Motion made, and Question proposed,
That 112,000 Officers, Seamen, Boys, and Royal Marines be employed for the Sea. Service, together with 895 for the Royal Marine Police, borne on the books of His Majesty's Ships, at the Royal Marine Divisions, and at Royal Air Force Establishments, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938.
§ 11.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Ammon
I beg to move,That 111,000 Officers, Seamen, Boys and Royal Marines be employed for the said Service.I will endeavour to be as brief as possible, having regard to the fact that we have already had two replies from the Admiralty. I want it to be under- 1486 stood at the outset that we are opposed to the policy presented by the Government, and therefore we oppose the present Estimate. There are several questions which I wish to ask before I deal with the very misleading reply of the Civil Lord on the question of promotions from the lower ranks, and particularly with regard to the educational attainments of candidates from secondary schools and preparatory schools. I notice that in "Fleets" there is a reference to Soviet Russia, and it states that the particular category of ships is not known. One can hardly imagine that it is a correct statement to indicate that there is nothing doing. I should like to know whether the Admiralty has been in touch at all with the Government of Soviet Russia, particularly as I observe that the War Office had contact at manoeuvres last year, and, I suppose, gave a report to the authorities in the country. Have we had similar 1487 contact with Soviet Russia so far as the Navy is concerned, and is the Noble Lord able to give any information on that particular aspect of the subject?
There is another point which has not been raised in regard to the building programme. What precautions are being taken against undue profiteering? Have the contracts been secured by ordinary tender or selected through a system of costing? I would link that point with that which was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Colonel Fletcher), who drew attention to the fact that a large subsidy was being given to firms for the erection and equipment of factories, quite apart from the profit those firms would make on the work. When one looks at the prices which are rocketing it becomes of particular importance to know whether any attempt has been made to limit profiteering. The noble Lord knows that I am not speaking entirely without my book, because I have been in the position which he now occupies, when I say that some of those people are not without suspicion for making as much profit as they can, and that one has to keep a pretty sharp eye upon them. I have a very vivid recollection of being delegated by my right hon. Friend to go specially into some costs or charges that a particular firm had levied. I did it personally, and the result was a considerable reduction in the bill. It was a very unorthodox and unconventional thing to do for a Parliamentary Secretary to interview the firms concerned. I do not suppose that that has been changed in regard to the very big business undertaken in this programme. The whole House would be pleased to have an assurance in that respect. With regard to promotion for the lower ranks, can the Admiralty give us any indication as to the total estimated annual cost, when the Fleet reaches its full strength, bearing in mind the cost of maintenance of noneffective services? Up to now, everything has been more or less in the dark. We do not know against whom we are building, whether for an alliance or on the grounds of what is called collective security; or whether we are simply building against the world and challenging all and sundry to come on.
1488 In regard to the expenditure to double the accommodation for capital ships at Singapore, is it contemplated that such ships are for the future to be allocated to Eastern squadrons? It is very important that we should have an explanation of that. Might we also have an explanation in the present circumstances of the transfer of a very large number of minesweepers to Singapore? Having regard to what the First Lord said about operating in two hemispheres, it is apparent that two big Fleets must be kept up; one must be based at Singapore and the other upon this side of the world. It would also be very interesting to know what is the position in the Mediterranean, especially having regard to the Spanish situation. Have the Balearic Islands definitely gone over to Italy? Are we to have any information with regard to mines in the Mediterranean? Are sweeping exercises being carried out by the Fleet, or is there danger to all fleets, ours as much as any other?
As to capital ships, what is the position with regard to their equipment? The House ought to take notice of the extraordinary rise in costs, from just over £6,000,000 in 1925 to £8,000,000 now, compared with a little over £2,000,000 at the beginning of the War. Is there any agreement as to armament? Has the noble Lord had any replies from other countries as to whether they are going to arm with 14-inch or 16-inch guns? What anti-aircraft equipment is there on the capital ships? We have already had from the First Lord an indication that considerable advances have been made in the experiments on bomb-resisting armour plates, so that I do not think there is any need for me to press that question further. I would like, however, to know what has been done about an agreement on the calibre of the gun in these ships.
