§ 10. "That a sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty, to make good Excesses of Navy Expenditure beyond the Grants for the year ended 31st March, 1936."2293
|No. of Vote.||Navy Services, 1935, Votes.||Deficits.||Surpluses.|
|Excesses of actual over estimated gross Expenditure.||Deficiencies of actual as compared with estimated Receipts.||Surpluses of estimated over actual gross Expenditure.||Surpluses of actual as compared with estimated Receipts.|
|1||Wages, etc., of Officers, Seamen, Boys, and Royal Marines, and Civilians employed on Fleet Services.||14,492||4||4||—||—||2,570||18||0|
|2||Victualling and Clothing||17,896||0||1||—||—||46,311||4||11|
|3||Medical Establishments and Services.||3,452||7||9||—||—||1,693||14||10|
|7||Royal Naval Reserves||—||97||13||3||16,446||18||7||—|
|8||Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.:|
|Sec.3. Contract Work||40,998||0||2||—||—||2,232||10||9|
|10||Works, Buildings, and Repairs.||62,629||19||5||9,644||19||4||—||—|
|11||Miscellaneous Effective Services.||42,872||7||10||—||—||5,510||2||4|
|13||Non-Effective Services (Naval and Marine), Officers.||—||—||18,027||7||1||479||12||8|
|14||Non-Effective Services (Naval and Marine), Men.||—||1,326||1||9||36,246||8||4||—|
|15||Civil Superannuation, Compensation Allowances, and Gratuities.||2,437||13||0||—||—||126||1||5|
|—||Balances irrecoverable and Claims abandoned.||22,315||12||10||—||—||—|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
As I have already proposed the Question, "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," I cannot accept an Amendment. Had the hon. Member put an Amendment on the Paper, or given me notice that he wished to move one, I 2294 would have allowed him to move it before I proposed the main question.
§ Mr. Hall
There is some confusion in understanding not so much Vote A as some of the other Votes, owing to the fact that there is such a very large Appropriation-in-Aid which is really not an Appropriation-in-Aid, but is an advance from the Defence Loan. Some reference has been made to this subject on Vote 10. Much time was given to the Vote on the general Estimate, and, as was pointed out, this Vote, like many others, shows a very large increase, an increase of no fewer than 11,000 men. It is quite 2295 true that if ships are built we must have men to man them; otherwise the ships would be of very little use. As was explained by the First Lord, there are no fewer than 148 ships now under construction, and one can expect an increase in the number of personnel. But it is questionable whether the increase asked for is really warranted at the present time. Notwithstanding the fact that so many ships are under construction it is true to say that these larger ships will take some years to build, the cruisers from two to three years and the battleships from five to six years before they go into commission, and the question is whether these extra men are required at the present time. It must be remembered that these Estimates, compared with those of 1935, provide for an increase of no fewer than 18,000 officers and men, or an increase of no less than 20 per cent.
There are one or two matters upon which we would like a reply from the representatives of the Admiralty. They are matters which were raised in the Debate on the main Estimate, and the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty promised that a reply would be given today. I am not going to deal at any length with the question of promotion from the lower deck, because that was dealt with on the main Estimate. It is not that we were in any way satisfied with the reply given by the Civil Lord, who dealt with the matter. He certainly did not indicate that, so far as the Board of Admiralty is concerned, it is likely to encourage promotion from the lower deck. The Civil Lord said that he did not think the numbers to be promoted would be great, and he added that he thought there was little or no desire for promotion from the lower deck. His statement was somewhat inconsistent with other statements which the Civil Lord made in the course of his speech, for he referred to the channels for recruitment into the Navy and mentioned that the Admiralty were pulling their recruits from nearly all of our educational establishments. He did go on to say that in his opinion the best avenue for promotion was through the warrant officer class. His colleague, the Financial Secretary, said that that was the easiest and the commonest way of promotion, and added that promotion from the warrant officer class was very 2296 unpopular, for reasons which were given, and quite frankly he pointed out the difficulty.
At a time like this, when an expanding Navy provides for an increase of no fewer than 364 officers, one would have thought that if there was any difficulty the Admiralty would clear it away. If ever there was a time when changes should be made, that time is now. The same arguments will have to be used from this side of the House when the Estimates for 1938 are introduced, and probably the same reply will then be given by those who speak for the Admiralty. In the explanatory statement of the First Lord reference is made to the officers who are to be obtained by transfer from the Merchant Navy to the Supplementary List of the Royal Navy, but we have had no indication whatever as to the number of officers to be obtained by this transfer. Perhaps the First Lord will be able to give us that information?
One of the most alarming speeches I have heard for some time in this House was the speech of the Civil Lord with regard to entrants into the Cadet class at Dartmouth. I should have thought that he would have been the last person in the world to decry the educational changes which have taken place in this country during the last 20 or 25 years. It appears that it is only the Board of Admiralty which has not recognised those educational changes. The Board's method of recruiting into Dartmouth is as it was 50 or 100 years or generations ago. One must realise that changes have so popularised our system of education that persons are entering into professions and walks of life which were closed to them 4o or 50 years ago. I would that the educational changes which have taken place were recognised by the Admiralty. How many parents are there to-day who decide the careers of their children at 13½ years of age, which is the age at which cadets enter Dartmouth? Our system of elementary education is such that only a very small percentage of boys and girls have any idea at all, at 13 or 13½ years of age, what career they will take up. I have seen tremendous developments taking place in boys and girls after the age of 13. Boys and girls in the elementary schools who could not at that age obtain even a scholarship to a secondary school, have afterwards matriculated 2297 at 15½ or before they were 16. Such a thing completely changes the outlook of young people as to the kind of career they will follow.
It does appear that the only persons who do not realise these tremendous changes, brought about very largely by an improved elementary educational system, by which an average of one out of 10 elementary school children are enabled to pass into the secondary schools, are the Board of Admiralty. It has so alarmed some of the authorities in this country that in the May Report a statement was made that some concern was felt because of the number of boys and girls who were passing from the secondary schools into the universities and taking up some of the higher positions in nearly every profession. I cannot understand the argument of the Civil Lord, which is, after all, the argument of the Board of Admiralty. Most of my colleagues on this side, if they had had the misfortune to have been born 30 years before they were born, would not be occupying the positions that they occupy at the present time. It is almost entirely the changes in our educational system which have enabled boys and girls from working-class homes to pass from elementary to secondary schools, and so to the universities, and to reach the top of the tree in nearly every profession in this country—every profession except the Navy.
No one can gainsay the fact that the system of entrance into Dartmouth is a class system. I doubt very much whether there is a boy in Dartmouth who has come from what may be regarded as a working-class home or elementary school. I had the very great privilege last year of sitting as a member of a committee for the selection of entrants into some of the higher branches of the Civil Service. I am not suggesting that they were any more important than the Navy, but a person entering that branch of the Civil Service was not considered before he was 21 years of age. A boy of 13½ years is incapable of deciding the career he will choose, and he has to depend on his parents. I think the age of entry into Dartmouth should be raised and that the officers once they are appointed should be retained rather than sent out sometimes when they are under 40 years of age.
Something on those lines should be done. There is no excuse for confining 2298 this career to those who have provided, in the main, the officer class in the Navy for past generations. There is not very much criticism against the Navy; it is a question whether the system can be improved, and I think the Board of Admiralty should really examine the position again. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) when he was First Lord discussed this matter with the superintendent at Dartmouth and also with the schoolmaster at Dartmouth, and had a Labour Government remained in office for a little longer it is more than likely that the system would have been changed, with the consent of the Board of Admiralty. Apparently those who succeeded my right hon. Friend did not consult the same experts, or cannot have given the same attention to this matter, otherwise there would not have been these justifiable complaints concerning this matter now. I hope it will not have to wait for a Labour Government to come into power before a change is made.
One thing which struck me in the Memorandum was the change in the system of welfare conferences, and I should like to compliment the First Lord and the Board on its extension. It is very desirable. I understand that the service conditions of the men can be reviewed from time to time. I understand, also, that not only those who serve on shore establishments but those who are serving in ships now have their committees, which, I trust are able to meet periodically to discuss and review any grievances. This I regard as most important work, and I hope the First Lord will tell us a little more about the work of these committees. I hope they are not too stereotyped or that they will become too stereotyped. Who presides, and what is the representation? Is the representation of the seamen left to the selection of the seamen themselves? Are all the representations which are made by these committees passed on to the Board of Admiralty, or are they vetoed by the captain of the ship or by the commanding officer? It is pleasing to know that about 4,000 requests have been received, and the Civil Lord in his statement on personnel mentioned that a few of the requests, very desirable ones, were granted, that they will not cost very much money, while at the same time will give a considerable amount of pleasure to 2299 those who will be affected by the changes. May I suggest to the First Lord that there should be no delay in dealing with these requests? I have had a little experience in dealing with requests from bodies of workmen to their employers—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is getting rather wide of the actual Resolution before the House. It deals only with the numbers of officers and men of the Royal Navy.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is rather a round-about way of dealing with the matter. The Resolution clearly deals only with the number of men required.
