§ Sir SAMUEL HOARE' S STATEMENT.
§ Order for Committee read.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ The First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
I have often had the privilege of moving this Motion in past years, and every time that I have done so I have felt more and more convinced that what hon. Members really require at the beginning of the Estimates Debates for the Services is not so much an enumeration of details, all of which are covered by the Estimates Papers, as a statement of the broad principles of policy behind the Estimates. Today, with the approval of the House, I propose to leave the details to my two colleagues. The Civil Lord will deal in particular with personnel questions, whilst my noble friend the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with financial and other administrative questions, and of course, also with questions raised in the course of the Debate. I shall devote myself to three or four big questions that I believe are in the minds of a great many hon. Members, and that I believe will help them to thread their way through the network of detail that is covered by naval administration.
The House is being asked to approve expenditure of more than £100,000,000 in a period of peace and a new construction programme of 80 new ships. Following upon the Votes last year for the construction programme of 1936, it means that at the end of this year we shall have under construction no fewer than 148 new ships of war. From one point of view that is a very big programme; from another point of view it is not an unreasonable programme. Its very size is the evidence not of any new policy but of the fact that for one reason or another over a long period of years we have failed to make normal replacements, with the result that in the space of one, two or three years we have to telescope the programme that in the ordinary course of events would have occupied a decade or more than a decade.
1368 The policy behind this great programme is no new policy. It is rather the old policy and the means to carry it out more effectively and the means to carry it out effectively without undue delay. A story is still told at the Admiralty that Lord Fisher, who had a very grim sense of humour, used to pin on the backs of Admiralty officials bits of paper with one word upon them, "Rush!" I can assure hon. Members that there is no need to pin any such bits of paper on the backs either of my present colleagues or of my present staff. One and all realise that the programme has to be carried through, and has to be carried through with the least possible delay.
I should like to pay a tribute to the work behind this programme. It is very remarkable that after so many years of retrenchment of every kind it has been possible so easily and quickly to reverse the engines, to rekindle the furnaces that were almost extinguished, and to mobilise without delay the skill, the craftsmanship and the ability that had for so many years so little opportunity to make themselves felt. I am glad to be able to say that, so far as my present information goes, we feel that we shall be able to carry out our programme; we feel that we shall be able to carry it out without undue delay. We feel also that we shall have the material for the construction, and that when the time comes we shall have the men to man the ships.
Let me come now to the big question of naval policy, to which I wish to direct the attention of hon. Members. Let me put to them three questions, each of which I believe has been, or is, in the mind of a good many hon. Members. The first question—it lies at the root of all these Estimates—is, Are we building the right kind of Fleet? The second question—again it lies at the root of many of these administrative issues—is, What is the naval policy behind this programme of construction? The third question is, What is the future of naval armaments? With the permission of the House I propose to say something about each of these three questions. Let me begin with the first: Are we building the right kind of Fleet? Fortunately, the spokesman of the Admiralty at this Box no longer has to answer the more elementary question: Is the Fleet of any use at all under modern conditions? It is a satisfaction that in the course of the last few years there has 1369 grown up between the three Services a much more balanced view as to their duties and their responsibilities. I think that every student of Defence now admits the fundamental fact that sea power and air power are complementary, that it is essential for a modern and up-to-date Navy to have on its side a strong Air Force, and that it is essential for a strong Air Force to have on its side a strong Navy to extend its sphere of action and to ensure its necessary supplies.
It is not surprising that in view of this better balanced judgment that now exists between the three Services, this Naval programme and all the three Service programmes are the result of a whole series of discussions going back many months, in which the representatives of all the three Services have taken part. That is a new and a very significant and very satisfactory feature. This year, at any rate, it has not been a question of one Service attempting to obtain the money for itself at the expense of another Service. These programmes are the result of a series of discussions in the Committee of Imperial Defence and other committees in which, as I have said, the three Services have taken part. There can, therefore, be no justification for saying that this or any other of the Service Estimates has been made up at the expense of any other Service.
After this short diversion, let me come back to the question that I have just put to the House: Are we building the right kind of Fleet? I am fully aware that in the minds of a number of hon. Members there is a feeling that the Board of Admiralty are a very conservative and antiquated body. Hon. Members opposite, no doubt, think that they are a lot of eighteenth century admirals, with bobbed wigs, and that they strut about the quarter decks with their telescopes always up to their blind eye. The present board—and the same might be said of any Board of Admiralty—is not complacent or regards itself in any way as infallible. I expect that we make a good many mistakes. I expect that Boards of Admiralty in the course of centuries have made a good many mistakes. It would be scarcely surprising if that were not so. I would remind hon. Members that the Board of Admiralty in some shape or form has been in existence since the reign of King John. It is interesting to note that my predecessor in those days 1370 was an Archdeacon of the Catholic Church. What, however, I can claim is that in the years since 1919, and more particularly in recent years, the Board of Admiralty and the officers of the Fleet have been concentrating their attention without intermission on the lessons which have been taught by the conditions of the new world. They have been concentrating their attention, first of all, upon the lessons of the Great War. They have been looking back on those lessons, not with the idea in their mind that if there were another war it would necessarily be on the lines of the last War. That never happens in history. They have been studying the lessons of the last War, and, what is more important, the developments of recent years, with a view to adapting the construction of ships, naval strategy and naval tactics to the conditions of the new world.
I was very much struck by this fact the other day when I went to Portsmouth and saw in the Tactical School the Battle of Jutland worked out in great detail, with model ships, each of them exactly in its place during the course of a long-drawn-out engagement, with electric lights showing the visibility and with a senior naval officer, who was himself present at the engagement, explaining at the end of each phase of the battle exactly what did happen and contrasting what did happen with what might happen to-day under modern conditions and the many changes which have taken place since the Battle of Jutland. This experience impressed upon me in a very concrete manner the keen concentration with which the naval officer of to-day is studying the lessons of the past and the conditions of the new world. This keen concentration shows itself in every single one of the ships of this year's programmes for which I am asking the approval of the House this afternoon. There is no guess work about the construction of any of them. There is no copying of old models or foreign ships. The designs of every one of these ships bear the impress of the lessons that we are learning from the new world and the conditions to which a modern Navy has to adapt itself.
Let me give the House an instance. Take the design of the battleships in this and last year's programmes. Before the first of these battleships was laid down, there were no fewer than 18 separate 1371 designs, each of them tested from every possible angle, and it was only after the 18 designs had been tested that the final designs were accepted. It has often been thought that the Board of Admiralty has failed to have experimental work. That is not so. Not only have there been large-scale experiments but, what is just as important, there have been small-scale experiments of almost every kind, experiments testing every sort of explosives and testing the effect of this or that explosive upon various sections of metal. The result is that there is not a ship in this programme that does not bear the impress upon it of this long series of experiments and the concentrated attention that naval officers and naval constructors have been giving for the last 17 or 18 years to the problems of the new world. As a most conspicuous example of these efforts I should like to tell the House something about the way in which my naval advisers have been attempting to meet the menace which I know is in the minds of every hon. Member—the air menace.
The advent of air power was so spectacular and so sudden that it seemed almost in a moment to destroy the whole system of defence. Moreover, what is not always remembered, the advent of air power came at the end of a period in which, for a number of other reasons, attack had been gaining ground upon defence. In the years between 1904 and 1914 there had been a whole series of startling developments, all of which were to the advantage of the attack as against the defence.
§ Sir S. Hoare
Yes, at sea. There was first, the development of mines. Then there was the development of the locomotive torpedo. Then, most important of all, there was the development of the submarine. Then there were new developments in naval gunnery, long-range gunnery and plunging fire. And it should be remembered that the ships in those days were not able to keep at sea for any length of time. Their endurance was not great, and the fact that they had to return frequently to their bases made them all the more vulnerable to these new forms of attack. On the top of these developments, just when the Navy was finding means of counter-action 1372 against these new dangers, there came the advent of air power. Let the House note this fact that whereas in the years immediately preceding the War these new threats came suddenly and there was little time to deal with them, fortunately we have had in the 17 years that have elapsed since the War a period during which we can organise our counter measures.
I do not wish to be optimistic or complacent, but I can tell the House without fear of contradiction that during those 17 years a very great advance has been made in defence as distinct from attack. I cannot give the House the details, but I can say that of all the targets that an air force might attack, as a result of the counter measures taken in the 17 years the Fleet, and particularly the battleship, is the least attractive target that any possible enemy might select. A modern fleet heavily armoured, much more heavily armoured than the fleets of the period before the War, equipped with its own aircraft, aided, it may be, by shore-based aircraft co-operating with it, protected by all the new devices of metallurgical science, stiff with anti-aircraft guns, is to-day much the least attractive target that any hostile Air Force could select. I do not want to put the case too high. I do not want to suggest to any hon. Member that, because it is the least attractive target, on that account no enemy will ever attack the Fleet, nor do I want to suggest that if an enemy did attack a modern fleet of this kind, it would not be able to sink ships. We have never claimed to build an unsinkable ship. Ships have always been sinkable in certain conditions, by gunfire or torpedoes, and ships, no doubt, will always be sinkable in certain conditions by air attack, but what I do say is that a fleet of this kind will be so unattractive a target that an enemy is likely to think twice and thrice before it attacks it.
I am quite aware that that conclusion by no means disposes of all the difficulties, in the minds of many hon. Members. There may be some here to-day who will say, "That is all very well. You may make your ships as strong as you have just said; you may make it very unlikely that they would ever be attacked on the high seas; none the less, what is going to, happen with the bases to which they have to repair for refuelling and rest, and what 1373 is to happen in the narrow seas through which trade communications pass from the East to these shores?" Let me say a word about each of these two questions, and let me begin with the bases. I am glad to be able to tell the House that during recent months there has been a concentration by all three Services upon the very important problem of the bases. The result goes to show that just as it is possible to concentrate so great a volume of defence and counter-attack upon a small area like a battleship, so it is possible to concentrate a great volume of defence and counter-attack in these bases. The protection of a base ought, in my view, to be a much easier problem than the protection of a great city, extending, it may be, over many scores of square miles. One of the developments of these years is to show that it is possible to concentrate enough force of defence and counter-attack at particular points to make them very unattractive for any enemy to attack. We have evolved our plans, and our plans lead us to suppose that the problem of the bases is by no means insoluble. But there is a further fact, and this is a fact which hon. Members should keep constantly in mind, that while no doubt certain bases are more convenient to the Fleet than other bases, there is no single base that is absolutely indispensable, and if the worst came to the worst, we could transfer our operations from one base to one of the many other bases in which this country and the Empire are so rich.
As for the narrow seas, there, again, considerable advance has been made in our approach to this very important problem. It is still possible that the chief danger in the narrow seas may come from surface vessels rather than from aeroplanes. Whether that be so or not, I have been concentrating my attention on the air menace, and I can tell hon. Members that, just as in the case of the bases, so in the case of the narrow seas, there has been a continuous series of inter-staff discussions, and the result has been not unsatisfactory. It might have been supposed, particularly when discussions still remained nebulous and a matter of generalities, that there would have emerged bigger differences between the staffs. As a matter of fact, a satisfactory feature of these discussions has been that the more concrete they became, and the more the staffs concentrated not upon 1374 general principles but upon a specific problem, the more it has emerged that there is a great body of agreement between them.
Here, again, we have our plans ready. Obviously they are confidential, but we have them ready, and we should be in a position to put them into operation at once if an emergency arose. If, for instance, the air menace made it necessary—I am not saying that it will or will not make it necessary, but if it did—to adopt a convoy system through the narrow seas, we have our plans ready. There would be no danger of that long period of fatal delay that took place in the early years of the war.
§ Sir S. Hoare
It is significant as a sign of the times that in these Estimates I am proposing, for the first time, that we should use our over-age cruisers and our over-age destroyers for escort purposes. I claim that it is much better to use our older ships for very necessary purposes of this kind than it is needlessly to throw them on the scrap-heap. Incidentally, let me tell the House that we have already got sitting a joint body of the Admiralty, the Board of Trade, and the Merchant Marine, drawing up a plan of possible routes in the time of an emergency and for the settlement of the kind of details to which I have just alluded. These evidences go to show that for months past we have had this vital problem constantly in mind, that we have made considerable advances with it, and that we have now reached a point when, in the more immediate future, I hope we shall see a great advance made with our programme for meeting these dangers, and that our plans will go beyond to a stage definitely further than they are to-day.
Before I proceed further, I would like to make this one cautionary observation. I have said a great deal about methods of defence, particularly against the air menace, but I would not like any hon. Member to think that, because I have been concentrating my remarks upon questions of defence, the British Navy can only act on the defensive in time of war. The right strategy and tactics for the Navy, just as the right strategy and tactics for the Air Force, are the offensive rather than the 1375 defensive, and it is worth remembering, when we are or have been thinking of our own weaknesses and our own difficulties and our own troubles, that other countries also have their weaknesses and their difficulties and their troubles, and that if the attack of modern methods could do considerable harm to our Fleet or to any other Fleet, so, I imagine, could we do considerable harm to the Fleet or the bases or the essential services of other countries. It is well to keep that fact in mind rather than to linger too morbidly upon our own possible weaknessess and upon our own possible deficiencies. I sum up this part of my argument by saying, first of all, that every one of the ships in this new programme bears upon it the impress of the conditions of the new world, and, secondly, I say that attack is not the monopoly of any one country.
I pass to the second of my questions, the question of our naval policy. What, it may be asked, is the naval policy behind this great programme? The right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) more than once has put this question, in a somewhat different form, when he has said to the representatives of the Admiralty, "What is the naval standard up to which you are building?" In the years immediately before 1914 it would have been easy to give a cut-and-dried answer to a question of that kind. In those days naval policy was closely canalised into a single channel. The state of the world, I fully admit, was fraught with very great dangers, but the state of the world on the whole was less complicated, less intricate, than it is to-day. It was possible to have formulas in those days. It is much more difficult to have formulas when the formula of this week may be totally out of date in a few days' time.
Moreover, it should be remembered that there is one very great and satisfactory difference between the state of affairs to-day and the state of affairs in the years immediately before 1914. Before 1914 the United States and Great Britain used to take into account each other's navies. We used to look suspiciously at each other's programmes. That kind of suspicion, that kind of naval rivalry, has gone and, I believe, gone for ever. Not only can there be no rivalry between 1376 the United States and ourselves, but I believe also that there is going to be no race in naval armaments between Germany and ourselves. I am going to say a word or two later in my speech about the Anglo-German Treaty, but I state the fact at this point of my argument, and in my view it is a very important fact, that the Anglo-German Treaty stops anything in the nature of a repetition of the race between ourselves and Germany in the field of naval armaments that loomed so large in the five or six years before 1914. As to other naval Powers, I am not inclined to mention any of them. If I mentioned any of them, it might be thought that in some shape or form our naval programme was directed against them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our naval programme is directed against nobody.
If, then, I am asked to state the standard up to which we are building, I am not prepared to state it either in terms of countries or in terms of numerals. I prefer to say that, as it is the duty of the Navy to keep open the trade routes and the communications of the Empire, it is essential that the Navy should be able to carry out its duties in two hemispheres, both the Eastern Hemisphere and the Western Hemisphere. I emphasise in particular the need of carrying out our naval duties in two hemispheres, for there is a risk, when the problems of Europe are so much in our minds, of forgetting the fact that we are an oceanic Empire, that our oceanic communications extend from one end of the world to the other, and that it is as vital for us to keep them open in the East as it is to keep them open in the West. On that account I am very glad to be able to tell the House that satisfactory progress is being made with the Singapore base, that in the course of the next two or three months the graving dock will be working, and that we are now within sight of the full completion of a base that is absolutely essential if the Navy is to carry out its duties in the Eastern as well as the Western Hemisphere.
In view of these facts, I ask hon. Members, when they come to look at this year's programme, to criticise it, if they wish to criticise it, not in general terms or tested by this or that formula, but to go through it item by item and to point out to me where there is any item, either 1377 with the big ships or the small ships, that in any way goes beyond the objective that I have just stated. I can imagine that, if there is criticism, it may come from those of my hon. Friends who think that we do not go far enough. Let me say to them that we must judge these problems year by year; we must keep our programme flexible. So far as my opinion is concerned, I believe that this year at any rate, and for the purposes of these Estimates, we are doing as much as is wise or is practicable in the circumstances, but in any case I ask hon. Members to look at the programme and to deal with it in detail, and to point out to me where, if anywhere, we are going too far or not far enough.
Let me take the various items. Let me take the battleships. We shall have, in the course of the next few months, no less than five new battleships laid down—a very great number, a number that I think is a tribute to the great resiliency of the British shipbuilding industry. But I claim that it is absolutely essential that we should lay down these five battleships at once unless in a very few year's time we are to find ourselves in a dangerous position of relative inferiority in face of other countries that have been building new battleships when we were restrained by the various treaties that we had signed. So far as battleships are concerned, the three new battleships will be—
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
This is rather an important point. Would the right hon. Gentleman name the nations who were building first-class capital ships during the period when we were not building?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I have not the exact details, but will see that the right hon. Gentleman has them. As far as I remember, there are Italy, France, Germany and Japan.
§ Mr. Alexander
The right hon. Gentleman will see the point. So far as France and Italy were concerned, they were actually short of their Washington Treaty strength, and entitled to build ships because they were below their actual allocation under the Washington Treaty.
§ Sir S. Hoare
That may be so. I am not criticising the right hon. Gentleman at all for any action he may have taken under this or that treaty; I assume that 1378 it is as he has just told me. None the less I would still say that we cannot find ourselves in a position of having nothing but battleships over the age of 20 years, out of date, as I can tell the House, in many respects. When we think of the new conditions that I am attempting to describe to hon. Members, we could not possibly be in a position of having nothing but battleships over the age of 20 years.
§ Mr. Alexander
I want the First Lord to make it quite certain in the mind of the House what are these relative strengths. I can find no record in "Fleets" of ships which have outmatched the post-Washington building of this country. He must remember that we have built the "Nelson" and the "Rodney" post-Washington, and, therefore, there is no actual inferiority in that connection, apart from other capital ships.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I am afraid it is not so. We have the three post-war ships, but I will see that the right hon. Gentleman has a table in the course of the Debate. He will find, in comparing our modern ships with the modern ships of other navies, that in three or four years time, unless we started this construction programme, we should be definitely left in a position of inferiority.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
Could the First Lord circulate that table to other Members of the House besides the right hon. Gentleman?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I will certainly consider what the right hon. Gentleman says.
I pass to cruisers, and here again, if there is to be criticism of the programme, let it be criticism on specific points. So far as cruisers are concerned, with the new construction programme for which I am asking approval, we shall have 53 new cruisers. Even so, that is definitely below the 60 under-age cruisers that have always been regarded as a minimum. So far as the older cruisers are concerned, let me repeat again that our policy is, not to scrap the older cruisers, but, speaking generally, to use them for escort purposes. With regard to aircraft carriers, I admit that when this programme is approved we shall be building five aircraft carriers, including four in the present and last programmes; but I think it has been the view of almost 1379 every hon. Member of this House that one of the essential things that has to be done with a new Navy is to increase the Fleet Air Arm, and the fact that we are building five new aircraft carriers is the outward and visible sign of the great importance, indeed, the vital importance, that we attach to having a much stronger Fleet Air Arm in the future than we have had in the past.
More and more it is becoming clear that, quite apart from the effect of the Air Arm for the purposes of defence or attack, air reconnaissance for the Navy is absolutely essential. Unless a modem navy has its proper number of efficient aeroplanes, its whole efficiency is undermined, and, if there were a naval engagement, the result of that engagement might be jeopardised. It is, therefore, quite essential, and I regard this as one of the most essential parts of the naval programme, that we should go on with this policy of building new aircraft carriers and greatly strengthening the Fleet Air Arm. I could go into the other categories, and point to the fact that we have still a very large number of over-age destroyers. There again, as we build new destroyers, we intend to keep the old destroyers for escort purposes. I could go into the category of the smaller ships, but that would weary the House, so I will merely ask that in the course of the Debate, when hon. Members come to criticise the programme, they should criticise it upon specific items.
I come now to the last of my three questions, the question of naval armaments. It may be that hon. Members will think me rash and foolish at this time to raise an issue of this kind at all. What is to be the future of naval armaments? Are we embarking on a great new race of naval armaments, in which the great countries of the world may eventually be destroyed, either by exhaustion or by some catastrophic conflagration? I do not take a fatalistic or depressed view about the future of naval armaments. After all, the one field in which, in the years since the War, it has been possible to reach agreement on the restriction of armaments between the great Powers of the world, has been the naval field. It is true that the Washington Treaty has not been renewed, but, none the less, let us remember the fact that for many critical years after the War 1380 the Washington Treaty was an acceptable treaty of restriction to the great naval Powers. There was the treaty of 1930. There was the treaty between Great Britain and Germany that I signed in 1935. The right hon. Gentleman opposite apparently did not like that treaty. Let me tell him that I did not like the treaty which he signed in 1930. None the less, the fact remains that it was found possible in the naval field to reach agreements for the restriction of armaments. The Anglo-German Treaty is one which I regard as of very great value and it is being loyally carried out on both sides. It is satisfactory that while most of the world is talking of rearmament and the impossibility of the restriction of armaments there is the solid fact that a restrictive agreement has been achieved between Germany and ourselves.
I come lastly to the negotiations which led up to the Treaty of 1936. This Treaty has not yet been ratified by the British Government. I do, however, hope that enough naval Powers will ratify it to enable me to bring it to Parliament and obtain Parliamentary approval for it. It is very easy to underrate the importance of the 1936 Treaty. It is quite true that it failed to make a quantitative restriction. None the less, hon. Members should remember that there are two kinds of races in armaments—the one quantitative and the other qualitative—and that upon the whole, looking back at past history, it is qualitative restriction that has been the most important. What has led to races of naval armaments in the past has been, in many cases, not so much the building of numbers of ships as the building of new types of ships that have suddenly put out of date existing fleets and involved all the other naval Powers in huge programmes of new expenditure. The satisfactory feature of the 1936 Treaty is that it does definitely bring about, if ratified by the naval Powers, a definite qualitative limitation. I am inclined to think that the more the naval Powers of the world study it the more they will find that it is a most useful instrument to prevent an unnecessary race in big types and great sizes of ships. Lastly, it is satisfactory to know that every one of the great naval Powers has now ratified the Protocol against the unrestricted use of submarines.
These facts leave me not unhopeful as to the future. They make me think that 1381 it will be possible to prevent a new race in naval armaments. But, looking back over the lessons of the last 15 years, I am quite certain that if we are to succeed with this objective, which I believe is the objective of every hon. Member, we must not fall into the mistakes into which we have fallen in the years since the War and believe that we can best bring about disarmament in other countries by becoming weak ourselves when they are becoming stronger and stronger. In the zoo years up to 1914, the British Navy was one of the greatest obstacles against a world war. A strong British Navy, whose history shows that it has so often been used as a great instrument of peace and humanity, whose very functions prevent it from any sudden act of aggression, whose main objective it is to keep open the peaceful trade routes of the world, can once again be one of the chief obstacles against a world war in the century that lies before us.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Alexander
I must first pay tribute to the First Lord for the way in which he has performed his task this afternoon under physical difficulty. Whatever our political views may be, we are all glad that he has sufficiently recovered to present the first annual Navy Estimates since his entry into office as First Lord, and we hope that in the near future he will have sufficiently recovered to be able to give us a somewhat better review of the situation than we have had to-day from our point of view. The First Lord has, no doubt, done his best to present the picture as the Government desire to see it. I must confess that, as I listened to him advancing his three main propositions, I felt more than ever appalled at the general attitude of the Government towards the rearmament programme. I listened, for example, to that last phrase, in which he said that we could not hope to promote disarmament, as in the past, by becoming weak ourselves, while everybody else was becoming stronger. If that is the kind of stuff that the Government intend to put over to the country about the Navy, I can understand why everybody is being misled, because it is absolutely untrue.
