§ 7. Mr. Hall-Caine
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many officers between the ages of 21 and 30 it is proposed to transfer from the Royal Naval Reserve to the Royal Navy; and whether, before arranging for this 1158 transfer, due consideration has been given to the possibility of re-absorbing into the Royal Navy young officers who have voluntarily retired during recent years owing to the poor prospects of promotion and who are still under the age of 35?
§ Sir S. Hoare
The total number of officers of the Royal Naval Reserve who will be transferred to the supplementary list of the Royal Navy will depend on the requirements of His Majesty's Fleet and the number of volunteers. About 50 will, it is hoped, be entered by the beginning of April. As regards the second part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) on 29th July last.
Is the First Lord giving any consideration to the making of more promotions from the lower deck?
Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to make a statement of some detail on that matter?
§ Sir S. Hoare
Yes, Sir. I will certainly deal with it, but the right hon. Gentleman will see that there are other questions on the Order Paper to-day.
§ 12 and 13. Mr. Parker
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty (1) the number of commissions as lieutenants and sub-lieutenants, Royal Navy, respectively, to be given to Royal Naval Reserve officers; and the numbers of commissions of paymaster-lieutenants to be given to Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve officers;
(2) whether he will state the reasons for appealing to reserve accountant officers to transfer to the Royal Navy for the first time in the modern Navy instead of instituting a scheme of promotion to commissioned rank for accountant branch ratings, similar to the promotion schemes open to the seaman branch, engine-room artificers, and Royal Marines, observing that among accountant ratings are some of the most highly educated ratings in the Navy, qualified by several years of naval training and experience to become an efficient type of officer?
§ Sir S. Hoare
The first part of Question No. 12 is answered in the reply I have already given to the hon. Member for East Dorset (Mr. Hall-Caine). Owing to the present rapid expansion of the Fleet, the shortage of officers of the Accountant Branch has become acute, and there is an urgent need for officers fit in all respects to perform the duties of their rank immediately on entry. The duties and responsibilities of such officers are very varied, and it would take a rating promoted from the lower deck at least 2½ years to acquire a knowledge of them. For this reason, after the most careful consideration, the Admiralty has reluctantly concluded that it would not be possible to meet the shortage by a scheme of promotion from the lower deck.
As far as possible, the shortage has been met by the transference of certain duties to warrant officers, the number of whom has therefore been substantially increased. There remains, however, an immediate requirement of about 30 commissioned officers, and it is proposed to obtain them by transfer from the Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. In the autumn of 1935, during the period of hostilities between Italy and Abyssinia, it was found necessary to call for volunteer accountant officers from the Reserves for service with the Fleet. During their time with the Fleet they became thoroughly conversant with the duties of commissioned officers of the Accountant Branch. It was the expectation that these officers could be obtained at once to supply an urgent need that led the Admiralty to adopt the new scheme. That this expectation was fully justified is borne out by the fact that all the officers who have so far been considered for transfer to the Royal Navy served with the Fleet during the period to which I have referred, and are in all respects fully qualified to enter at once upon the duties they will have to perform.
Are there not a number of men in the first-class lower ratings who are quite capable of training for promotion? Why is not consideration given to them?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I have given my personal consideration to this question, and in this particular case we were dealing with an emergency and had to fill up vacancies at once. There were no men immediately qualified for these places. That was our difficulty.