§ MR. SHAKESPEARE'S STATEMENT.
§ Order for Committee read.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Shakespeare)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
The House, I know, will wish me to express their sympathy with the First Lord, who is prevented by indisposition from presenting his first Navy Estimates. My right hon. Friend has been more intimately associated than I have been with many of the achievements which I have to relate, and his name must be associated with them. The chief actor is away, but the drama must proceed. It falls to the understudy to take his place at rather short notice. We have a fine, stirring tale to tell, and I regret that, in the time at my disposal, I may not be able to do justice to it. Since Monday, when it became clear that my right hon. Friend would not be well enough to present the Estimates himself, wet towels and dry documents have been my portion during the night watches, and I can only ask the House to be lenient with my shortcomings.
The House will have noticed from the published Estimates that the total for which we ask for 1938 is £123,707,000, of which £30,000,000 is to come from issues from the Consolidated Fund under the Defence Loans Act. This total of nearly £124,000,000 shows an increase, compared with the corresponding total for 1937, of some £18,000,000. The House will naturally wish to know the reasons for this increase. Broadly speaking, over £1,500,000 arises from the progressive increases in the numbers of Fleet personnel, both past and prospective, and more than £6,500,000 is required to meet the heavier charges in 1938 for the repair, modernisation and maintenance of the existing Fleet, including provision of the requisite reserves of stores and equipment of all kinds.
The Fleet Air Arm accounts for over £1,500,000, and a little short of £8,000,000 624 of the increase arises on New Construction. It is necessary also to provide in 1938 the better part of £1,000,000 for a new service in the shape of interest on the moneys advanced from the Consolidated Fund in aid of naval expenditure in 1937. The House will, of course, appreciate that in budgeting for these increases we have had to take account of the improvement in pay of industrial personnel, the general increase in prices of equipment and material during the past 12 months, together with other factors over which the Admiralty has no immediate control.
The expenditue in the Etimates I am presenting on new construction already authorised, apart from the vessels to be ordered in 1938 and set forth in the White Paper on Defence, is £41,500,000. The total number of ships in hand or to be ordered in the year, assuming that the new construction programme in the White Paper is approved, is 139, exclusive of small craft. The tonnage in hand at the present moment is 547,000 tons, and of this amount we expect delivery of not less than 150,000 tons by March, 1939; or, put in terms of ships, we hope by about the end of the financial year in March, 1939, to have completed, in the major classes of ships, one aircraft carrier, five 10,000 ton cruisers, three flotillas of destroyers of eight each, 12 submarines and two submarine depot ships. In addition to the expenditure under new construction there is a sum of £5,880,000 representing the amount to be spent on modernisation and anti-aircraft rearmament in 1938.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
The hon. Gentleman has referred to five 10,000 ton cruisers. Does that include three of the 9,000 tons Southampton Class?
§ Mr. Shakespeare
I think there is a balance of the Southampton Class to come
The amount included in the 1914 Estimates for new construction was about £18,000,000. It will be clear to the House, therefore, that, even allowing for the increase in cost of shipbuilding we are making a greater effort now than we were in 1914. This unparalleled peace time activity has only been rendered possible by employing to their full capacity our dockyards and making heavy demands on private yards. In this connection I should like to pay a tribute 625 to the loyalty, efficiency and despatch with which all those concerned in this vast rearmament programme are carrying out their duties. Every Member for a dockyard constituency, every Member who has in his constituency works engaged on naval orders, will bear me out that I have done no less than justice to those who are providing this essential weapon.
The House will remember that in the opening scene of Hamlet, Marcellus, one of the officers, asked the question:Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows.Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore taskDoes not divide the Sunday from the week:What might be toward that this sweaty hasteDoth make the night joint-labourer with the day;Who is't that can inform me?That question might be asked now, after some 300 years. And I will attempt to give an answer.
Although I have been talking about new construction, the House will notice that no money is provided in the Estimates for commencing the new 1938 programme. That will be the subject of a Supplementary Estimate. The details of this programme, so far as numbers of ships are concerned, are contained in the White Paper on Defence. The House will recall that of the major naval Powers of the world, the British Commonwealth, the United States of America, France, Germany and Soviet Russia are governed by the London Naval Treaty of 1936 or similar bilateral agreements, whereby they are restricted to certain qualitative limits. Unfortunately, Japan was not a signatory to that Treaty. In view of recent apprehensions by the signatory Powers that Japan was building outside the Treaty limits, a joint inquiry was made on behalf of the United States, France and ourselves to ascertain her intentions in this matter. Up to the present no information has been received from Japan; but it is still possible that on reconsideration she may decide to take her place with the great naval Powers of the world and agree to give satisfactory assurances that she will abide by Treaty limits, even if she is not prepared to accede to the Treaty.
The representatives of the three Powers mentioned were conferring last week as to whether, in the absence of information, 626 they should invoke the appropriate "escape clause" of the Treaty which, subject to certain conditions, allows the signatory Powers to exceed the statutory limits. The question has been referred back to the individual Governments, and I regret that I am not, therefore, in a position to make an announcement as to our intentions. But I can say this: If, for example, it is considered necessary to exceed the displacement of 35,000 tons laid down for capital ships, the House can rest assured that our plans for so doing are well advanced.