§ Mr. Hall
The Vote provides for an increased number of 11,000 as compared with last year, and I was trying to point out that the Navy would get recruits by having contented officers and contented men. However, I will content myself with asking the Board of Admiraly to see that there is no delay. I would ask whether these 11,000 men are really required? Are they to be posted to ships, to be sent to training establishments, or are they to kick their heels somewhere at shore establishments? A number of these ships will not be commissioned for some years, and with this large increase of 18,000 men in two years one wonders whether they are required. A number of over-age destroyers are to be retained. Are they to be put in reserve or will a number of these men be required to keep these destroyers in active commission? I hope we shall have an answer to these points.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Cocks
I want to say a few words about the position of warrant officers, because the Civil Lord in his speech last week seemed to suggest that the Admiralty thought that warrant rank was the best channel of promotion from the lower deck. Warrant officers in the Navy are suffering—I will not say grievances, because they do not like to think that they are men with a grievance—from certain disadvantages or handicaps which affect the number of petty officers who come forward for promotion to warrant 2300 rank. The Admiralty have admitted that a sufficient number of men are not coming forward for warrant rank, for in a previous Debate the Parliamentary Secretary said that although there were 63 vacancies for warrant officers there were not enough qualified candidates. I feel that certain of the disadvantages under which they are now labouring can be removed, and if they are removed there will be no difficulty in getting suitable candidates from the petty officer class to come forward for warrant rank.
The first handicap, or disadvantage, has already been mentioned. It is the question of marriage allowances. This is particularly vital in the case of warrant officers, because a large proportion of warrant officers are married. When they are ratings their wives are in receipt of a marriage allowance, but if they are promoted to warrant rank they lose that marriage allowance, and the loss of this on promotion is one reason why men hesitate to come forward for promotion to warrant rank. The Civil Lord said that the Admiralty were considering these questions in detail and, therefore, I hope he will be able to make a statement on the subject, if not to-day, at a date in the near future. The second disability is the question of pensions for widows of warrant officers and also commissioned officers of warrant rank. The widow of a lieutenant-commander gets a pension of £65 a year, the widow of a lieutenant £50 a year, the widow of a commissioned officer of warrant rank only £45 a year, and the widow of a warrant officer only £35 a year. Warrant officers think that these spacings out are too wide, and that the lower rates should be revised upwards. That is also a reason why the men hesitate to come forward.
The third disadvantage is concerned with the question of promotion from warrant rank to commissioned rank. Up to 1919, under the Regulations, a warrant officer had to serve 15 years before he could get a commission. In 1919 it was reduced to 10 years, which is the present period, but at that time the age for retirement was 55, and since 1922 it has been reduced to 50. There is, therefore, a reduction of five years during which they are able to serve as commissioned officers. Warrant officers think that the period of 10 years they have to serve before they can get a commission should be reduced to eight. It has been pointed 2301 out that 10 years is a long period for a commissioned officer in junior ranks to serve. It is a reasonable request that it should be reduced to eight years, and I hope the Board of Admiralty will consider it.
Another point about which they feel strongly is broken periods during a year counting for pension. They suggest, for example, that service for over three months and less than six months should count as a quarter of a year, that service for over six months and less than nine months should count as a half year, and that service over nine months and less than 12 months should count as three-quarters of a year, in calculating their pension. That is, they consider, a reasonable request, and they would be grateful if the Board would consider it. The fifth point is a small one, and concerns the question of gratuities on promotion from warrant rank to commission rank. When they take a commission they have to buy new uniforms, at considerable expense. I understand that a concession is made when a petty officer gets warrant rank, but that when a warrant officer takes a commission no gratuity is given. In some cases there is very little difference in pay. It may be a small matter, but warrant officers would be grateful if this concession could be made. The sixth point is a better adjustment for climatic pay. At the present moment if two mess-mates sleep and eat together—
§ Mr. Speaker
The first Resolution, which is now under discussion, deals with the number of officers, seamen, boys and Royal Marines required. The second Resolution deals with pay. The hon. Member is now dealing with the question of the pay of warrant officers, which will arise on the second Resolution.
§ Mr. Cocks
I have been able to deal with five of the seven points concerning warrant officers that I wanted to raise, and I hope the Admiralty will consider them. Last week the Civil Lord said that the Admiralty was very anxious to improve the status of warrant officers, and that he thought it could be done. Earlier in the Debate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty stated that the Admiralty was considering the recommendations of the committee appointed to inquire into the shortage of warrant officers. If the Admiralty could see its way to make the improvements for which I have asked, in addition to the two other improvements for which I hope to ask a little later, it would lead to a large increase in the number of petty officers coming forward for promotion to warrant rank.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter
I wish to thank the Civil Lord for the courteous reply which he gave when the question of marriage allowances was raised last week and for his kind statement that he would look into the whole question. I support the remarks made by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) concerning widows' pensions. When I asked a question about marriage allowances a short time ago, I received letters from all over the country from widows of admirals, captains, lieutenants and warrant officers, saying that the cost of living and the expenses of keeping up their small social positions had so much increased during the last two years that their pensions were not sufficient to keep them. I do not know how many years ago these pensions were worked out by the Admiralty and the Treasury, but it must have been a long time ago—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member is anticipating a later Resolution—that to defray the expenses of Non-Effective Services.
§ 4.34 p.m.
I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) about the age of entry into the Navy. In the 18th century, boys went into the Navy to train as midshipmen at a much earlier age than 13½ 2303 years. One of my ancestors joined at the early age of eight years, and that at a time when England was at war. Since then the age has been raised until it is now 13½, and I respectfully suggest to the First Lord that the time has come when the matter should be reconsidered. Do we get the best officers by choosing boys of I3½? Many boys, of course, are decided from a very early age on the vocation they would like, but a great many are not. Between the ages of six and eight years, many boys want to become chauffeurs, wireless operators, and so on, but between the ages, of 12 and 15 great changes come over boys. I feel that not much is gained by training a boy from the early age of 13½, and that not much more is done to make him an efficient officer than would be done if the training began at the age of 15 or 16. A boy is often put into the Navy because his father was in it and he has been brought up to think that the Navy is the thing for him, whereas a little later it becomes obvious that it is not the Service for him. I am aware that 13½ is the age at which a great many boys go to the public school, and that that age corresponds to the age at which boys are accepted in the Navy; but I believe that is a difficulty that could be overcome. I am rather inclined to think that, considering the modern educational system and the age to which boys are educated, this question should be carefully reconsidered by my right hon. Friend.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Young
I have been looking into the figures of the increase of officers and men, and I find that the increase of commissioned officers is 360 and subordinate and warrant officers 500, making a total of 860, whereas the increase in ratings is 6,120, plus boys 1,300, making a total of 7,420. I am puzzled as to why it should be necessary to have one officer for 8½ men in the additions that are being made. Has the Navy been under-officered in the past, or does it mean that new appointments are being created for these officers? The second point I wish to raise concerns engine-room artificers. I notice that there is an increase of 104 engine-room artificers and 19 mechanicians. Is that all that the Navy think they will require in the coming year? What is the ground for thinking that only 104 engine-room 2304 artificers will be required for 148 ships, whereas they are asking for 488 cooks? Surely it is more essential to have more men in the Navy for the purposes of the Navy—engineers and so on—than to have so many extra cooks.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
In view of the way in which the Debate has proceeded, I will make the remarks which I wish to make on this Vote before the Government spokesman replies, although I had intended to wait until the reply had been made. The outstanding feature of this Resolution, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) said, is that the number of officers and men asked for is an indication of the strength of the Fleet which the Government are seeking to maintain, and in asking the House to vote this very large number of officers and men it must be expected that, on the Report stage, the House should still have in view the very large Fleet which is behind the proposal to increase the number of officers and men and the policy which lies behind that increase. During the Committee stage of the Estimates, I referred to the First Lord's postulation of increasing the influence and strength of the Fleet in both hemispheres, and undoubtedly that policy, which has not been put before us in a very detailed way, but which is evidently covered by the First Lord's phrase, is responsible for the very large number of officers and men for which we are being asked.