In moving the reduction of the complements of the Navy, one is actuated by the knowledge that there is a tendency at the Admiralty to go in for a considerable overbearing of men, and I am wondering whether that is not happening here. There is an increase of practically 11,000 men. Numbers of them will go into training establishments, of which I believe there are two or three to be put into operation at once. Will all the men 1489 be taken by the training establishments or on the ships, or will a large number kick their heels in shore establishments? When my right hon. Friend and I were at the Admiralty, we found that there was a considerable overbearing of personnel, and that had to be reduced, without in any way decreasing the necessary equipment for the ships or preventing the maintenance of effective ad hoc reserves. I am sure the noble Lord will see that this is not captious criticism, but is criticism based on experience. We have the right to have an assurance that the noble Lord is not asking for more than will be necessary in the next twelve months. It must be remembered that the capital ships that are to be laid down will take from five to seven years before they are in commission, and it will not be necessary that the personnel should go into training that much in advance.
The question of promotion from the lower deck has already been dealt with by other speakers, and I will try not to cover the ground that has already been covered. I want hon. Members to bear in mind that the Admiralty is now offering to officers in the Royal Naval Reserve a certain number of appointments as commissioned officers. That has, naturally, aroused a good deal of dissatisfaction among the warrant officers, who feel that they ought to be the first to be approached in this respect. These officers who are being recruited are to receive the same pay as other officers, but they have to retire at the age of 45 on a lower pension rate than that accorded to ordinary commissioned officers. It is not a case, as the Civil Lord suggested, of a sufficient number of men from the lower deck not being available. All the evidence that we have indicates that there is an ample supply of such men available and the objection to them seems to be this—that it is not desired to take too many of those people into the commissioned ranks and have too big a leaven, but rather to continue under the caste rule which has obtained hitherto. It is fair to ask why there should be such a difference between the Army and the Navy in this respect? In the Army, I am informed, in the last three years there have been 285 promotions to commissions from the ranks. In that time there have not been more than a dozen in the Navy, and I say without fear of contradiction that, man for man, the personnel 1490 of the Navy is of a very much higher standard than that of the other Services, into which a larger percentage of men drift through sheer economic need. That does not apply so much in the case of the Navy. We have a right, therefore, to ask for a fuller explanation on this point than to which the Civil Lord has offered.
Further, these people are to be put on a supplementary list, and they are not to be eligible for promotion beyond the rank of lieutenant-commander. If any evidence were needed of the fact that a bar is being put up against those not recruited from a special source, that surely is an indication of it. However able they may be, they cannot rise beyond the position of a lieutenant-commander—even those who have been officers of high repute in the merchant service before being recruited. Then they are retired at 45 and at a lower rate of pension than regular officers. Somebody said that every soldier carried a marshal's baton in his knapsack, but it is over a century since a naval rating carried an admiral's baton in his kitbag, and it would appear that those in authority are taking steps to see that it will not happen at all in future if they can help it. Objection has been taken by some hon. Members to comments made in this connection on the caste distinction which is presumed to exist in regard to the appointments of these officers. I am going to quote from the august columns of the "Times," which had a leading article on this subject on 11th February. It stated, in reference to the figures of promotions from the lower deck:It is not surprising if these figures are interpreted as indicating the Admiralty's distaste for the existence of any bridge from the lower deck to the quarter deck.Even the "Times" is suspicious because that seems to indicate that it, too, thinks that it is not lack of ability which matters, but where you were born and where you were educated and "Do you wear the same school tie?" In that connection, it was interesting to find an hon. Member who had earned distinction and had won his way up through the scholarship system defending in this House the old school tie. It is as well to note some words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), because he introduced the first concession towards promotion from the lower deck. He is under no illusions as to the possi- 1491 bility of promotion from that quarter, for he said:Everyone acquainted with the Navy must have been struck with the extraordinarily high qualities which are displayed by the best class of warrant officers. These are the days when the Navy, which is a great national service, should be open more broadly to the nation as a whole. There are no difficulties which in the public interest cannot be and ought to be overcome.That was said by the right hon. Gentleman as far back as 1912. After that, however, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) introduced in 1930 or 1931 a scheme that made it easier to get recruits from secondary schools. So far as we can see, everything has been done to block and to prevent the adequate working of that scheme. It is no good the Civil Lord shaking his head. The very fact that there has been such little result is a sufficient comment upon it. Let it be understood that this was not something which my right hon. Friend brought in without having had the best possible advice.