The House may, perhaps, wonder why in the new 1938 programme no destroyers are included. The reason is that when we have placed an order for the last flotilla of the current year's programme, in completion of the programme for that year, we shall have no fewer than 40 destroyers on the stocks. Let me correct what I said just now in reply to an interjection by the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander). I mentioned a balance of the Southampton Class. Three of the five cruisers mentioned are of the Southampton Class.
§ Mr. Shakespeare
Nine thousand tons. They come under Category B of the Naval Limitations Treaty, and have six-inch guns.
An important naval event which took place during the year was the opening of the King George VI Dock at the Singapore Base, and, as hon. Members may be aware, the Board of Admiralty was represented on this occasion by my hon. and gallant Friend the Civil Lord. I was also present on that occasion, but I was present 6,000 miles away, and, like other hon. Members, had the opportunity of listening on the wireless to the strong and resonant speech of my hon. and gallant Friend, and, if I may say so, the speech was worthy of the occasion.
§ Mr. Shakespeare
This new dock at Singapore is large enough to accommodate a vessel of the size of the "Queen Mary" and is adequate for all our anticipated requirements. With regard to the base 627 itself, hon. Members will notice that a sum of £800,000 is required this year for the continuation of works there. These works include such items as increased store sheds and shore accommodation for the officers and men of our ships there and those which one day may go there for refit, as well as for the extension of wharf walls to provide additional berthing accommodation. The House can rest assured that we shall have in Singapore a base suited to our needs in that part of the world in any circumstances.
At this stage the House, I imagine, will expect me to say something about the standard of strength at which we are aiming. During the Estimates Debate of last year the First Lord said:If then I am asked to state the standard up to which we are building I am not prepared to state it either in terms of countries or in terms of numerals. I prefer to say that as it is the duty of the Navy to keep open the trade routes and communications of the Empire, it is essential that the Navy-should be able to carry out its duties in two hemispheres both the Eastern Hemisphere and the Western Hemisphere."—[OFFICIAI, REPORT, 11h March, 1937; col. 1376, Vol. 321.]I cannot to-day go beyond that statement. The House will appreciate the difficulty in these days of laying down a specific standard as was done in pre-war days. Our programme then was influenced by treaties of alliance and by a policy based on the balance of power. That has not been the case since the War. We have since the end of the War attempted to substitute a policy of collective security based on the League of Nations. No one can argue, unfortunately, that collective security as such is really effective to-day. Moreover, so many great naval Powers, the United States of America, Japan, Germany, and Italy, each for reasons of their own, are not co-operating with the League. It is also to be remembered that the end of 1936 saw the expiration of the two successive treaties of quantitative naval limitation by which our standard of strength had to a large extent been governed.
The House will appreciate that with world affairs in a state of flux and uncertainty as they are to-day, it is difficult for any Government to fix with precision an absolute of strength. Indeed, the Prime Minister on Monday last announced; I think with the general assent of the House, 628 that a review of our defence requirements was now being undertaken. It is sufficient for me to say that our present programme is arrived at after careful consideration of the prime necessity of defending our shores, of providing adequate protection for our scattered Empire, and of keeping the lines of communication open for our trade. The question of an ultimate standard is really at present an academic one, since we are still engaged in making up the deficiencies of past years. Only two of our existing capital ships are of post-war design, and the House will appreciate that a substantial replacement programme is necessary before all our old ships are replaced. In the meantime we are, of course, doing our best to ensure that the most efficient of our old ships are modernised in order to maintain our strength during this process of replacement.
There is an important item with which the House would wish me to deal. I refer to the Fleet Air Arm, for which we are providing under Vote 4, through a grant to Air Votes, just over £5,500,000. This includes a substantial instalment in respect of services hitherto financed entirely by the Air Ministry which in future the Admiralty will take over under the decision of the Government last year. Members may be interested to hear of the progress that is being made with the development of the Fleet Air Arm as a result of the decision announced to the House by the Prime Minister at the end of last July. It is, I am glad to say, unnecessary to go into the previous history of this question and to revive an old controversy which we all desire to see buried. The announcement to which I have referred marked the beginning of a new epoch in the history of this arm, and the terms of that announcement have been accepted by both the great Services concerned with the loyalty that was to be expected and with a. determination to make a practical success of the new system. The task is not a simple one. It does not consist of transferring a complete and finished article from the care of one Department to the care of another. The difficulty of the task is tremendously complicated by the fact that it is a growing and, we hope, a rapidly growing body that has to be transferred and that we have to make allowance for its "growth at the same time as we are arranging for its transference. Nor is that the end of our difficulties, for the 629 parent body from which it is being transferred is rapidly growing also. The decision to transfer the Fleet Air Arm happens to have coincided with a period of considerable expansion of the Royal Air Force.
These facts would give excuse for delay if delay had occurred, but in fact the progress that has been made in the few months has been satisfactory. The machinery within the Admiralty for dealing with Fleet Air Arm work has been reorganised. New branches have been set up to deal with air materiel and air personnel and are now functioning. The latter, for air personnel, is intended to be a temporary expedient to deal with the very heavy and complicated work that must attend the early stages of the scheme. Later it is hoped that the personnel of the Fleet Air Arm will be administered together with the other branches of the Service, as there is no intention whatever to set up a kind of miniature Air Ministry—an imperium in imperio—within the Admiralty.
§ Mr. Alexander
Does that include any question of transferring existing Royal Air Force personnel to Naval control?