If you take the history of the Navy since the War and glance at the annual publication of statistics in the book called "Fleets," you will find that instead of 1382 our becoming weaker, while others were growing stronger, the fact is, as I think I proved conclusively in replying to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in 1930 on the Debate on the London Naval Treaty, that we were relatively stronger. Ship for ship, gun for gun, category for category, we were not weaker in relation to any country in the world with the exception of the United States, and it is a pleasing thing this afternoon that, after six years, the present First Lord of the Admiralty says with what satisfaction we can take notice of the actual arming, in the naval sense, of the United States of America. How the right hon. Member for Epping attacked us on the parity principle in 1930!
§ Mr. Churchill
I pointed out the absurdity of declaring that there was no rivalry between Great Britain and the United States of America, and then sitting round a table to measure swords and trying to cut each other down to strict limits to the detriment of both of us.
§ Mr. Alexander
I say that but for the 1930 Treaty the Board of Admiralty would still be concerned in its programme with the building in the United States. I say, therefore, that the whole of the First Lord's premises in dealing with naval policy, naval standards and the position of naval armaments are false. If, indeed, from the position arrived at in 193o-31, the National Government had proceeded really to implement in fact and in spirit the same process which had been going on, the country would not be to-day faced with this horrible nightmare of having to embark on such an enormous programme and in such circumstances as we have to move at the present time. How dreadful that prospect is! It is true that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) and—in another way, as a sort of "hear, hear," to him—the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that the expenditure, with which we are now faced, if raised by loan, can be taken in our stride. I wish I could get the same attitude on the part of right hon. Gentlemen opposite when we ask for much smaller sums of money for industrial planning and development, and social improvement. We get no such remarks about the capacity of the country to take those things in its stride.
1383 In spite of what right hon. Gentlemen opposite are saying, we have a really appalling prospect to face in the way of finance-£105,000,000 for the Navy this year, £3,000,000 more for the Navy than the expenditure on the whole of the three fighting services in 1932. I venture to prophesy once more. My prophecy as I stood at this Box last year that we would spend over £100,000,000 in 1937 has come true. As a result of the kind of programme outlined to-day and the sort of policy behind it, I think we have to face an expenditure on the Navy next year, not of £105,000,000 but of much more, and in the years up to 1940 more again. The First Lord said nothing to us about the financial proposals, but simply mentioned that the cost would be £105,000,000. Later we are going into Committee, and we will be precluded from any discussion of the construction programme, because the Government has not put on the Paper to-day Vote 8. We must at this stage call attention to the extraordinary seriousness of the financial burden which the country now has to face. If we had a proper policy, with a standard fixed according to what our liabilities are going to be, there would be no need for expenditure at this rate, and I am strengthened in that argument by the fact that, when we left office in 1931, we left a disarmament agreement which meant that we were actually stronger than we were in 1914 in relation to other Powers.
There is another thing on the financial issue that the First Lord did not mention. He is confirming me by his silence in my belief that the reference of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the charging to the Service Departments of the cost of the Loan year by year is a farce. It is nothing but a book entry. I should have imagined that the First Lord might have said something to us about that to-day. What in effect does it mean? An expenditure of £27,000,000 on the annual Estimates, and probably a larger sum next year and the year after, is at the end of the five years borrowing period to be charged in interest and in sinking fund to the various fighting services, in this case the Admiralty. I have a little experience in dealing with businesses of more than one Department in which it becomes necessary to allocate 1384 charges for capital expenditure or for loan expenditure as the case may be, but I never heard of such a farce as charging up expenditure by way of sinking fund and interest to a department which produces no revenue. There is no point in it. It all has to come out of the Treasury and yet, apparently, the successors of the First Lord may, although they may have in their time to deal with quite reasonable provision for the Navy, be severely handicapped by a charge for which they are in no sense responsible by the burden placed against them by the loan policy of this Government. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is willing to accept the responsibility of putting this tax upon posterity, it ought to be treated as a direct charge upon the general sinking fund of the country, and not treated in this way. I have been observing the last day or two inspired paragraphs in the newspapers, and certainly one or two placards, talking about "anticipated Budget surplus." When you consider the position of this Navy Estimates and the other Service Estimates, how the gods must laugh at the kind of thing the Government are now trying to put over to the public!
I do not propose, in view of the Debate that we have already had upon the White Paper on the Loan policy, to make any use of this general Debate to criticise foreign policy, or to go at any length into the question of payment by loan, but the First Lord's speech seems to me to be presenting a programme of naval provision which has no anchor, no special objective, certainly has no detailed plan laid before us of relativity to other naval Powers. The statement he laid before us is that we must have a Navy strong enough of itself to keep open and free all the sea routes of the whole of the British Empire. If he did not use the words, his statement implied that it must be strong enough to operate of itself in both hemispheres. [Interruption.] The case put by the First Lord, which never had a single word about relativity to other naval strengths and made no reference at all to collective security, was a plan for building a British Navy capable of defending the whole of the British Empire and its sea routes, and operating of itself in both hemispheres. Along that road lies the beginning of the end of the British Empire. Along that road lies the approach to national madness and national 1385 suicide, instead of any real preservation of the Empire. When I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping and others supporting the case for naval armaments in the past, they put before us the actual strength of the British Navy in preparation for the War that began in 1914. What were the facts then compared with the programme now put before us? He has pointed out again and again that the provision that we made before 1914 meant that at the outbreak of the War we had, I think, 118 cruisers, with certain other auxiliaries available as well£
§ Mr. Alexander
I thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman. It suits my argument—that, in addition, they had over 6o battleships of different sizes, a very much larger number of line of battleships than we have to-day. We were for some years before the outbreak of the War in alliance with Japan, and were were able, after the first few months of the War, to leave almost entirely the convoying of food ships from Australia, from New Zealand or Hong Kong, or tea shipments from India, to Japanese convoys. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who interrupts certainly will not deny the great assistance that Japan rendered to us in that connection. We have laid before us a building programme which is going to cost hundreds of millions of pounds on the Navy alone in five years, and at the end of it what will you have? It is said that you are aiming at a strength of 15 new capital ships. I suppose it may be argued later that you are going to put some of the present capital ships into reserve. I should hope you are, with the money that you are spending. The existing capital ships are costing anything from £500,000 up to £2,500,000 per ship to refit. I understand you will also have 70 cruisers, 53 of which will be under age, and with that you propose to operate on a unilateral basis. You say you are so expanding at Singapore that you will be able to have an adequate operative base in the Far East. The First Lord's words were deliberately chosen so as to indicate that we shall no longer be in the position of humility in which we were put in connection with the League situation on the Manchurian issue.
1386 At the end of that programme, as far as I can see, you may stand in grave danger because you have discarded real support of collective security and you have no alliances of the kind that you had before the War. You will probably be without an effective friend in the world. [Interruption.] If that is not the policy why does not the First Lord tell us what it is? We have asked for it again and again. We have said, "Tell us what we must vote the money for, as our contribution to collective security, and we will vote it if it is for collective security and is reasoned out on a basis of collective security." There has not been a word of that to-day. If it is not on collective security, is it on balance of power? If so, what fleets are you going to count upon as coming to your aid, or does the First Lord really think we are going to believe that a unilateral force of 15 capital ships under age, with perhaps a few older ships, and 70 cruisers is going to be capable of defending the whole of the British Empire on a unilateral basis? Anyone who knows the real facts and knows the strategical position knows that that is completely false, yet we cannot get from the Government what is the real policy to which they are building their standard. You must make up your mind. Your naval programme must be on a basis of absolute provision or on a basis of provision relative to other people's navies and the navies that are going to be against you or with you Until we can get some information upon that, we are entitled to say we cannot accept this policy of the Government. It is not only expensive, but it is giving no guarantee of naval security at all.
It is also said that, if we want to have any effect on the programmes of other Powers, we ourselves must arm. We must not become weak. We must become stronger. I have been looking in the last few weeks to see what was likely to be the effect of the announcement of our increase of armaments, especially of the Navy. I wonder if the First Lord has given any attention to that. For example, I read in the "New York Times" on 19th February the statement of Admiral Leahy of the United States Naval Department, in which he referred to the British programme and said, "Of course it will be necessary for the United States Navy Department to increase its fleet accordingly." I entirely agree with 1387 the First Lord that we have no need to worry about the increase of the United States fleet if only the United States and ourselves are to be considered, but is it not perfectly true to say that, for every ship that the United States lays down because of the increase of the British programme, you may expect a similar provision to he made, as far as they can, by the Japanese?—[Interruption.] I am delighted to get that kind of acquiescence. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping knows quite well that the financial question, which was raised in 1914, led large numbers of people to believe that, even if war broke out, it would not last three months, but it lasted four years. It was the opinion commonly canvassed in this country, and when I look at the Budget of Japan for the last five years, year after year, and when I see, for example, that last year they actually spent over 1,000,000,000 yen upon their fighting services, compared with about 400,000,000 yen three years previously, an increase of two and a half times—and it was all by loan—I am not at all of the opinion that they have come to the end of their borrowing. Personally, I do not think that financial considerations of that kind will ever prevent nations with the outlook of Japan, Germany and Italy, especially based upon their actions in the last few years, from actually going on building if they believe that we are carrying out a large armaments programme.
The remarks of the First Lord in making a distinction between defensive and offensive methods, were no doubt entirely based upon strategical considerations in the event of a war breaking out, but I am sure that there will be people in other countries who will read those remarks and who will think that the actual expansion of the programme in this country is for the purpose of being in the position to take the offensive and not merely to act upon the defensive. If that is the wrong interpretation, I hope that the First Lord or the Parliamentary Secretary will make it abundantly clear to the people concerned. At any rate, I hold the view, and I am sure many of my hon. Friends do, that the mere question of temporary financial trouble is not going to prevent nations like Germany, Italy and Japan from answering, 1388 as far as they can, the expanded provisions which are going on in this country to-day, and, therefore, there is no actual guarantee of security in that programme. The First Lord must, of course, have seen the announcement recently of Signor Mussolini's answer to Britain's rearmament programme in the three Services, namely, that there should be a war basis adopted.
§ Mr. Alexander
Surely, the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to make a joke out of Mussolini and his attitude with regard to the fighting services. I think that hon. Members who talked about the grave dangers likely to occur if we supported collective security against Italy in the case of Abyssinia, would be the last people to make a joke when Mussolini said that he would put his country on a war basis and would like a few more babies as gun fodder for some war in the future. In the case of Italy, we can see at once that there is likely to be a response by means of further building rather than restriction. Look at the position of Germany. The First Lord followed the usual practice of those who are always willing to defend the progeny of which they have been the father—I suppose he would regard himself as the father of the Naval Treaty of 1921. I would not be so proud of it if I were he, especially after the happenings at the Stresa Conference, where the right hon. Gentleman promised to maintain united action with the French and Italians, and yet within 10 weeks signed a separate bilateral naval treaty with Germany. What is the effect of that Treaty? The First Lord says that it has the great advantage that it is very restrictive. Is it? You must remember that this country is not restricted. You have now seen the end of the Washington Treaty of 1921–22, and the end of the 1930 Treaty. You are now only resting apparently upon some hope that by notification and through acquiescence the qualitative strength of these navies may be kept down under that Treaty, but in fact the whole programme of the Government shows that all restrictions have gone in regard to numbers. I should be delighted if whoever is to 1389 answer for the Admiralty could prove that restriction of numbers has not gone.
All that we need do now is to say to the heads of the several foreign navy departments, "We find that our national requirements are x number of capital ships and x number of aircraft carriers, and we propose to build them. What do you say about it?" We go on, and for every block of additional tonnage, Germany gets 35 per cent. addition under her treaty, and with every increase in the modern German Navy, France becomes more anxious and increases her programme. Her regular programme under the "Statut Naval" is already being canvassed for expansion and will continue to be so canvassed because of the Anglo-German Treaty. When the First Lord's programme, as initiated this afternoon, is finished, I make bold to say that relatively we shall be worse off than we were in 1931. We shall not know who are to be our allies and who are to be our enemies, according to the First Lord. I never heard of such a policy out of Bedlam in respect of which the country should be asked to provide such a huge sum. These are the people who are unfit to govern. They are the people who have put this kind of madhouse policy before us this afternoon, with no real plan and no limit, but at a huge cost, sinking the country into difficulties for the future which even yet cannot be measured. I repeat that charge also because of the way in which they are dealing with the characteristics of the Fleet.
The First Lord gave a very interesting commentary about the improvements now possible in the defensive equipment of the capital ships. The House should be grateful to the persons who prepared and signed the report on the vulnerability of capital ships last July. I have read it through two or three times, and I think that the people who prepared that report did so with a real and sincere desire to give a true statement of the position to the House. But when you come to examine the report in detail, you find that there is no real conclusion as to whether we ought to go on building capital ships at the rate which is now proposed in the programme of the Government. I find two main opinions running through this report, which I believe to be very honest and very frank. The first is that there still is not sufficient co-operation between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry 1390 with regard to experiments, and the second is that, while there have undoubtedly been many important advances in the defensive power of the capital ships against air attack, they say in this report that, nevertheless, it is almost imponderable as to what the position will be because your experiments carried out in peace time may be all falsified by your actual experience in war. If so, it is necessary to have much more detailed experiments now before we can give a decision.
What is the attitude of the First Lord? He says that we cannot wait; we must build capital ships. Although I am not at all to be numbered among those critics of the capital ship who would wish to see it abolished—not at this stage—I should want to see far better proof against the case of the capital ship than we have yet seen before I could vote for its abolition—I am bound to say that, having regard to what is the present Fleet position, 15 capital ships, two of the most modern type in the "Nelson" and the "Rodney," and half of the others already having undergone large repairs and strengthening of armour and general modernisation to enable them to be able to stand up against aircraft attack, I would, if I had been advising on the matter politically, not agree for a moment to lay down more than one or two capital ships at a time. We are laying down five in about To months. If I look at the plan necessary from the point of view of naval strategy, I should say that there is time in regard to the replacement of the capital ship as long as you do not leave it out altogether.
It would, I believe, be wiser to proceed more slowly with the building of capital ships until the further experiments shown in the report of the Committee had come to such a position that you could make up your mind as to what you actually required, and, indeed, when you think of the difficulty to which the First Lord rightly referred in regard to the defence of our merchant convoys in narrow seas, I would certainly have preferred to spend more money upon lighter craft suitable for convoy purposes. People do not seem to realise, when you talk about five capital ships, that you commit yourself to £40,000,000 of expenditure. If you only laid down two capital ships during this financial year instead of three, you would save £8,000,000, which would 1391 provide very nearly three flotillas of destroyers. I say that from the point of view of handling the capital ship in relation to what is necessary replacement, and in relation to the problems yet to be solved in regard to the capital ship, the policy of the Government and of the Board of Admiralty is not sound.
Let me refer for a moment or two to the position of cruisers. The First Lord said very little about cruisers. He gave very little information about the construction programme, and there is not very much information in the White Paper. I am rather concerned about the way in which the cruiser programme is being built up. Looked at from our point of view, it seems to be a most haphazard method, unless we can get much more information than we have yet had. It is becoming a cruiser fleet of snips, snatches and different sizes. We have got a cruiser fleet now of 15 ships of 10,000 tons with eight-inch guns. I do not know whether they have been altered very much since I left the Admiralty, but certainly they have not much armour and are probably very vulnerable ships. You have the "Leander" class supplied in 1930 of about 7,000 tons. You are going to have a few of the old "C" class cruisers of about 4,500 tons. You have the "Arethusa" class of 5,200 tons. You then have the "Southampton" class of cruiser, with six-inch guns, which was increased in tonnage to 9,000 tons, and in the course of the 1936 programme we were informed that there were to be two improved "Southampton" class cruisers with six-inch guns which were to be 10,000 tons.
And now, suddenly, without a word of explanation, we are asked to approve in this Estimate, five new cruisers of 8,000 tons. We get no information. Nobody has the slightest idea what is going on or why we should be asked to vote money in this particular way. I do not think that we have been fairly treated in the matter. We get a note in the actual Estimates that there is to be a group of cruisers of the "Dido" class. I have not yet been able to relate them exactly to the five ships mentioned in the White Paper, but we hear rumours and suggestions, talk in the clubs and in the street, about a new class of cruiser of special anti-aircraft defensive capacity to be used as a fringe or cover for the capital ships 1392 which will now require something much more than their own defensive qualities. If that is so why do not we hear about it? Why do the Admiralty not tell us what is being done in this respect? It is amazing that we should not have had a lead given to us on the Naval Estimates to-day, considering the vast programme which is in contemplation, and that we should not have had any real explanation of what is to be the objective of the Government.
We ought also to ask the First Lord what is the real capacity of the Fleet to defend itself against aircraft attacks. We have had a good deal of hush-hush about the multi-barreled gun which has been developed on the Naval side and which, some of us know, has done efficient work and has been improved from time to time. Why do the Admiralty not tell the country whether any confidence is to be placed in this new anti-aircraft gun, whether it is effective, and if so, to what extent it is being used in the defensive equipment of the various ships. We are entitled to ask why, if these guns have been installed in the various categories of battleship and cruiser, as well as in destroyers and escort ships, we are not to be given particulars of them. We are told in the Blue Book "Fleets" that a ship has so many torpedo tubes and so many 14-inch or 16-inch guns; we are told about the smaller guns, but no information is given about the new types of gun. We ought also to know more about the escort vessels, that is, all the old sloop vessels of an improved design, many of which could be specially equipped with anti-aircraft multiple guns in order to deal with aircraft attacks upon convoys. I am exceedingly disappointed at the explanations of the Estimates in this respect.
I should like to ask a word or two about the Fleet Air Arm. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has announced that the matter is still under consideration and that he is now appointing an inquiry to go into the whole question of the control of the Fleet Air Arm in future. One can sympathise to some extent with the First Lord of the Admiralty, who is in a somewhat difficult position. He has been Secretary of State for Air for a long time, when he had to defend, to the best of his ability, the claims of the Air Force against those of the Admiralty. Now he finds himself First Lord of the Admiralty, and re- 1393 quired by the technicians on his side to take at least a reasonable view on their behalf. It does not matter to me whether it comes from the Air Ministry side or that of the Admiralty; no question of prestige on either side should be allowed to stand in the way of the needs of the safety of the country. Whatever decision is made should be upon that basis.
From what scanty opportunity I have had from looking at this at sea, I feel that there never was a better case for the -setting up of a really authoritative Minister of Defence for the kind of problem that faces us. I do not hold the view that it is necessarily right that the Air Ministry should have control of all the strategic and operative considerations of the Fleet Air Arm. It is essential, if there is to be an efficient aircraft service in connection with the Fleet, that those who are controlling and commanding the Naval ships should themselves be experienced, as far as active aviation work goes, and that those who act as pilots should be trained also to a knowledge of the sea and the control of sea-craft. It would be advisable that the control of strategy and operations of all Naval policy should be under the control of the Admiralty. When it comes to a question of co-ordination between the two services, instead of one trying to outstrip the other they should become what the First Lord rightly described as complementary services. That can best be brought about by having a Minister of Defence. We are strengthened in that view on this side by what has been said this afternoon.
A further point I would raise with the First Lord on the general situation is that we have heard very little about the position of the Dominions in relation to the rearmament programme of the Government. I observed the small note of thanks to the New Zealand Government for a special contribution in regard to the exchange of ships between stations. I notice that we sent larger cruisers to the New Zealand stations, the "Leander" and the "Achilles." Cruisers of that size require more ample maintenance costs. Have the Dominions' Naval Departments been consulted with regard to the general Naval rearmament programme, and have they been asked whether, in view of the increased dangers that it is said they will have to meet, they are prepared to contribute something towards the enormous 1394 burdens which the Government are placing upon the taxpayers here? We have not heard a word about that during the course of the Navy Estimates.
We ought to know what discussions have taken place with the Dominions. If you are to expand your Fleet, what are your dispositions to be in the future and upon whom are you to rely? In connection with the rearmament programme are you going to rely upon the exact circumstances of the present moment? For example, with only two cruisers and smaller craft in New Zealand. Are you going to rely upon the present Australian squadron as it is to-day, or are you going to strengthen it? If you are going to strengthen it, are you going to get an increase of the contributions from the Dominion Governments in relation to it? The people who are responsible for Naval matters in Canada regard them from a different angle, but if there were any danger of war in the Pacific they might find themselves in quite a different frame of mind from that in which they have been in recent years. There again, you have an exceedingly small contribution to Naval Defence of the Commonwealth. We ought to be told what has happened in that connection.
The programme that we are examining to-day is so vast and so important that it would take a much longer time to deal with it in detail than I can give. I should like to deal with it but I ought to give a warning to the First Lord of the Admiralty that we have heard nothing at all to-day in his statement to us about personnel, except a short remark that he hoped to have men ready to man the ships when they are built. We have had no reference to the conditions under which that is to be done.
§ Mr. Alexander
As it is understood that we are going to have a discussion upon that in detail when we move a reduction of Vote A, that will, of course, give us an opportunity.
§ Mr. Alexander
If we are to discuss the matter on the Amendment I do not need to delay. Upon the general subject of 1395 personnel I am profoundly disappointed with the present situation in relation to the entry of officers, the treatment of the warrant officers, and certainly the treatment of promotion from the lower deck. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who will speak on Vote A or upon the Amendment will come back to those points in considerable detail. I was appalled yesterday by the answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty with regard to officer entrants. The suggestion was that the Admiralty do not take more secondary school boys because they are getting the best class of officer from all sources. What does "all sources" amount to? In the last three years, the total number of men who have been promoted to officer rank from the lower deck is 12; in the same period the number of rankers promoted in the Army is 285. I should think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping to whom the lower deck owes a great deal for his introduction of the system of promotion, must be disgusted at the administration of the regulation which he inaugurated. Steadily, during the last few years, promotion in that channel has been choked down. [Interruption.] According to my sources of information, which are very direct. Provision was made in 1930 that promotion to the higher ranks might be more open to ranker officers in the Navy by giving them better instruction in basic academic subjects before they were actually promoted to the rank of sublieutenant. There is now no reason, if they were sympathetically encouraged, why those who are promoted from the lower deck should not go right through to the rank of Admiral. It is now possible if they are properly encouraged to give them such knowledge as would enable them to take the special courses which they found so difficult to take in the early days, and to which officers must come back at Greenwich from time to time. We hear about sabotage in the Navy and we heard about it in the Royal Dockyards. A good deal of the promotion in the lower deck has been sabotaged by those people in the Navy who are responsible for naval administration and who want deliberately to see the officer in the Navy confined as far as possible to one class.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but I do not accept that statement. We will answer it in detail later in the day.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me, when he talks about class prejudice, whether he does not know that there is as much class prejudice and jealousy on those benches as there is anywhere else?
§ Mr. Alexander
I do not deny the general statement of the Noble Lady, but friends of mine who take that class view have still very much to make up for what the other classes have already got. In dealing with the Dartmouth entrants may I direct the First Lord's attention to the scheme I had in draft when I left the Admiralty in 1931, to change the whole basis of entry and make it more democratic? It is of no use anyone at the Admiralty saying that it is not possible, for I discussed the matter in detail with the captain superintendent and the headmaster of Dartmouth Naval College. Under that scheme it would have been possible to run the Naval College in such a way that, while admitting boys from preparatory schools, there would also have been admitted adequate numbers of boys from public secondary schools on whom public educational grants have been spent, and who in most cases would have matriculated before entering the college. At the present time such entrants are practically shut out. When one is told of the need, according to the Government, for getting efficient and qualified officers, I say that I would rather have a good set of public secondary school boys than a large number, although not all, coming from the preparatory schools.