§ Mr. Ammon
I am talking about the cadet entry from secondary schools. That scheme was approved by the Captain Superintendent and the Schoolmaster at Dartmouth. When the Civil Lord says that it has been given a chance, I want to remind him that there have been no invitations sent out to secondary schools. If there have been, there have not been enough. You rarely get a candidate from the secondary schools, and I have no doubt that the reason is that they have not heard about it. That is a question on which we want a definite statement. The Civil Lord has unintentionally misled the Committee. He evidently does not know of this scheme. If he does not, he should find out about it.
I know the scheme perfectly well. If the hon. Gentleman means that it is a scheme for boys from secondary schools going to Dartmouth at the age of 16, it was never passed by the Board of Admiralty during the time of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), and it was disapproved by the Present Board.
The hon. Gentleman knows that I had a scheme ready before 1492 our Government resigned, and that had I been there another week it would have been put into operation.
§ Mr. Ammon
We now have information for the first time that as soon as my right hon. Friend's back was turned his scheme, which would have been approved by the Board, was shelved. That is the strongest evidence we have had yet of the operation of the class system. A scheme is accepted by the technical officers and those qualified to give their advice, and it would have become operative had my right hon. Friend remained another week as part of the plans of the Admiralty, but the moment his back was turned, it was shelved. I need not labour the point any longer, for here we have the evidence from the Civil Lord himself, who has admitted frankly that the present Board, immediately my right hon. Friend's back was turned, got rid of something which they could not argue against in principle or in logic while he was there, and so the old prejudices are obtaining in the Service at the present time. That is a great disservice to the nation, and to the Navy in particular. We have an admission from the Government that there is a difficulty in obtaining officers of the type they want.
I want to make it clear that the Admiralty were not against boys coming from a wide variety of schools on educational or other grounds, but they turned down the proposal that they should go to Dartmouth at 16 to fit in with boys who started at 13½; and there are a larger number of boys going in through the special entry at 17.
§ Mr. Ammon
That is not yet borne out by the numbers; we have had no figures of it up to now, and we can only accept the evidence we have before us in this report, although I say at once that I am delighted to have the assurance of the Civil Lord that they are making some advance in those directions. He must see that with the advance in education, 1493 with the gradual rise in standards all round, and the narrowing of the divisions between classes in some respects, we can no longer keep up this caste distinction in the appointment of officers to the Navy. It would be a great disservice to the country to perpetuate it. We had far better take advantage of our higher educational system to get a flow of new blood and new talent from sources hitherto untapped, which would give us back some of the former glories of the Navy. We have still to be satisfied that everything is being done, in the cant phrase to democratise the service, that is, to throw it open to talent let it come from where it may. Then the Navy will have the advantage of getting the best material possible in its executive service.
§ 11.49 p.m.]
I wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty on the Estimates which he has presented to us to-day. They are the first step towards bringing His Majesty's Navy up to that strength which is required for Imperial security, and to make it a real factor in the preservation of the peace of the world. I also desire to associate myself with all that has been said with regard to the granting of marriage allowances to Naval officers. I was very glad, and all the officers in the Service will be very glad to know tomorrow what the Civil Lord said in regard to that matter. It will bring His Majesty's Navy in line with the other Services and remove a blot which has been too long on the Navy. It will be of the greatest benefit to many married Naval officers who at the present time have a very severe struggle to make ends meet. I particularly wish to deal with the Fleet Air Arm.
There is a separate vote for that, so the hon. and gallant Member must not go very far with the subject on this occasion.
I wish to deal with it in regard to personnel. We were told by the right hon. Gentleman, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, that a Committee was to be set up to deal with this matter.
§ The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence (Sir Thomas Inskip)
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Then I am mistaken. A committee is not to be set up.
§ Sir T. Inskip
Will the hon. and gallant Member quote me correctly? I said that the inquiry was to be under my supervision.