§ Mr. Shakespeare
I am coming to that. Apart from close contact with the Air Ministry during the transitional period, arrangements are being made for a very close liaison as a permanent measure in the future, especially in such matters as those affecting the maintenance of materiel for the Fleet Air Arm, the training of personnel, and in respect of activities which still remain the responsibility of the Air Ministry, such as design, supply, and research. To this end, proposals are under consideration to increase the number of Naval personnel at present serving in the Air Ministry.
Let me now say a word about the reorganisation of the Naval Air Service in the Fleet, the point raised by the right hon. Member. First, as regards personnel, schemes for the recruitment, training, and employment of various classes of Naval personnel which will in future be employed in the Fleet Air Arm have already been worked out. Details of a short-service scheme for officers of the Naval Air Branch have been announced, and the response has been gratifying. Hundreds of applications were received as soon as the scheme became known. We have also decided to create a new branch of rating 630 pilots. Details of the conditions of service in this branch have been announced, and it is hoped to start training the first batch of candidates in two or three months' time. We hope to secure part of our officer personnel by transference from the Royal Air Force, and the Air Ministry has issued an order stating the conditions under which officers may volunteer for transfer to the Naval short-service scheme; the first batch of applications should reach the Admiralty very shortly. It is hoped that it will be possible to arrange for the retention in the Fleet Air Arm of the required number of Royal Air Force personnel, both officers and ratings, until such time as Naval personnel, whether provided from the Navy itself of by transference from the Royal Air Force, are available to replace them. As announced in the White Paper on Defence, the Air Ministry will be responsible for the initial flying training of pilots of the Fleet Air Arm up to the point where their specialised training begins, when the Admiralty will assume responsibility. The short-service officers of the Naval Air Branch on entering from civil life will be given an initial course of Naval training of three months' duration before they do their period of flying under the Royal Air Force.
It has been agreed in principle between the Admiralty and the Royal Air Force that the Navy must have shore bases of its own for the maintenance of the Fleet Air Arm aircraft and to accommodate them when disembarked for training or otherwise. It is hoped to secure bases in the vicinity of the home ports upon which our aircraft carriers could be based. Arrangements are also being made for the Fleet Air Arm to use, in addition, some Royal Air Force stations on a "guest" basis when disembarked. The question of shore bases is being further examined by the two Departments in conjunction with the Minister for the Co ordination of Defence. Although our Fleet Air Arm will thus have to pass through a period of transition, the House can rest assured that every endeavour will be made to guard against any impairment of its efficiency during this period. While these intricate problems of organisation are being worked out within the Departments, the Service continues to fulfil its duties, and during the recent combined exercises at Gibraltar two aircraft carriers with their full complements 631 were taking part. The House will notice that we have at present in commission four aircraft carriers and that five new ones are being constructed. Moreover, it is our intention to fit all capital ships and larger cruisers with aircraft operating from catapults. A large number of capital ships and cruisers have already been so equipped. What is of fundamental importance is that the change in control shall be carried out without any loss of efficiency. Thanks to the co-operation of the Air Ministry, this, we hope, is assured.
Turning now to personnel, the House will notice that we are making provision for an increase under Vote A from a maximum strength of 112,000 in 1937 to a maximum strength of 119,000 for 1938. This latter total is the highest since 1922 and is due to the necessity of providing trained men by the time the ships of the new programmes come into commission. The number of men enlisted in the course of the current year constitutes, I think, a record for peace time. At the moment we look like achieving, as near as may be, what we set out to achieve—an increase of 10,000, involving the recruitment of nearly 16,000 men and boys. I am sure that the House will agree that this is a great tribute to the efficiency of our recruiting methods and our recruiting staff.
If I may digress for a moment, I have often wondered how in the eighteenth century our sailors, enlisted in large measure by methods of the press gang, displayed those fighting qualities which gave us victory. Perhaps the answer is that the conditions of service were so hard and discipline so stem that fighting with an enemy amounted to a pleasant relaxation. Be that as it may, Nelson when he became famous seldom relied on the methods of the press gang. He had only to put up a notice of his intention to commission any ship at the port of Yarmouth or King's Lynn, and thousands flocked to serve under his leadership. His difficulty was not to secure his complement of sailors but to select the most suitable from a rush of volunteers. And to-day the Navy still acts as a magnet to draw those who have the call of the sea in their blood, and, but for the high standards in force, we could have greatly exceeded requirements in certain ratings during the current year.
632 While on the subject of personnel, perhaps it will be convenient if I give, in fulfilment of the promise I made to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter), the details of the scheme of marriage allowance for officers of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines. With this scheme ends a controversy of 19 years. It will be remembered that in 1919 the pay and emoluments of the three Services were put by the Government on a basis of parity on the recommendation of the Fisher Committee. For the Army and Air Force pay took the form of a substantive rate, plus an allowance for the married officer. In the case of the Navy no distinction between married and unmarried officers was made. In other words, there was a uniform scale of pay for all naval officers, whether married or single, at a somewhat higher level than would have been possible if provision had been made for a separate marriage allowance. I ask hon. Members to bear this consideration in mind when I refer in a few moments to a proposed cut.