Going towards Dartmouth last weekend, I sat in a tea car next to a fond mother who had two sons who were cadets. During tea she was talking very proudly about the boys to her friends. (An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I have no objection to that. The hon. Member is so anxious to interrupt that he does not wait for the context. During tea-time I heard her refer over and over again to the manner in which they had gained admission to the Naval College at 1397 Dartmouth. She spoke of the detailed questions put to boys of 13 by the Board of Interview, and of how the boys had scored over the old admirals in the questions that were put to them. Of course, the interview had much more importance, with regard to getting into the Navy, than the ability to pass the examination. Nobody wants to shut out boys from the preparatory school class, but they should enter on a basis of fair and open competition with boys from public secondary schools, who should be given a proper opportunity of entering. On that matter we shall require some further information.
I hope that when we come to Vote A, some of my hon. Friends will refer to the definite disabilities which are at present being suffered by warrant officers and / hope that their case will be put in detail. I hope also that some of my hon. Friends will take up the grievances of those who are suffering at present in the artificer and engine-room class. The conditions regarding promotion and the general conditions there are not being maintained as we think they ought to be. Finally, let me say that if, during the Defence Debate I had to remark that it was a melancholy occasion, I must also observe that this Debate is equally melancholy. The programme which is presented to us to-day is apparently based upon unilateral defence, which cannot of itself succeed, and which will go far to ruin the finances of the nation. I hope my hon. Friends will vote against the Motion.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill
The comprehensive, discursive and exhaustive oration of the last speaker leaves me, I must confess, at the end in very considerable mystification as to what is his point of view, what is his purpose and what course he would actually advise the country to follow and the Admiralty to fulfil. At several moments he used very strong language, expressions which go to the full limit of our capacity, such as "mad-house," "Bedlam," "suicide," "marching on a course which must lead to the ruin of the British Empire." He saw all of those evils in the Estimates which have been presented, but I do not believe he really holds that opinion. He may use these terms to keep up the spirits of his friends and the reputation of the party behind him, but I think he knows too much 1398 about these matters, and in other walks he has too responsible a position, for him to put any belief in wild statements of that kind.
I believe pretty nearly everybody in the House will feel very content with the great Naval Estimates presented. It is admitted and well known that we are in times of great danger—grievous danger. Our Air Force is far from giving us security; our small Army is more of an Imperial police than a military force; munitions factories are almost in their infancy of reconstruction—surely it is a great comfort to everybody, and a great comfort to people far outside this island, that the British Navy still continues to be the main foundation of the strength and authority with which we can intervene in Continental discussions and with which we can give to our people some essential guarantee of security during the period when other arrangements are being made to implement our Defences. On the contrary, I think the right hon. Gentleman is much to be congratulated.
This immense programme of new building, together with the large increase of personnel, constitutes, in my view, the most decisive assertion of the British will to live that has been made public since the end of the Great War. It is an assurance to Europe of our resolve to continue as a great Power, playing our part under the Covenant of the League of Nations in maintaining stability and the reign of law in Europe. It is also an assurance to the whole Empire, or Commonwealth if one uses that term, that the essential element of sea power, by which the Empire was founded and without which it cannot be even for a year maintained, will not be lacking in the future. Undoubtedly, the effort which is now being made, if continued year after year—for this is only one instalment—will establish the British Navy once again in a position of primary importance for another generation, and I do not believe we can over-value the benefits which will flow from that either in respect of European politics or in the cohesion of our Empire.
As I have no intention of keeping the House very long this evening, I am going to select only one or two of the key points which have been touched upon. As for the Anglo-German Naval Treaty, I do not 1399 take the view which the Government take on that. I think it was at the time a most unfortunate thing, and its particular clauses do not give us the protection and security which we require. But now we are all very glad to hear that it is being carried out and not being exceeded in any way by Germany. As a matter of fact, it could not possibly be broken by Germany. The power to break that Treaty does not exist at the present time. With the immense construction which is going on in Great Britain, with the enormous mass of vessels which we have, it is quite impossible for several years for 35 per cent. to be exceeded or probably even reached. That being so, we may rejoice to feel that here at any rate we have an example of the sanctity of international undertakings.
With regard to the question of the bomb versus the battleship, to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded when he thanked the Committee which had investigated that matter, I hope we shall now take that question as settled for the time being, as far as it possibly can be settled without an actual trial of war. I understand that the decision of the Admiralty to build a new Battle Fleet was only taken after these exhaustive practical experiments of the effects of the various kinds of explosions upon various kinds of steel structures. I do not know whether it is realised how profound and prolonged, and at what immense cost in money, those experiments have been. Certainly I was most anxious myself that the Admiralty should be tested in the most severe manner upon the feasibility of building great ships which could withstand the larger torpedo, the mine field, the air bomb attack, and the heaviest modern gun fire. I have no doubt whatever that they have managed to make good their case to the satisfaction of all those who have heard it. I have not heard it myself, but I know persons, whose judgment I trust, who have been able to give me the confident feeling that the Admiralty have made good their case as to their ability to construct vessels of war which can face these recent hazards with reasonable confidence of being able to play their part in sea power.
I have found that the French authorities quite recently also arrived at the same view. Although we may perhaps 1400 rightfully plume ourselves on primacy in sea warfare, nevertheless the French are second to none as artillerists, and that is a point which has very great relevance. I was assured only a few weeks ago that if the French Ministry of Marine had to strike tonnage from their Navy, under some international agreement, it would be cruisers rather than battleships that they would reduce. The Germans have evidently reached a similar conclusion, and so have the United States and Japan. Thus it is accepted by all the Naval Powers that the battleship is still not only the symbol, but also the effective instrument of modern naval strength.
The ability to draw out a superior line of battle in any theatre of war must be regarded as the ultimate sanction for all naval operations having for their purpose the command of the sea. If those assumptions, in which so many expert authorities concur are true, they conduce greatly to our advantage, because we possess, alone among the Powers of Europe, the means and the resources which enable us to draw out a superior line of battle When we compare the naval position of to-day with that of 1914, there can be no doubt that, as far as Europe is concerned, we are relatively far stronger than we were then, and that the measures which are now being taken will make us relatively stronger still. We are in fact the only Power in Europe which at the present time can draw out an effective line of battle. We are the only Power that can provide the means for this without which all other operations at sea, however effective they may appear to be, can be in the nature only of minor operations.
I have been dealing only with the question of the line of battle and with Europe, but I think it would be a great mistake in these armament Debates if we did not state our strong points as well as dwell upon our weak points. As I have criticisms to make upon other aspects of our defences, I feel bound to place on record—and I hope it will be believed, coming as it does from an independent quarter—the fact that the great strength of the British Navy, when all the bickering has settled down, has been maintained at a very high level through long years of peace. About £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 a year has been spent ever since the Great War on the Fleet and that has left us in a position of considerable strength as far as Europe is concerned. As I 1401 ventured to point out last year, the Navy can get started with rearmament because it possesses those great establishments and plans which have been kept in being during all that time. Now, for nearly 15 months past, they have been turning round and getting into their swing, and a great volume of naval construction is now possible. That is why the Navy Estimates in the rearmament programme occupy for the time being first place.
It is said, however, that when we extend our view to the whole world, it will he found that we have started an arms race among what I venture to call the ocean Powers, and that we have started it in the most hideously expensive class of vessel, the battleship. I do not believe that is true. There will be no arms race among the ocean Powers. There are only, and there will only be for a good many years to come, three ocean Powers, the United States, Japan and ourselves. There can be no arms race with the United States, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, because we have for a long time past and long before the Treaty of London, solemnly and irrevocably adopted the principle that there can be no rivalry between us and the United States. We have also, since the Treaty of London, adopted the principle of parity, not merely for battleships under the Washington Treaty but for the whole field of naval construction. I earnestly hope that the United States will not fall below the level of that parity and will not fail to produce their equal quota. Indeed, I think there is not much danger that they will fail to do so. Thus we must contemplate the immediate and simultaneous construction of ten capital ships of the highest class, not obsolete in type or invalid, but with all the new developments which I have ventured to indicate—we must contemplate, I say, the construction simultaneously of ten of these great ships by the English-speaking Powers. There is no race in this. For my part, I am bound to say that looking out upon a world in which there are so many unpleasant features I find a sense of strong reassurance stealing over me when I contemplate such an event as that.
How stands the case of Japan? The Japanese Government wished to be free from the Washington Treaty ratio of 5, 5, 3. They have had their wish and I am very glad that we are all liberated, but I 1402 doubt whether it is physically possible for them even to maintain the ratio of 5, 5, 3 against the building now in progress by the two major sea Powers simultaneously, and that not taking into consideration at all our preponderance in the older ships. Some of these, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, have been modernised to an extraordinary extent and practically rebuilt. Over £2,000,000, I think, has been spent on one of these vessels. As they say in the Navy, it is like building a new cask round the old bung-hole. We must add these renovated ships, of which we possess a large number, to the construction I have mentioned. I do not think you can say that what is taking place will lead to an arms race between the ocean Powers. There will be no such race.
On the other hand, there is not the slightest reason for Japan to feel alarmed or disturbed by these developments. From the days of Commodore Perry onwards, the United States and Great Britain have been the foremost friends of Japan and have fostered and aided Japan in the progress of her modernisation. She may, I am sure, rely upon the good will of those great Powers who have so long stood at her side—ourselves particularly—in times of the gravest crisis in her history. Moreover, if the Japanese desire any further assurances they have only to rejoin the League of Nations, in which case they would derive all the benefits of the Covenant which is now, gradually but surely, acquiring the material force to invest it with reality. [An HON. MEMBER: "Manchuria."] I am speaking of the present and the future, and I will leave the hon. Member who has interrupted me to disport himself among the events of the past in any way he chooses. So far as the present and the future are concerned, no one can deny that the forces which make for peace and stability and freedom in the world are being most remarkably and rapidly increased on both sides of the Atlantic.
Then we are told that the air will sweep away warships, and that navies will, in the time with which we are immediately concerned, be rendered obsolete and useless by the menace of the air. I cannot believe it. The dangers to which we are exposed from the air are of the most grievous character. When one thinks of great cities, focal points, munition works, 1403 centres of manufacture; when one thinks of the possible bombing of the civil population on a large scale, the destruction of merchant ships or the obstruction of food entering ports—when one thinks of all these dangers which arise from the menace of the air, the very greatest anxities are reasonable, and those who are not anxious are not careful of the interests of their country. But so far as properly armed and armoured warships are concerned, steaming in fleets and squadrons under the protection of their own intensively organised anti-aircraft artillery, one cannot feel at all that our Navy will be rendered obsolete or that any Navy which is efficient will be rendered obsolete or invalid by attacks from the air.
It is very difficult to sum up the technical issues and the technical lessons which are emerging or have emerged from the Spanish civil war, but there seems to be one very clear fact which even laymen like ourselves can discern and appreciate. No warship has been seriously hurt at sea and only one has been hurt, even lying in harbour, during the whole eight months that this warfare has continued. Surely, that is a very solid fact. I do not see my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sir M. Sueter) in his place, but I would like to press that view upon him, and upon others who share his views. The insurgent cruisers "Canarias" and "Baleares" and two or three weaker ships have been cruising off the coast of Spain for months on end, within five minutes flight of 100 or 150 of the Russian aeroplanes which we are assured have shown themselves to be of very good and high class. Yet those ships have not been injured at all in spite of the immense harm which they are doing to the Spanish Government. How is it?
We have heard from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford that all you have to do is to fly out and drop a bomb down the funnel of a warship and that is the end of it. Why is it not being done in this case? I know that in these matters theories may be falsified by some new fact which arises, but up to the present one is puzzled to know why it has not been done. When I was a child I was told that the way to capture a bird was to put salt on its tail. For a long time I persevered to that end but I never caught any bird, 1404 and I think the operation of dropping a bomb down the funnel of a battleship, which, from a height of 15,000 feet would look smaller than a house-fly on the face of that clock, is a thing the ease of which has been much exaggerated by some of our modern strategic thinkers. I, therefore, have reached the conclusion that the Admiralty view is right. So far I have seen nothing to offset it. The battleship is not obsolete. The contrary is the case, and as we have the bulk of our martial stock-in-trade invested in battleships, it is very satisfactory to realise that this great mass of vessels retain their effective power. It seems to me, therefore, that if we continue as we are doing now we have the means of preserving, as far as the Navy is concerned, a very great measure of security. Not only when this programme is completed but in the intervening period the Navy will be able to afford us a substantial guarantee—unhappily only a partial guarantee but still a substantial guarantee—that we shall be permitted to continue our peaceful and free island life.
I am well aware that I am putting some of these points in a manner which may excite controversy, but I hope and trust that it will be realised that there is an overwhelming consensus of opinion in favour of the view that the battleship is a modern, effective, vital weapon. I am glad to see that hon. Gentlemen opposite are of that opinion. I hope that through the agency of that weapon the British Navy will continue to discharge the great task which it has discharged in the past, of being the means by which the Empire can realise effective and integral expression; and that it will give us the security which we need while we are bringing other parts of our defences into proper order. My right hon. Friend the First Lord spoke about the defence of the bases of the Fleet, the ports and harbours like Devonport, Dover, Sheerness, Chatham, and others, and naval ports abroad. The defence of these ports, of course, is absolutely vital. Fleets cannot be at sea all the time. They must come home to rest and the nests in which they repose must be protected. Unless that is done all may fall to the ground, and when people talk about the defence of London, I hope that no weak considerations of the safety and defence of the civil population will interfere with the absolute priority which must be given to 1405 the security of the bases upon which the Fleet depends for its action in general defence.
Some other decisions have been taken upon which I must congratulate the new First Lord. This time last year it was the general feeling of the House that we should make a large construction of destroyers. After all, a battleship cannot be here for four years, but a destroyer can be here in 18 months. At that time I pleaded for the immediate construction of 40 destroyers, but only nine were deemed necessary, and we were assured that there was no need for further exertion. Later in the year, however, when my right hon. Friend succeeded to the Admiralty, another nine new destroyers were begun, and now this year there are 16 in the programme, making 34 in all. I still think that it was a great pity they were not laid down last year. There is no question that the slips were not available, and if they had been started when the House agreed that there ought to have been a big construction, we should have had the whole of these flotillas before the end of this year, and should have had the benefit of their protection during a period which must necessarily be extremely anxious.
I was also very glad that the First Lord saved the four older cruisers which were to have been scrapped. This time last year when we heard that they were to be scrapped, we were assured, first of all, that they were completely valueless and worthless, and, secondly, that there were the most solemn treaty obligations, to which Britain could never be false and to which no man of honour could fail to lend his voice and vote, and that we could not even raise the question of the further retention of these vessels. It all passed off quite happily, however. Other Powers were quite agreeable to their being retained, and now the Admiralty have had these vessels restored to them, and they are to be used in connection with escort duties and anti-aircraft defence. Thus they will play a very valuable part. I do not mention this to make any reproach at all, but only to show that there is some value in Parliamentary criticism, and that even the highest experts and the greatest authorities, while proceeding on the basis of masses of secret and technical information which necessarily is withheld from our knowledge, and which would, no doubt, be beyond the compre- 1406 hension of the ordinary Member of Parliament, nevertheless gain something from Parliamentary discussion.
There is one question which is still in a very unsatisfactory position. I refer to the Fleet Air Arm. I will not repeat all the arguments I used last year in favour of making a change in the departmental control of that arm. The answer given to-day is that there is to be a new inquiry. That heart-shaking decision might have been taken this time last year. I cannot see anything that has happened since this time last year which could have altered the position. Why was an inquiry not made then? I rather understood that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence was, in fact, making an inquiry and was going to give us an announcement. A whole year has passed, however, and nothing has been done. The dissatisfaction and inefficiency, and the wrong groupings which are doing so much harm, still have continued. Now, after a year, it is admitted that the convictions of the Government and the authorities upon this subject are still so divided that a new inquiry is to be held. I do not think it is very creditable, and we certainly cannot go on like this indefinitely. Later on, perhaps, if we are to argue this matter in more detail, I would submit a more reasoned case.
I will now, at some hazard, venture to make a small, modest, constructive suggestion about the principles upon which a settlement might be reached. It is all a question of principle. It seems to me that the principle should be that the Fleet must have absolute control in all its integrity of all the aeroplanes, whether on wheels or on floats, which start from ships of war or aircraft carriers. Not only must the Fleet have that control, but it must also have the entire preparation, training and selection of all the personnel in connection with the Fleet, not only, that is to say of the aircraft on board the ships and on the aircraft carriers, but also of the training bases on shore. This is necessary so that they can develop a purely naval personnel under the sole control of the Admiralty to manage these particular aircraft, upon which the Fleet depends for its action, both offensive and defensive, for the location of enemy vessels and the direction of its own guns. But that by no means takes from the Air Force the prime responsibility for the great opera- 1407 tions of the air, or handicaps in any degree the integrity of air strategy. The duty of the Fleet Air Arm would be to protect the Fleet and to reconnoitre for it. It might also render in an incidental way some protection to merchant traffic.
On the other hand, if at any time in the North Sea, or in the Channel, or in the Bristol Channel, or in the Thames Estuary, or in the Mediterranean, the Air Force of a foreign power should be used in an attack upon our trade, the duty of repelling that attack would fall not to the Navy, but to the Air Force, which alone is possessed of the resources to deal with major operations on a great scale and is able to take full charge of such operations. The Fleet would cooperate in a subordinate role with such aircraft as it had available. That is really the point—to render unto the Navy the things that belong to the Navy, and only those things that belong to it, and to give them to the Navy absolutely from start to finish, from the first recruit up to the final command, and to leave the broad integrity of air operations with the high experts of the Air Force. I venture to throw that out in the hope that it is along those lines we may reach a solution which will be more satisfactory to us than the confusion which exists at present.
I venture to conclude by congratulating the First Lord upon the first Navy Estimates he has presented. He got up from a sick-bed to come here, and we hope that he has not done himself an injury by exerting himself with a long speech. With influenza one has to be careful not to get up too soon. We greatly appreciate his having made this effort, and I trust for myself that he will not feel it necessary to remain longer than his health will allow and to hand over to his highly competent subordinates the further detailed discussion.
§ 6.40 p.m.
Major Lloyd George
I would like to add my congratulations to those that have already been offered to the right hon. Gentleman, the First Lord, on his return to the House, and, indeed, appropriately enough, on the buoyant way in which he introduced the Estimates. He gave me the impression of a man who had been driving a Ford car for a long time and has now got the latest type of 1408 Rolls-Royce. I share with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) the opinion that the Navy is defensive above everything else. I still regard the Navy as the first line of defence of this country. I take the view that there is a great deal of exaggeration, however much the Air Arm may have improved, as to its effective power. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the result of the practical tests that one has been able to see have completely confirmed that view. I still feel that, if we were unfortunate enough to be engaged in another war, the men who work on the battleships and the men who walk in the trenches will be, in the main, the men who will see it through.
The First Lord asked two or three questions in his speech. The first was whether we were building the right ships, and he indicated that others had been building, while we had been idle. I confess, as one who is not a supporter of the new capital ship, that it is extremely difficult for us to get at the real facts of the situation in other countries. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the British Navy is relatively stronger than in 1914—
Major Lloyd George
I do not think it matters outside. The right hon. Gentleman told us that we need not worry about America and Japan, and I agree. It is difficult to get the facts. I was one of those who heard the broadcast of the Prime Minister in the last Election, and I remember his voice coming through with the appropriate quaver, saying, "Do you know that of post-war designed capital ships, the British Empire has only three?" It would have been more useful to the people he was addressing if he had said that there were only three in the world. Let us have proper comparisons. It is very difficult for us as private Members to find out what the situation is. So far as the Fleet is concerned, I still think that we have an overwhelming superiority in capital ships, and that we ought to be perfectly safe. The right hon. Gentleman said that the rivalry—I take it he meant naval rivalry—has gone for ever and that there is not likely to be a race. He told us that his naval staff was studying the results of conditions in the past. I wonder whether they will study this condition? I think that I am right in saying that the building of the 1409 first Dreadnought in this country had more to do with the race in naval shipbuilding with Germany than anything else. The staff might consider that condition and see what possible effect it may have on the future.
The First Lord challenged anyone to say whether these Estimates went too far. He told us that the Navy was to protect trade routes in two hemispheres, but surely, if anyone is challenged to say that a programme goes too far, one must have some basis on which to compare it. It must depend on whether you are working in isolation or in alliance, or whether you are working under a system of collective security. Surely the programme must depend upon what conditions you have to meet. If we are going to protect our trade routes in isolation, I suggest that this programme will not take us very far, but if we are going to do it in alliance, or as part of a system of collective security, we ought to be told by the Government what their objective is, because if we are to be told by some people that we are not going far enough and by others that we are going too far, we ought to have something with which to make comparisons, and nobody in this House has that information.
There is only one other point which I wish to raise, and that concerns the question of bases, which was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman himself and by the right hon. Member for Epping. The First Lord asked in the course of his speech what will happen in the narrow seas and the bases. Do I understand that in order for a base to be effective it must be near enough to the area in which it has to work to carry out its functions? The trouble with some of our Defence problems is that our bases are too near the scene of operations for their own safety. The right hon. Gentleman told us that in his judgment it was easier to concentrate the defence in a base. I would suggest that it is also easier to attack a base. Some of the bases we have in this country at the present time it may be very easy to defend, but I suggest that some of them are within such a short distance of the Continent, at any rate, that with the present high speed of aircraft it will be a very difficult matter indeed to defend them, because the warning, as I am informed by people who know, will be so short as to make it very difficult to guard against attack.
1410 The right hon. Gentleman said they were fully alive to that consideration, and were prepared, had plans ready, I gathered, to transfer the bases elsewhere if necessary. It is not so difficult, perhaps, to transfer ships from a base, but it is a very different thing in time of emergency to transfer what is important in a base, that is, the apparatus and other machinery for repairs. While I see no difficulty about moving ships from one port to another, it does seem to me that to have preparations for alternative bases, but no preparations for repair or production, does not take us very far. Reference has been made to Debates in this House recently regarding the possibility, providing it were impossible for merchant ships to traverse the narrow seas—which is quite likely—of preparations being made to divert that shipping to our West Coast ports. I think we are entitled to ask the Admiralty what preparations they are making for the protection of those ports in case diversion became necessary. That seems to me to be a vital point, and we should not lose sight of the lessons of the last War. It was outside the West Coast ports that nearly the greatest activity on the part of hostile aircraft took place, and if we are going to divert our shipping steps should be taken to have effective bases in that area.
If I can be forgiven for saying one thing, and I am not going to apologise for it, there was a base in my constituency many years ago, on the West Coast—the only one. The Admiralty in their wisdom, despite the lessons of the last War, decided to scrap it. All we have there today is the anchorage, but I suggest that it is of very little use to divert shipping to the West Coast if we have no place on that coast at which to repair ships which may be just temporarily damaged. I do not know what plans they have in mind, but if the Admiralty are content to leave it as an anchorage, with no facilities for protection or repair, it will not be of much use to divert our shipping to that part of the coast.
I have this one further thing to say. One of the claims of the Government in connection with the rearmament programme is that it is helping to solve the depression in the Special Areas. The base to which I have just referred has for over TOO years done nothing but naval work. It was closed for reasons of economy, as 1411 I have pointed out just now. We have that community, which for over 100 years has done nothing but create armaments, and we have the rearmament programme coming on, and yet since that programme has started the unemployment in that place has risen from 50 to 53 per cent. From both points of view, from the point of view of defending this country, and especially feeding the country in time of war, and from the point of view of the Government's own claim that this programme will help to solve unemployment difficulties, I ask them to give this matter their attention. I should like to have a reply to my inquiry as to whether, if in an emergency we have to divert our shipping, they have any plans in mind for effective defence and effective repair at that base, in order to make certain that the food supplies of the country will not be jeopardised as they were before.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes
I should first like to congratulate the First Lord on the admirable statement he made this afternoon, which was entirely in accord with my views, based on my experience of 50 happy years in the Navy. There is one question to which I should like to refer briefly before I turn to the main issues raised by other speakers, and that is the long-standing grievance created by the denial of marriage allowances to naval officers. Petty officers and men of the Royal Navy get marriage allowances, and the officers of the Army and the Royal Air Force, as well as the noncommissioned officers of the Army and Royal Air Force, get marriage allowances, and, in addition, travelling facilities for their wives and children and their fiancés, and even their maiden aunts if they are going to keep house for them. I was a member of the Board of Admiralty at the time when we made out an unanswerable case for marriage allowances for officers, and we actually had it in our Estimates and those Estimates were passed by this House. I happen to know of naval officers who married on the strength of those Estimates having passed this House, and of others who made arrangements to send their wives and families out to Malta and other stations abroad. The House can imagine their feelings when they learned that the Treasury had turned down those marriage allowances, because the War Office and the Air 1412 Ministry had demanded such a large quid pro quo that the Treasury had been forced to reject the Admiralty's claim.