I am in some difficulty to understand exactly what that means. Who is going to inquire? What is to be the composition of those who are to perform the inquiry? What are to be the terms of reference? We have not been informed. Therefore, we are unable to know what the inquiry is and what strength it will have. With the passing of time the evil consequences of the dual control system of the F.A.A. becomes more and more serious, not only as regards the progress and efficiency of the Fleet Air Arm but as regards the efficiency of Imperial Defence as a whole. No amount of tinkering with the details of this system and no amount of endeavour to remove by one means or another the evil consequences of it can really affect the principle which is at stake which is as to whether or not the Admiralty shall have control of the Naval Air Arm.
I wish to include in my argument the flying boat squadron. Manned completely by Air Arm personnel, and under the Air Ministry, but employed in conjunction with units of His Majesty's Navy for the protection of trade. I do not propose to reiterate the hindrances and disadvantages which have been proved by practical experience over many years to be the case under this dual control system. They are very well known, they are not denied, and they still exist, but I should like to refer to one point in regard to the personnel of the Fleet Air Arm and that is the extreme unpopularity of the Fleet Air Arm both as regards the Naval and R.A.F. personnel. That is a very serious and disturbing factor. There is a shortage of Naval officers who volunteer for the Fleet Air Arm which is a sure index of this unpopularity. The flying service of the Navy should appeal to the young Naval officer, and it does not do so. There is something radically wrong. The Admiralty have lately had recourse to training sub-lieutenants for the Fleet Air Arm before they have received their 1495 watch-keeping certificates. These officers are not qualified for promotion to lieutenant, but if they are promoted in order that they shall not lose the seniority in naval rank they will be lieutenants in name only, as without their watch-keeping certificate they will not be qualified to take charge of the watch on the bridge at sea.
I mention that to show the lengths to which the Admiralty had to go to obtain Naval officer volunteers for the Fleet Air Arm. In view of the expansion of the Arm in these Estimates, and increased expansion in future, how does the Admiralty propose to obtain a sufficiency of volunteers for this service? Apart from these serious objections in the sphere of training and tactics, there is an equal, if not greater, objection from the point of view of naval strategy in Imperial Defence. It must be determined what are the tasks that have to be performed, what are the objects to be attained, and how we are to utilise with the greatest advantage the forces of the three Defence Services to attain these objects. The Empire must be secure from invasion, and its sea communication must have reasonable security. As in the past so to-day, it is the function of the Navy to prevent any enemy from transporting bodies of troops across the sea. But it is not the function of the Navy, nor could the Navy carry out such a duty, to prevent invasion of this country from the air. That is the duty of the Army and the Air Force. The security of sea communications is the function of the Navy, Army and Air Force, the Army and Air Force being responsible for the security of the bases at home and overseas from which the Navy works.
The composition and type of Naval forces employed in the Service are continually changing. We had the introduction of the torpedo boat, the destroyer, and the submarine as examples, but their introduction did not lead to these new types of Naval force being organised as separate services not completely under the control of the Admiralty. They were merely new and additional units of the Naval Service, and I maintain that the same argument applies to this new unit, the Fleet Air Arm. It is just as much a unit as are the others, it is immaterial whether that unit works above the surface of the water or immaterial that as the 1496 submarine works mainly below the surface of the water, all these units taken together going to make up the complete Naval Service. In the nature of things they cannot be subdivided, either as personnel or as regards materiel, and placed under different Ministries. If they could be, as is the case with the Fleet Air Arm to-day, how would it be possible for any Admiral or for any Commander-in-Chief to plan a campaign if at any time either could be deprived of some of the units on which that plan has been based, whether destroyers, submarines, or aircraft? There must be no doubt that all the units comprising His Majesty's Navy, all the materiel and all the personnel, shall remain under the control of the Board of Admiralty. I have in mind particularly the case of the 30 per cent.of Royal Air Force pilots in the Fleet Air Arm, and—
If the hon. and gallant Member confines himself to Naval personnel, he will be in order, but the Royal Air Force personnel is not in order on this Vote.