Several attempts were made in subsequent years to secure marriage allowance for Naval officers, but on each occasion the attempt was unsuccessful, as the proposals put forward were held to disturb the Fisher parity. In 1925 the Gilmour Committee was appointed by the Government to consider the question anew. It reported in favour of the principle of marriage allowance, but added:If the Admiralty could secure acceptance by the Fleet of a revised basis of pay which would include reduced rates for unmarried officers now serving, it would then be possible to improve the position of married Naval officers.We have, however, during recent years re-examined the whole basis of the married officers' claim. Briefly the substance of it is this: I speak in the presence of several naval officers, who will agree with what I say. The absence of marriage allowance has created great hardship, particularly among the officers serving afloat. When a married officer is on shore he is adequately remunerated, since he receives a lodging allowance, if not provided with quarters. When he is afloat, however, he still has to maintain his family, but receives no marriage allowance or lodging allowance. The great majority of officers in the Army and 633 Air Force serve under conditions in which they can have their families with them and receive appropriate allowances towards their maintenance. On the other hand, 70 per cent. of lieutenant-commanders, commanders, and captains, by the conditions of their service afloat, are separated from their families. There has been increasing evidence that the married officer afloat in the Navy is unable to live on his pay and make provision for his family without stinting himself to an extent which is not conducive to the proper discharge of his responsibilities. Indeed, under the present regulations, the lot of the married Naval officer afloat, without private resources, is one of continual anxiety. I remember that during a visit to the Home Fleet in the summer, on interviewing one or two prospective applicants for promotion from the lower deck, I found that one had withdrawn his application, and on asking him the reason I was told that he had done so because he believed a married officer could not live on his pay.
These are not conditions to reward loyal and efficient service. Nevertheless, such service has been forthcoming in abundance, and I am delighted that we are now recognising our responsibilities towards those who serve us so well. The principle which we have adopted, therefore, is this: We have, as I have said, to improve the lot of the married officers afloat, and we have aimed at giving them such benefit as will put them approximately in the position of officers, who, being employed on shore, are entitled either to quarters or lodging allowances, which directly relieve their family expenditure. Having settled this principle, we consulted the officers confidentially through their commanders-in-chief as to whether they would prefer a flat rate of marriage allowance on the basis I have just explained, or whether they would prefer a scale, of similar total cost, of marriage allowances with additions for children. On the whole, the Fleet preferred the latter course, and it has been adopted.
Now for our scheme. My remarks do not at the moment refer to warrant officers, commissioned officers from warrant rank, or lieutenants ex-warrant. I will deal with all these separately later in my speech. In future, marriage allowance will be payable to the married officer at the age of 30, and is applicable to all 634 officers up to the rank of captain in the Navy, or up to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Marines. A reduction of 2s. a day is to be made in the full pay of all officers of these ranks, with the exception of the few lieutenants concerned. This reduction will only take place on next promotion or, in respect of officers now married or who may marry before next promotion, if they opt before promotion to enjoy the benefit of the new marriage allowance. Marriage allowance for a captain R.N. will be 5s. 6d. a day and for other commissioned officers 4s. 6d. The allowances for the children will be the same in all cases, that is, 2s. a day for the first child and is. a day for each subsequent child.
§ Mr. Shakespeare
Let us take a typical case of a married officer with one child. If he is a captain, he will receive extra remuneration of £100 a year or, if he is below the rank of captain, of £80 a year.
§ Mr. Shakespeare
It is after the cut of 2s. a day in pay has operated. It will be noticed that when the officer is on shore at home and not provided with quarters, this marriage allowance takes the place of the lodging allowance hitherto paid and is roughly equivalent to it. When an officer is afloat, he gets this extra £80 or £100 towards the support and maintenance of his family. Provision is made in the scheme to meet the needs of officers on short courses or on temporary appointments of less than three months, whereby they will receive both marriage allowance and lodging allowance. We have also decided to grant a removal allowance to officers appointed on shore at home. This will take the form of a lump sum of £40 for any appointment which is for more than one year and of £20 for any appointment which is for less. The present system of assisted passages for wives and families of officers appointed on shore abroad will be abolished, and, instead, these officers will receive both marriage 635 and lodging allowances. The change will be to the general financial advantage of the officers concerned; and these innovations will, I think, be appreciated.
May I ask what is to happen about the lodging and compensation allowance where accommodation is not provided? A senior officer gets a lodging and compensation allowance because he has to pay for his own accommodation, food, and so on. Do I understand that if an officer is married, he will not get that lodging and compensation allowance, and that he will get only the marriage allowance, so that, in point of fact, he will lose his lodging and compensation allowance although he may be appointed to some place away from his home, and that he will get the marriage allowance only?
§ Mr. Shakespeare
Let me put it in this way: At present, when the officer is on shore, he gets a lodging allowance. When he goes to sea, as 70 per cent. of them do, he gets neither a lodging allowance nor a marriage allowance. What we are doing now is to devise a scheme of marriage allowances whereby officers afloat, that is to say, 70 per cent. of our officers are on a rate of remuneration roughly equivalent to that of the minority on shore. We do that, but say that when the married Naval officer who has been drawing his marriage allowance afloat goes on shore, his marriage allowance, being roughly equivalent to the old lodging allowance, is in lieu of it.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
Did I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that marriage allowance is not given until the officer is 30 years of age? If so, will he tell me how young a person may be and become an officer?
§ Mr. Shakespeare
I have a good deal to tell the House, so perhaps the hon. Member will excuse me from answering him, and will allow the Civil Lord to answer later.