Early this year there was a great deal of correspondence on this subject in the "Times," in which a certain Sir Charles Harris took a hand. Sir Charles Harris was the Financial Secretary of the War Office when the War Office spiked the guns of the naval officers. It was proved in the course of the correspondence that his arguments were based on wrong information, and the "Times" admirably summed up the correspondence with a statement to that effect, and also declared that no naval officer of 30, unless he possesses private means, can afford to keep up the standard of living which is expected of him and at the same time to enjoy that measure of married life which is, after all, the natural right of every man. The wives of the officers and men of the other Services have been officially recognised for the last 18 years, and I think it is high time that the wives of naval officers received similar treatment. Surely it is in the true interests of the country that these splendid young officers should be given the opportunity of bringing up sons to follow in their footsteps, especially in these days of a falling birth rate. It seems utterly unfair that of all the people in His Majesty's Service they alone are so scurvily treated. They deserve better of the country. I should like to call the attention of the Opposition to this point because it is a fact that it is exceedingly difficult to get petty officers and men to become warrant officers. On becoming warrant officers they lose the marriage allowance, and the increase in their pay does not in any way make up for what they have to give up in that respect. I urge my right hon. Friend to give this matter his earnest attention. It would not cost very much to grant the concession and it would do away with a very serious grievance which has been pretty silently borne. Army and Royal Air Force officers get this marriage allowance at the age of 30, and men and petty officers at the age of 25. Of course, a number marry under the prescribed ages, and they go through a very hard time, and I think that at any rate the children of these younger men might receive some consideration, again in the interests of the birth rate, because it is all to the good that these healthy young men should produce families.
1413 I will now turn to the main issues raised. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) who I am sorry is not now here, is not, I was glad to learn, against the building of battleships, but he wants to build only one, and thinks the Government are going much too far. I am only afraid that they are not going far enough, if there is any risk of the present Socialist Opposition governing the country again in the next few years. The Navy has to thank the Socialist Opposition for the parlous state in which it is to-day in regard to modern cruisers and destroyers, on account of the limitations of the London Treaty. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough mentioned Japan and said, very rightly, that Japan was of considerable assistance to us in the late War. Unfortunately, I think very unfortunately, Japan is no longer an ally, and the speeches fiercely denouncing Japan which are made from the benches opposite will not help her to feel more friendly towards this country, or to contribute to any collective action with us in the Eastern Seas. Judging by the foreign policy which is being so eloquently and ferociously enunciated by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and other intellectual Socialists on those benches, they may well find themselves at war with Japan in the Far East, with Italy in the Mediterranean and with Germany in the North Sea and in the Atlantic, and if we have not a sufficiently strong force to contain them we will then need all the sea power we have, and a good deal more, if this Empire of ours is to survive their administration.
I particularly welcome the decision of the Government to build five battleships. It has been severely criticised by the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter). He quoted one paragraph from the Committee's report upon the vulnerability of capital ships to air attack, that quotation being to the effect that capital ships cannot be constructed so as to be indestructible by bombing from the air. That point is accepted, but one might say with far greater force that a capital ship at rest and making no effort to defend herself would be destroyed with far greater rapidity and certainty by the torpedoes and by the armour-piercing projectiles of battleships.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter
The hon. and gallant Member has referred to my quotation from the Committee's report. Before he sits down will he tell the House exactly how we are going to use battleships in a war where oceans divide the hostile nations?
§ Sir R. Keyes
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will go on with the point I was making. Paragraph 43 of the White Paper states that:the capital ship is the one remaining surface craft which, if hit severely by an air bomb, is not likely to be sunk.If you wish to carry this attack on battleships to its logical conclusion you would do away with all floating vessels, and even the most ardent air protagonist does not propose to do that. The hon. and gallant Member referred to certain 16-year-old experiments. These trials are described in this White Paper, which also gives the findings of the Special Board appointed in 1925 by the United States Government to go into this question. That report states:The battleship is the element of ultimate force in the fleet, and all other elements are contributory to the fulfilment of its function as the final arbiter in sea warfare.And it goes on to say that the offensive weapon will always find its antidote in the defensive weapon. Air Commodore Charlton gave evidence before the Sub-Committee, and this report deals with the exaggerated claims that he made, but I see in a paper called the "United Services Review" of 31st December, 1936, that he returns to the charge. He discredits the Committee of Imperial Defence Sub-Committee, and reiterates his own discredited story. He tells us that the idea of the experiments originated in the brain of General Mitchell, who was Assistant Chief of the Air Service, and says he was responsible for initiating these trials, and that after the trials were over, General Mitchell flew in triumph above and around the "Henderson," the ship carrying the observers. Air Commodore Charlton concludes:The moment was tense. Everyone was moved to the core, and a few even wept at having witnessed, as they thought, the passing of an epoch. America for the second time in history had fired a shot which could be heard round the world. But on this occasion the world was not listening.But America was listening and drew her own wise conclusions. General Mitchell 1415 proceeded to go all round America shouting his claims. But the United States Navy was determined to develop sea power and naval air power, unrestricted by outside interference, and Naval officers followed him round and exposed his mischievous boastful claims with the result that General Mitchell went out of public life, the Navy was allowed to develop its own air force, and in consequence it is about Zoo per cent. ahead of ours to-day. The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford described the Committee of Imperial Defence inquiry as a very fair inquiry, and so it was, for it took evidence from all sorts of irresponsible quarters as well as from experts, and made a clear case for the battleship. In paragraph 41 the report says:We need ships equal in fighting power to those to which they may be opposed, for there are large areas of ocean which are out of range of service aircraft based on British territory.Again in paragraph 46 we find:It is possible to state the matter in the simplest posible terms. The advocates of the extreme air view would wish this Country to build no capital ships (other Powers still continuing to build them). If their theories turn out well founded, we have wasted money; if ill founded, we would, in putting them to the test, have lost the Empire.I think w e can leave it at that. Germany, France and Italy are all building capital ships on the very threshold of our trade routes, vessels far more formidable than our renovated 20 year old capital ships. Such ships, if they were hostile, could seize a base astride our oversea communications and destroy our trade routes. It would be criminal folly on the part of the Government if they did not build ships that were equal to them and could fight them on fair terms. Unilateral reduction in the size and power of ships is just as dangerous as unilateral disarmament. It is the Board of Admiralty who will be responsible on the day of battle, it will be our men who will pay with their lives if they are called upon to fight in inferior ships. During the War the Grand Fleet, in a strategical position, hundreds of miles out of range of shore-based air attack, exercised an absolute stranglehold on the enemy, and made it possible to introduce the anti-submarine measures which defeated the German submarine menace.
The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) had some- 1416 thing to say on this subject, and I am sorry that he has gone, for I would have liked to have called his attention to this. I called the attention of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) to the same point last year when he criticised the Government's policy. The fate of Canada was finally decided not by Wolfe's victory on the Plains of Abraham, but by Hawke's victory over the French fleet 3,000 miles away in Quiberon Bay, which made it possible for a small British fleet to arrive at Quebec the following Spring at a critical moment when the remnants of Wolfe's little army, decimated by sickness and wounds, was besieged in Quebec and on the point of capitulation. The fate of the British Empire may well be decided by a fleet action hundreds of miles outside the range of attack from aircraft other than those carried in ships. Seaborne aircraft may well play a defensive part in such an action. The layman may think that it would be a simple matter to fly a squadron of flying boats to operate at the other end of the world. So it would, but they would be useless when they got there if scores of men and hundreds of tons of stores, spares and fuel were not carried across the sea under the convoy of the Navy. During the Abyssinian troubles the Government decided to reinforce the aircraft in the Middle East, and hundreds of tons of spares and stores and a large ground personnel were carried through the Mediterannean under naval convoy. Even shore-based oversea aircraft are very dependent on the Navy.
The welfare, prosperity and efficiency of our fishing fleet and the mercantile marine are of vital importance to the exercise of sea power. The Government are much to be congratulated on the magnitude of the effort they are now making to restore our naval forces. It is much to be hoped that measures will be taken without further delay to enable our merchant shipping to compete with the merchant shipping of other nations which enjoy subsidies and navigation laws denied to ours. Such measures are long overdue. In the course of these Debates on Defence we have heard a great deal about collective security and collective action for the maintenance of peace. We all want peace, and we all want security, but collective security is just a dangerous and foolish catchword as long as three powerful 1417 nations, who regard war as an instrument of policy and are prepared to go to war or to threaten war in order to achieve their objects, are outside the League of Nations, and another great Power is determined to keep out of European entanglements and to maintain a powerfully armed neutrality.
I have no belief that the League of Nations can give security or maintain peace, and I have had no faith whatever in collective action ever since my experiences when I took part in the Relief of Peking by an international force 37 years ago. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tell us about it."] People at home knew very little of what was going on. I can assure the House that Russia, the only Power that had sufficient military strength, was not in the least interested in the relief of the Legations. She was only thinking of her other interests and was in no hurry to start. Japan had a considerable force, hut she wanted to watch Russia. Other Nations, except America and Great Britain, who had a Brigade or so each, only made what might be called token contributions towards the Military Force. The Relief Force would never have left Tientsin in time to relieve the Legations, but for the insistence of the British General. (I was his Naval Staff Officer.) He practically forced the Russians and Japanese to start, but they only consented on condition that they should go first, and we and the Americans had to follow behind in their dust. Anyone who has been in North China in summer, would know the hardships our troops suffered, trailing behind in the dust and finding the wells emptied. It was a very arduous eight days' march. The Force concentrated about 17 miles from Peking, and it was agreed that the advance for the final attack should take place the following morning; but the Russians, who wanted to take possession of the Imperial City, stole a march during the night, and the Japanese at once followed them. In the small hours of the morning we heard a tremendous battle going on 17 miles away, so we started at once followed by the Americans and made a forced march, which brought us to the walls of the Chinese city in the afternoon, which we found deserted, the Chinese Force which had occupied it having been withdrawn to reinforce the defence of the Tartar city, which was being attacked by the Russians and Japanese. The result being 1418 that we were able to reach the Legations before dark with very little opposition, and by threatening the enemy defending the Tartar city in the rear, enabled the Russians and Japanese to advance during the night. They had been held up until then and had suffered severe losses.
§ Mr. Alexander
These reminiscences are interesting, but what we are anxious about is to be told by the gallant Admiral what is his technical view as to the naval strength required to defend the British Empire.
§ Sir R. Keyes
I prefer to trust in the strong arm of the British Navy rather than rely upon outside help. I have infinite faith in the British Navy as an instrument for security and the maintenance of peace.
§ Sir R. Keyes
I prefer to trust to our own strength. We should get through in the end, although we might have to go through some very bad times.
§ Mr. Alexander
I am sure that the gallant Admiral does not want to avoid the question. It is delightful to hear such a gallant exponent of naval questions, and we should like to know from him what strength, in his view, is required by the British Navy to defend the Empire. We have a naval programme before the House, and we want his technical view on this matter. Is our naval programme based on collective security or on unilateral strength?
§ Sir R. Keyes
My opinion, most strongly, is that when this programme is completed we shall be able to defend the British Empire without outside help. The right hon. Gentleman need not believe that, but it is my view. I can only, in conclusion, express my intense relief at the measures which the Government are now taking, at long last, to give some hope, considerable hope, of our attaining sufficient sea power to give security to the Empire and to play a very important part in helping to maintain the peace of the world.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
The gallant Admiral is so deservedly popular here, and he has such a splendid record of service, subsequent to his adventures in Peking, that the danger is that he might 1419 get his way too easily. I think it only right, therefore, that I should endeavour to advance a few points for the opposite side of the case. In the first place, I am in complete agreement with him and with the White Paper that it is possible to make the battleship invulnerable. It is possible by devoting sufficient tonnage for the purpose to make the British Fleet safe, but the question in our minds ought to be not the making of the individual battleship safe, nor even making the British Fleet safe, but making Britain safe. It is because of that, that we are doubtful about spending so much money on big battleships. If we look back at the lessons of the last War we see that we kept the British Fleet safe. We kept it safe solely on account of those doctrines of which the gallant Admiral has made an admirable defence, the doctrines of Mahan, that with the Fleet in being you keep the country safe. It was considered to be the case that, whether with Hawke at Quiberon or with Nelson going to the West Indies, so long as the Fleet was in being and sufficiently larger than other fleets, the country would be safe.
If we were in as safe a position as we were in the time of Nelson and Hawke, or in 1914, the doctrines of Mahan, upon which the Admiralty apparently still pin their faith, would hold good. So long as the British Fleet was there to prevent any other fleet coming out and desecrating the seas and interfering with our surface craft, the arguments which we have heard from the gallant Admiral, the arguments which are based on this White Paper, and the arguments of the Admiralty, would be all right, but we are no longer safe because the Fleet is safe. England is in danger even if the Fleet is safe. It may be possible to make the battleship safe from air attack. The gallant Admiral said that these big ships are being built in Italy, and, therefore, we must build them here. Is he going to send these battleships, which must be kept safe, into the Mediterranean?
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Then why did we withdraw the Queen Elizabeth from the Mediterranean at the first sight of a submarine inside the Straits of Gibraltar?
§ Sir R. Keyes
I should like to answer that question. I was in the Mediterranean shortly after the recent trouble there and 1420 I can assure the right hon. and gallant Member that the British Fleet lying in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean was not in the least bit concerned as to what the Italians might do to them. On account of the long-standing friendship with the Italian Navy the British Navy were terribly sorry to think that they might have to do dreadful things to the Italian Navy: That was the feeling from the Admiral to the boy. It is a monstrous thing to suggest that the British Fleet in the Mediterranean were afraid to do any duty which they might have been called upon to do.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I think we are talking at cross purposes. I was referring to the withdrawal of the Queen Elizabeth during the Great War when the first German submarine came inside the Mediterranean.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
The hon. and gallant Admiral has a bad conscience. He thinks that whenever anybody is criticising the Navy it is because they ran away last year. I was referring to what we did during the last war. The safety of the battleship in war becomes more important than anything else, and therefore the Mediterranean and the narrow seas generally are not safe places for battleships. They have to be kept at Scapa Flow, and the rest of the Fleet has to keep them safe there. We must approach this question from a different point of view. We must say to ourselves: "The doctrine of Mahan of the Fleet in being is no longer good enough for the British Empire." We have to consider defending this country from attack in other ways. As we are no longer immune, the problem of the safety of the Fleet and the safety of the battleship is no longer the first question at issue.
Let me come back to the White Paper. The First Lord, in explaining his programme, laid great stress upon the experiments that have been carried out to show that the capital ship is safe from submarines, mines and aircraft. He laid great emphasis on the safety of the battleship. But the battleship is meant to fight, and the question is the balance between its offensive capacity and its defensive capacity. The battleship is still the gun-carriage. It is meant to carry guns and to use the guns against the 1421 enemy. It is not meant to be solely immune from danger itself. I grant that the experiments showed that the structure of the ship is safe from mines and aeroplanes, but the capital ship cannot use its guns and cannot fire a gun without the fire controls being in operation. When we are considering the use of the battleship we have to consider not the safety of the hull, not that the ship shall not sink, but that the fire control shall be safe from damage by bombs.
It is not a question of dropping a bomb down the funnel of a battleship but the question of a bomb dropping anywhere within range and cutting the fire control. An explosion on the upper deck or anywhere else which puts out of action the fire control does as much damage to that ship at the moment when it is wanted as a bomb or torpedo sinking the ship. When during the hit-and-run raid against Scarborough the "Lion" had its control cut, Admiral Beatty could no longer give orders and he had to leave his flagship, get on to a launch and join the rest of the Fleet. Meanwhile, the rest of the Fleet, having misunderstood an order, proceeded to drop the chase of the German ships and to concentrate on the sinking of the unfortunate "Blucher." Long after that ship was incapable of fighting, the whole of the British ships continued to fire their shells into the hull of the ship. Because the control between the fighting-top and the Admiral was cut, the direction of the Fleet could no longer be carried out. That is an example of what happens when you concentrate all your efforts on defending the hull of a ship from attack and forget that the exposed parts of the ship, the fire control and the signalling arrangements, are as important as the ship itself when the ship is wanted for use.
The gallant Admiral also ridiculed the idea of collective security and of our needing allies. Allies were pretty useful to us in the last War. If it had not been for our Allies, we should not be where we are now, and we cannot possibly face or contemplate facing a war against Germany, Italy, and Japan single-handed. We have no need to do so, but the doctrine that we must make the Fleet strong enough for every eventuality, with or without Allies, is still at the back of the minds of the Board of Admiralty in these Estimates. They refuse to look facts in the face; they refuse to see where the 1422 danger is or to construct the Fleet to meet that danger. The Government are perfectly aware of the anxiety of the country which has supported them in bringing forward these enormous Estimates. The anxiety of the country is directed towards the protection of England against an attack from Germany, and that danger has got to be met, not by the British Fleet alone. There must be, in any plans for the Defence of this country, first of all co-ordination between the Fleet, the Air Arm, and the War Office, and, secondly, co-ordination between Britain, France, and Russia.
I was delighted to hear for the first time to-day the First Lord get up and say that we no longer need bother about building against the United States of America or about taking into account the strength of their Fleet. That is only the first step. I hope we shall soon hear the First Lord welcoming any increase in the United States Fleet as relieving us of some of the burden of defending democracy in Europe. But that is the first sign which we have had from the Admiralty that they are not building against everybody. They have carried out these elaborate experiments, and they have now come to the very best design of unsinkable battleships. Their experiments have been very extensive and have given us valuable knowledge. Have we inquired from the French what their experience is, and are we contributing to the French the results of our experiments and the plans of these perfect battleships and cruisers which are being devised? Is there still the narrow jealousy between the two Admiralties, or is there frank, free co-operation between the British Admiralty and the French Admiralty as to what it is best to build in view of the danger that faces us both alike?
Have the Admiralty considered the real facts of war, and, above all, of war which is unannounced? I heard the First Lord of the Admiralty to-day laying great stress on the importance of defending our Fleet bases. I quite agree that if Dover Harbour is adequately protected by 50 or 60 multi-barrelled anti-aircraft guns, people will not bomb Dover Harbour, but the enemy will have a magnificent target at Sheerness, with those gigantic petrol tanks striking into the sky all round, a target they could hardly miss even if they missed the battleship's funnel, a target which is not armoured in the least. If 1423 you are going to defend those bases at Sheerness and Chatham and neglect unfortunate Pembroke, I think it is important that you should realise that the attack on those bases will not be announced beforehand and that when it arrives you will find most of your multi-barrelled anti-aircraft guns still wrapped up in canvas, the crews to work them somewhere else, and the fire control not in operation.
A little consultation with our future Allies, a little consideration of the changed facts at the opening of hostilities, and a little realisation that it is the business of the Fleet not to fraternise with German officers in German or English ports, but to have plans for defending us against the German Navy and the German Air Force, in conjunction with other countries—the realisation of that would be of a great deal more service to us in our hour of need than any number of sums of £8,000,000 spent on perfectly safe battleships. The First Lord said they were going to inquire again into this question of a separate Fleet Air Arm. I do not know—I have not any views on the subject—but I do know this, that I should feel much happier about transferring the Air Arm to the Fleet if I did not feel all the time that the Air Arm as it is to-day is protecting us, protecting England, and that if it is transferred to the Fleet, it will be protecting the Fleet and not protecting England. We hear so much about the necessity of protecting our overseas communications, the far-flung line of Empire in both hemispheres, and we have heard to-day that we are going to defend our commerce on every sea. We have heard of the raids of the "Emden" and the damage which they did to our commerce. That, I may add, was when Germany had Colonies on the Indian Ocean upon which to base her cruisers. That proves that the Empire can endure even when our lines of communication are broken, but we cannot endure if they blow England to pieces.
During the War I was on the Commission which inquired into that unfortunate expedition to Mesopotamia. That Mesopotamian expedition was supplied entirely at that time by troops from India. India was also supplying some troops to East Africa and even on the Western Front, and the Commander-in-Chief and Viceroy 1424 in India disliked the Indian troops being taken away from India and sent elsewhere. He put every difficulty in the way—white women and children were going to be murdered in India and a revolution would take place in India. Finally, Lord Kitchener had to wire out to the Viceroy, "It would be better to lose India than to lose the War. Send the troops." And we had them. When I hear so much about the necessity of defending our far-flung communications, about how we have only six weeks' food supplies in the country, about the 'aids of the "Emden," and about the vital necessity of the Singapore base, I sometimes think that the words of Lord Kitchener might be applied equally well to-day to the Admiralty. It would be better to lose Singapore, to lose our merchant marine, even to lose the Fleet itself, than to lose England.
§ 7.42 p.m.
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House, realising the extent to which the efficiency of His Majesty's Navy must depend upon the welfare and contentment of the officers and men of the Fleet, welcomes the improvements which have taken place in recent years, and urges His Majesty's Government to take every opportunity to improve these conditions from time to time.The Navy is such a vital part of the defence of this country and of the Empire that its efficiency is of paramount importance to the whole nation, and the key-note of that efficiency is the spirit of the men. Nelson knew that well and never lost an opportunity of caring for the welfare and the recreation of his men, of seeing that they were well supplied with fresh food and vegetables, and of seeing that their diet was improved. When his ships were stationed in foreign stations for long periods during the hurricane months, he never missed an opportunity of making arrangements to see that his men were well employed by organising such things as wrestling matches, inter-ship competitions, and discussions among his men, because he realised that the most deadly enemy of efficiency is the monotony and boredom of waiting month after month on end, which tend to undermine discipline and bring about a state of discontent among the men of the Fleet.
1425 Many of us may remember our turn of serving in the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow during the War—the monotony of waiting when the time spent on ships in harbour so often exceeded the time spent at sea. It was an improvised organisation created by the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Jellicoe, and his Admirals which provided the officers and men of the Fleet with playing fields in which they could get recreation and sport, with an entertainment ship where they could have dramatic productions, boxing matches, and so on, with a golf course, with facilities for landing the men in different parts of the Island, and with floating shops which went alongside each ship in turn. All those measures helped to maintain the spirit of the men and to keep them fit, contented, and happy, and brought about an even closer spirit of co-operation and of comradeship between the officers and men of the Fleet. It is a reflection on that period, nearly 20 years ago, that induces me to move this Amendment, in the hope that to-day we may have some review of the present situation. I hope that, if there were a sudden emergency now, it would not be an improvised organisation that would have to be created wherever the Fleet was, but that a well-planned organisation produced by the Admiralty would be available wherever the Fleet might have to go in such an emergency.
After all, the general public know very little about the life of the Fleet. They read in the papers of great battleships being built, or of the controversy between the bomber and the battleship, but they know little of the life of the men who go to sea in those, ships. Where, however, sometimes 500 or 600 men are crowded together, the welfare and recreation of those men is of paramount importance to the welfare and efficiency of the ship. The Navy is the silent Service. How different it is in the case of industry. Welfare in industry is being continually broadcast through the news and by means of the wireless; we hear constantly of welfare schemes in different industries; we are being taught how to use our leisure. We hear of great schemes for providing playing fields, swimming baths and so on in every town and hamlet in the country. Many welfare halls and schools are provided with small cinemas, there are lec- 1426 tures and libraries, and many opportunities of receiving technical knowledge and training in evening classes. Men have also opportunities of getting advice appertaining to their health and many other personal matters. All these measures have been introduced into industry, and have been growing during the last 20 years, and I think we should all like to know that corresponding improvements have also been continuing in the Navy. For instance, we hope that the Navy is receiving its fair quota of playing fields in the different naval ports.