I commend to hon. Members a study of the columns of the "Times" for to-day. There is a leading article, with many of the conclusions of which I can hardly be expected to agree, but which nevertheless, in its opinion in regard to the race in Naval armaments, is fairly stated and of vital importance. The beginning of that article states as clearly as any Socialist Member of the House could state the complete futility of a race in the provision of Naval armaments or men to man the ships. I beg the First Lord at some time during the Report stage to tell us a little more as to what are the prospects of arresting this fearful race in Naval armaments which clearly has already begun. The remarks which I made in following the right hon. Gentleman last week have not yet been answered. I pointed out then that, so far from the vast programme on which we are now embarking leading 2305 to any inclination on the part of other Powers to reduce the numbers of their ships or men, the opposite seemed to be the case. The comments of Admiral Leahy in Washington, although they have since been criticised in some quarters in New York, are perhaps the best indication of what the policy of America will be. I think it is as certain as we are debating this matter in the House to-day that if the Washington decision to expand the American fleet in proportion to the expansion of the British Fleet holds good, the Japanese will build in a similar direction, whatever may be the financial sacrifice required. The same argument applies to the Mediterranean.
Although we may give the First Lord his 112,000 officers and men, I still maintain that if the Government go on with this policy, at the end of three or four years from now, when there will have been spent upon the Navy a total of perhaps more than £400,000,000 or £500,000,000, we shall not be one whit relatively stronger in regard to the defences of the British Commonwealth than at the commencement of the programme. That is a very serious matter. It is for the Board of Admiralty to justify this programme of ships and men from that point of view. We have not yet had that justification. It is true that we get the usual type of Navy League answer, always so carefully recorded for us by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes), giving general historical reasons for the need to maintain the sea power of this country and so on. But that we do not dispute. What we argue is that we should move to that relative provision of armaments which gives the same amount of security at far less cost and far less danger to the peace of the world. That is the basis of our case, and it is that which is not happening. Therefore, I think we are entitled to ask the First Lord to give some explanation on what has been regarded in some quarters as the sinister references in his speech concerning the uses of the British Navy in future.
§ The First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Samuel Hoare)
§ Mr. Alexander
The First Lord of the Admiralty shakes his head. I am very glad to see him shake his head in these circumstances. Certainly, his reference to the duty and the use of the British 2306 Navy in the future has not gone unnoticed in other parts of the world. Therefore, we are entitled to ask for what standard are we preparing this expansion of the Fleet? What is to be the total strength of our Fleet in relation to others? Is it to be based on a standard agreed upon with the nations in the League who are still with us in respect of collective security, or is it in relation to a kind of balance of power, because we are always sure of specific naval help from certain countries in the event of hostilities? We ought to know that.
It is very difficult for the First Lord to refer to any particular country, but I do not think that the circumstances are so very much different from those that existed before the War. Who can read the speeches made in 1912–13 by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, and not mark how clearly he demonstrated at every stage of his presentation of the Estimates why the Fleet was being so constituted and against whom we were really arming? It is the duty of the Government to tell the House whether the nation can have renewed confidence arising from this naval programme, because as a result of the programme we shall be relatively stronger in relation to other Powers, even if those Powers go on building in the armaments race. That is the question that we should like to have answered, and it has not been answered.
We are not satisfied in regard to the provision of officers. We are to have the addition in personnel to which the hon. Member for Aberdare referred. How are the men to be officered? As far as I can gather from the announcements made, requests have been made for officers from the mercantile reserve of the Navy. It seems, therefore, that the Admiralty anticipate a shortage of officers. Is that so? What is the exact position? There are many people in naval circles who think that it is a questionable policy to make this appeal for officers from the mercantile side, especially when the Admiralty are completely damping down promotion from the lower deck. There is an article in the "Times" to-day by an unsigned correspondent, which deals with the whole question of the appointment of officers from the lower deck. According to that article we are debating this Report stage 2307 on the 25th anniversary of the day when the right hon. Member for Epping first announced new regulations, in 1912, which would permit of the promotion to officer rank of men from the lower deck.
Anyone who has read that article, which gives clearly the history of the case, with the number of officers who have been promoted from the lower deck in the meantime, and setting out the honourable, gallant and efficient service of officers promoted from the lower deck during the Great War, must feel that there is something rotten in the state of Denmark in this respect. We are down to an average of four officers per year in the last three years promoted from the lower deck, compared with what happened in 1912–13 when we were getting them promoted from the lower deck by tens instead of by units. Those officers did very fine and efficient service. Following the report of the Larken Committee in 1931, a committee which I appointed, which we hoped would smooth the way by arrangements for the selection at an earlier age of leading seamen from the lower deck to enable them to take a course which would fit them to get promotion to commissioned rank, we fail to understand how it is that we have now so few men from the lower deck being given the chance to become officers.
I pointed out in the Committee stage the great discrepancy there is in this regard between the situation in the Navy and in the Army. In the three years during which there have been 12 promotions from the lower deck, there have been 285 promotions in the Army from the ordinary ranks to commissioned rank. We are bound to assume in these circumstances—I feel strongly about this matter, although I have no special antipathy against any particular class; I am speaking from my experience in discusing this matter at the Admiralty—that there is a real desire on the part of large numbers of people who are behind naval policy in this country to keep this type of service in the Navy as a class preserve. Even those who do not go quite as far as that are still bitten by the idea which lay behind the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills), that you cannot make good officers unless you catch them young. All our experience of the result of our moral structure of publicly-aided education in 2308 this country is proof to the contrary, and the Board of Admiralty ought to make some change in this direction. When we are asked to vote 112,000 officers and men and we are faced with the fact that the Admiralty have had to go outside in the last two months to obtain officers, we are entitled to ask, what is behind this damping down of promotion from the lower deck? We are entitled to have a direct and specific answer, and I can tell the Front Bench opposite that at the moment we are completely dissatisfied with the answers that have been given.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Tufnell
Many criticisms have been made against the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, and they demand an answer from another point of view. It is all very well to say that we get these boys at 13½ years entering Dartmouth, but there is also an opportunity for boys to enter the service at the later age of 17. These boys of 13½ provide a very useful source from which to draw our future naval officers. At Dartmouth there is an opportunity of teaching these future officers and giving them a naval training such as they could not possibly get four years later by entering at 17. For instance a public school education does not afford the opportunity of giving training in seamanship, mathematics from the navigational point of view, and the very sound training in engineering which you get at Dartmouth. All these things are a very sound basis for training future naval officers, and it would be very unfortunate if we were to abolish this system of getting officers through Dartmouth.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
My right hon. Friend reminded the House that we are debating this Report stage on the anniversary of a Measure introduced by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes) will also remember that we are debating it on a great naval anniversary which we both have reason to remember, the anniversary of the naval attack on the Dardanelles. I hope that I shall not make him blush by referring to his superb services on that occasion, but I shall certainly remember him when the port comes round to-night. I associate myself fully 2309 with what has been said by my hon. and right hon. Friends on these benches on the subject of advancement in and promotion from the lower deck.
Having listened to the Debate on the three Service Estimates during the past week, many of us have had an uneasy feeling that the conditions in the Navy in this respect are not equal to the condilions in the other two Services, and I ask the First Lord to look into the matter from the point of view of comparing those conditions with the conditions in the other Services, and make absolutely certain that the Navy is fully abreast of what obtains in the other two Services in that direction. If the First Lord does bring the conditions in the Navy up to the highest standard in respect of advancement and of promotion from the lower deck, I am sure the Navy and the country will have no reason to regret it for there is first-rate material available.
I have one specific question to ask. The proposals for the manning of the Fleet are apparently based on the First Lord's statement last week that we are to maintain a Fleet in both hemispheres, a Fleet in the Far Eastern hemisphere which shall be able to meet any conceivable combination of forces, and a Fleet in this hemisphere similarly capable of meeting any combination of opposition in the Mediterranean or the North Sea. If that be so, and if the Admiralty are contemplating Fleets of such dimensions, then even if we follow the example of certain Totalitarian States and press the women into service, we shall not have enough men or women in the country to build, to man and to maintain Fleets of such size, having regard to the demands of the other two Services.
The specific question that I wish to ask is this. Speaking in the Debate last week I referred to a statement made by the right hon. Member for Epping concerning the Japanese Navy and I pointed out that the Japanese could upset all prevailing ideas of comparative strengths if they were to adopt the 16-inch gun. I see from well authenticated reports in the Press that the Japanese Admiralty have in fact decided to adopt the 16-inch gun. Our Estimates and our manning proposals are based, I understand, upon the intention to arm our Fleet with 14-inch guns. What is to be our reply to the Japanese Admiralty about this? Are we 2310 going to follow their example and adopt the 16-inch gun?
Is the hon. and gallant Member in order in discussing the armament of the ships?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am afraid that I was not listening very carefully to what the hon. and gallant Member said, but if he was discussing the question of armaments he was out of order.