I am in a rather difficult position, because in the Fleet Air Arm the personnel comes under two Ministries. However, I will turn the argument round the other way and say that the Naval personnel of the Fleet Air Arm represents only 70 per cent. of the pilots, the other 30 per cent. belonging to another Ministry, and therefore it is quite conceivable that in a time of stress and strain during a war, when this other Ministry finds that there is a shortage of pilots elsewhere it will withdraw from the Fleet Air Arm those pilots which come under its control. If that were done, the result would be disastrous to the Fleet Air Arm, and the Fleet would be placed in an impossible position. All the ratings in the Fleet Air Arm are not Naval ratings—there is a large proportion of ratings belonging to another Service—and in time of war it is quite conceivable that if there was a shortage in that other Service, the R.A.F., these ratings would be withdrawn from the Fleet Air Arm, with disastrous 1497 results. If the Admiralty had complete control of its Fleet Air Arm, there would not be the slightest difficulty in obtaining all the personnel it required from the officers, the petty officers, and the men of His Majesty's Navy. I wish to refer to a far more serious matter, and that is the question of the flying boats and the flying boat squadrons. They are not manned at all by Naval personnel—
§ The Chairman (Sir Dennis Herbert)
How, then, does the hon. and gallant Member bring them under this Vote?
I desire that they should be put into this Vote; I desire that these flying boats should be manned by Naval personnel; they are not so manned at present. At the present time they are completely under the Air Ministry, manned and trained by the Air Ministry. These flying boats are detailed for trade protection, and perform a most important function in conjunction with units of His Majesty's Navy, in connection with the protection of trade.
§ The Chairman
The hon. and gallant Member is now definitely getting outside this Vote. He is discussing the administration of a branch of the Service which is definitely under another Ministry.
I understood that on Vote A we had a wide discussion, and the hon. Gentleman who last spoke went very wide, but apparently I was wrong. I am not in any way going against your Ruling, but I understood that on Vote A we should have a wide discussion. If I had not understood that to be the case, I would have reserved my speech for the Vote dealing with the Fleet Air Arm. Of course I must accept your Ruling in this matter, but, if I may, with regard to the flying boats, I would like to remind the House that in the late War the coastal patrol accounted for some 600 machines, all naval machines, manned by naval ratings, trained by the Navy, and completely under the control of the Admiralty. I would ask the Air Ministry what flying boat squadrons they have to-day for this purpose.
§ The Chairman
The hon. and gallant Member must wait to put his questions to the Air Ministry until there is a debate on an Air Ministry Vote. Quite clearly he is travelling even beyond the wide limits which are allowed on Vote A.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
On a point of Order. May I draw your attention to the fact that this Vote for the Fleet Air Arm is only by way of a grant to the Air Ministry for the expenses of this service; and, in view of the danger during the next few months that all the speeches of hon. and gallant Members who speak for the Navy will be addressed exclusively to the question?
§ The Chairman
Perhaps the hon. Member will put his point of Order, at which he has not yet arrived. I have already given a Ruling with regard to the hon. and gallant Member's speech, and I fail to see why the hon. Member should rise to a point of Order.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
My point is one that has not been brought to your notice before. This sum is paid by way of a grant to the Air Minisary, which is the accounting Department for all the expenditure incurred in respect of the Fleet Air Arm, and, that being so, is it relevant in this discussion to deal with the Fleet Air Arm on Admiralty Votes at all?
§ The Chairman
That is exactly the point on which I interrupted the hon. and gallant Member. I have just given a Ruling, and I do not think it is the business of the hon. Member to try to improve upon it.
§ 12.10 a.m.
In view of your ruling which I accept at once, Sir Dennis, I do not propose to proceed with what I wanted to say with regard to the Fleet Air Arm. I will reserve it for the appropriate occasion.
§ 12.11 a.m.