With regard to welfare, it is very gratifying to note that a Department has been set up at the Admiralty specially to deal with the requests of seamen, and that already 4,000 requests are being dealt with. I think that that shows that a spirit of confidence is growing up between seamen and the Admiralty, making them feel that their difficulties will be examined and investigated and that many of the unnecessary, out-of-date irritations in their daily lives will be entirely removed. I think we can congratulate the Admiralty on what they are doing in this direction, and I hope they will continue to advance. I was also gratified to hear the other day, in answer to a question, that new sound film equipment has been provided for 23 ships in the Service, and I hope that this form of entertainment, which can provide so much amusement for the men in the Fleet during their leisure hours, can also be extended to other ships in the Service, as I believe is the case in the American Navy, and especially to small ships and depot ships in outlying and isolated stations in different parts of the Empire, where recreation fields are non-existent and cinemas or theatres un - known. Such an apparatus, which can provide entertainment, amusement, education and news for the men in these isolated parts, would bring that spice of variety which is so necessary in a life full of the deadly monotony of routine.
While congratulating the Admiralty on what they are doing in this matter, I would like to suggest that more encouragement might be given to men entering the Service if they could feel that at the end of their time they would have an opportunity of getting occupational training to fit them for any job which they might want to get when the time came for them to leave the Service. That is especially the case in regard to naval 1427 officers who have passed through the promotion zone and find themselves, in the prime of life, between 40 and 45, thrown ashore like fish out of water, totally unfitted for any job on land. Surely some scheme might be augurated for fitting them for or assisting them to find some sort of work when they have to leave the Service. After all, they have given the best of their youth to the Service. This is especially necessary in the case of those officers who are married, and who, owing to the fact that they do not receive any marriage allowance, are unable to save for this eventuality.
I would like here to suggest, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) has suggested, that this burning question of the marriage allowance should be reconsidered. Naval ratings get marriage allowance; officers and men of the Army and Air Force get marriage allowance; yet, for some unknown extraordinary reason, there is this anomaly that the naval officer is excepted. I know that in 1919 the Admiralty considered and examined the whole question, and preferred to apply the money which was then allotted towards increasing the pay of the junior officers, whereas the other Services preferred to use it to include marriage allowances. But, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth has said, in 1925 they were prepared to consider the whole question. They then reduced the pay of these junior officers, and asked Parliament for money to allot for marriage allowances. It was included in the Navy Estimates and voted by Parliament, but, as the War Office and the Air Ministry demanded their equivalent proportional sums, the whole scheme was dropped, and apparently the £350,000 which had been voted by Parliament was allowed to be returned to the coffers of the Treasury.
When one looks at the 1937 Estimates, one cannot help seeing great inequalities between the pay of the naval officer and that of his equivalent rank in the Army. For instance, an unmarried major in the Army draws £645 a year, rising to £719, and a married major draws £736 a year, rising to Orr after six years. Taking his equivalent in rank in the Navy, the lieutenant-commander, we find that, whether he is married or unmarried, he draws only £495 a year, rising to £562. 1428 Of course I know that when we are talking about this question we are always told that, if you include the allowances granted to the naval officer, his pay becomes equal to that of his opposite number. It is true that a naval officer can draw a specialist allowance of £45 a year, and, in exceptional cases, lodging allowance or command money of £54 a year. In the case of a commander, his maximum allowances come to £137 10s., unless he is at the Admiralty, when he gets £180. I want, however, to stress the fact that it is only in exceptional cases that naval officers get these allowances, and, therefore, it is not really fair to compare these allowances with the normal pay of their opposite numbers in the other Services. To-day the difference between the pay of a lieutenant-commander and that of a major is £224, rising to £249, while the difference between a commander and his equivalent in rank, a lieutenant-colonel, is far greater, namely £508. Even including the extra allowances which the commander can get, he is still £257 worse off. I contend that these facts show very clearly that, in justice to the naval officer, he should receive some form of marriage allowance after he has passed a certain age.
I ask the Admiralty to reconsider and look very closely into this matter again, and see whether something cannot he done to right an injustice. After all, the men and the officers in the Navy are at a great disadvantage compared with the officers and men in the other Services. They are subject to sudden moves from place to place. If they arrange for their families to join them in one station, they are promptly wafted off to another station. There are two lots of expenses for them. There is the expense of living on board ship and that of keeping an establishment ashore, whereas their opposite numbers in the other Services have married quarters. Neither officers nor men in the Navy get the free medical attention which is granted to those in the other Services. For men in the Navy who have very sparse means, it would be a great boon if they could have some sort of medical attention for their families when they get ill. This, I believe, is the case in the other Services.
I want to stress the point that naval officers and men when they go to a foreign station have to pay the passage money 1429 for their families to join them. In a good many cases either they cannot afford to do this, or they are separated from their families for long periods. It is unfair that they should have sacrifices imposed upon them that are not borne by officers and men in the Army and in the Air Force, who get free passages to foreign stations. Some measure of passage assistance would right a great wrong to those in the Navy. I hope that the Admiralty will continue in the spirit in which they are going on now, improving the welfare conditions of the men of the Fleet. I congratulate them on what they have done and hope that they will receive the support of all parties, of the Service, and of the general public, so that we can have the welfare of the men of the Fleet kept thoroughly under way and so promote that state of efficiency which is so necessary to the Navy.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Beaumont
I second the Amendment moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cambridge (Lieut.-Commander Tufnell). The House will be grateful to him for having taken advantage of his luck in the Ballot to call attention to the welfare of the men who serve at sea. This is a matter which is and always should be of the greatest concern to this House. It should always be our endeavour to mitigate as far as possible the hardships and discomforts that are to a certain extent inherent in a life at sea. It should be our aim to improve the conditions of service and the prospects of advancement as opportunity arises, not only so that we may continue to attract to the Navy the best possible material, but because however high the standard of discipline, however great the loyalty of the personnel, real efficiency cannot be attained unless there is among both officers and men complete contentment with their status, their treatment, and their service conditions.
I would add that the efficiency of the Navy depends not only upon that but upon the conditions of service of those who build and repair the ships. The naval establishments play a very vital part in this matter, and upon the quality and speed of their work the safety of the men at sea largely depends, and while it would be out of order for me to enlarge upon this particular matter on this Amendment, there are matters, such as 1430 the need for a greater degree of pensionable service and certain questions affecting casual employment which call for early consideration, and the Admiralty should never overlook the fact that the welfare of the dockyard men is just as important as that of the naval ratings. No one can fail to appreciate the steady improvement in service conditions that has taken place in recent times. One cannot study these Navy Estimates year after year without realising the large amount of care and foresight given to the sailors' needs afloat and ashore. My hon. and gallant Friend has referred to some of them and he has pointed out directions in which these needs might be met to a greater degree.
One point to which I would like particularly to refer as concerning the welfare of both officers and men is the importance of maintaining a proper balance between home and foreign service, and sea and shore service. This is no new point, but I make no apology for raising it again as it is one which should never be lost sight of by the Admiralty and should be particularly borne in mind in connection with the building and putting in commission of a larger number of ships, many of them requiring very large numbers of men. During recent years, when there has been a shortage of personnel, there have not been sufficient men for reliefs, drafting, and various other normal changes to take place without seriously upsetting the balance which it is most important to maintain between home and foreign service. Those of us who come in contact with naval men have come across many cases in which this balance has been upset, and where men who have just come home from a foreign commission, expecting to have a period of home service, have had to go off to another foreign station. In addition, there have been endless changes in the personnel of ships during commissions.
Of course, the crisis in the Mediterranean last year made the position still worse. The drafting margin was still further upset, and men who ought to have been spending their time in home ports had to go abroad instead. The barracks were denuded of men and every kind of expedient had to be adopted to deal with the situation. This is a state of affairs which ought to be avoided at all cost and one hopes that every step will he taken to rectify the position and to ensure that it 1431 does not arise again. The provision in these Estimates for the increase of 11,000 men is very welcome, but the new ships that we are building—including as they do five battleships—will require a very large number of men, and we must be quite certain that when they are put into commission we have sufficient trained men in all branches, not only for manning those ships, but for drafting, reliefs, and other purposes. An inadequate margin militates against efficiency, for a ship's company can never settle down if continual changes are being made in personnel. But it also penalises the men themselves, because they do not get their fair share of home service or of shore service and are not able to spend as much time with their families as we should like them to do. In the interests of the welfare of the men and their families every care should be taken to supply an adequate margin for all purposes and to reestablish the old ratio between home and foreign service, and sea and shore service.
One recent decision is very welcome, and that is the granting of an extra period of leave to men coming back from a foreign commission. This is one of the first fruits of the new system known as the Review of Service Conditions. There has recently been an alteration in the machinery for putting forward requests for the improvement of general service conditions. The old welfare conferences which used to function at the home ports have now been replaced by this Review of Service Conditions. The new system seems to have certain advantages over the old. In the first place, there is now definite machinery for dealing with welfare matters during service at sea, and, secondly, the officers are enabled to keep in touch with their men to a greater extent. Whereas under the old system requests went direct to the welfare conferences they now go through the divisional officers in the ships, with the result that those officers are able to take greater interest in the welfare of their men and to help materially in the improvement of their well-being.
On the other hand, it appears that whereas under the system of welfare conferences the men used to choose their own representatives for putting forward requests, the choice of divisional representatives under the new system rests entirely with the officers, and one would 1432 like to be assured that this is not a change disadvantageous to or unpopular with the men. I understand the Admiralty is now engaged in considering the 4,000 requests which have been put up to them, to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred. The House would be interested to hear from the Civil Lord when he replies what his opinion is of this review of service conditions and whether he is satisfied from the first year's experience of it that it is working well and that it is appreciated by all concerned.
I know that the question of promotion from the lower deck is especially in the minds of Members in all parts of the House, and I think there is general agreement that the present position is far from satisfactory. We have had various schemes, but the rate of promotion in recent years has been disappointingly slow, and it seems that at every stage the obstacles to promotion are very great, if not insuperable. I know that the problem is one of great difficulty and that there are many aspects of it and many different, and indeed conflicting, reasons are given for the present state of affairs. We have been told on numerous occasions from the Front Bench that that matter is being carefully studied and inquired into, and I hope the Civil Lord will be able to tell us what has been the result of these inquiries so far. I am sure the House would be very glad if he could give any information which would hold out hope that the rate of promotion is likely to be more satisfactory in the future than it has been in the past, and I hope he will be able to assure us that the new supplementary list of officers is not going to prove yet another blow to lower deck aspirations.
But there is another direction in which there is a dearth of candidates for promotion, and in this direction the Admiralty could rectify the matter in a shorter time. It appears that there is a marked reluctance on the part of petty officers to come forward as candidates for warrant rank, and I believe it is very largely a question of pay. There seems no doubt that the petty officer who takes warrant rank becomes worse off financially. The loss of marriage allowance and other allowances practically counteracts the increased rate of pay and, when one takes into consideration his greatly increased expenses as a warrant officer, one realises 1433 that the attraction of warrant rank is not so very great and that it is quite insufficient to compensate him for the increased responsibility that is laid upon him. I believe that the position of the warrant officer has been unsatisfactory for many years. Ever since 1919, when the children's allowance for officers ceased, there has been a makeshift arrangement whereby an allowance is given to any warrant officer who can show that he is worse off by taking warrant rank. This is a system which is by no means satisfactory and it causes many anomalies. I think the Admiralty ought to reconsider the whole matter and put the warrant officer's pay on a basis which is commensurate with his increased responsibilities and expenses and which will definitely make it worth while for a petty officer to offer himself as a candidate for warrant rank. It may be that there are other reasons for the shortage of candidates, and perhaps the recent slump in promotion has left behind a subsequent psychological effect which may not have passed. I believe, however, that the pay question is the principal one, and that the chief stumbling block would be removed if greater responsibility was accompanied by greater remuneration.
My hon. and gallant Friend has dealt with one or two aspects of welfare at sea. I should like to say a word or two about one very important aspect of welfare in the home ports, and that is the question' of housing accommodation for naval ratings. If it is true that the provision of houses at cheap rents is an urgent necessity for the population as a whole, it is particularly true in the case of naval ratings. A considerable proportion of a naval man's pay is in emoluments, and the amount of his pay that he is able to allot to his wife, together with the marriage allowance if he is entitled to it, does not permit of the payment of the high rents which obtain in many places. A still more difficult case is that of the man who, although married, is not yet in receipt of the marriage allowance. Housing is a very important question for the naval rating, and the difficulty of securing suitable accommodation at a suitable rent is very acute. To try to deal with this situation a very valuable scheme was started in Portsmouth recently, known as the Victory Housing Association. Money was borrowed from the Public Works Loans Board, the land, 1434 which belonged to the Admiralty and the War Office, was obtained on favourable terms and an attractively planned estate of some 120 houses was built, each with a garden, and when the loan is paid off the houses will belong to the naval barracks. They are let at an inclusive rent of 12s. 6d. to those with lower rates of pay, preference being given to families in bad surroundings and in poor circumstances. Only those of the rating of able seamen and leading seamen are eligible and, when they are promoted they have to vacate these houses and seek accommodation elsewhere.
The scheme is under the control of the Commodore of the barracks, and he selects the tenants. The scheme, as far as it goes, is excellent, and great credit and thanks are due to those who have been responsible for its inception, but it touches only the fringe of the problem and many more houses are needed both in Portsmouth and in the other home ports. Besides, even this scheme does not touch the lowest paid rating. Naturally only those who are able to afford the rent can be taken as tenants, and there are many married ratings, especially those not in receipt of the marriage allowance, who are unable to pay a rent of 12s. 6d. I believe this is a matter to which the attention of the Admiralty might well be directed. I should like to ask whether the scheme is welcomed by the Admiralty and, if so, whether the Department could not bless it in some tangible form. The Victory Housing Association is anxious to build more houses to meet the great demand, but for some reason or other it is finding difficulty in procuring another loan. I suggest that the Admiralty might assist this scheme, and could help to start similar schemes in the other home ports, by way of loan, or a subsidy, or by enabling Admiralty land to be used for this purpose. If they could give active assistance in this matter they would be doing a very great service, because they would be promoting the welfare of naval men in a direction in which it is very urgently needed.
We all appreciate the steady improvement that has taken place in Service conditions in recent years, and those of us who sit for naval ports know the various ways in which welfare work is being actively promoted. We hope that this progress 1435 will continue, but there are many directions in which it is still needed. The extra 3s. on the marriage allowance of the post-1925 man is a very great boon but it still leaves him some way behind the man who joined before 1925, and there can never be complete contentment so long as there are two rates of pay for the same work. Again, the man who is married but is not in receipt of the marriage allowance has great difficulty in making ends meet and it is impossible for a man to give his very best to the Service if he is continually worried as to the security of his family. These and many other matters, such as promotion and the advancement of general welfare should be the subjects of constant study by the Admiralty.
We are now engaged in building up the Navy and we are spending large sums of money on ships, guns and armaments afloat and ashore. It is most important that we should not allow any suggestion to arise that our activities are bent only upon this purpose and that we are not equally anxious to spend the money on promoting welfare and improving the conditions of service. The strength of the Navy is its efficiency, but there cannot be efficiency without contentment, and we want to see nothing left undone which will make the Navy the most contented and the most efficient Service in the world.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Parker
I must congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Portsmouth (Mr. R. Beaumont) on the support which he gave to some measure of democratisation of the Navy. I only regret that the measures he supported did not go further and that the Members of the Conservative party on the back benches have been so belated in advocating the democratisation of the armed forces. It is my duty, especially when a person of my name, a certain Richard Parker did so much in the mutiny at "The Nore" in fighting for the lower deck, to make some attempt to-night to improve conditions in the Navy. I do not want to deal primarily with promotion from the lower deck but with the question of Dartmouth College. Apart from the small number of officers who are recruited from the lower deck two-thirds of the officers in His Majesty's Navy are re- 1436 cruited through Dartmouth College and many engineering officers as well. Officers to be recruited for His Majesty's Navy enter Dartmouth College at the age of 13½, which means that the great majority of officers in the Navy have had to decide upon their careers at an age when they were certainly not in a condition mentally to be able to decide what form of career they wished to follow. The result is that the naval officers in this country as a whole are drawn from a particular class in the community, and from a particular caste.
Those who enter Dartmouth College come almost exclusively from the preparatory schools. The college is a very expensive institution to maintain. In answer to a question which I put down on 21st January, I was told that the annual cost last year of Dartmouth College was £99,850, practically £100,000, the average number of cadets was 426, and the number of staff 309. In other words, in that institution you have three members of the staff for every four boys. The cost per cadet works out at £260 a year, which is about the same as the fees for educating a boy at Eton. It is highly undesirable that such an extravagant education should be given to people, largely at the national expense, to be trained as officers in His Majesty's Navy. Taking the period during which officers to-be are in residence at three and two-third years, the total cost of educating a cadet at Dartmouth works out at £950. The fee charged is £150 a year, so that for each cadet there is a subsidy from the national Exchequer of £400 for training. There are however a good many cadets not paying the full fees, about 120 of them at the present time.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Captain Bourne)
I do not quite see what connection this has with the Amendment which has been moved.
§ Mr. Parker
Surely, in discussing the conditions in the Navy it is important to discuss the way in which the officers in the Navy are recruited.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that that will come more properly when Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair on Vote A.
§ Mr. Parker
The last part of this Motion says: 1437urges His Majesty's Government to take every opportunity to improve these conditions from time to time.Surely, to discuss the method of recruitment in the Navy for officers as well as men, is to discuss the question of improving conditions in the Navy. We on this side of the House assert that every State service, the Navy as well as other services, should be thrown open to free competition to the whole of the State, and recruitment of officers for the Navy, as well as for other jobs in the State, should be by merit and not by favour. Direct favours are given to sons of officers in the Navy, and I believe that that is wrong. It is a sentimental assertion that it is desirable that sons of naval officers should become naval officers. But they have to decide at 13½, and I do not think that at that age they are in a position to decide, and they may not prove to be suitable as officers. Out of 420 odd cadets in Dartmouth College, 130 are the sons of naval officers, which works out at 31 per cent. Therefore, nearly one-third of the cadets in Dartmouth are sons of naval officers.
That confirms the assertion which I made earlier, that naval officers are drawn not merely from a particular class, but from a particular caste. You have a particular caste in this country of officers in the Navy in which you have sons following their fathers in the same profession. There is a need for new blood among naval officers. They have a bad name due to their educational inbreeding. That is particularly true of Dartmouth, and I think that hon. Members of this House, in their recollection of many naval officers, will agree that Dartmouth has tended to become a sort of ashbin in which naval officers can dump their sons at 13½, knowing that once they have put them there they have a safe job for life. There is absolute security, and there are automatic promotions, and, except, in very exceptional cases when a boy is abnormally stupid, the boy who enters the college at 13½ will eventually get a good job, and at 45 will retire with a pension of £400 a year. We know what happens to many of them when they leave the Navy at 45. We on this side of the House do not think that that is the right way to recruit officers for the Services of this country. The method of education, of having a special school at Dartmouth to train boys to be officers is also bad education. It means 1438 specialisation at the very early age of 13½, and educational experts agree that it is wrong to specialise at such an early age. Boys cannot possibly know their own minds when they are so young. Many have been put into the Navy by fathers and uncles. I have met many naval officers of about 30 years of age who long to go into some other career but have neither means nor the money to do so. Their relations started them on their present career too early. Education ought to be of a much more general character at an early age and ought not to be so specialised until a later age. We are, I think, the only nation in the world which recruits its naval officers in this way. Neither the Army nor the Air Force has special educational establishments of this kind.
Since 1913 a third of the officers of the Navy have been recruited from public schools, at 17½ or 18 years, leaving out of account those promoted from the ranks. Last November, the first two captains were promoted who came in from public schools. As far as I can find out no complaints have been made against boys who came into the Navy at a later age. Up to now and during the 23 years in which this method of recruitment of officers has been in operation, about 2,000 boys have come into the Navy. In the last six years nearly 300 have come in. We were told by the First Lord of the Admiralty that during the next four years 100 executive and 36 engineering cadets would be entered yearly in this way. These figures show that it is not necessary to have a special school at Dartmouth for training boys to enter the Navy. A case for the total abolition of Dartmouth College and for having all entries from the secondary schools at an older age has been made by people such as Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond and Admiral Sir Gordon Campbell.
I believe that Dartmouth ought either to be abolished or it ought to be turned into a training college for cadets from 17½ to 18½ years of age, when they are ready to go into the Navy. There has been a reform which permits secondary school boys to come into the Navy but the greater proportion of them come from the "public" schools. In answer to a question which I put yesterday I was told that 25 per cent. of these special entrants came from State-aided secondary schools, in other words, 75 per cent. of the boys who 1439 come in this special way are drawn from the same ruling class. Thus only one in 12 of the officers, apart from those promoted from the lower deck, come from the State-aided secondary schools. That is an absolute disgrace in a country which claims to be a democratic country.
I hope that when the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) talks about the existence of democracy in the Navy she will consider these figures. There should be more entries for officers from the State-aided secondary schools. If that is to happen it is essential that the Committee which interviews boys who desire to enter the Navy should not contain too many naval officers. The Committee should have upon it a suitable number of people who are not connected with the Navy so that they may examine applicants and see that no undue preference is given to people from the schools of the rich. The nation's naval officers ought to be drawn from the nation's schools. There should also be an equal chance for people who have the ability to rise from the ranks.
We are told that naval recruiting at the present time is good. The various advertisements in favour of naval recruiting tell of the marvellous training you have in the Navy and of the possibility of promotion from the ranks, yet we know that promotion from the ranks is practically non-existent. As that fact becomes known, and it is certainly becoming widely known, there will be increasing difficulty in getting recruits for the Navy. The Navy is very largely its own recruiting body and any recruit who is satisfied tells his friends and they join the Navy as well. If the rank and file discover that the advertisements about a career and about their having a chance of rising to become officers are not borne out and that there is no reality in those promises, there will be discontent and we shall not have people going into the Navy to the same extent as they are doing now. There is already a shortage of skilled artificers. As far as I know, the Admiralty have definitely tried to influence the Press to prevent the reports about the lack of promotion in the Navy getting about, especially in the dockyard towns. They know that if that is widely known there will be a falling in recruits. If the Navy 1440 desire to maintain a high level of recruitment, they must carry out their promises.
I would like to make a reference to the appeal that was recently made to reserve officers to join the Navy. The 50 executive and 30 accountant officers required could easily have been drawn from young executive warrant and petty officers. There is considerable discontent in the accountant branch. Early promotion to commissioned rank was introduced for seamen ratings in 1912, for Royal Marines in 1913 and for engine-room artificers in 1914. Those who have obtained commissions in this way have been great successes. Yet for 24 years accountant ratings have seen contemporaries in other branches get commissions while they are denied the chance. Hence the cause of the real discontent in this branch of the Service.
I have had a letter from a friend in the Navy, which I would like to read to the House. It says:At a time of rapid expansion, instead of promoting accountant ratings, the Admiralty have appealed to the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Paymasters to transfer to the Navy. Such a thing has never been done before in the accountant branch. It is a scandal of the first magnitude that these civilians and others should he entered over the heads of petty officers with many years service and experience, and there is no real justification for this appeal other than class prejudice.If we are to have a Navy fit to defend a democratic country it must itself be a democratic Navy. There must be a career in the Navy open to talent both from the ranks and from the secondary State-aided schools. In the Labour party we shall do our utmost to support the democratisation of the armed forces. I believe that by that means the Navy will be brought to a state more fit to defend a free country.
§ 8.44 p.m.
The hon. Gentleman has just talked about democratising the armed forces. I was amused to see in one of the papers yesterday that even Russia, which tried the democratisation of the forces, has now a new rule. Members of the forces have to salute. Russia is coming back just where she started from. We have to be careful how we understand this expression of democratisation.