§ Mr. Shakespeare
I will deal now with the question of the marriage allowance for the Medical Branch. I regret to say that we have to reserve for further consideration the applicability of the present scheme, with or without some special modification, to the Medical Branch. I fully sympathise with the natural disappointment which all Royal Naval medical officers will experience when they hear this statement, but I wish to emphasise most strongly that every effort is being made to arrive at an equitable arrangement for all Naval medical officers at a very early date. The extra cost of the marriage allowance for Naval officers will be about £105,000 a year, when the scheme is working normally, but will be higher during the initial years. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to announce this scheme, which I know will be generally welcomed by officers in the Fleet. This system of marriage allowance will operate as from 1st April next.
I now come to the position of warrant officers and officers promoted therefrom. The Admiralty has for some time realised that an improvement in the conditions of warrant officers was justified and, indeed, essential. The warrant officer in the Navy is given full officer status. This involves increasing responsibilities and in certain ways increasing expenses. In my view upon none did the absence of a marriage allowance in the Navy press more heavily than on the warrant officer. While they were, before promotion, petty officers or chief petty officers, they enjoyed, like all Naval ratings, a marriage allowance, and its disappearance on their promotion to warrant officer resulted in their promotion bringing them little or no benefit in pay and was a factor which made for unwillingness to accept promotion, to the detriment of the Service. I am happy, therefore, to announce the removal of this disability.
Warrant officers from the age of 25 and commissioned officers from warrant rank will, within the general scheme of officers' marriage allowances now introduced, receive a marriage allowance of 3s, a day, with 1s. 6d. for the first child and Is. for subsequent children. The lieutenant from warrant rank—like lieutenants, ex-sub-lieutenants—will receive the allowances on the scale for lieutenants, lieutenant-commanders, and commanders ex sub-lieutenants, which I have previously mentioned, i.e., 4s. 6d. a day, with 637 2s. a day for the first child and is. a day for subsequent children. As to cuts in standard rates of pay, which, as I have explained, are inherent in the scheme generally, after detailed consideration of the whole range of pay we have decided as follows: the warrant officer will suffer no cut. The commissioned officer from warrant rank will be cut from is. to 1s. 8d., according to seniority, and the lieutenant from warrant rank will be cut 2s. We hope that this scheme will adequately reduce the disabilities which the existing system had, we felt, created. Perhaps I can give an example how this works out. Take the case of a commissioned officer from warrant rank. He will be subject to the maximum cut of 1s. 8d., but after 25 he will be able to get his marriage allowance, and in future his extra pay will work out at roughly £1 per week, when the cut has been taken into account.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
Will the pay of sub-lieutenants and lieutenants under the age of 30 undergo the 2s. per day reduction?
§ Mr. Shakespeare
No. No lieutenant under the age of 30 is subject to the cut. As in the case of other officers, these cuts only operate on promotion or on marriage. The extra cost when the scheme has settled down will be in the region of £114,000, though this figure will be slightly exceeded during the initial years. But this is not all. The hon. Member for Broxstowe (Mr. Cocks), the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker), and many other hon. Members will, I am sure, be interested in what I am going to say. Upon review of the whole conditions of warrant officers' service, certain other improvements suggested themselves as desirable and for the benefit of the Service. It was felt that the automatic system of promotion among warrant officers discouraged zeal. It will, therefore, be replaced by a system of promotion by selection. The average seniority for promotion to commissioned officer from warrant rank will remain as at present, but promotion will in future be possible after eight years as warrant officer. It is not intended that any officers fit for promotion shall be passed over. The average age for promotion to lieutenant will be accelerated, and the promotion of lieutenant from warrant rank will be increased. These changes will 638 apply to the executive and mechanical branches and will begin to operate in about four years' time.
The changes will not apply to the Accountant Branch. In order to encourage zeal in this branch and to improve the prospects of reaching commissioned rank in it, we have decided to double the number of appointments as paymaster lieutenant, open to commissioned officers from warrant rank in the Writer and Supply Branches. We also intend to increase the number of higher appointments open to warrant cooks. Further benefits which have been approved include an increase in uniform allowance from £50 to £70, the compensatory allowance for officers obliged to mess in a ward room will be increased from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 10d. a day, and an allowance of is. a day will be given to warrant officers in destroyers of the running flotillas who are regarded as performing the dual duties of gunner and gunner (T). All these concessions will operate from 1st April next.
§ Mr. Shakespeare
I think they apply on first promotion to warrant rank.
I have already announced proposed increases in the basic rates of marriage allowance of Naval ratings and of other ranks in the Royal Marines, so that I need only mention the subject briefly now. As a result of the review of the emoluments of married personnel in these Services, the new rate of marriage allowance, as from 28th April, will be 17s. per week and will be in substitution for existing rates of 7s. and 10s. received by Naval ratings on the 1919 and 1925 scales of pay. Furthermore, from 1st May an extra 6d. a day will be paid to certain ratings serving on special service engagements, so as to equate their scales with the scales of ratings on continuous service. The men on both of these different types of engagement are employed on substantially the same work. These concessions, the increased marriage allowance and the higher special service pay, will cost £770,000 next year.
The substantial increases in marriage allowance which I have just mentioned will do much to relieve the natural anxiety of married ratings who may 639 reasonably expect to receive adequate provision for the maintenance of their families, from whom, by conditions of service they are separated or may be temporarily separated. Modern warships, provided with all the technical developments of research, design, and scientific discovery, give the sailor that sense of security, of personal safety, which the State owes to those who risk their lives in its service, but the sailor needs this sense of security in his home as well. The happiness and wellbeing of the families of our sailors are no less important factors in a high morale than the efficiency of our ships, and these new concessions will, I am sure, contribute greatly to that happiness and wellbeing.