§ Mr. Alexander
I think that anyone who reads the statement of the case in this morning's Press must realise that if the 16-inch gun is adopted by the Japanese, and we do so, we shall require a larger sized ship and a bigger number of men, instead of the number of men involved in the manning of the winch gun ships.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
My right hon. Friend has anticipated my argument. Apparently there is a choice between one of two things. Either our supreme Fleet in the Far East, of which the First Lord has spoken, is to go into action with 14-inch guns against, possibly, a fleet mounting 16-inch guns, or else we must arm our ships with 16-inch guns. The 16-inch gun not only requires a larger complement of men, which no one should know better than the hon. and gallant Member for North Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor), but it is also agreed by naval experts that it is very doubtful if the 35,000 ton ship constitutes an adequate gun platform for the 16-inch gun, so that if the 16-inch gun is adopted we shall be forced to build a larger ship than 35,000 tons. We seem to be confronted with these two alternatives and I hope the Minister who is going to reply will give us some light on the subject. Are we going to reply to the 16-inch gun which is to be adopted by Japan or are we to continue with the 14-inch gun? If we are to be forced up to a i6-inch gun and a ship above 35,000 tons, is it not the case that the present Estimates and the manning proposals based on them will have to be revised and revised upwards?
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes
I would like to ask hon. Members opposite who are opposing the numbers in 2311 personnel required by the Admiralty, whether they are satisfied with the existing manning situation in the Navy. It must be within their knowledge that owing to the shortage of personnel in the Navy the men, particularly in certain classes, are suffering a great hardship in having to spend the greater part of their service abroad. Do not hon. Members realise that the personnel must be increased if a fair proportion of their service is to be spent in home waters?
§ Mr. Alexander
We have no objection to provision of the necessary personnel for the efficient manning of the Fleet, but our experience in 1930 was that we discovered a distinct over-bearing. There should be no unnecessary overbearing.
§ Sir R. Keyes
The reductions which were made in personnel when the right hon. Gentleman was in office resulted in a great many men having to spend the greater part of their service abroad, and consequently seeing little of their families. That is well known in all the Service ports, and cannot have escaped the notice of hon. Members opposite.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)
Perhaps it would be convenient if I answered one or two smaller points raised in the Debate. My right hon. Friend the First Lord will deal with questions of policy. I wish to clear up any possible misapprehension about the statement which I made last week on the question of promotion. I tried to put the matter in some perspective. I repeat the four points which I made, because they partly answer the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall). I said it was all wrong to think that there was a great demand in the Navy on this question of promotion; secondly that there was no reason to be dissatisfied with the present standard of officers; thirdly, that we wished to identify the Navy with the main national stream of education and to draw from all classes in the community; and, fourthly, that there are four different avenues for entering the commissioned ranks of the Navy. A question has been raised regarding Dartmouth. For several years Dartmouth has produced a very fine type of naval officer, and while I agree with my hon. Friend that it is an early age for 2312 a boy to choose his career, I think he is quite wrong when he suggests that the boys are dependent on their parents for putting them into the Navy. My experience—and I believe it is the experience of hon. and gallant Members—is that the boys decide for themselves and do so somewhat early. I object to a boy having to make a decision about a scholarship at the age of II plus, when his whole future depends on it, but it is different in the Navy. Dartmouth has been considerably improved since my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) was last there, and I would like to read this report from the Board of Education:It will be obvious from this report that the college is doing admirable work as a place of education for naval cadets. The inspector views with dismay any proposal to restrict its scope or lessen the contribution it makes to the education of naval officers. While the course at the college is designed to meet the special needs of those who will enter the Naval Service, it is in no sense narrowly conceived. On the contrary, it provides, in the view of the inspectors a kind of education which would be very suitable for many of the cadets' contemporaries who have no intention of entering the Navy. The main criticism which was made in the last report has been met, so far as it could be met, having regard to the age at which the cadets pass out, by the institution of the "Alpha Classes"; and other changes introduced by the headmaster have been all to the good.My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty introduced the house system at Dartmouth recently, and we should be glad to consider any other improvement that might be suggested. But it is no good scrapping a good thing. On educational grounds we were opposed to boys coming in at 16 when other boys were coming in at 13, but that is not the only method of becoming an officer in the Royal Navy. There are at least three other methods. Many other boys come through the Special Entry at 17—boys from a wide variety of schools, public and grammar. Roughly 50 per cent. of the boys going into the officer executive class come through the Special Entry at the age of 17. Two other avenues have been mentioned. There is the system established by my right hon. Friend, for he abolished the mate system, and the new system which he introduced has been slightly improved, and the age limit of 21 reduced.
We are not satisfied with the system which my right hon. Friend introduced 2313 four or five years ago. The examinations are too strict and the whole ladder could be more easily climbed. The fourth avenue of promotion is the one mentioned by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), who made a series of practical and constructive suggestions. Every one of the suggestions which he made is now before the Board. I am to say on behalf of my right hon. Friend the First Lord, that it is his desire that when improvements are made, as they are bound to be—not in 1938, as the hon. Member for Aberdare suggested—but in the coming year, they should be made as a whole and not piecemeal.
We are glad to have the blessing of the hon. Member for Aberdare for the Welfare Scheme. It is a most remarkable thing that there should be 4,000 suggestions coming forward dealing with the most important things in the men's life and service. A fresh lot of recommendations will be coming out shortly. It is not an easy job dealing with 4,000 requests, but the whole thing will be dealt with within a few months.
§ Mr. Lindsay
The representations go through the Ship Committee, the Fleet Committee, and the Commander-in-Chief, and any notes which the Commander-inChief attaches to them are only explanatory. No single recommendation is left out.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. Gentleman the Civil Lord mentioned last week and again to-day that in the Fleet there is no express desire for the opening of the pathway to promotion. Is it not because the men as a whole have the feeling that the gulf between them and promotion is almost impassable? Would it not be desirable to encourage among the great mass of the men a feeling that the way to promotion is open to them?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I want to enter a caveat against the idea that there is a great demand throughout the Navy for promotion from the lower deck. There is room for it. I think that by broadening the basis on which boys may enter the Navy, by improving the whole status of warrant officers and by making the ladder easier to climb we shall be able to say we are drawing into the executive officer class 2314 from every possible source in the country—from preparatory, public, secondary and central schools.
§ 5.15 p.m.
I intervene in the discussion on this question of promotion from the lower deck chiefly on account of a statement which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander). We all regret that there is not a greater number of promotions from the lower deck, but the right hon. Gentleman stated that there was a certain section of naval officers who were opposed to promotion from the lower deck and treated it as a class matter. I think that is a very reprehensible statement for an ex-First Lord of the Admiralty to make.
I have had some practical experience at sea, and it has gone to show me that naval officers do everything they can to assist any man who desires to be promoted from the lower deck to attain his object. I very much regret that statement of the right hon. Gentleman. There are many reasons why there are not more promotions from the lower deck. The Civil Lord has mentioned one, and a very important one—that there is no great demand for it on the lower deck. An attempt has been made to draw a parallel between promotion in the Army and promotion in the Navy as if the conditions in the two Services were the same. The conditions are different. The private in the Army during his ordinary work and training is, to a great extent, fitting himself for the work which he would have to undertake if he became an officer. That does not apply to the Navy. The work of the bluejacket on the deck and the training which he receives do not necessarily fit him to go on the bridge and take command of the ship. There is no real analogy between the training of the private and the training of the bluejacket if you are considering the question of promotion to officer rank.
There is also the question of the increased expenses which have to be undertaken by a man when he has been promoted from the lower deck, especially under the present condition with regard to marriage allowances—though I am glad 2315 to say that that matter is under consideration. But it is far more expensive for those men themselves when they go into the officers' mess and it is also far more expensive for their wives and their families ashore. They have to keep up appearances. They are naturally desirous that, as they rise in rank, their wives and families should occupy better social positions, and why not? But that makes it more expensive and more difficult for them. There are many other reasons why there are not more promotions from the lower deck, but I do not propose to go into them now. As I say, I intervened on this point chiefly because I strongly objected to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough to which I have referred.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) told us about his experience at sea. The disadvantage of having been at sea, apparently, is that those who have been at sea once, remain at sea, even when they get back on to dry land. The hon. and gallant Member seems to be very much at sea in thinking that anything which he said tended to disprove the statements of my hon. Friends on this side in favour of a greater amount of promotion from the lower deck. I keep away from the sea. I have been seasick on the crossing from Southsea to Ryde, and my feelings regarding the sea were well expressed by a private who was under me when I was a non-commissioned officer on my first trip across to France during the late War. As the ship was heaving about, he said, "Why the—something or other—don't they torpedo her?" I do not profess to understand the point of view of the bluejacket as opposed to that of the private, but it seems to me that the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion that one reason why you have to be careful about promotion from the lower deck—I am not putting his argument too high—is the expense incurred by the ex-bluejacket when he gets into the officer class, amounts to a complete admission of the case which has been put from this side.