§ Mr. Watson
I will not detain the Committee for long, but I have listened to this Debate since four o'Clock in the hope of being able to take part in it. However, I will confine myself to one or two questions which I want to address to the Parliamentary Secretary. This has been a rather remarkable Debate in one respect. I have no desire to start a nationalist war, after what happened last night, but I must comment on the fact that up to this moment, with the exception of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, no Scottish Member has taken part in this Debate. I have previously commented on the fact that we have not 1499 a British Navy but an English Navy—a Navy in which only English are concerned. With the exception of the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) who spoke for a Welsh constituency, and the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross), who spoke for Northern Ireland, the whole of the Debate has been confined to representatives of English constituencies, and one gets the impression that only England is concerned with the Navy. I do not complain, I am not surprised at it. You can go through the huge volume that has been placed in our hands with the title of the Navy Estimates, and you will need to search very closely before you find anything that applies to Scotland. When you do, you find the items are of the most insignificant character—a trifle for Invergordon, a trifle for Crombie, a trifle for Rosyth and a trifle for one or two other places. I see the Civil Lord with the volume in his hand, I suppose he will be turning to the naval construction part. He will tell me that the Clyde is going to get a substantial proportion of what is being voted in the way of naval construction. But I would remind this House that the Clyde is not Scotland. Scotland is a very much larger place than the Clyde, important as the Clyde is.
I do not want to develop that argument or to start a nationalist war in the House to-night, but at the same time we who are Scottish representatives take note of the very significant fact that Scotland has little or no interest in the Navy. It is not because Scotland could not provide men for the Navy. All round the coast of Scotland there is as fine a class of men who could play their part in the Navy as could be found anywhere in the world.
The fisher folk of Scotland, who love the sea, would make ideal men for the Navy, and I am surprised that the Admiralty have not tried to cultivate the good will of the people to get more Scottish men and boys into the Service.
The Admiralty is making a beginning of giving us a little interest in the Navy. Next month we are going to have brought to Rosyth an old White Star liner which is being converted into a training ship for boys for the Navy, and for that little 1500 crumb I want to give the Admiralty due thanks. It will be some little encouragement to boys in the East of Scotland, and perhaps in the North of England, to become associated with the Navy. We are to have what is called H.M.S. "Caledonia" at Rosyth, where 1,500 boys will be trained, with 500 additional for the artificer class. We are very much indebted to the Admiralty for even that consideration. We have at Rosyth a dockyard. We not only ought to have a training ship, but we ought to have had a great deal more long ago. We ought to have had a proper training ship at Rosyth years ago when it was going as a dockyard, but it is only coming along next month.
I want to ask if there is no change yet in the policy with regard to that dockyard. When the First Lord came to deal with bases, I pricked up my ears. I expected to hear something that would interest me, but, after he had passed from dealing with naval bases, I was just as much in the air at the end as I was at the beginning. We have had the old discussions over again as to the vulnerability of certain Southern dockyards. We have the statement made once again that in the event of a war certain Southern dockyards would not be safe, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke drew attention to the fact that in his constituency there was a dockyard which would at least be safe from a European enemy. Before now I have drawn attention to the fact that there is not a better situated dockyard in Great Britain than that at Rosyth, which was closed in 1925. It ought to have been kept going the whole time, but, as in the case of the ordinary industries of the country, it was too far out of the way. It might have been safe enough from attack, but it was too far from London. Consequently that dockyard, one of the finest dockyards in the country, has been closed down and is remaining in that condition.
I ask the representative of the Admiralty whether there is still no change in Government policy with regard to that dockyard? We are proposing to spend during the current year over £100,000,000 on the Navy, and perhaps after we have spent all that money, we shall not have a dockyard in the country that will be 1501 safe, if we happen to be engaged in a war during the course of the next twelve months. I daresay that it is impossible to equip Rosyth Dockyard in the course of a few months with the machinery and the tools which are necesasry for doing repair work, but I ask the representatives of the Admiralty whether the time has not come for them to reconsider the question of the opening of the dockyard once again? I know the position as far the Admiralty are concerned. It is, that there can be no partial opening of Rosyth Dockyard. It must either be opened as a full-going dockyard, or remain on its present care and maintenance basis. I know that that is the position of the Admiralty and I am not complaining about that, but I am asking that the dockyard should be opened once again, on the ground that at Rosyth we have the safest dockyard in the whole of Great Britain.
I have before now drawn the attention of the House to the remarkable fact that the whole of the German Fleet, which was sunk at Scapa Flow at the conclusion of the great War, was raised and brought from Scapa Flow to Rosyth. Every one of those vessels was brought, bottom upwards, into that dockyard and broken up. I do not know of another dockyard in the whole of Great Britain where that could have been done. But it had been done with perfect ease in that dockyard, demonstrating that we have at least one dockyard into which the biggest battleships in the Fleet can be brought at any hour of the day. That is not the sort of dockyard that ought to be kept closed, when other dockyards are kept open which would not be safe from attack in the event of our being engaged in a war with a European Power.