I should like to add, in dealing with the general question of marriage allowances, that these provisions in respect of ratings will also apply to all the Naval reserves. The scale of marriage allowances will apply to officers and men of all grades in the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and the Royal Fleet Reserve when they serve in the Fleet for training or drill or are called up for active service.
§ Mr. Shakespeare
That is a yachting reserve, and I do not think the conditions are applicable to them. I am speaking of the other reserves and not that particular reserve, which is, of course, a very useful reserve, but they are not paid. So much for the men, but we must not forget the boys. I am glad to inform the House that in future boys in Naval training establishments and artificer apprentices in their first and second years of training will be provided twice a year with free return warrants to visit their homes. After leaving the training establishments boys will be given free return warrants to their homes once a year. I think we may assume that these concessions will gladden the hearts of the boys and the parents. I had intended to say a few words about promotion from the lower deck, but perhaps I will leave that to my hon. and gallant Friend.
In asking the House to vote this huge sum of money, I recognise that the House and the country are entitled to feel that we are getting an adequate return for 640 our expenditure. There have been occasions in the past when the Navy was the subject of political controversy. There have been big Navy parties and small Navy parties. Those controversies are, I think, happily dead. Every Member of this House and every citizen in the country regards the Navy as a great national asset. That being so, every citizen who pays taxes, be he a large or a small contributor, is entitled to know that his contribution is being well spent. Are we providing a Navy calculated to ensure our safety and that of the Empire? There have been some criticisms in recent years that the ships we are building are badly designed, of the wrong size, speed, endurance, and armament. In passing, I would remind these critics that the types and designs of our ships are settled, as they must be, in relation to strategic and practical requirements and take into account our world-wide responsibilities.
But there is also constructive criticism. It has been suggested that what we now need is a large number of smaller battleships and smaller cruisers, with less anti-aircraft armament, less endurance, and slower speed. The size and gun power of our existing ships is questioned. It is maintained that by building smaller ships of this character we could provide a stronger fleet for the same cost, or the same strength at a reduced cost. In estimating the cost of such a fleet, it is important to avoid falling into the dangerous mistake of considering only the initial cost. Account must also be taken of the cost of maintaining a ship during its life, and this cost often represents, personnel included, a sum twice as large as that of building the ship in the first place. The maintenance cost of a large number of small ships is considerably larger than that of a small number of large ships. Moreover, the ships of the imaginary fleet I have referred to would be largely incapable of defending themselves against aircraft attacks, and their resistance to under-water attack would be poor. By reason of inferior speed they could neither impose action on an unwilling enemy nor could they escape if attacked by a stronger enemy.
Some critics would have us return to coal or dual firing. I do not propose to discuss the merits of this question. No new facts have emerged which would 641 justify the Board of Admiralty in departing from the unanswerable arguments that the hon. Gentleman, my predecessor, the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) gave to an important deputation representing the "back to coal" movement when he was in my place. I know of no naval constructor of repute who, on technical grounds, would maintain that he could design a dual-fired ship having the same military characteristics as an oil-fired ship of the same displacement. One of the well-known characteristics of a well-balanced warship—armament, speed, protection, seaworthiness, endurance, or habitability—would have to be sacrificed, and probably several of them. After studying carefully the opinion of those who differ from us—and criticism is always stimulating—I can only record my personal opinion, that I feel much safer and happier that responsibility for design and construction remains with the present Board of Admiralty.
For initiating design, the Controller of the Navy and his Departments are responsible, bearing in mind the requirements formulated by the Naval Staff and the Fleet. I believe that the present Director of Naval Construction and the Engineer-in-Chief were at Keyham together. They are also alike in having great experience in the Service and in possessing first-rate ability. As for the Controller himself, who co-ordinates the work of the material departments, he is an officer of great resource and great energy, always ready to examine new ideas. His connection with the initiation of the convoy system in the war is well known. What is not so generally known is that, since he has become Controller, large sums of money have been spent in research and experiments to determine the best types of ships to produce a maximum of offensive and defensive power. I give these facts to the House because I want every Member to feel that, though the Estimates are large, we rely on the services of acknowledged experts, and everything is done to get an adequate return for our money.
I should like also to make clear the attitude of the Admiralty on the question of convoy, about which there seems to have been considerable misunderstanding. What is the problem with which we should be faced in war? The danger to our shipping on trade routes may arise 642 anywhere, but the nature of the attack will vary according to whether the enemy is relying on bases and according to the distance of these bases from our trade routes. Throughout the long ocean pas sages the danger is likely to come from fast raiders, but when our merchant ships are confined in narrow waters they may well be open to attacks from submarines or aircraft. It is impossible to construct a single vessel combining all the characteristics required to meet such diverse forms of attack.
Two conclusions arise from the consideration of the danger and the means of meeting it. Firstly, the protection of merchant ships sailing individually against a full-scale attack is clearly impracticable, although some measure of safety can be obtained by a system of routeing. Secondly, adequately escorted convoys will be the surest means of protection against intensive and persistent attacks by submarines, aircraft, or surface vessels. As regards submarine attack, that is borne out by our experiences in the War. As regards air attack, it may be argued that aircraft will find it easier to locate convoys than individual ships. That may be true; but it is less easy to attack ships in convoy than isolated ships. The ratio of ship to water in a properly organised convoy is 1 to 99, and attacking craft will come under intensive fire not only from escort vessels but probably from any of the merchant ships that may be defensively armed.