I did not suggest that you ought to be careful about promotion from the lower deck, I suggested that that was one of the considerations 2316 which would occur to the mind of a man who might wish to be promoted from the lower deck.
§ Mr. Ede
I purposely said I was not trying to put the hon. and gallant Member's argument too high, but if he insists on keeping that particular flag at the masthead he must not blame me for the consequences. Surely that is one of the considerations which presents itself to the mind of the youth in the secondary school, or elsewhere, who is contemplating a career in the Navy. If he goes into this profession he expects to rise in it, and if he rises in it, he will be faced with more social expenditure, as it may be called, than he would have to meet in many other professions or callings open to him, in which he would be able, more or less, to set his own standard. I suggest that what the hon. and gallant Member has said is the strongest possible argument for some action by the Lords of the Admiralty or the proper authorities first to see that those expenses are kept within bounds and, secondly, to see that the pay of the young officer is sufficient to enable him to feel that he will be able to undertake the job properly and to be well in the swim with others of similar rank. I did not hear anything in what the hon. and gallant Member said which made me think that the remark of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) was in any way reprehensible. My right hon. Friend being an expert in cooperation might well be regarded by the hon. and gallant Member as likely to expound on this matter views which would be of assistance to young men contemplating promotion from the lower deck or contemplating a professional career in the Navy. I hope the Admiralty will take note of what the hon. and gallant Member has said with a view to removing from the minds of aspirants for promotion the fear which, as he has said, at present prevents them from seeking promotion.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Sir Samuel Hoare
I welcome the chance of making a few observations in answer to the questions which have been put to me, especially as I think that I can remove a good many misapprehensions from the minds of certain hon. Members. Let me say at the outset that the more I have listened to the Debate, the more 2317 I have been convinced that though we may differ upon certain details, there is at bottom a very great measure of agreement between us. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) and the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) are just as anxious to see an efficient Navy as we are, and are just as keen, as I know from what I have heard in the Admiralty, about the details of naval administration as if they themselves were still in office in Whitehall. I believe there is not very much disagreement between us.
First let me say a few words about the wide field of policy. There, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough seemed to think that we were embarking upon a grandoise and provocative programme of expansion; that we were going to take on the whole world at once, or thought that we could take on the whole world at once, and that there were all sorts of sinister motives behind the programme for which I am responsible. Let me disabuse the minds of the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members opposite of any impression of that kind. What we are trynig to do is to make a Fleet which will be up to date and efficient for its task. I thought the other day I was stating a self-evident fact when I said that if we were to have an efficient Fleet it must be efficient for its duties in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres. I should have thought that that was a self-evident fact, and that no sinister motives could be read into a statement of that kind in any quarter.
I am not one of those who draw distinctions between national needs and collective needs. I have never admitted that dilemma. I claim that everything which I am asking the House to approve in these Estimates is just as necessary for the implementing of our collective obligations as it is for the defence of these shores and the defence of the Empire generally. I again ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to point to any item in this programme which is not urgently required if we are to pull our weight and play our full part in the collective action of the League in the years to come. There seems to be an impression that in some way or other we are not in favour of such action. I wish we could see into each other's minds. If we could, hon. Members opposite would find how 2318 very wrong is any impression of that kind and how, at the bottom of my heart, I am just as anxious to strengthen and mobilise the forces of peace in the world against any possible aggressor as any hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite.
I say, therefore, that I was stating a self-evident fact when I said that, in the interests both of collective security and of national and Imperial security, it was necessary that the Fleet should be able to carry out its responsibilities in both hemispheres. After all, our obligations do not end in one hemisphere. It may well be that if the Fleet had been stronger in former years, the forces of peace would have been stronger to-day. Be that as it may, there is the need for making the Fleet efficient and I claim that there is no item, big or small, in this programme that is not as necessary for our collective obligations as it is for our national and Imperial security.
§ Mr. Alexander
This leaves us very much in the air. Having gone so far, will the right hon. Gentleman mind going a little farther and say what is the ultimate standard which he regards as necessary for Imperial and national Defence, as well as for collective security? Will he tell us what he is aiming at. Is it a Fleet of 15 capital ships? Is it a Fleet of 70 cruisers, with a maximum of 200,000 tons of destroyers? What is the maximum fleet that he requires in order to reach a standard of efficiency? On that we ought to judge this Vote.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I readily respond to the right hon. Gentleman's question. I say to him what I said the other day in the House, that it is impossible here and now to give a categorical answer to questions of that kind. The world changes too quickly. What I can say to him is that we have to take these programmes year by year, and that for the purpose of this year it is essential in the interests both of collective action and of individual security that we should lay down these new battleships, that we should lay down the new cruisers, and that we should lay down the new destroyers and the smaller ships. Once again, in no provocative spirit, I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to point to any single item in this programme that is not urgently needed to meet the requirements I have stated.
§ Mr. Alexander
I shall be glad to say at any time how much they are in excess of what is required when we know what is the Government's attitude towards collective security. We cannot get out of the Government what they are going to do.
§ Sir S. Hoare
The hon. Member says it is very vague, but hon. Members on this side think that I am not vague. I am afraid that I have nothing further to add to the position. It is set out in the Estimates, and, in my view, it is quite clear. It is easily understandable by the country, and so far from any evil intention having been read into this programme, I have been much struck with the general body of support, not restricted to any one party, that seems to be behind it. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think, both to-day and on the last occasion when we discussed the Estimates, that we were contemplating war against the whole world. I cannot believe that, short of midsummer madness, the foreign policy of this country would contemplate such a state of affairs ever existing. I cannot contemplate a war in which we should be facing the world without any allies. If the right hon. Gentleman contemplates such a contingency, I can only say that he is a much greater pessimist than I imagined him to be.
Nor do I agree with him that this much-needed programme is going to start again a race in naval armaments. I do not think it will do anything of the sort. The right hon. Gentleman goes on murmuring interjections of disagreement. I am stating my view, and he evidently does not agree with me, but we have failed to agree with each other sometimes in the past. I am stating my view, and I say that I do not believe this programme is going to lead to a new race in naval armaments. I said the other day that it is a satisfactory fact that in the field of naval armaments the great Powers have been able to come to agreement in recent years. I still hope that it will be possible to implement the agreement reached in London last year. I do not wish to be either optimistic or pessimistic, but I say that it would be a great calamity to the world 2320 if this agreement were not implemented by the great naval Powers and we saw starting once again a competition in new types and new sizes.
The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) asked me about certain aspects of the treaty. He alluded to certain rumours about Japanese policy. I can tell the House that I have no official information on the subject, but what I can say is that it would be a matter of great regret to all of us if any one of the naval Powers started building guns bigger than the 14-inch guns or ships bigger than the 35,000-ton battleships. So far as we are concerned, we are definitely arming the new battleships with 14-inch guns and we do not intend to make a change. We intend to stick to the 14-inch guns for the 35,000-ton battleships, and I am sure that if only all the other naval Powers do the same—and there is a wide measure of agreement between certain of the naval Powers on this subject—it will be much better for the world as a whole, and I do not think that any Navy will lose in the way of efficiency.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
If a larger ship and a larger gun make their appearance, shall we still stick to our plans and design for these capital ships?
§ Sir S. Hoare
Yes, we are going to stick to our designs in these new ships, and I hope we shall not have to change them in future. If other countries break away from the agreement, we shall have to consider the position at the time. For the time being, we intend to arm these battleships with uniform armaments. We believe that, from the point of view of efficiency, there is much to be said for the 14-inch gun, and we do not intend to alter our design.
Let me say a word to supplement what the Civil Lord has said about the question of promotion. I have given a great deal of personal attention to the whole question of promotion from the lower deck. I do not believe that there is a great measure of disagreement between the right hon. Gentleman and myself over a good deal of the problem. I wish to see the ladder wider from the lower deck to the commissioned ranks. The difficulty is not a difficulty of prejudice or It is a difficulty connected with the actual conditions of service. I 2321 will tell hon. Members what I mean. The requirements for a commissioned officer, we should all agree, must reach a high standard. We cannot take in officers of a low standard. It would be bad for the Navy if we did. In subsequent years they would not be able to finish their careers; they would drop away, and that would be unsatisfactory from both points of view. It happens that life on board a ship is necessarily not a very easy background in which a young man can work up for a very difficult examination and pass from the lower deck to the quarter-deck. It is in the nature of the conditions of service upon a ship that you cannot have the privacy, the leisure, and so on for working up for a very difficult examination. I assign the smallness of numbers much more to actual conditions of that kind than to any desire on anybody's part to restrict the numbers.