I am aware that during the present year there is no chance of anything being done, but I hope that, before this programme is completed and all these hundreds of millions have been spent upon the Fleet, the question of the reopening of the dockyard at Rosyth will again be considered, and that that community, which has suffered so much since the closing of the dockyard in 1925, will again be given full employment. Some of the men who were thrown out of work at the dockyard are still unemployed. They cannot get work. There is no work to be found for these men in that area, 1502 and they have had to remain unemployed, after having served the Admiralty during the time that the dockyard was open. They are waiting for the dockyard to reopen, and I hope that the day is not far distant when it will be re-opened as a full-going concern. It is very fortunate for some men in that area that they have been able to find work in the breaking up of the old German Fleet. If it had not been for the breaking up of those warships and other ships that have been brought to Rosyth, there would have been a huge army of unemployed in that particular district.
Fortunately we have had that ship-breaking to do, and men have been employed on it who were previously employed in the dockyard. We believe that the dockyard ought to be opened again and I hope, before the Programme goes very far, that that possibility will be considered. The First Lord left us pretty much in the air, after giving us the impression that the question of bases was being considered by the Admiralty. I hope the Department will go again into the.whole situation at Rosyth.
§ 12.26 a.m.
After listening to the speech of the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) I know what it must be like to be shot at by a multi-barrelled porn-porn and I know that he will not expect me to answer all his questions at such short notice. I can, however, give him some of the information he asked for. We have an attaché in Soviet Russia, but as there have been no Fleet manoeuvres there is nothing to see and report upon. I may also add that they give us no information for "Fleets".
The hon. Gentleman asked about 14-inch guns for battleships. They have been agreed to by America, France, Italy and ourselves, and negotiations are still going on with Russia, Germany and Japan. I need hardly say how anxious we are that this matter should be brought to a successful conclusion. The hon. Member made a very important point with which I should like to deal, and that was in regard to profits being made on Admiralty contracts. Naturally it is not for me to deal with questions relating to 1503 rises in prices of raw materials, but I am sure the hon. Member would like to know what steps have been taken by the Admiralty in that connection. The most effective step of all is to continue the system of competitive tender to as large an extent as possible. A very large proportion of the contracts that we have made are on that system. When we come to non-competitive contracts, no one knows better than the hon. Member that the Admiralty have considerable experience in this direction. It is not as though we were going into uncharted territory.
In regard to armour and gun-mountings, we have frequently, but not always, had to give contracts on a non-competitive basis, when we go into discussion with firms to fix prices, we are armed with the accumulated data of many years; very likely many of those data have been prepared on a basis of competitive tender. We know the prices of the materials and of labour, and we ask for the proportion of sub-contracts to be included in the work and the details of overhead charges. It is then comparatively simple to fix prices that will be fair to both sides. We have had the great advantage during the last year of the assistance of a Contracts Advisory Committee with whom we keep in very close touch.
It may be of interest to the Committee to know that there was an examination by the Select Committee on Estimates a few weeks ago on this very point. We shall eagerly await the report of that Committee to see whether they have any improvements to suggest. I might add that, as there is a common impression that armament firms are nothing but ogres out to do everybody down, I should like to say how greatly the Admiralty appreciate the assistance which these firms have given at all times in coming to what, I hope, are fair prices.
Two other points of importance were raised. One concerned the actual numbers being taken in this year. Were they necessary? The hon. Member asked whether there has not been an over-bearing for several years. You only get overbearing when you are dealing with a reducing Navy. Only when the Navy is being cut down in vote A do you get over-bearing. When the Navy is increas- 1504 ing and vote A is increasing, you get a shortage rather than an excess.
I would give the hon. Gentleman details of the particular services for which these men are required, but I think perhaps it had better be postponed until we have more time to deal with it fully on the report stage. I would only make one point here—that all the men we are taking in this year are not necessarily required for immediate service for ships that finish their construction during this particular financial year. Obviously, when we have got to take in a very large number of recruits we have got to train them to man the ships of the 1935 /6 and 1937 programmes that are going to be completed. We cannot have too many men, all in the very earliest grades of training, that are not efficient. When recruiting is good we want to get in as many men as we can and push forward with their training as fast as possible.