To deal with attack in narrow waters from aircraft or submarine, the escort ships must be of moderate speed, equipped with strong anti-aircraft armament, and able to detect, hunt, and kill submarines. These characteristics are being combined in a small escort vessel of which we have a number and of which earlier ones are being rearmed for this purpose. We are also converting older destroyers for escort purposes. To strengthen the anti aircraft power of the convoy, we propose a steady programme of conversion to A/A vessels of the old cruisers of C and D classes. It may be that as convoys approach our shores they will be subjected to intensive attacks by aircraft, and this brings the answer that co-operation may be desirable to provide for counter attack; I can assure the House that plans in this respect have been co-ordinated with the Air Ministry.
643 On ocean routes, as I have said, the danger may arise from raiding cruisers, and the defence against this form of attack will be provided by cruisers, agumented if necessary by armed merchant cruisers. We must be prepared to meet this kind of threat, although experience shows that a raider of this type ultimately goes to her doom. I sum up the Admiralty policy as follows: Different areas of the world will require different treatment according to the scale and nature of the attack to which they may be subjected and the density and importance of our trade in those areas. When trade is of great importance or density and is liable to be attacked by surface vessels, submarines or aircraft, the Admiralty view is that suitably escorted convoy would provide the best means of defence. Where trade is sparse or scattered or is unlikely to be attacked by the enemy, its safety will be sought by diversion combined with such patrols as the circumstances warrant. The Admiralty recognise that convoy may be necessary as early as the outbreak of war, and they are ready to put it into operation, when and where required. The House is aware that there has been sitting for some time a very strong committee—the Shipping Defence Advisory Committee—representative of the shipping interests, the Board of Trade, and the Admiralty; and I should like to pay a tribute to the way in which the leaders of the shipping industry have co-operated in this matter. We, on our part, are engaged in building up reserves of armaments, stores and material necessary to ensure the protection of our merchant navy.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
The House is concerned to notice that there was no representative of the Air Ministry on the Shipping Defence Advisory Committee. Surely at a time when aerial attack represents the greatest of all perils, a representative of the Air Ministry might well be co-opted.
§ Mr. Shakespeare
That is correct; but we are considering convoy from a purely naval point of view. There is a great deal in the point the hon. Gentleman makes, but the appropriate committee for that consideration is quite another one.
I had intended to deal at some length with the work the Navy has been doing off the coast of Spain since the outbreak of the civil war, but my time is running 644 short. Nevertheless, I cannot let this occasion pass without paying a tribute to the efficiency, humanity, and tact with which both officers and men of our ships in Spanish waters have performed their difficult and often dangerous tasks. From the very beginning of the civil war His Majesty's ships have been at work protecting British vessels on the high seas and watching British interests, as well as rescuing and escorting to safety many tens of thousands of refugees of both sides, not only British subjects, but also Spaniards from both sides, and people of other nationalities as well. Ships engaged on these duties have for long periods at a time been working under semi-active service conditions, constantly on the alert and often under great discomfort, but the zeal and keenness of officers and men have never flagged. Commanding officers, even of small vessels, have often been faced with situations of great difficulty.
It is all very well for me to sit at the Admiralty, on a morning when questions on Spain are being addressed to me, studying the legal problems involved. They are very difficult; in some cases international law does not apply, and often there is a great deal of difference of opinion. Compare that position with the position of the commander of a destroyer, no lawyer, whether international or otherwise, who suddenly has to take action in circumstances in which a mistake can cause very grave complications. I can only say that it has often taken myself and my very able expert advisers a very great deal of discussion to decide what should be done in a given state of circumstances; but it generally comes to this, that the commander of the destroyer has, by a kind of instinct, taken the best course possible in the circumstancees.
I must refer equally to the work done on the China Station. The difficulties of His Majesty's ships in safeguarding the safety of commerce and protecting the interests of the British nationals there have increased since the outbreak of hostilities between the Chinese and Japanese forces. I am happy to say that in the delicate situation with which His Majesty's ships have been required to deal, our officers and men have been actuated by the dictates of humanity and the high traditions of the Navy. The House will naturally recall the splendid 645 rescue work which was performed by our ships in connection with the sinking of the gunboat "Panay."
I cannot conclude my remarks without a reference to the Naval members of the Board of Admiralty. They enjoy the confidence of the Fleet to a marked degree. It would be invidious to mention individual names and services, but I may be forgiven if I make a reference to the senior Naval member of the Board, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Chatfield, the First Sea Lord, who retires in the autumn. He is one of the most distinguished holders of that high office; he enjoys the admiration and esteem of all ranks, and has earned the gratitude of the whole nation.
Before entering on my final remarks, I should mention that I have formally to present a token Supplementary Estimate in respect of the financial year now drawing to a close. Its main purpose is to bring to the notice of Parliament certain new works not covered in the 1937 Estimates. Those works are already set out in the Supplementary Estimate laid before the House.