I think the Navy ought to make more efforts in that direction. A number of young men are coming from the public schools and the Navy is welcoming them and likes them very much. I do not agree that it is fathers and sons who are going to the Navy.
After all, in the case of miners, the sons follow the fathers in the mines. [Interruption.] I always know when I have said something that is true, because hon. Members opposite rise like trout. I believe in tradition in the Navy, and I would deplore any class consciousness there. Indeed, I deplore it anywhere, for it has such disastrous effects on the people who have it, no matter to what class they may belong. The moment a person becomes conscious of himself, he is of no use to anybody. I do not believe class consciousness exists very much in the Navy. It is, however, very difficult to change the Navy. I have tried for years and years to change it from top to bottom, for all the men in the Navy are very much alike, and there is little difference in the consciousness of an admiral and a lower-deck man.
I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker). I do not believe he has really come into contact with the Navy in general, although obviously he has been in contact with the dissatisfied people and those who agitate. I can assure him that there are not a great many of them in the Navy now. I have watched the Navy for the last 21 years, and I know of the complaints that used to be made, but they have practically ceased during the last five years. The Navy has changed from top to bottom, but there are some characteristics of Naval men that will never change. One of them is—perhaps I had better not refer to it; but 20 years ago I began to talk about marriage allowances for the Navy. Hon. Members opposite have talked about the desire for promotion, but it is well known that many petty officers do not want to become warrant officers because they cannot afford it. Hon. Members opposite ought to press for marriage allowances, for they would do more than anything else to cause men to 1442 seek promotion. It is deplorable and disappointing that many of the young men in the Navy do not want to get on, and do not take chances when they come. All people are not as ambitious as politicians. Hon. Members who speak about Naval officers must not assume that Naval officers are the same as politicians. It is obvious that a fighting man cannot speak, but it is also obvious that a speaking man cannot fight. Glib people are not the most useful people in the Navy.
As I listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes), I thought what a good thing it would have been if there had been a woman at the Admiralty 20 years ago. She would have saved the Navy a great deal of trouble. She would have told them that if there is a contented Service, particularly as far as the women are concerned, it is the basis of an efficient Service. It is lamentable, at Plymouth or at any other port, to see the men come back to such deplorable housing conditions in so many cases, and I hope that with this increased expenditure the Admiralty will seriously consider the question of quarters for married men, both warrant officers and lower-deck men.
The case for marriage allowances has been put extrordinarily well by other speakers and every word that I wanted to say has been said by others, but I must say that I consider that the Anderson Committee's report was all wrong and was completely unfair. They gave the total emoluments of a lient.-commander, aged 30, as being £718 a year, but they failed to state that £171 of that sum was an allowance in kind when in barracks and on board ship, and consequently could not be passed on to the officer's family. I have heard hon. Members talk about the officers and men in the Navy, but I am very much concerned about their families. I have seen the hardships endured by the women who marry Naval officers, and it has been absolutely heartbreaking. Unlike the Army, where the wives can follow their husbands round, the Naval officer has no facilities either for keeping his family at home or getting it abroad. It used to be said that a sailor has a wife in every port, but certainly the Government give him no encouragement to keep a wife in one 1443 port. There has been no encouragement to men in the Navy to marry. It used to be the fashion not to marry until a certain age, but that is not the fashion any longer, and people marry much younger than they did. From the point of view of the country, it is a very bad policy not to encourage the right kind of people to marry.
The First Lord of the Admiralty said that the Air Force, the Army and the Navy are working together in amity, but I hope that if the question of marriage allowances comes up again, the Admiralty will not listen to those who try to compare the Navy with the other Services, for the Navy is not comparable with them. The long periods of separation are very hard on the women, the children and the men. I have often wondered how women dare to marry naval officers, for the life is so hard. When I hear hon. Members talk about the costs of training young men to go into the Navy and of keeping them there, I cannot believe that they have been in contact with these men. If they had been in contact with them, they could not but be grateful to the sailors from top to bottom.
After the War, one would have thought that the country would have been a little interested in the Navy, but it is astonishing that the people of the country, and particularly hon. Members opposite, seem to take so little interest in the most important Service that we have. I do not wish to say a word against the Army or the Air Force, but those Services always seem to do better than the Navy in the House of Commons. I do not think that is the fault of the Admiralty, but is due rather to the slackness of hon. Members in general. They do not attend these Naval Debates and do not press for what is really needed. I beg hon. Members opposite, for the sake of the country, and I would go as far as to say for the sake of civilisation, for I believe civilisation depends as much on the British Navy to-day as upon any other thing, not to try to base things on class prejudice. When hon. Members opposite say that these men do not get promotion owing to class prejudice, they know perfectly well that, quite apart from the people, in selecting officers one has to try to get men who have certain qualities. I have often wondered why some particular men 1444 did not get on in the Navy, but they needed one quality, the ability to get the confidence of the men and to inspire them.
Hon. Members opposite talk as though boys have only to pass an examination and then go right to the top. That is not possible anywhere. The quality to which I have referred is absolutely necessary in an officer and a commander of men. I am sure it is not a quality that is confined to one class. I believe many young men coming from the secondary schools have it just as much as young men who come from Eton or Dartmouth. Young men of that type ought to have a chance. Hon. Members opposite must realise that although young men may have certain qualities which enable them to pass examinations and so on, they may be a complete failure if an attempt is made to push them into places for which they are not fitted. There is a certain quality which they need.[HON. MEMBERS: "Personality!"] No, that sounds too like a movie star. They want individuality and character, and, above all, the quality of understanding people. All that I wanted to say about marriage allowances has already been said, much better than I could say it, but I once more beg the Admiralty to consider this question. They are now undertaking a great expenditure, but it would only cost £58,000 per annum to provide marriage allowances and children's allowances for warrant officers. It would help promotion, and bring content to the homes of these men. It would help the officers as much as the wives, and that is saying a good deal. A man who is worth anything likes to know that his wife and children are living in a certain degree of comfort, but there are many naval officers who know that their wives and children are living in great discomfort. I hope that the House will encourage the Admiralty to grant these marriage allowances.
I think the Admiralty have been wise in instituting the new system for the review of service conditions. It is far better than the welfare committee. I know that sailors now, for the first time in many years, feel now that their grievances will be directly answered, and I think that is a very useful step. People talk about discontent in the Navy, and, believe me, there are certain people who would like to see discontent in the Navy, and there are certain people in the Navy who have 1445 joined it to make discontent. I notice that the only Communist Member in the House smiles. I repeat what I said at the Election—that if I had the decision in these matters and I found anyone deliberately trying to make discontent in the Navy, I would be as sharp with them as the Russians are with the people whom they find trying to create discontent in Russia.
I hope it is divine discontent. But I am glad to say that the Navy is a very contented service. Even the married officers suffer in silence and their wives have to suffer in silence, and, therefore, I again express the hope that the Government will not fail to consider this question of the marriage allowances.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Cocks
I wish to raise again the question of promotions from the lower deck which was mentioned by the lion. and gallant Member for Central Portsmouth (Mr. R. Beaumont) and which I have raised before in Debates of this character. If I were at the Admiralty my aim would be to associate the Navy with the nation by making it a great democratic Service. In this small island nearly everybody lives within a comparatively short distance of the sea, and the salt is in the blood of the race. In Elizabethan days and later the high commands in the Navy were not confined to a special class. From various parts of the country, and especially from the West of England, came people of the humblest rank who rose to be admirals and who swept our enemies from the seas. The last occasion, I believe, on which an admiral rose from the lower deck was about 13o years ago. I find that he was Admiral of the Red Sir John Kingcombe, who became Commander-in-Chief on the Pacific Station. He got his commission in 1818, or 120 years ago, and was made an admiral shortly after the Crimean War. At the present rate of progress it would appear that we shall have to wait another too years before we get another admiral on the active list promoted from the lower deck.
I sometimes wish the First Lord, who has gone home for reasons which we all 1446 understand, would stop reading the works of Marcel Proust and begin to read those of Captain Marryat instead. If he studies the pages of Marryat he will find there a character called Mr. Chucks, whose ability as a seaman was only equalled by his remarkable powers of vituperation. Neither of those qualities enabled him to get promotion in the Royal Navy, but when he joined the Swedish Navy they made him an admiral right away. I would like to say to the Civil Lord in the politest manner in the world that the policy of the Admiralty with regard to promotions from the lower deck strikes me as hide-bound, snobbish, reactionary and unfriendly, and worthy only of a lot of Admiral Blimps. It was not always so. Once upon a time there was a First Lord of the Admiralty who took a different view. I am a political opponent of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), but I must admit that he brought vigour, vision, and originality to every office he has held. I suppose the National Government do not need those qualities, and that is why the right hon. Gentleman is still sitting below the Gangway. When he was First Lord he said the Navy ought to be made a great national service, and ought to be opened widely to the people of the country. He initiated the mate scheme by which promotions from the lower deck could take place. I may be permitted to give two quotations from speeches of the right hon. Gentleman when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. On 26th March, 1913, he said:Twenty commissions as acting mates have already been given. Another batch of 20 will be selected almost immediately and we expect that in the next three years more than 100 seamen, marines, and other naval ratings will, by their merit, have won the epaulette. I have noticed a tendency in some foreign newspapers to speak slightingly of this development as if it were a desperate expedient to which our shortage of officers compels us. I, therefore, wish to make it clear that we regard promotion from the lower deck with possibilities of advancement for merit to the highest ranks as a permanent and essential feature in our naval system."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1913; col. 1781, Vol. 50.]On 17th March, 1914, the right hon. Gentleman said:The system of promotion from the lower deck is proceeding steadily. In order to provide officers for deck duties 13 mates … are now at sea, and we have had very satisfactory reports from the Fleet about them. Twenty-one are going through courses … 22 more are qualifying and 35 more will be qualified … a total of 101 promotions from 1447 the lower deck within the period of three years. That process will continue."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1914; col. 1918, Vol. 59.]That process has not continued. In recent years under the new scheme the number of promotions from the lower deck has steadily gone down. In 1931, the first year of the new scheme, there were 12 promotions to executive rank from the lower deck. This year there are only four, and the year before there were only three. When I raised this point last year the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty said he was very disappointed himself at the small number of promotions and that he intended to make a full investigation of the matter. I hope that the Civil Lord to-night will be able to give some results of that full investigation. I wonder whether I could help him with certain suggestions. Last year the Noble Lord said that fully qualified and recommended men were not coming forward. There was no dearth of candidates last year because confidential reports were made on 101 seamen from the lower deck, as potential officers. Of these, 78 passed the higher educational test for officers. Of the 78, only 10 were recommended for Fleet Selection Boards. What happened to the 10? Of the five in the Mediterranean Fleet, only two were recommended; of the four in the Home Fleet, only two, and there were two others. Those six did the special course, but only four were recommended by the Final Selection Board and commissioned.
The 101 who first came forward with confidential reports that they were suitable for being officers were, therefore, reduced by this process to four. I feel that the mesh is too small and that it is due to the general idea in the Service that only one or two people are required for promotion from the lower deck. As a consequence of that, ordinary ratings are expected to have the attributes of admirals in order to qualify for equality with midshipmen for promotion to sub-lieutenants. I am told that few serving officers have a complete grip of this scheme of promotion, and as candidates have to rely on officers to act for them, very little information is given to the ratings about the scheme. Again, the confidential reports are kept so secret that the necessary officers do not see them until it is too late, and a year is lost in 1448 which these men might have had a chance of promotion.
The whole essence of the scheme is that commissions should be granted at an early age when the men are not too old to compete successfully later on with officers who come to the Navy from Dartmouth. In many cases, I am told, naval captains refuse to recommend ratings, even after they have had five or six years' service, on the ground of lack of experience. That means that another year is lost, and during that period perhaps a rating is transferred to another ship under another captain and has to start afresh to get a recommendation. The dice is, therefore, loaded against him at every point. Last year Fleet Selection Boards were held in only two Fleets in two commands. It is absurd to say that there are not enough suitable candidates for promotion from the lower deck in the China, East Indies, West Indies, and African Stations, or in the whole of the important Portsmouth Command. It seems to me that the reason that candidates do not come forward is that nothing has been done to encourage them. If the Admiralty would only give encouragement to the men to come forward, and would let it be known throughout the Service to the higher officers that they desire men to come forward, they could easily promote 44 suitable men instead of the four who were promoted this year. If the Admiralty did that, there would be no need for them to go to the Merchant Service for officers. They ought to get them from their own lower decks.
§ 9.9 P.m.
§ Sir M. Sueter
The whole of the Navy will owe a debt of gratitude to the hon. and gallant Member for Cambridge (Lieut.-Commander Tufnell) for the able way in which he put forward his Amendment. He touched on many cases of welfare, and I am sure that the lower deck will be grateful to him. The Amendment was ably seconded by the hon. Member for Central Portsmouth (Mr. R. Beaumont), who showed a great mastery of the details connected with welfare. Everybody who heard him will be grateful to him for bringing these points forward. I want to support the hon. Member for Cambridge in his plea for marriage allowances. I spent the whole of January of this year in Malta, and I met many young naval officers 1449 and their wives. They all said to me, "Admiral, when you get home cannot you do something for us with regard to marriage allowances? It was approved by Parliament once, and then we did not get it." They explained that in Malta, Gibraltar and the home ports all their expenses are going up. Their rents are going up, their bills for doctors, dentists and education are going up, their servants' wages are going up, and even their laundry bills are going up. They told me they had sometimes to pay 9d. to have a white shirt washed in some of the home ports.
Some people say that naval officers should not marry and that the best officers do not marry. I would remind those who say that, that some of our great sea captains and admirals had fathers in the Navy. The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) said that one-third of the boys in Dartmouth are the sons of naval officers. There is not, therefore, very much in the argument that officers should not marry. Another argument is that the pay of naval officers should be increased instead of giving them extra for marriage allowances. The marriage allowance has been granted in the Air Service and the Army, and they would not give it up now. We want to look into the whole question of the pay of naval officers. Some figures which were sent to me will bear out what the hon. Member for Cambridge said, although they are put in a little different way. I think that they are accurate, but the Civil Lord will correct them if they are wrong. Assuming the Army and Royal Air Force officers to be receiving cash in place of married quarters at public expense, a comparison between the cash receipts of married officers of the same relative ranks gives approximately the following figures. A lieutenant-commander gets £516 a year and he has two establishments to keep up, one, it may be, in China with his ship, and one at Portsmouth. A major in the Army gets £818 a year, and he has one establishment normally because his wife is in the regiment. A squadron-leader gets £792 a year, and has one establishment normally. Comparing lieutenant-commanders with those one rank below him, we find that a lieutenant-commander with his two establishments gets £516; a captain in the Army £627, with one establishment 1450 normally; and a flight-lieutenant £648, with one establishment normally.
I think that that position wants to be looked into. I believe that the figures are pretty well correct, but it is difficult to get them accurately, taking into account all the allowances that Army and Air Force officers get. The Indian authorities have recognised this in the Royal Indian Navy, for they are granted marriage allowances to officers of 30 years of age and upwards. A lieutenant gets 125 rupees per mensem, that is, £112 per annum. A lieutenant-commander or commander gets 150 rupees per mensem or £135 per annum, and a captain gets up to 200 rupees per mensem or £180 per annum. These are generous marriage allowances, and if the Indian Marine can recognise it for their officers, I submit to the Civil Lord that it should apply to British naval officers. I have had a tremendous number of letters about marriage allowances since I put a question to the Noble Lord and got the usual answer that it was a subject which is constantly under review. I submit that it is about time the Admiralty came to a final decision about it. You cannot go on reviewing a thing for ever. One letter which I received states:How can a man give his best to the country and his work when a very large proportion of them are beset with financial anxietiesIt is true that if an officer has financial anxieties he cannot really devote all his best to the work. Another letter I received enclosed a cutting from a newspaper, which, judging from the print, was the "Morning Post." This cutting stated:Officers of cavalry regiments converted to mechanisation are not to be deprived of riding horses. Each officer is to be allowed one riding horse, as against two horses allowed him when traditional cavalry.The writer who sent me this cutting says in a communication dated 9th March, 1937:Although the Army officers are allowed the wherewithal to maintain a hunter the naval officers are not allowed the wherewithal to maintain a wife. Is it fair? I am awaiting your question to the Prime Minister.The regulations ought not to be so bad that people can send us letters like that one. I have had a tremendous number of letters from widows. They complain that they have not enough to live on. They are left in straitened circumstances. I had one letter from the widow of an admiral, but, unfortunately, she had 1451 married him after he had retired, and so she could not get a pension. Many naval officers' widows have written saying that the pension is very small and asking whether something cannot be done in the matter, because the cost of living and of keeping up their little social position has gone up, and they are in very straitened circumstances. I know that the Noble Lord, whom I have known for many years, is a warm-hearted man, and I have known the First Lord for many years and have found him a large-hearted colleague in this House.
§ Sir M. Sueter
Yes, I sympathise with hon. Members about the means test, but I ask the House whether we are acting fairly to the naval officer, to the naval petty officer who wants to become a warrant officer but cannot because he has not enough money, and to the lower deck rating who wants to get a commission. Ought not a committee to be set up to go into the whole question of marriage allowances for naval officers and men who want to become warrant officers, and also to look into the question of widows' pensions with a view to granting some little extra allowance to help widows, because they have been the wives of naval officers who have rendered distinguished service to this country and I submit that they should not be overlooked.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Young
I wish to join with the gallant Admiral in congratulating the Mover of the Amendment. I think it is one with which Members in all parts of the House who are interested in the Service will agree. The Amendment says:That this House, realising the extent to which the efficiency of His Majesty's Navy must depend on the welfare and contentment of the officers and men of the Fleet welcomes the improvements which have taken place in recent years,and then comes this part, which I wish to impress upon the attention of the Noble Lord:and urges His Majesty's Government to take every opportunity to improve these conditions from time to time.I wish those words "from time to time" had been left out, because they seem to provide a loophole of which the Admiralty may take advantage, and there may be long intervals between time and time. 1452 A year ago, when these matters were under consideration, I ventured to take part in the discussion. I served my time in an engineering shop, and therefore am interested in the engineering side of the Navy. I called attention to the position of engine-room artificers, and pointed out the discontent and resentment which existed owing to the inferior status which was imposed on them as compared with other ratings. I offer the First Lord of the Admiralty and those associated with him my sincere thanks for giving attention to the points which I then raised. I appreciate very much the generous concession made by the Admiralty in restoring from last October the status of chief petty officer to fourth class engine-room artificers. I can assure the Admiralty that the men affected are indeed grateful for what has been done. It has added not a little to the spirit of contentment and satisfaction which is so essential, from disciplinary and other points of view, in an important service like the Royal Navy.
I hope that the First Lord will not think I am lessening the quality of my thanks when I say that I regret that in certain ships obstacles have been raised which militate against men obtaining the full value of the concession. The special requirement as to capacity for leadership is being unduly stressed to the disadvantage of some men. These men think they have been the victims of prejudice or dislike or favouritism on the part of a higher officer, and not that they have shown any incapacity to carry out the duties of a chief petty officer. I am informed that this has happened; men who have not long returned from service abroad and who are in possession of the essential engine room certificate have been sent to sea again without any appreciable break, presumably to obtain the qualification of leadership. If the exigencies of the Service require that they should be sent to sea again without an appreciable break, advantage ought not to be taken of the new concession to retard their promotion and to mask the real service required of them.
Men are wanted for the Royal Navy and skilled men are wanted for the engineering branch. It takes four years to train a young man in the mechanical-training establishment. To be able to 1453 adapt oneself to a new environment is a commendable qualification, and one not to be despised by those who are seeking adventure or perhaps a fortune, but one who is capable of demonstrating his skill in craftsmanship does not like to be relegated to uncongenial surroundings and that is what happens to candidates for entry to the Navy as engine room artificers. Men who have served an apprenticeship to their trade are craft proud and rightly so. The First Lord said that the Admiralty may make mistakes. Seeing that these are skilled men, why does the Admiralty make the mistake of putting them to clean up messes, to wash clothes and to pick up litter about barracks? That is not engineering. These men want to join the Navy as engineers, not as dish-washers or scavengers. But there it is. Cannot a stop be put to that? In view of such experiences—I would like the Noble Lord to note this—urgent appeals to skilled men to join the Navy fall on deaf ears. Some of the best workmen, because of these conditions, have refused to proceed with the qualification tests. They have returned to their homes and they have advertised these conditions to their fellows in the workshops.
If I wanted to be severe I would say that that is what those who are supposed to be able to govern or at least administer have done to the Royal Navy. A skilled man will hardly look at it. When he learns of the conditions operating he prefers to keep away from it. It is no use saying that, unless I direct the attention of the First Lord to particular instances. There were cases of this kind in Devonport not so long ago. I want to be helpful. I want to urge the Noble Lord and his colleagues to look into these matters at Devonport. Men who had passed their test found uncongenial conditions in that depot. They had a table there called the mess; it really is, in another sense, a mess. There in Devon-port a miscellaneous collection of junior ratings scramble for the rations provided for them. Candidates coming from decent homes find the environment uncongenial, unhelpful and even repellant. It certainly is not the ay to develop the qualities of leadership which, I am assured by the Noble Lord and his colleagues, are so eminently desirable. Will they look into this matter at Devonport and 1454 see that the mess there is at least equal to those at Portsmouth and Chatham? Give these young men a chance to associate in a proper way with those who are likely to be their colleagues in the future. What is wrong at Chatham? I wish that the Civil Lord would find out. That is the place where young men should be trained for leadership. It is somewhat surprising to find that during four years' training of apprentices at the mechanical training establishment little or no attempt is made to develop personality or the power or gift of control over other men. Yet I am told that these things are deemed to be essential to promotion. Leadership should be inculcated there at Chatham during these four important years of these young men's lives.
Can the Admiralty tell me why school teachers on their entry into the service are made warrant officers? I do not complain of that, but they certainly know less of service routine than do these men who have had four years' training under service conditions. Yet the men with your years' training are only entered as petty officers. Surely that is an anomaly which stands in need of rectification. I would not willingly be guilty of exaggeration, but the First Lord of the Admiralty and, I dare say, his colleagues know what hubbub occurred, what difficulties arose, what crises were threatened during the Great War over the question of diluteeism. I speak feelingly on this subject, because I had a great deal to do with this question, and only great tact on the one hand and loyalty and a desire for victory on the other averted what might have led to disaster. Do the Admiralty think that what is so vehemently objected to by skilled men in the workshop is less distasteful to men in the Navy? It may be more so, because they have no opportunity to protest. It causes umbrage and destroys pride in craftsmanship.
I do not deny that this grade may be necessary to meet service requirements during warlike preparations and conditions, but why treat them more favourably and give them quicker promotion than skilled men who have served their time or have been educated in the mechanical training establishment? That kind of favouritism has reacted, is reacting and will continue to react on skilled men, who refuse to be placed in a position of inferiority to what 1455 they consider to be a dilutee. On His Majesty's Ship "Orion" all the engine room artificers are in an inferior position to a mechanician. A petty officer when made master-at-arms becomes the senior chief petty officer on board. Why cannot the same principle be applied to engine room artificers as skilled men over semi-skilled men? Perhaps the Civil Lord will be able to give me a satisfactory answer. It is no use saying that these things are not done.
I will not enter into further details in relation to these matters, but I want to warn the First Lord of the Admiralty and those who are associated with him to take care that national naval efficiency is not being sacrificed to secure a larger number of unskilled or semi-skilled recruits for the engineering departments of the Royal Navy. You cannot fumble about with intricate and complicated machinery. It is stupendously dangerous on a warship. Strange things have happened during the last six months. It would appear that any man who knows in which hand to hold a hammer stands a good chance of being entered as an engine-room artificer. Several stokers have been rated within a recent date as engine-room artificers. Will the Civil Lord explain that? There must be an explanation. But even worse, an assistant cook, for some unaccountable reason, has been made an engine-room artificer. There must be a reason for that, and I should like to know what it is.