The whole question of promotion from the lower deck has been very fully dealt with by my hon. Friend the Civil Lord. On that, very likely the intentions of my right hon. Friend opposite and our own are the same, but probably we shall never agree as to details. I only want to say once again that it is quite unfair, and I think it is not helpful, to assign the difficulties to class. We turned down the right hon. Gentleman's scheme because we did not think it was a good scheme, and because we thought we could better provide for that particular class of the community by means of the special entry. I think our assumption is being borne out. With regard to the other forms of promotion from the lower deck, the commonest form, and I believe the easiest form of promotion is by means of warrant rank. As he has told the Committee, the reason for the unpopularity of that form of promotion is, I feel sure, due to the fact that they lose their marriage allowances when they are promoted. With regard to the sublieutenant scheme, we are trying to work the scheme left to us by the right hon. Gentleman. It does not come as easy as it looks, but it is quite obvious that there is a block in it somewhere, and it is out duty to see that this block is removed.
I am sure the hon. Member who spoke last—in fact I know—did not expect me 1505 to give him an assurance in regard to the opening of the Rosyth dockyard. There is no present intention of opening it. But we have done what we could to bring assistance to the town and the district by placing these new training establishments in the area, and we feel, also, that by having a training establishment in the area we may encourage a greater flow of recruits from Scotland. When he complains of an injustice to Scotland by there not being a sufficient amount of money spent there in these Estimates, I am afraid he must be displaying a certain amount of ignorance or cannot find his way through the Estimates. Any time that he and I have an hour to spare I shall be happy to spend it in showing him how much of that money is to be spent in Scotland.
We will go carefully into the other points raised by the hon. Member opposite, and will see that we are in a position to give him his answers on the Report stage.
§ Mr. Watson
Can the Noble Lord say whether any arrangements have been made for the erection of permanent buildings in Rosyth this year?
That 111,000 Officers, Seamen, Boys and Royal Marines be employed for the said Service.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 57; Noes, 152.1507
|Division No. 105.]||AYES.||[12.35 a.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Ritson, J.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hayday, A.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Beltenger, F. J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Sevan, A.||Hollins, A.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dagger, G.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Kelly, W. T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Kirby, B. V.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Day, H.||Lawson, J. J.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Dobbie, W.||McEntee, V. La T.||Westwood, J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rather Valley)||Milner, Major J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Paling, W.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Frankel, D.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gallacher, W.||Potts, J.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Price, M. P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Pritt, D. N.||Mr. John and Mr. Mathers.|
|Agnaw, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Denvills, Alfred||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Doland, G. F.||Hepworth, J.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Donner, P. W.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Holdsworth, H.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Holmes, J. S.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Dugdale, Major T. L.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Duggan, H. J.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Eckersley, P. T.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Everard, W. L.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Fildes, Sir H.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.|
|Bull, B. B.||Fleming, E. L.||Kimball, L.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Foot, D. M.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Latham, Sir P.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Leckie, J. A.|
|Cary, R. A.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.|
|Channon, H.||Goldie, N. B.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Grant-Ferris, R.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Grimston, R. V.||McKie, J. H.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Guy, J. C. M.||Maitland, A.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hannah, I. C.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon, H. D. R.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Markham, S. F.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Harbord, A.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Cross, R. H.||Hartington, Marquess of||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Rowlands, G.||Titchfield. Marauess ol|
|Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)||Train, Sir J.|
|Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Munro, P.||Scott, Lord William||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H||Seely, Sir H. M.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Selley, H. R.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Peake, O.||Shuts, Colonel Sir J. J.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Peat, C. U.||Simon, Rt. Hon, Sir J. A.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Petherick, M.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Wells, S. R.|
|Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Somerset, T.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Rankin, Sir R.||Spens, W. P.||Wise, A. R.|
|Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Rayner, Major R. H.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)||Wragg, H.|
|Remer, J. R.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Sir George Penny and Sir Henry|
|Rothschild, J. A. de||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Morris-Jones.|
Resolution agreed to.