With the help of the Board, I am looking into these conditions to see whether we cannot make it easier for a young man to pass these various tests. It is very necessary to give him a commission early if he is going to make a career. The problem is to pick out the young man early and so to arrange his training as to give him an effective opportunity to pass his tests. It is on that problem that we are engaged. We have asked each of the commanders-in-chief to report upon the position with a view to making it easier for these young men, and when I get those reports and we have had an opportunity of digesting them, I will tell the House what is the conclusion that we have drawn. I can assure hon. Members that there is a general desire to see that the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman started, and which for reasons such as I have mentioned is not working, does work.
As to the other method of entry into the Navy through Dartmouth, we have to judge the various systems of entry by the productions that come out of them, and I am sure that any unbiased investigator into naval conditions would agree with me when I say that Dartmouth is turning out a very excellent type of officer and that from the point of view of the Navy it would be a disaster if that particular method of entry were closed. I agree, however, that Dartmouth should not be the only method of entry, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite would, 2322 I am sure, be glad to hear that we have been substantially increasing the numbers of the special entry into the Navy. The special entry enables boys to be drawn from a variety of schools in the country. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at an answer given yesterday by the Parliamentary Secretary, he will see set out the schools from which these boys come, and he will find that they cover almost every type of school. It is to the special entry that we shall particularly look for recruiting those very intelligent young men from the secondary schools.
Perhaps I may take this opportunity of drawing the attention of local education authorities to this opening through special entry. I remember that at one time years ago I used to take a great interest in the scholarship question on the higher education committee of a county council, and I did my best to expand the scholarship system. Would it not be possible—I ask the question of local education authorities—for them to bring the special entry into the Navy into their scholarship system, and so make it easier for the clever boys who have no private means to enter into the commissioned ranks of the Navy? I suggest that for the consideration of hon. Members who are interested in educational questions and to members of local education authorities.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I do not think that the hon. Member is quite in possession of the details. There is the Dartmouth entry at 13½. I was referring to the special entry from the secondary schools at the age of 17 or 18. I was thinking of the local education authorities particularly in connection with the special entry, and if they have suggestions to make about Dartmouth, by all means let them make them.
§ Mr. Ede
Leaving out Dartmouth, does the right hon. Gentleman mean that he hopes local education authorities will agree to assist these youths financially to make a career in the Navy? If so, I suggest that he should get the President of the Board of Education, who is sitting near him at the moment, to make an 2323 announcement to the local education authorities that such expenditure would rank for grants.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I must confine myself to my own Department. I am glad that my right hon. Friend is sitting near to me, and perhaps he has taken note of the suggestion which I have made. I made it because I am very anxious to keep the ladder wide and open for all keen and clever boys to get into the Navy. I am conscious of the fact that every profession in the country benefits by being able to recruit brains from all classes of the community, and I wish to see the Navy also enjoying that advantage.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Will the First Lord consider reducing the cost of living for these lads when they get promotion, because that is one of the great difficulties in the way of their promotion. It is not, as was suggested, that officers are trying to keep them from being promoted, it is the cost of living which stands in the way.
§ Sir S. Hoare
We try to keep officers' expenses as low as we can, and I think the hon. Member would be surprised if he had seen, as I have, the budgets of a number of typical naval officers and observed how every economically they live. I think he would also be surprised to find how very many of them are dependent upon their pay, and have little private resources of their own, but I agree that we must keep their expenses as low as we can.
That brings me to the third method of entry—the one discussed by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks)—the entry of warrant officers to the commissioned ranks. There, again, I have been very carefully into the whole question, which is a complicated one. The hon. Member himself had seven points to make, five of which he has put to the House and two of which we await with keen anticipation, and that shows that it is a complicated issue. There again I am inclined to think that one of the most important factors is the pay. There is the factor, for instance, of marriage allowances. If I were a free agent dealing with the matter only from the Admiralty point of view, that is the kind of question which I should like to settle here and now, at this Box, but, unfortunately, it is one of the questions which are inti- 2324 mately connected with a number of other Service questions which have been under consideration for many years, and it has become so complicated with other issues that it has been difficult to separate it. All I can say is that I am looking into it again, and with the utmost measure of good will, but that I am not a free agent in the matter. I am also looking into the other points in connection with the position of warrant officers, because I agree that we have to make it easy for a warrant officer to get a commission. I have ventured to make these observations chiefly with the intention of removing from the minds of hon. Members any idea that there is any want of sympathy on this bench with the general desire to make it easier for the clever boy to get into the Navy and, when he is in the Navy, to rise to the highest ranks in it.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Cocks
On the previous Vote I dealt with the position of warrant officers, and made five of the points I wish to bring forward. As the First Lord remarked, I have seven points, but I am afraid that my last point, the seventh, cannot be put before the House, because, apparently, it comes under another Vote. It concerns the desire of warrant officers for better cabin accommodation in ships of the cruiser class. The other point I wish to mention, and which may, perhaps, seem a small point, is that they feel there ought to be a better adjustment of the pay granted when they are serving under specially trying climatic conditions. Two mess-mates may sleep and eat together and live under precisely the same conditions in a tropical climate, but because one has half a strip more than another he gets extra pay in respect of this climatic discomfort, pay which is 200 per cent. greater than that of his messmate. Warrant officers consider that is an anomaly which ought to be removed. I should like to thank the First Lord of the Admiralty very sincerely for his most sympathetic reply, which I am sure will be received by the warrant officers of 2325 the Navy with great gratitude, and as he is himself going into this question in detail I hope that before long he may be able to announce that some of these reforms or improvements have been carried out.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Hall
The amount which is named in this Estimate does not give a true picture of the expenditure under the Vote. The new system to which I referred in the Debate on Vote A can be seen in actual operation on this Vote. Though the amount of the Vote is £2,093,000, the actual expenditure is no less than £4,900,000, the difference being made up by what are called appropriations-in-aid, very largely the sum which will come from the Consolidated Fund when the legislation dealing with the new Defence Loan has been passed by the House. This expenditure of nearly £5,000,000 includes some very heavy items about which I should like a little further explanation than is given in the Estimates themselves. First, there is the expenditure on the boys' training establishment at Rosyth. In the last five or six months the White Star liner "Majestic" was purchased and is to be used as a training school until a new school is erected. As the total cost of the school amounts to no less than £870,000, I think we ought to have some further explanation. We ought to be told whether the school, when erected, will provide only for the boys drawn from Scotland and the North of England, and whether Shotley, upon which there is to be further large expenditure, will be used for training boys from the South and West of England and from Wales.
The expenditure upon schools or training establishments is not confined to this item of £870,000, and the £90,000 for Shotley, but there is to be a school at Portsmouth which accounts for £350,000, making an expenditure of just about £1,250,000 in all for training establishments. I raised the point on Vote 10 last year, when I asked why there was this 2326 need for these extra buildings, seeing that the personnel of the Navy in 1913 was some 40 per cent. more than is now being provided for, even if we include the 11,000 to be taken in under Vote A. Surely there are existing buildings without our having to incur this expenditure.
Then there is to be extensive expenditure upon storage accommodation. Is it now the policy of the Admiralty to have all the storage for ammunition underground? Tucked away in this Vote is an item of no less than £3,250,000 for a central storage magazine, and I should like to know where that is to be provided, and whether that will reduce the number of buildings at present being used for storage, because if so there would be a further number of buildings available for purposes which are, perhaps, provided for in other items. The expenditure upon storage is not confined to this sum of £3,250,000, for I find that there is an item of £520,000 for mine bases and boom defences storage. Then there is the Pembroke mine depot, the cost of which is estimated to be £538,000. All that, with the Crombie storage, amounts to no less than £5,000,000 for storage. That must mean that the policy of the Admiralty has now changed, and that they are going to have huge underground storages. With regard to the Pembroke storage, does it mean that it is the storage which has been provided for in the Estimates during the last three or four years? The Minister of Labour, in his list of works for the relief of distress in the Special Areas, referred to some mining debot at Pembroke. I suggested that that was the depot which had been provided for over a series of years, but that suggestion was resented by the Secretary of State for Scotland when he wound up that Debate.