The records bear out what I am saying. If you want skilled engineers to join the Service they must be assured of opportunities for promotion and given a status equal to that of any other class or section on the lower deck. I am anxious that the Navy should be recognised as a place where skilled engineers may be ready to offer their services. Therefore, without further comment, I would conclude by saying that while I thank the right hon. Gentleman and those associated with him for what they have done and for the concession made, I would urge them to look into the matters which I have brought before them to-night.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)
I have been asked to reply to this portion of the Debate, and I am very glad that we have had this 1456 Amendment, because it has made some of us aware of the more human side of the vast Estimates which we are passing this week. I should like to say, at the outset, that the Government and the Admiralty welcome the Amendment. My own experience, which is brief, both in home and foreign waters, during the last year has convinced me that there is in the Navy to-day a career for the young man who joins at 17½ years, the youth who joins at 13½ years via Dartmouth or the recruits who come from the public schools or by special entry. We have concrete evidence in the recruiting figures and in the improved type of sailor to be found in the Navy today. Hon. Members will agree with me that the last 30 years have seen very great improvements in social conditions and in the enlargement of our social services generally. Hon. Members, on whichever side they sit, although they may have had differences of method, are agreed that the material standard of living has steadily risen during the last 30 years. Any inhabitant of East London would bear witness to that fact.
I am proud to say that the Navy has shared in this advance as far as possible. Living conditions in the modern ship have literally been revolutionised since some of the Service Members in this House first joined the Navy. What I say applies chiefly to new ships and to ships which have undergone reconstruction. Generally speaking, with the centralised system of catering for ships, the result has been a much more varied and improved diet. Four meals a day, which is the normal thing on board ship, does not leave any serious nutrition problem in the Navy. There are refrigerators for storage, hot cupboards and so forth, soda-water fountains, ice-cream machines and cool drinking waters. These things are now installed in the big ships. There is not only improved ventilation to suit varying climates, but there is much better sleeping accommodation than existed 20 years ago, and more recreation space. During the last few months, among the things that I have been looking into, I have been interested in the libraries and films. There is a standard library, well run and stocked with classical books, and owing to an ingenious system which is being brought forward by the various Commanders, several thousand more books have been issued. I am 1457 quoting from one particular ship. Not only have films been used in 23 different ships entirely at the men's own expense, but by charging one penny or twopence extra they have attracted what they wanted, a better type of film, and have increased the audiences and made a profit. The question is whether the Admiralty will see to it that this system is extended to all ships. All I can say is that it will receive very sympathetic consideration, and is doing so at the moment.
There is another matter to which I would refer before I come to the question of promotion from the lower deck, and that is the new welfare system and the recent review of Service conditions, which was raised by the hon. Member for Central Portsmouth (Mr. R. Beaumont), in an excellent speech, and the noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). In the past there has been a welfare conference system confined to shore establishments and to reserve Fleet ships in the home ports. This has been changed into a review of the service conditions throughout the whole Fleet. It is based on the normal association of officers and men. The representations come through ship committees, Fleet committees and finally to the Commander-in-Chief, with his comments attached. Some 4,000 of these representations have been classified. The more important points are concerned with pensions, improved accommodation and so forth.
I can assure my hon. Friends that it has been one of the most interesting and most helpful experiments to see the great detail to which the men have gone in regard to different subjects; thousands of little intimate things which really affect the life of the ship. One batch of decisions has been issued. They include such things as extension of foreign service leave from seven to II days for every six months abroad, and also the provision of life insurance policies. I remember one small thing, which would not have occurred to the ordinary person, certainly not to any one from outside, and that was that examinations should not be held on board ship when the sea is rough. That recommendation is going to be approved, and it is a very sensible one.
Let me make a brief reference to the family welfare scheme, which has 1458 branches at Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport and Malta. Previously, this work was done centrally at the Admiralty. There are excellent women workers who deal with questions of domestic trouble and marriage allowances. When one realises that there are 100,000 men, or more, in the Navy, and 80,000 wives, there are unique and peculiar problems connected with absence from home and the proper and punctual payment of marriage allowances. When we bear such facts in mind we shall understand somewhat the scope of this valuable work. I have seen some of it myself, and I cannot speak too highly of the patience and devotion of these workers and of the valuable voluntary effort which goes to assist the paid worker.
One of the other problems mentioned by the hon. Member for Central Portsmouth (Mr. R. Beaumont), and reinforced by the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth, was the question of housing, and I fully endorse what they said. I have seen some of these houses, and I might mention that the scheme was initiated from voluntary money which came from the canteens fund. An excellent housing site can be seen at Portsmouth, with rents at 12s. 6d. a week inclusive. I see a most helpful contribution to the problem in this housing scheme. It is far too high a proportion of the allowances received by a sailor's wife to have to pay £1 a week and more in housing accommodation, and I should like to see this type of scheme extended.
There is one further point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Cambridge (Lieut.-Commander Tufnell), and that is the question of after-employment. There are roughly three classes—skilled, semi-skilled, and non-skilled men, and the real problem is with the men who have run their full course aged about 40. I suppose something like 3,000 a year leave at that age, and the next in importance are aged about 30, some 2,000 of whom leave after a shorter service. There are vocational centres at four places, three at home ports and one at Malta, and at these courses motoring, plumbing, gardening, and other trades are learned, but I think the interesting thing is that the National Association for the Employment of ex-Regular Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen last year placed no fewer 1459 than 5,000 people, naval ratings, in regular employment. One of the reasons for that is that men leave the Navy in a great many cases with a trade, and also with discipline and experience, which make them adaptable to civil life. I might mention, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Cambridge also raised this point, that about four years ago a similar organisation was started to deal with the after-employment of ex-officers. In the first year we found about 40 jobs and last year about 16o jobs, and the variety and the nature of these jobs, which I have analysed, show that ex-officers, like ex-ratings, leave the Service not only with a trade but with experience and discipline which make them readily adaptable to civilian life; and that is a very important point.
Now let me address myself to the general question of promotion. My Noble Friend and the First Lord of the Admiralty have answered innumerable questions during the last month on this matter, which might suggest that there is a very strong feeling in the Navy on this question, but let me assure hon. Members that that is not so. Some of the questions put to my Noble Friend suggest to me a complete absence of knowledge of actual naval conditions to-day. I should like to go into this question and to put it in its perspective. Some time ago I spent about two years in compiling a book on the educational ladder and the scholarship system, and I want to say that the rise of boys through a scholarship system and the rise of people like Lord Nuffield provide no analogy for the Navy. Other qualities are needed, and I think perhaps the nearest comparison, though not necessarily a very good one, because it is too scholastic, is the British Civil Service, where it is possible to work through from one division to another. I do not think there is any doubt, among those who have been overseas, that the British Civil Service is far and away the best system in the world, and for very much the same reason the standard of the British naval officer stands supreme among the navies of the world.
§ Mr. Lindsay
What I said was that whether we select them at 13 or not, they 1460 have proved in the past to be probably the best officers among the navies of the world, but I do not think, in our discussion of this question, there is any criticism of the present standard of officers. The Admiralty believe firmly in identifying the Navy with every class in the community and with the broad stream of national education. We would not drop one whit behind what apparently the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said 30 years ago, according to the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), but, remember, the mate system has disappeared, and remember also that it disappeared during the tenure of my right hon. Friend, and that the system which is now in vogue was introduced by my right hon. Friend.
We think that nothing less than the best is good enough for the Navy and the dockyards. What happens in practice? We catch some of the cream of the elementary schools, and also, to the extent, which I do not think is generally known, of about 25 per cent. boys from central and secondary schools for our boy training ships. We take an exceptionally high standard—and I am sure the hon. Member for Newton (Sir R. Young) will agree with me here—of boys into the dockyard schools for a five-years' apprenticeship as artificers and shipwrights, first-class jobs; others, special service seamen and stokers, enter at a later age. We do not always realise, I think, that these men are often better informed and better educated than thousands of us who have never left our own shores.
On the executive or officers' side, the main group starts at Dartmouth direct from the preparatory schools at the age of I3½, and after an intensive training of about eight years can reach the rank of lieutenant. The hon. Member for Rom-ford (Mr. Parker) said some extraordinary things about Dartmouth and seemed to think that it was rather a bad thing that some 30 per cent. were sons of naval officers. There is nothing in the least bad in that, for if the hon. Member would study the occupations of people generally, he would find, as I have found, that the sons of bricklayers to a very large extent went into bricklaying, and I found in London that the sons of men in the Co-operative movement very largely went into the Co-operative movement. I found that the most difficult child to place in this world, in London at any 1461 rate, was the son of the unskilled man who had no friends and whose parent had not got a job. No, Sir, there is nothing odd about 30 per cent. of ex-naval officers' sons going to Dartmouth.
This is a long-established and well-tried method of discovering two things, ability and leadership, and it happens to have served the Navy with a magnificent type of officer for many decades. Its cost to the nation in this year's Estimates is one two-thousandth of the total sum. Is that a very large price to pay for producing a first-class officer? The average cost is not precisely what was stated and if you take away the fees, it is about £137 per head. I think it cannot be said that these boys come from a rich and privileged class, and if you go into the figures, which I cannot do here, you will find that that is not true. Then there is a second group that enter by what is called special entry, on the executive side, officers, from a well-known list of schools. They are not exclusive public schools. I happen to know most of the schools from which these boys come. They are small schools in the countryside, well-known old grammar schools, some State-aided, one or two State-maintained entirely. This is a growing group of boys who are going to the officer class.
There is a third method of reaching officer rank, by promotion from the lower deck, a system which was instituted by my right hon. Friend. In this case commissioned rank can be reached at about the same age as in the other two groups. The system has been revised since my right hon. Friend started it, but the numbers so promoted have been very small. If my right hon. Friend is dissatisfied with those numbers, so are we, and that is why we are trying to change it, in accordance with views which are shared by the Board of Admiralty itself. I myself, however, after a study of the conditions, am not in the least surprised that there are only four such promotions a year. It is a big thing for a boy in a few years to jump from the position in which he is when he starts as a boy in the ship to the very exceptional and quite peculiar job of an officer in the ship. It is not like rising in the Civil Service or running a shop, but is a very peculiar and difficult job.
The fourth method is that of promotion from warrant officer to commissioned rank, usually after 10 years' seniority and 1462 subject to certain specified conditions. From this brief description, which, of course, omits the engineering and accounting branches, and also special positions like those of chaplains, doctors, dentists and so on, it will be clear that the Navy draws upon almost every part of the national system of education—the elementary schools, the secondary schools, from both ends, the preparatory schools and the public schools so called; and in addition it has a whole network of educational institutions itself like Shotley, Greenwich Hospital, which is just outside its actual control, and the many classes that are held on board ship.
No system is beyond improvement, and, although I am not going to announce any decisions to-day, I would like to indicate one or two lines of advance. I have great sympathy with what was said by the hon. Member for Broxstowe, and T think that some of the suggestions he made are very helpful. In fact, at the moment they are being seriously considered by the Admiralty. Firstly, I think we can improve the status of the warrant officer and the chances of promotion to that rank. Several Members have mentioned that question, and I think there is general agreement upon it. The question of marriage allowances for officers is inseparable, and I may tell the House that the Board of Admiralty at the present moment, I will not say have the matter under active consideration, because I hesitate to use that expression, but are considering it in precise detail, and the opinions of those most concerned in the various fleets are being canvassed.
I look at this matter from a quite independent point of view. When I was out in the Far East, the Near East and the Mediterranean, I came to the same conclusion as the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) and others. This question cannot remain where it is. If I may be allowed to leave it at that I think the House will realise that we are doing something more than giving it active consideration.
Secondly, we can make the ladder from the lower deck easier to climb. We can do it by some of the suggestions of the hon. Member for Broxstowe, by giving greater encouragement and greater training facilities to the exceptional boy, but I do not believe that the number will be great, nor 1463 do I think that there is a great desire for it in the Navy; I think there are other avenues, particularly that of promotion from the rank of warrant officer. Thirdly, I agree with my right hon. Friend that we must get the best schools in the country supplying boys for the special entry—
§ Mr. Alexander
The Noble Lord the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty said, in reply to a question yesterday, that you rarely get candidates from the secondary schools. That is an entirely different impression. If the hon. Gentleman really means that, will he undertake that the whole of the public State-aided secondary schools shall be circularised to the effect that there will be full opportunities for their boys at Dartmouth?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am not talking about Dartmouth, but about the public school entry. I do not think that the suggestion of sending boys from elementary schools—
§ Mr. Lindsay
—or secondary schools to Dartmouth is a sound one. I am talking about the public school entry, and am saying that, the wider the area of excellent secondary schools all over the country from which these boys come, the better it will probably be for the Navy. All of these avenues are being explored.
Let me make it clear that no possible criticism is being made at the present moment against the officers of the Royal Navy, at any rate not from this Box. We have only one object in view, and that is to maintain the highest standard of efficiency, which is pretty important, and to preserve the Navy as a career for the boy of spirit and ability and devotion to service. In conclusion, I would say that the Navy is a life as well as a career, and the habits of discipline and service which turn the sailor into a good citizen are perhaps worthy of our emulation on shore as well. The spirit that animates the Navy to-day does not really depend so much on pay, promotion and welfare, though these things are important, and I think this Debate has proved that we are giving the closest attention to them. It depends just as much on the intangible factors that go to make a man, and the majority of boys join the Navy because they have a love of adventure, because 1464 they want to go abroad, and because they want a career which they think is a good career in the Navy. We must be scrupulously fair in apportioning foreign service, a point which was raised by the hon. Member for Central Portsmouth. We must see that the older men get reasonable periods at home with their families. But the Navy is a sea Service, and it must be ready to answer a call in any quarter of the globe.
I have been privileged to see these men in the Near and Far East, in contact with natives, in contact with other Fleets, at their jobs, and in sport. I have seen them performing acts of mercy in the Mediterranean; I have seen them standing by in Alexandria and elsewhere while we were talking of national and collective security; and I have come to the conclusion, for what it is worth, that they are our best ambassadors, not only of Empire, but of good will. My experience is very short, but this is how an admiral who has spent 40 years in the Service spoke of the Navy man a few weeks back:Generosity he has, humour, the right to moan without meaning it, and a sterling sense of unity in duty and in play.
§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Sir R. Ross
To return to the main Question, I would like, before my hon. Friend the Civil Lord leaves the Bench, to thank him for the speech which he has made, and particularly for that portion of it which had reference to marriage allowances. The question of marriage allowances is one which has been before the eyes of naval officers for a long time. In 1925 it was actually carried as part of the Estimates. I think the amount of £350,000 which was then voted for the purpose is rather less than the cost of a destroyer. Surely it would be worth while to allow naval officers that sum, and bring them into line with the officers of the sister services of the Army and the Air Force.
On the question of the replacement of the battleship, there is one point which I do not think has been seriously discussed up to the present time. That is that the ships of our present Battle 1465 Fleet, with three exceptions, are actually becoming worn out. It is not merely a question of new design. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) devoted himself principally to the question of new construction, but he knows, and I think most people who have made a study of the subject know, that at a certain point the actual hull of the ship gets past its best service. If you will look in the Fleet returns for this year, you will see our Battle Fleet appearing as entirely under age, but in last year's returns a large number of ships appeared in italics as being over age. The reason is that since last year the age limit has been increased from 20 to 26 years. It will not be possible to replace the whole Battle Fleet at our present rate before they are 26 years old.
Therefore, I think that this replacement of the Battle Fleet has only just come in time. That standard was not reached merely by the British Admiralty; it is the considered decision of the great naval Powers who are parties to the 1936 Treaty. There is a lag of three or four years between the time when a battleship is ordered and when it is put in commission. You can put an aircraft squadron into service in about 18 months, but in the Navy where you are dependent on slow building, the lag is more marked than in any other Service.
I want to say just one word on the Fleet Air Arm. I need not say more because it is going to be the subject of special inquiry. Every major naval Power, except Italy and ourselves, has a separate naval air arm. By far the most efficient naval air service in the world is that of the United States. It has a separate naval air arm. The Japanese, with the third largest naval force, have a separate naval air arm. There is a fundamental principle that the man who has to use an arm should be responsible for that arm's efficiency, and I have always felt that that principle is violated in the present Fleet Air Arm.
We have had from two sources to-day—both from the Opposition benches and from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) a criticism of the Naval Treaty with Germany. I look on that Treaty as a very great achievement. I am more than surprised to find criticism of a treaty for the limitation of arms coming from the benches 1466 opposite, where lip-service has been given to this principle of limitation ad nauseam. It has been assumed, in criticising this Treaty, that in some extraordinary way we are conniving in the building up of the German Navy to a certain proportion instead of keeping it down to a certain proportion. There is only one point in that criticism which seems to commend itself, and that is that the proportion of 35 per cent. in the case of the new German navy would be all new ships, and that in the case of our Navy a proportion would be old ships; but that is a matter which would disappear in the course of time. I only wish that the French Government had had the wisdom to make a similar arrangement as regards military forces, or that it had been possible to make such an arrangement concerning air forces. I cannot see the slightest objection to the arrangement made in the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, and I consider it was a very fair treaty, giving both sides the security which they looked for.
The standard of naval strength surely cannot be considered solely in relation to the Fleets of other Powers. That is a mistake constantly made in speeches from the Labour benches. They say that, relatively to such and such a Power, our strength is overwhelming, but they leave out of consideration our responsibilities, which are infinitely greater than those of any other naval Power in the world. When the French Government worked out the proportion of responsibility on account of territory abroad, length of trade routes and so on, I think we were found to have responsibilities three times as great as any other Power. Two factors must be borne in mind, one the strength of your possible opponents, the other your commitments and those things which you must protect or try to protect.
Having heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough speak, both from the Opposition Front Bench and from this side of the House from the Admiralty point of view, I find that the devotion which he showed to his Department when he spoke from here produced a far better speech than his devotion to his party over there. There, he always speaks with that feeling of indignation which no one can produce with more fervour than he, but it is rather hard to see what is behind it all. He has challenged my hon. and gallant Friend as to 1467 what standard we would require for unilateral security. I would do my best to give my views as one who has studied this question. The standard which is envisaged by these Estimates is one which should give us reasonable security against all likely combinations of enemies as we can see them at present. That is a matter of 15 efficient ships of the line, 6o underage cruisers and 10 over-age, with a complement of submarines and destroyers in proportion, according to modern naval ideas.
I should like now to see whether I can get the right hon. Gentleman on to his feet in answer to a conundrum that I will put to him. He speaks of collective security and unilateral defence. His argument seemed to me to be this: Either we have too large a naval force or too small. We have too large a force if we look forward to collective security, and we have too small a force if we rely upon unilateral defence, that is, if we are to follow the unfortunately very prevalent law and custom of having the responsibility of defending ourselves. I should like to ask him what is the actual number of ships of these various types which in his view we should have. Apparently he has abandoned all hope of our ever being able to carry out the old-fashioned system of defending ourselves. That has gone. He says, "Now you have under this great and successful system of the League of Nations and collective security a safeguard which will enable you to have so many fewer ships." How many fewer battleships? How many fewer cruisers? I am always impressed by any argument of the right hon. Gentleman and I endeavour to check it up. I should like to know what countries we may hope would rush to our aid if we were in a difficulty, and I find of all the members of the League of Nations there is only one naval Power which has a democratic system of Government, and surely that is the maximum that we can hope will come to our aid, and can we even hope for that? Did we find the French so eager to assist us at Shanghai? Did we find French statesmen anxious to rush to the help of China when Members opposite were so eager that we should have a war with Japan? If the right hon. Gentleman is putting a point such as this, he should give us something concrete, or 1468 perhaps the hon. Gentleman who was Parliamentary Secretary under the Labour Government will deal with the matter.
§ Sir R. Ross
I should very much like to know exactly how many in the various categories of ships they think would be sufficient and whether they think the totalitarian States, whether members of the League of Nations or not, would come to our assistance, and whether they think the naval force of Russia is in an efficient condition to assist us.
§ Mr. Alexander
First of all, it is the Government that is in the dock and not this side. The question is: What is their policy? But, if you want an answer from me, when the Labour Government went out of office it had a stable position in naval affairs. It had agreements under collective security and the treaty of 1930. In that position it was relatively stronger in naval matters than in 1914, relative to other Powers, and it is the deterioration caused by the administration of the present Government that has led to the difficulty. In relation to present policy we are apparently unable to extract from the Government on what basis this armament programme is calculated. No one knows whether it is in relation to partial collective security. No one knows whether it is with an understanding with other naval Powers, one, two or three. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman could assist us as to what is actually required for collective assistance, or what is the basis of alliances, we could then consider what our attitude would be.
§ Sir R. Ross
I am sure that the House will congratulate me on having given the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity for making a second speech. Unfortunately it had one shortcoming, and that was that he did not answer any of the questions which I had asked him. He at once says that the Government are now entering an offensive defensive campaign, with tactics, if he will pardon me saying so, of the squid type, in order to effect their purpose. The right hon. Gentleman entirely fails to give us any standard. He gave the standard of his administration at the Admiralty. There were then 15 reasonably efficient ships of the line. That is what we are aiming at. It is not the machinations of the National Government 1469 but the passage of time, the building programmes of other Powers and the wearing out of ships which have made this programme essential. As regards the cruiser situation, he lived in the happy days when war was unthinkable for 10 years. Does the right hon. Gentleman now think that war is out of the question for the next 10 years?
§ Sir R. Ross
Certainly not under a Labour Government. Under a Government of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite we should have had war with Japan two years ago, and certainly we should be involved, I think, with Spain now, and we would not have finished a war with Italy. I do not think that, on the purely pacifist basis, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite can ever congratulate themselves because their valour is rather in advance of their preparations as a rule. There is one point in regard to which, to my horror, I find myself in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Nothing can distress both of us chore, I am sure. I would very much like to ask my hon. Friend the Noble Lord, when he comes to reply, why the big 6-inch cruiser has gone down to 8,000 tons, because at 9,000 odd tons it was carrying a similar armament to foreign cruisers of about the same size. I am sure that there is some reason for this cutting down, but I cannot guess what it is, and that was the point the right hon. Gentleman opposite made.
I would like respectfully to congratulate the Admiralty upon having started building big destroyers. Destroyers with exceptionally heavy gun armament are a very much needed piece of the modern Fleet, and I am delighted to see that the Admiralty have ordered two flotillas. The country is faced with a very difficult situation, but I would congratulate the First Lord and the Board of Admiralty upon having produced estimates this year which, in so far as I as a layman, although a Member of this House and one whose duty it is to try to understand these things, seem to be extremely appropriate to the situation, and I am sure that the expenditure that we make on these ships will have a lasting power for the good of this country and the peace of the world.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
The hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) has one of those extremely elementary minds which choose to argue, on foreign policy and armaments, that the Labour party always wish to go to war and decline to have any armaments with which to do so. Replying to him in kind, we can say to him from these benches that the Conservative party are always engaged in piling up enormous armaments that they are far too afraid to use. Both statements are equally absurd, but I mention the point only to illustrate the extremely elementary nature of the hon. Gentleman's mind. The Civil Lord is not in his place at the moment, but I would like to thank him for the very generous and understanding words which he has used on the subject of marriage allowances for naval officers. I assure him that all naval officers will appreciate the sympathy with which he spoke upon the subject. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) was engaged during an earlier part of the Debate in a little discussion with the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) on the subject of whether the Navy was or was not afraid during the recent events in the Mediterranean. I agree with the hon. and gallant Admiral that the Navy was not afraid at all. The Navy had far too intimate a connection with the Italian Navy in the Greek War to feel afraid during any of the recent occurrences.
