, Sir Alfred Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Reid, David D. (County Down) Turton, Robert Hugh
Lackie, J. A. Reid, William Allan (Derby) Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Lees-Jones, John Remer, John R. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Rentoul, Sir Gervals S. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Lindsay, Noel Ker Robinson, John Roland Wairender, Sir Victor A. G.
Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Ropner, Colonel L. Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeoar-
Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Ross, Ronald D. Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Mabane, William Runge, Norah Cecil Whyte, Jardine Bell
MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Wills, Wilfrid D.
Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
McKie, John Hamilton Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Mallalieu, Edward Lanceiot Salt, Edward W. Wise, Alfred R.
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen) Womersley, Walter James
Marsdon, Commander Arthur Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Martin, Thomas B. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Svnoaks)
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Selley, Harry R.
Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mitchell, Harold 'P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Shaw, Helen S. (Lanark, Bothwell) Lord Erskine and Commander Southby.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Nathan, Major H. L.
Attlee, Clement Richard Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Parkinson, John Allen
Banfield, John William Groves, Thomas E. Price, Gabriel
Batey, Joseph Grundy, Thomas W. Salter, Dr. Alfred
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Tinker, John Joseph
Buchanan, George Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Hirst, George Henry Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Daggar, George Lunn, William
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) McEntee, Valentine L. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Edwards, Charles Maxton, James Mr. John and Mr. C. Macdonald.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

Supply accordingly considered in Commitee.

[Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]


Resolved, That 90,300 Officers, Seamen, Boys, and Royal Marines be employed for the Sea Service, together with 865 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, 1934.




Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £12,593,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Wages, etc., of Officers and Men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and Civilians employed on Fleet Services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934.



Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £2,184,300, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Works, Buildings and Repairs at Home and Abroad, including the cost of Superintendence, Purchase of Sites, Grants, and other Charges connected therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934.


Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £3,099,800, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Victualling and Clothing for the Navy, including the cost of Victualling Establishments at Home and Abroad which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.

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