There is the question of oil storage. An item amounting to £770,000 is provided for storage accommodation for fuel oil. May I put a question as to whether it is the intention now, instead of storing oil in tanks scattered all over the neighbourhood near the ports, to have underground storage for reserve supplies of fuel oil? I have in mind a reply to a question which was put to the Civil Lord a fortnight or three weeks ago, in which it was suggested that the Admiralty were now looking into the question of the underground storage of oil at Singapore. If it 2327 is necessary to store the oil underground at Singapore, surely it is equally necessary to do so in this country. I am somewhat alarmed at the very easy targets afforded by the many tanks in which oil is stored in this country at the present time. On the Thames-side there is a veritable forest of oil tanks, making, in the event of war, the easiest targets imaginable for attack from the air. If it is the intention to provide this oil storage underground, will the Civil Lord give us the difference in cost of storage of a ton of oil underground compared with the storage of a ton of oil in a tank overground? These questions raise the general subject of oil storage, and while I do not propose, under Vote no, to deal with the general question of oil production or the difficulty which the Admiralty, in common with other Services, are facing, seeing that we have to import 95 per cent. of our oil from overseas, we may, in the course of the next month or so, call for the appropriate Vote, when the subject of this vitally important fuel can be discussed.
Is there any co-ordination among the three Services in connection with this question of fuel storage. I find in the Air Estimates an item of well over 1,000,000 for the storage of petrol. Perhaps the Civil Lord, in the absence of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, will explain whether each Department deals with the question of oil storage for itself, instead of there being some co-ordination of the Navy, Air Force and Army. It is imperative that there should be an oil policy, or a fuel policy, which can be effectively dealt with only from the point of view of the three Services.
I have one or two further questions about Singapore. The First Lord of the Admiralty, during the Debate upon the general Estimates, said that the completion of Singapore was in sight. Year after year expenditure upon Singapore has been growing. The Jackson contract was completed some two years ago. That was the main contract, but we find that there is still an expenditure of something like £3,000,000 before Singapore will be completed. We have seen the expenditure grow from £7,000,000 to something like £11,500,000. That is exclusive of £2,700,000 by the Army and expenditure by the Air Force. Would the Civil Lord 2328 tell us whether the expenditure is to continue to grow. Singapore is becoming a very expensive item. Whether we shall have the full benefit of the expenditure, the future alone can show. Why is there this further increase of expenditure, and is it not possible now to give some final estimate of the cost of this Singapore base? I would therefore beg to move to reduce this Vote—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Captain Bourne)
I understood that the hon. Member was not intending to move a reduction. That was why I put the Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution." He cannot move a reduction now.
§ 6.6 p.m.
I want to ask a question about the provision of underground storage for aircraft at home and overseas bases. I have in mind partly the question of Malta, where the soil is peculiarly soft and no great expense would be attached to providing underground storage for aeroplanes, aircraft and so on. It would, of course, be an enormous advantage if that were done. I was also proposing to ask about the underground storage of oil, but that has already been dealt with. There is no doubt that these overground tanks offer very easy and very large targets, and are exceedingly vulnerable. Although an oil tank does not explode when it is struck, the oil is lost, and if it is anywhere near a large river like the Thames, the damage is enormous. It would be of the greatest advantage if underground storage were provided for oil fuel.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Watson
I cannot allow the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) to pass without saying a word or two. On the last occasion when we discussed this matter I heard a protest from various parts of the House when I referred to the Navy as an English Navy and not a British Navy. I consider that I was justified in complaining that Scotland has been allowed to play very little part in the Navy. I welcomed what had been done in giving some little encouragement for Scottish boys to enter the Navy, but up to now the Navy has given very little encouragement to Scotland. Hon. Members do not require me to remind them 2329 that Rosyth naval base, the only naval base that we had in Scotland, was reduced to a care and maintenance basis, and that it remains in that position to this day. My complaint last time was that Scotland was not given its proper share. We play our part in regard to the Army—we have our Scottish regiments—and the Air Force, from which we get a certain amount of encouragement, but not when it comes to the Navy.
As some sort of compensation for the closing of the Rosyth dockyard the Admiralty have arranged that a training ship for boys should be sent to Rosyth. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare is asking why this training ship should be sent to Rosyth. There is a very complete answer to that, and it is that Scottish boys ought to be given as great an opportunity of entering the Navy as English or Welsh boys. If hon. Members examine the Estimates they will find that very little provision is made for Scotland. I understand that the training ship is for the purpose of recruiting boys from Scotland and from the North of England. In other parts of the Estimates sufficient provision is made for English or Welsh boys to enter the Royal Navy, and I hope that the Admiralty will stand by what has already been done and that we shall have that training at Rosyth until permanent buildings can be erected. I can assure my hon. Friend that there are no permanent buildings at Rosyth for the training of boys, either for the Navy or as apprentices. I hope that the provision that has already been intimated by the Admiralty will be maintained, and that they intend to give us not only that training ship, which may serve us for a few years, but permanent buildings, so that Scottish boys may have the same opportunity of entering the Navy and playing their part as boys from any other part of the United Kingdom.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I will reply to some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall). He addressed two questions to the Government, the first of which referred to the training establishments. Even on the strength of the Navy this year, which shows an increase of 11,000, there is a shortage of accommodation in training establishments. That is clear from the 2330 improvements and additions which have had to be made in connection with the "St. Vincent" and at Devonport and Shotley. A second reason for the shortage of accommodation is that educational standards have risen. I am sure that no hon. Member would like to see those standards below the Board of Education standard. In connection with the buildings at Rosyth hon. Members should take the figure of £750,000 in the Estimates as something in the nature of a token figure. It is impossible to estimate to any very accurate point the cost of this school at the present moment. I have already explained that the "Majestic" has been converted into a boys' training ship and a mechanical training establishment. The fact that there are going to be 1,50o seamen boys in that ship proves conclusively that there is a shortage of accommodation. It is not an ideal training establishment; it is a temporary matter, just as the other additions to Shotley and the "St. Vincent" were. Looking ahead, we expect to see two establishments in the South of England, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) that an establishment in Scotland would be desirable as well. It is high time that Scotland and the North of England were more closely identified with the Navy. It is not that they have not sent thousands of boys to Portsmouth, Devonport and Chatham during the last 20 or 30 years, but I think there would be a definite advantage in having an establishment in the North of England or in Scotland, and as soon as possible the plans and designs for this new school will be got out.
The whole question boils down to this, that if you are meeting an emergency it is no use talking about building a school which will take four years to complete when you want accommodation during the next two or three years. It is the same argument that we had to use the other day about taking Royal Naval Reserve officers into the Navy. We are meeting an emergency, not only in shipbuilding but in men, and that is the short answer to the first part of the hon. Member's question. Signal schools are on a different footing. There has been for a long time, owing to the growth of wireless signalling in the Navy, a shortage of such accommodation. As the hon. Gentleman probably remembers, the signal school at 2331 Portsmouth is in the barracks. That is a very unsatisfactory place for a signal school, and, in addition, the barrack-room accommodation is required. If my hon. Friend will go to any dockyard in this country and show me where there is free accommodation, I will look into it to-morrow morning; but it does not exist.
I sympathise with my hon. Friend in his anxiety about the question of storage. When I first came to this office and saw the amount of money that had to be spent in sheer storage, I was somewhat astounded, but the fact is that if you are to have an efficient Navy you not only have to have ships and men, but you have to have guns and ammunition, and you have to store these, generally speaking, in some definite place, either above ground or underground. As regards guns and ammunition, it is a big problem. I am very glad to say that the new magazine depot, which is to cost £3,000,000, will be in Wales at Fishguard. You cannot put this type of magazine right in the middle of a depressed area, for a great variety of reasons which will be obvious to the House, but I am glad to think that it is to be in Wales, and that it will mean at any rate some additional labour while it is under construction, and when it is finished some permanent labour will be required for its maintenance.
With regard to the question of oil storage, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare, and also by the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor), I do not think that this House is the place to go into it in any detail, but I entirely agree with what the hon. and gallant Member said about Malta. When, however, you are dealing with this country, the question of oil storage is a rather more complicated question. The problem of ensuring adequate protection from attack is one which, as everybody in the House knows, is of considerable complexity, but let me reassure the hon. Member for Aberdare. I could not say this last year, but I can say now from this Box that there is the most complete coordination between the three Services on the whole question of oil and oil storage. It has been receiving intensive study during the whole year, accompanied by a very considerable amount of experiment. For reasons which I think will be fairly 2332 obvious, I am not in a position to make a statement as to the precise measures which are being taken. The actual Vote for oil storage is a fairly normal one compared with those of recent years, and is part of the general system of storing oil which has been in operation for the last five or six years.
§ Mr. G. Hall
Surely the hon. Gentleman can tell the House whether, if oil is to be stored, it is intended that it should be stored underground or in tanks on the surface? I do not ask him to state the location of the storage.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am afraid it would be quite impossible for me to say at this moment, or perhaps at any moment, what the exact policy in regard to underground storage is. It is very easy to go from the question whether it is above ground or underground to the question where it is, and there are obvious reasons why I should not go into any great detail on this question. The hon. Gentleman raised in a very few words the old question of coal and oil. As far as low temperature carbonisation is concerned, the oil received from that source is excellent from the point of view of the Navy, but its cost is approximately three times that of similar imported oil.