The point at issue was not whether the Navy felt afraid, but what effect was produced by the broadcast which the Prime Minister made to the nation. He announced that the Navy in the Mediterranean was not in proper condition to fulfil its function. As we can see from what has taken place since, the Prime Minister made that broadcast in order to lay the foundation for the armaments programme which he has since put over upon the nation. I was very surprised that the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean stood for it. In the spacious days of the late lamented "Jackie" Fisher, if any Prime Minister or Cabinet Minister had announced that the Fleet under his command was not in every respect fit and ready for any duty which might be assigned to it, the next thing that Prime Minister would have known 1471 would have been that "Jackie" Fisher was in his room at No. 10, Downing Street, asking what he meant by it.
I join with those who have congratulated the First Lord on his recovery from influenza, and I commiserate with him on having to move the Navy Estimates in such conditions. With that, I fear that the congratulation must end. What I expected to hear from the First Lord was some reference to the very great loss which the Navy has sustained in the death, since the last Navy Estimates were moved in this House, of Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Kelly. His career in the Fleet did not attract quite so much publicity as that of other distinguished Naval officers, but as time goes on I am certain that Admiral Kelly will take his rightful place among the greatest sailors that this country has produced. The whole of his career was distinguished. The greatest moment in his life was probably when he was called to assume command of the Home Fleet after mishandling by the Admiralty of the reductions in pay had led to a temporary infraction of discipline at Invergordon. Like Earl Howe, Sir John Kelly was called out of retirement to restore discipline in the Fleet. He did it and he had what must be the greatest of all satisfactions to a Naval officer when he was knighted by his Sovereign on the quarterdeck of his own Flagship. There are innumerable stories associated with his name, most of which it would be out of order for me to recount to Mr. Speaker, at any rate, in his official capacity. He had to a peculiar degree the art of speaking in that simple, direct language which sailors understand. The lower deck, I am certain, regard his name with great affection to this day, and know that they have reason to be indebted to him for all that he did on behalf of the lower deck.
To return to the First Lord, the right hon. Gentleman made a long speech in a very Jane Austen-ish manner, but told us very little. Defence, of course, rests upon foreign policy. I think it is rather undesirable to have at the head of a great Defence Ministry a Minister who was cast out of the Foreign Office because the whole nation felt shame and disgust about the Hoare-Laval proposals which violated all our obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations, which the present Foreign Secretary tells us is the 1472 foundation of all British Naval policy. The First Lord spoke of the speed with which the programme of rearmament has been got going, but he omitted to tell the House that that speed is costing us about £4,000,000. These are the largest Navy Estimates which have been brought forward in peace time, and the extraordinary feature of them is the amount of help that is being given to contractors to enable them to accept Government work. There are £2,000,000 to armoured plate manufacturers for extensions to plant; nearly £900,000 to gun manufacturers; nearly £1,000,000 to other factories for extensions—nearly £4,000,000 of public money is being given to contractors to extend their plant in order that they may be in a position to accept very lucrative Government contracts out of which they will make large profits. We are paying very dearly for this speed. The contractors may well rejoice about these Navy Estimates. Fifty-six out of 80 new ships are to be built in private yards.
The First Lord said that one of the great questions he had to ask himself was whether we are building the right type of Fleet. The only answer I can make to that is that we are building a fleet of precisely the same character that we had in 1914, and which was found to be unable to perform the two main tasks of the Navy, namely, to bring the enemy battle fleet to decisive action and to protect our seaborne trade. [Interruption.] Is that an unfair definition of the two main tasks of the Navy? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Perhaps hon. Members opposite intervening later in the Debate will tell me in what way that is an unfair definition of the two primary duties of the Navy. The First Lord repudiated the idea that the Board of Admiralty is conservative or antiquated. I suppose the Board of Admiralty has had a transfusion of blood from that young and virile man, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. The First Lord referred to the days of King John, when apparently an archdeacon, according to him, held the office of First Lord. I do not think we have moved so very far from those days, for in 1937 the President of the Lord's Day Observance Society holds the office of Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. The First Lord, with becoming modesty, admitted that the Board of Admiralty 1473 may occasionally make mistakes. Well, they certainly have made a few in the past. The Board of Admiralty vigorously resisted the construction of the ironclad. They said that everybody knew that a piece of iron, if thrown into the water, would sink, and they asked what was the good of building ships of iron. They resisted the introduction of steam. They resisted the introduction of the convoy system. They did not foresee the submarine. They turned down the Wright brothers. Even long-range battle practices, the foundation of modern gunnery, were imposed upon them by a non-sailor, the late Mr. Pollen, who was responsible for the increase in the battle practice ranges.
Those are some of the mistakes which the Admiralty have made in the past. What assurance have we that they are not making similar and equally grave mistakes at the moment? The Board of Admiralty have a long record of obstruction. They always have denied it at the time and they deny it now, but we can safely conclude that it is continuing. The Admiralty enshrines the traditions of autocracy, and notoriously among the public departments it is wasteful, intolerant, and self-complacent. Sir John Fisher did a lot to clean up the Admiralty, but unfortunately he was too much concerned with the introduction of the all big gun ship, and with getting rid of his personal opponents to do all he might have done in that respect.
I find nowadays that public opinion desires a great simplification on every side of naval life, beginning with the Board and the Sea Lords. Really, life is primitive at the Board of Admiralty. When they march in procession, they have a totem pole carried in front of them —a black rod with a little silver orb on the top. Then the obsolete title of "Sea Lord" is meaningless nowadays. Why is it that when an admiral comes ashore and becomes a land-lubber, that is the moment selected for calling him a Sea Lord? Both in this respect and in the matter of uniforms we might well copy the simplicity of the Japanese and American Navies. When we go to another place to see the opening of Parliament and look to that corner where the representatives of foreign nations are assembled, we always realise that the magnificence of the uniform and the 1474 number of stars are in direct proportion to the insignificance of the country concerned. Our admirals in full dress are like Christmas trees. They really ought to have little illustrated guides attached, with particulars showing what everything is.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
Not on duty. But we have been hearing about marriage allowances and more marriage allowances, more kimonos. The First Lord referred to a visit which he had paid to the tactical school at Portsmouth, and I am sure we were all glad to hear that at Portsmouth in 1937 they are learning how to win the battle of Jutland which we did not win in 1916. The right hon. Gentleman was very satisfied, too, about design. It is always the same story —that design is perfect. He said that great attention had been paid to design during the past 17 or 18 years. As a matter of fact, during that period the most wretched types of ships have been produced and very few Naval officers feel satisfied that this question of design is safe in the hands of the Board of Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about the air. I am glad that the Admiralty is getting its second wind about the air. Having been for years in a state of extreme depression on the subject, they now seem to be getting into an equally dangerous condition of optimism and cocksureness. The First Lord told us that our Fleet was "unattractive" from the air and would win no beauty prizes from an enemy Air Force. The question is not altogether that of the Battle Fleet; a very important question is that of our food ships, our tankers and auxiliaries. Is the First Lord prepared to tell us that as targets they are equally unattractive to an Air Force, and is he prepared to tell us that at night our bases and dockyards are also unattractive to an Air Force?
I thought the First Lord's passages on naval policy were perfectly staggering. He said that the Anglo-German Treaty prevents any repetition of the pre-War naval race with Germany. Does the First Lord place so much reliance upon the signature of Hitler at the present moment, and if he does, will he produce any evidence to support his reliance? If 1475 he does, I can only say "Sancta simplicitas," or, in English, "Simple Simon met a pieman going to the fair." He said our policy was not directed against anyone but he was at particular pains to emphasise that it provided for two hemispheres. What does that mean if it does not mean Japan? Apparently the Board of Admiralty are prepared to fight in the Far East and at home. It is perfectly clear that they are building to no plan at all. They are simply building up to every penny they can get out of the Treasury. That is the only plan they have got. The First Lord asked us on these benches what there was in the programme which we would say went outside their objectives. But he did not give us any objectives, so how can we say what there is in this programme which goes outside the objectives? All he said was that we must be prepared to take on anyone anywhere and any combination at the same time. I wonder he did not add that one Englishman is worth three foreigners or something like that. We can beggar the country at that rate, but we cannot take on the whole world. This unilateral armament is folly.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) said something about the interviews which candidates for the Navy go through. There was a good deal of laughter from the other side about what he said, but I do not think he can be so far wrong, because I see in the Press that Admiral Carpendale, who is shortly giving up his position at the B.B.C., put the same question to everyone who asked for employment there. It was, "What games do you play?" Games is the one qualification for employment. I remember when seamen were being interviewed for promotion to mates, they were always asked the same question by the officers who interviewed them—"What games do you play?"—and one sailor paralysed them by replying, "I like a nice game of billiards." This is typical of the attitude and the spirit which aminates the Admiralty about this question of lower deck promotion and the admission of candidates to the Navy from secondary schools. That attitude is full of snobbery and of class consciousness, and I know it.
Let me refer for a moment to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member 1476 for Epping (Mr. Churchill). He spoke as usual pawing the ground like an impatient charger, or perhaps I ought to say, an impatient horse marine, and pouring out a spate of adjectives. Once again he showed himself in possession of remarkably good information. He said there were only three ocean powers—America, Japan and Great Britain. That is very remarkable considering our performances in the Mediterranean last year. If Italy is not an ocean Power, why was it that the Fleet left Malta in such a very great hurry? He said that Japan would be hard put to it to maintain the ratio. He forgot to point out that Japan can do something else, she can upset the ratio. If Japan decides on the 35,000-ton battleship and the 18-inch gun, Japan does upset the ratio, which will be a far more important matter than her inability to maintain it. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman gave us very abundantly of his views on technical matters, and I shall remind the House of a quotation from the late Lord Jellicoe:After assuming office as Second Sea Lord it did not take me very long to find that Mr. Churchill was very apt to express strong opinions upon purely technical matters. Moreover, not being satisfied with expressing opinions he tried to force his views upon the Board. Mr. Churchill proved himself to be a very clever and able First Lord in some directions, but his fatal error was his entire inability to realise his own limitations, while the first anxiety which I felt in connection with Mr. Churchill was in regard to naval discipline.If the House feels inclined to take the right hon. Member for Epping as a guide in these matters of Defence, I think they will do well to ponder over these words of Lord Jellicoe.
Just one word about the air. The First Lord is, of course, far too versatile a politician to have any difficulty in defending the opposite points of view in this matter, but I do want to stress one point about this bomb and battleship controversy. In the report which was issued the committee say:We do not find that the question is so settled.That is to say, they do not find that it is settled beyond all possible doubt, and they also say:We recommend that experiments, jointly agreed upon in advance, and jointly analysed, should be carried out to determine the facts; and further experiments are needed to determine whether these results will be affected by height of release, variation in angle of attack and possible errors after long flights.1477 It is, therefore, perfectly clear that very serious doubts remained in the minds of that committee. They wished further experiments to be carried out, and if it is so I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough was giving good advice to the House when he urged that it is wrong to lay down five capital ships until those further experiments which the committee requested have been carried out. I had wanted to say a word about destroyers. I think we are building very much the wrong type, because we have not decided what is the function of the destroyer. Destroyers have become maids-of-all-work and no one has thought out their real functions. I would only say one thing, as time is going on, and that is that I believe our destroyers, like many of the horses of the Parliamentary Secretary, are far too slow. If their function is attack on an enemy battle fleet, then their speed requires to be very considerably increased.
I want, if the House will allow me, to mention one or two very important points, as I think, about the Merchant Service. I think that probably very few Members realise that we have now got fewer cargo ships on our registers than were sunk during the War by enemy action. In the War, submarines accounted for over 5,000 ships and about 12,000,000 tons of shipping. The raiders accounted for 31 ships and nearly 150,000 tons of shipping. I think it works out something like this: that you might say that our requirements during war in cargo-carrying ships will be about 50,000,000 tons dead weight and our cargo-carrying capacity at present is 52,000,000 tons dead weight—only a surplus of 2,000,000 tons dead weight. If you think of the loss which will certainly be inflicted on our merchant shipping by enemy raiders, submarines and aircraft it is quite clear that we shall be too short in cargo-carrying vessels in the next war. It is a most serious matter.
I notice in the remarks from the other side to-night that there is a tendency to talk as if armament problems are only a matter of spending money. Money alone will not solve our defence problems. For instance, you can only rearm to the extent that your factory and arsenal equipment will allow. You cannot spend more than that equipment will allow you to manufacture, and suppose you find that you have spent your money on the wrong weapons. Suppose you find that the 1478 aeroplane is effective against those five capital ships which are being laid down, then all our vast expenditure will have been in vain. Spending must be backed by thinking, and I, unfortunately, am convinced that adequate thinking is not being applied to our naval problems.
§ 10.53 p.m.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Lord Stanley)
I should like to associate myself with one passage and I think one passage only of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down, and that is in paying a tribute to the great services of Sir John Kelly and the great loss which the Navy has sustained. I think I might also be allowed to pay a tribute to Sir Oswyn Murray. He has been a friend to many naval officers and to many Members of Parliament who have held Parliamentary offices in the Admiralty. He devoted his life to the service of the Navy and the finest epitaph for him and one that he would like would be: The Navy and the country are grateful for what he did for them.
This Debate has been remarkable for being very free from criticisms of the details of the Estimate. I except the speech to which we have just listened, but I am afraid that we have become accustomed to hearing from the hon. and gallant Gentleman, when he speaks about the Navy, a long stream of criticisms without a word of construction. Whether it is about the type of ships, the customs of the Navy or their uniforms, everything apparently is wrong. He is equally wrong, I am glad to say, about the speed of my own horses. Last year we had a remarkably successful year.
The right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) criticised one aspect of my right hon. Friend's speech and possibly he had some justification. He complained that very little information was given about the programme. I think that omission was deliberate, because the First Lord did not want to overload his speech with a great mass of detail. It may be for the convenience of the right hon. Gentleman and the House if we take each class in detail and say a few words about them. First, in regard to battleships. I am glad to think that the right hon. Gentleman approves of the principle of the battleships. We can now take it for granted that they are and have been 1479 proved to be an essential part of the Fleet. But the right hon. Gentleman said he would much have preferred to have built one a year so that we could go steadily forward with our trials and make quite sure that no mistakes had been made. If he had suggested that in regard to the building of battleships six years ago I should have agreed with him, but he will recognise that many of our battleships, a large majority of them, are getting very old. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) said, we must see that they are replaced before they are worn out. That statement does not apply to the battleships that have been modernised, but there are a considerable number that have not been modernised, and we must build to be able to replace them in the near future.
Four have not been modernised and one only partially. The hon. Member will be able to see the ages if he looks at the Fleet List. It will be of interest to the House to know that there are nine foreign battleships being built at the present time. I only mention that because I think the First Lord made some reference to it in his speech. With regard to cruisers, the right hon. Member for Hillsborough asked why we were building so many types of cruisers. He suggested that we were getting a regular hotch-potch of them. It is entirely due to treaty regulations. The 10,000-ton cruiser with 8-inch guns was the standard set at Washington. That type was followed for some years by the Powers, but the Admiralty realised that these ships were unnecessarily large and expensive and not particularly satisfactory. Consequently, there was a limitation in the number of this type that could be built up to 1936, by arrangement at the 1930 Conference. The Admiralty then tried to set an example to the other naval Powers of the world by building a smaller and far cheaper cruiser. That was the "Leander" type, of much less tonnage, just over 7,000 tons, with six-inch guns. Our example, unfortunately, was not followed by the other Powers, and that forced the Admiralty to increase the size of these ships to 9,000 tons, the "South- 1480 ampton" class. By the 1936 Naval Treaty, agreement was obtained that for the period of that treaty the maximum size of cruiser should be 8,000 tons, with six-inch guns. There is the smaller "Dido" class, an improved type of small Fleet cruiser. That explains why we have such a variety of cruisers of different tonnage and armament.
There is also a type of cruiser which I think the right hon. Gentleman said was for the particular protection of battleships. I think he must be thinking of the two C-class cruisers, which are specially armed with anti-aircraft armament. They are not for the defence of the Battle Fleet; they are intended for the defence of merchant convoys and of bases. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) also referred to cruisers and destroyers. With most of his speech I was in complete agreement, but he was a little unfair, though I am sure not intentionally so, when he chaffed the Admiralty for having said last year that they did not want any more destroyers and then carried out his own suggestion and built a considerable number last year and this financial year. What we said was that we were less in need of destroyers than of other ships, and, therefore, we gave them a comparatively low order of priority, which is very different from saying that we did not want them. As soon as the money was available, we built a larger number, so as to carry out all the duties which they have to perform. We do not grudge the right hon. Gentleman being able to say, "I told you so" about the over-age C-class cruisers that have been retained, and I rejoice with him that we are able to keep them as an addition to the defensive power of the Navy. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough asked a question about the multiple pompoms. We are thoroughly satisfied with them. He also asked why we had not mentioned this armour in "Fleets." It has not been customary to mention specifically any armament less than three inches, but I will certainly consider whether in future it might not be wise to make a particular note of this kind of gun.
§ Mr. Alexander
Could we have a little more information about the "Dido" class? We are anxious to know what the "Dido" class is.
The "Dido" class is the ordinary Fleet cruiser. It is a modification of the "Arethusas" that have been built lately. I think they are 5,000 tons, but I do not think there is anything very new in the design. It is only an improved class of the small fleet cruisers that are a regular feature of our new construction programme.
There are one or two rather broader issues which the right hon. Gentleman raised. He asked about the Dominions, what part they were taking in rearmament, and whether we were keeping them informed of what was taking place. I can assure him that they are kept in the closest touch by means of their representatives at the meetings of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and, of course, the whole question of Defence will come up for discussion at the Imperial Conference within the next month or two. The right hon. Gentleman was also inclined to be rather critical with regard to the method of the repayment of the Loan, and he asked why we had chosen this particular method. The object of showing the interest and sinking-fund charges in this way was to make specially clear the nature and extent of the Loan. This would not have been done if the charge had been merged in the general provision for debt repayment. I venture to think that, if we had not done as we are doing, the right hon. Gentleman would have complained, and he would have had some ground for his complaint, that we were disguising the real issue, and we should have been accused of hiding the fact that this money had been earmarked for Defence expenditure.
The only other criticism that has run through many of the speeches of hon. Members opposite, not only to-day but in all Defence Debates, and particularly in the Debates on the Defence Loan, is a criticism, not only as to the basis on which the Fleet has been built, but as to the basis on which the whole of our Defence Forces are formed. We have been asked to-day on what assumption we are building our battleships. I can only repeat again the words of the First Lord, when he said:If, then, I am asked to state the British standard of naval strength, I am not prepared to state it in terms of countries or in terms of numerals. I prefer to say that, in order to keep open our trade routes and Imperial communications, we must have a Fleet strong enough to carry out its responsibilities 1482 in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres.I do not think it is necessary to add anything to that statement. It would be most undesirable to state publicly your friends or the reverse, and quite impossible to submit a daily list of your favourites, like a list of bookmakers' odds with daily variations, so that because an Ambassador made a foolish speech in one country, the odds on that country go Out by 10 points or so. That would make the basis on which you are building up your defence forces more erratic than anything I can imagine. What is the difference between building your Fleet on what hon. Gentlemen opposite choose to call a unilateral standard, and building it on a standard of collective security? There is exactly the same amount of doubt as to the strength you will want if you are dependent upon collective security as there is if you are dependent on your own strong right arm. How on earth is the right hon. Gentleman able to say at any given moment on what forces you will be able to rely? In particular, can one say that on the Naval side? After all, we are the only really big naval Power that is a member of the League of Nations; or, if you like to put it the other way round, there are three naval Powers which are not members of the League of Nations, and one other Power against which League of Nations action was only recently taken. How can we say to what extent we can look to them for full support on any question of collective security? I believe that hon. Members opposite use the words "collective security" as a sort of anaesthetic.
I am very nervous about trespassing into the realm of foreign affairs, but it seems to me that what we really want is not collective security, which, when it is analysed, means very little, but collective authority. There is only one place in the world where you can get a really good example of collective authority, and that is in this House where we are sitting at the present moment. Here you get it perfectly exemplified. Should an act of unprovoked aggression ever take place in this House, Mr. Speaker immediately names the aggressor, and such is his moral authority as spokesman of the House that the mere naming of an hon. Member is usually sufficient. There is no need to resort to armed intervention at all, and very seldom indeed has 1483 he to call on the officials of the House for assistance. The right hon. Gentleman may laugh. But what he is aiming at is that the League of Nations should speak with the same authority as Mr. Speaker, knowing that merely by speaking with authority his commands are carried out. That is really the ideal that everyone had when the League of Nations was formed. Alas! we are a very long way from that ideal at present. We must work for it as much as we possibly can. In the meanwhile, we must neglect none of those things which are necessary for our own safety. Hon. Members can take part in this precaution, knowing that in so help-
§ ing they are helping their own policy of collective security.
§ I think this part of the Debate has continued long enough. I feel there has been no serious criticism of the principles underlying the Estimates presented, and I hope the House will be satisfied with the efficiency of the Navy, the adequacy of the measures we are taking for its maintenance and, last but by no means least, for the welfare of the men. I trust that they will now allow us to discuss the Estimates in detail.
§ Question put, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 202; Noes, 102.1485
|Division No. 104.]||AYES.||[11.11 p.m.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||McKie, J. H.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Maolay, Hon. J. P.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Everard, W. L.||Maonamara, Capt. J. R. J.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Fildes, Sir H.||Macquisten F. A.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Fleming, E. L.||Maitland, A.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Foot, D. M.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Markham, S. F.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Bernays, R. H.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Birohall, Sir J. D.||Gluokstein, L. H.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Goldie, N. B.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Moreing, A. C.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Grimston, R. V.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Clrenoester)|
|Bull, B. B.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Munro, P.|
|Butler, R. A.||Guy, J. C. M.||Neven-Spenoe, Major B. H. H.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hannah, I. C.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Cary, R. A.||Harbord, A.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hartington, Marquess of||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Channon, H.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Peaks, O.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Peat, C. U.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Crinslead)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buohan-||Penny, Sir G.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hepworth, J.||Petherick, M.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Pilkington, R.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Plugge, Capt. L. F|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Holdsworth, H.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Holmes, J. S.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. 0. J.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Rathbons, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Crooke, J. S.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Cross, R. H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Remer, J. R.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Keeling, E. H.||Rickards, G, W. (Skipton)|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|De Chair, S. S.||Kimball, L.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Denville, Alfred||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Rowlands, G.|
|Doland, G. F.||Latham, Sir P.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Donner, P. W.||Leckie, J. A.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Duokworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Samuel, M, R. A.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Lees-Jones, J.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Scott, Lord William|
|Duggan, H. J.||Lindsay, K. M.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Selley, H. R.|
|Eokersley, P. T.||Lloyd, G. W.||Shakespeare, G. H|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Loftus, P. C.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Emrys-Evana, P. V.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Titchfield, Marquess of||Wiekham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Train, Sir J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Somerset, T.||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Wise, A. R.|
|Spent. W. P.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||Wragg, H.|
|Stratus, H. G. (Norwich)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Warrender, Sir V.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Taylor, Vice-Adnt. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Waterhouse, Captain C.||Mr James Stuart and Sir Henry|
|Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Wells, S. R.||Morris-Jones.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Garro Jones, G. M.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Gibbins, J.||Pelhick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Potts, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||PriOB, M. P.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hall, J. H. (Whiteehapel)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hardie, G. D.||Ritson, J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hayday, A.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Rowson, G.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Sexton. T. M.|
|Bevan, A.||Hollins, A.||Silkin, L.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jagger, J.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Brooke, W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Buchanan, G.||John, W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cassells, T.||Kelly, W. T.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Chater, D.||Kirby, B. V.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Thurtle, E.|
|Cooks, F. S.||Leaoh, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, F.||Walker, J.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Leonard, W.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Daggar, G.||Leslie, J. R.||Westwood, J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lunn, W.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McEntee, V. La T.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmors)|
|Day, H.||McGhee, H. G.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Dobbie, W.||MacLaren, A.||Wilson, C. H. (Attereliffe)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Messer, F.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Milner, Major J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Montague, F.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Frankel, D.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Gallaoher, W.||Paling, W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gardner, B. W.||Parker, J.||Mr. Whlteley and Mr. Mathers.|
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]