§ Mr. James Griffith
That is a very interesting statement. We have pressed for information times without number as to what is the cost of oil produced from coal, and all the time we have been told, "We cannot tell you; we are still in the experimental stage." Now the hon. Gentleman has made a very important statement, and we should like to know on what authority it is based.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I very much hope that I shall not be expected, as Civil Lord of the Admiralty, to make a statement from this Box on the question of oil from coal. There is a Minister of Mines, who is much more qualified to deal with that side of the question, and a Minister for the Coordination of Defence, who is looking at the problem as a whole. I think that that is a very much more businesslike method of dealing with the matter. The question of oil from coal is peculiarly under the control of the Mines Department, and, as it affects defence, under the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. I have answered the question in very brief outline because it affects the 2333 Navy, which we are discussing this afternoon, and because my hon. Friend put the question to me.
§ Mr. G. Hall
I understand that it is only a very small proportion of the fuel oil for the Navy that is being purchased from that source, but I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to any purchases of oil produced from shale in Scotland. Can he tell us the amount of oil purchased which has been produced from coal, and give us the precise particulars in connection with this matter, because it is rather important in regard to the question of oil from coal generally?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I can say generally that the amount is small, but I merely wanted to give a relative figure. You have to balance the question of defence needs and the cost to the community. We have tried some small experiments; we have bought a certain amount; and generally speaking the cost is about three times that of imported oil. I only wish to make that general statement, leaving other Ministers to go into details.
I think the only other question raised by the hon. Member for Aberdare was the question of Singapore. The reason for what looks like an increase over two or three years is simply and solely that there was what is called a truncated scheme, which cut out several very heavy items. Those items have now been replaced. In the figure of £640,000 for this year is included one very important piece of work which formed part of the truncated scheme, namely, the completion of the North Wall with a solid wall to allow for increased accommodation for capital ships. The increase due to capital ships is about 50 per cent. as compared with the original scheme. If I may give a general picture of the Singapore Base at this moment, I would say that it is like a house where the foundations have been well laid and the scaffolding is still up, but where you know that, in a very few months in the case of the house, or in a very few years in the case of the Singapore Base, the whole picture will be completed. I do not think hon. Members will desire me to go into great detail about the transit sheds, the boom defence depot, the armament depots, the oiling facilities and so on, but when the Base is completed it is not expected that there will be any material addition to this cost, 2334 which really represents the original scheme put back. The Jackson contract is finished, and we now know pretty clearly what will be the future expense as far as the Navy is concerned, and I think also as regards the other Services.
As the hon. Member for Aberdare will know, there will be additions next year and the year following, naturally, but the total cost of the Singapore Base can now be estimated with some accuracy; indeed, the hon. Gentleman gave the figures. When it is completed it will be, as the First Lord said in his speech last week, the most complete and the most tangible expression that in the Pacific we are prepared to defend the interests which we have there. There is nothing aggressive about it. It stands there, 4,000 miles away from Japan, for the protection of Australia, New Zealand, and the very important interests of this country in the Pacific Ocean. The only other reason for an increase in Vote 10 is that where you have capital ships you have to have docks to which they can go to refit. The only other signal examples of increases are at Devonport and at Gibraltar. If the Navy is to be mobile, it is perfectly clear that docks must be available for its capital ships, not only at home but in the Mediterranean and the Pacific. I hope that with these few explanations the House will pass the Vote.
Could the hon. Gentleman answer my question about the possibility of underground accommodation?
Major Lloyd George
The Civil Lord referred to the provision of a certain amount of temporary employment and a certain amount of permanent employment. Could he give an indication of what that will be?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am not suggesting that any great amount of permanent employment will be provided, but there will be the maintenance of the magazine depot at Fishguard.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
The hon. Gentleman has said that oil produced from coat costs three times as much as ordinary oil. He may not have the figures by him at the moment, but would it be possible for him to make them available to us, because we are very interested in that aspect of the matter?
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I should like to point out that the hon. Gentleman's statement this afternoon is of very grave importance for the mining industry. We realise that one of the main avenues along which the coalmining industry of this country can get new activity and prosperity is by the development of the by-product side of the industry, and particularly the extraction of oil from coal for the supply of our own needs. In this House we have been told all along that no statement could be made because the matter was still in the experimental stage. The hon. Gentleman this afternoon has made a very important statement. It is the first real indication that has been given of the relative position of coal-produced oil and imported oil, and the impression that will be gathered in the country by technicians, industrialists and others who are interested will be that it is a hopeless proposition. If home-produced oil is costing the authorities three times the amount that they pay for imported oil, the position is hopeless and absolutely impossible. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to create an impression of that kind, and, therefore, he will appreciate that those of us who are concerned about the mining industry and those employed in it, and about its further development, are entitled to ask him to speak again on this matter. Are these approximate figures, and on what are they based? The Admiralty are obviously purchasing home-produced oil, and we ought to be told far more than we have been told, as it is important that the impression should not go out to the country that the position is so absolutely hopeless.
When this matter was raised in this House many years ago at the time the Billingham plant was being put down, it was agreed that certain protective measures should be given to this process; that there should be a protective tariff to make it possible to obtain home-produced oil at a competitive figure. I am positive that the estimate was not based on home-produced oil costing three times the amount of imported oil. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to be more explicit, otherwise his statement this afternoon will create a very definite impression in the country and cause much harm to this new industry. Germany is making rapid strides. Last summer I was in Czecho- 2336 slovakia and part of Germany with a colleague, and we gathered that they are making rapid progress in extracting oil from coal. They are at the moment putting down at least five new plants to extract oil from coal. If they are making all these strides, we would not like the impression to go out from the House of Commons that the prospects of this new industry are as poor as the figures of the hon. Member indicate.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I will give one very short answer. I was not quoting an exact figure. I simply wanted to protect the Admiralty from the least possible accusation that they were taking no measures to get oil supplies from this country. There is a Ministry of Mines to deal with the larger question of oil from coal.
§ Mr. Alexander
Is your quotation of three times the cost for fuel oil, or is that the general cost?
§ Mr. Lindsay
That is the general cost. The very much larger question of what is happening in Germany is not really a case for me to go into from this Box this afternoon. It is much more appropriate for the Secretary for Mines and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence to deal with the matter as a whole.
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Gentleman has not really answered the point. I should imagine that it is possible for him to provide the House with the figures upon which his statement was based. They are not confidential figures which would disclose to other nations things which ought not to be known, but, surely, we are entitled to hear from the hon. Gentleman the real amounts which he is paying for oil from coal, and for general oil. May we have the figures?
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I think that my hon. Friend would probably be out of order if he spoke three or four times. Do not let hon. Members opposite take away the impression that we regard the experiment as in any way hopeless, or that upon any figure that we may have given from the very small data which we have at present, they should base the conclusion that the experiment is hopeless. The position of the Admiralty is, that we should be delighted to see the success of the experiment. Obviously, it would be 2337 immensely to the advantage of the Navy if we could depend upon home-produced oil rather than foreign imported oil. As far as we are concerned, we shall give every encouragement we can to the experiment. I have been into the details of the experiment myself, and I can tell hon. Members that, as far as the Admiralty are concerned, we do not appear to have enough data upon which to base the kind of conclusions which hon. Members may perhaps have been tempted to draw this afternoon. The figure of 3 to 1 is based upon very little data and really would not justify any hon. Member in drawing this or that conclusion from the experiment. It is a very small-scale production, and I understand that at present it has mainly been directed into channels of petrol rather than fuel oil. I can tell hon. Members that my advisers are watching the experiment not only with great interest, but with great sympathy, and we should not at all admit the fact that the price, which may be due to the very small scope of the experiment and upon the data of a few years, is going to be the price of the future, or the kind of price that we should take as evidence that the experiment had failed.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Alexander
We are obliged to the First Lord for that reassurance, but we are in somewhat of a difficulty because we cannot really discuss this matter in detail without having Vote 8 which has not been put down by the Government. It is a very important one, covering the construction of warships and various things of that kind. I am hopeful that before we have finished with voting the money for the coming financial year, these Votes will actually be debated and not left to fall under the guillotine. These are very important questions in regard to construction upon which we ought to receive information. While I do not propose to take up any more time I ought to say that the answers given with regard to the very heavy expenditure for the establishments are far from satisfactory. We want to see, as the Civil Lord wants to see, proper accommodation provided for recruiting. When you consider the actual personnel for which you are asking you can hardly expect us to believe that there is a real national emergency 2338 with regard to the special school buildings.