I hope I have been able to show that we are aware of the great responsibility entrusted to us at the present time. My one regret is that my right hon. Friend has not been able to present these Estimates himself. He is entitled, I think, to feel legitimate pride that in the course of nine months so much has been done, particularly in the way of better conditions for officers, warrant officers, and men, and that the vexed question of marriage allowance for officers has now been settled. If I may conclude on a more personal note, I would say that as a Liberal and as a sincere advocate of disarmament in the past, I never thought the day would dawn when I should stand at this Box and ask the House of Commons to vote Navy Estimates of a size unprecedented in our history in peace time. There is nothing inconsistent in my attitude. I do so with enthusiasm and conviction. While so many of the things in which I believe have disappeared in so many countries in the world, in this country we preserve, and we mean still to preserve, our British institutions, our culture, and those liberties of intellect, of spirit, and of speech that are enshrined in Parliament itself. A strong Navy is still the surest 646 guarantee that we can preserve for ourselves and the Empire this priceless heritage.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Alexander
I am sure the House will agree that while we regret sincerely the cause of the absence of the First Lord we have not lost in clarity of explanation by the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary on the very important and weighty Estimates which he has presented to us. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will convey to the First Lord our sympathy with him in his illness. We have also a particular regret because we feel that some aspects of the right hon. Gentleman's administration of the Navy in the past 12 months would have led to some direct attacks upon him here to-day, and our guns will have to be partially masked because the right hon. Gentleman does not happen to be here to defend himself. Apart from that consideration, we wish him a speedy recovery.
I join with the Parliamentary Secretary in his appreciation of the services, national and Naval, of the First Sea Lord. I have never been a critic of the decision that the First Sea Lord should be allowed to overstay the normal period of service in that important office. I think the record of development in the Fleet during his leadership of the Board on the naval side justifies a step what I had hoped to see taken myself, when I used to visit him during his occupancy of the position of Commander-in-Chief. I feel that we have reason to be grateful for his services. May I also say that I am confident that the selection which has been made of a successor will be fruitful of equally happy results? As we shall not have another opportunity of this kind for some time, I should like to say how much we welcome Admiral Sir Roger Backhouse as successor to Lord Chatfield. I do not believe there is an officer serving in the Fleet to-day with so much personal devotion and capacity for hard as well as skilled work as Sir Roger Backhouse.
The task of the Parliamentary Secretary to-day was thrust upon him, and except for the very short reference which he made to general world considerations at the end of his speech, he confined himself entirely to a detailed explanation of the Estimates. I hope I may be 647 allowed to confine any detailed references which I have to make to the opening of my remarks, and then to say a few things about the portent of these figures, the burden which we are being asked to-day to assume in relation to the policy of the Government, and where that policy is leading us. Under the arrangements which we have made with the Government this year, we shall deal next week on the Report stage of the Estimates with Vote A. Therefore I do not propose to make any very detailed references now to the questions which usually arise on that Vote.
I wish, however, to welcome, on behalf of my hon. Friends, the very substantial and important concessions which have been made to the serving personnel, both with regard to Naval ratings, including boys, and the marriage allowance to officers and warrant officers. Some of us who held office in the Admiralty at a time when we had to look at every penny to see whether we could not make it worth twopence, envy the position of a Board which is suddenly placed in a position to spend 2½ or three times what we were permitted to spend. In respect of present expenditure the concessions made to the personnel might almost be said to amount to a drop in the bucket. Nevertheless, I hope the fact that those concessions have been made will not close the eyes of the Board to certain outstanding grievances which are expressed to us from time to time, particularly those in regard to promotions from the lower deck and the percentage of serving commissioned officers to-day as compared with 1914 and in relation to warrant officers—although that may now be corrected to some extent by the change in the marriage allowance conditions.
There is also a point which has been raised with me in two or three special instances. That is the fear on the part of many petty officers who have served perhaps for 18 or 19 years and are going on for 22 years, that the avenue of promotion to chief petty officer positions has been choked by the retention beyond the normal period of service of chief petty officers who would otherwise have retired. With expanding personnel it is vital to pay attention to that very valuable element in the Naval service, the skilled and devoted qualified petty officer, and to keep him on the high road to his principal 648 rank. The announcement with regard to the extension of promotions to the commissioned ranks in the writer and supply branches rather spiked a gun which I had prepared for the Parliamentary Secretary. It shows how easy it is, when you are getting largesse from the Treasury, to deal with these things right away. All these points will be further examined when we consider Vote A next week, and when, I hope, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) will deal with this and similar questions.
I now come to the cost of the programme which we are facing to-day. The Parliamentary Secretary has pointed out that it is without precedent in peace time. It is £123,000,000. We expected it, first because the cost of the construction programme will probably reach its peak in the next two years, and secondly because of the sudden recognition of the increasing gravity of the situation in Europe on the part of the Government. As they propose still further to revise their estimate of the defensive measures required, we shall probably have a much higher expenditure than this later. It is very important in those circumstances that we should be satisfied that we are getting value for money. I am not yet satisfied that, through all the Services, every possible step is being taken to see that due economy is being exercised and that there is efficiency in production in relation to that economy—because it would be wrong to have economy which did not produce efficiency.
The increased cost to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred included, he said, the increased cost of material and equipment, and the cost of equipment supplied to the Admiralty already completed should be examined as carefully as the actual contract work, and the actual basis of the cost of construction in the yards as well as under contracts should be equally closely examined. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare put a question to-day with a view to finding how things were moving at present in relation to costs per ton of construction. On the face of the figures that were supplied, there seems to be a tendency to a slight decline in the case of cruisers. The figure is fairly steady in the case of flotilla leaders. There is a steady increase per ton in the case of destroyers and very substantial increases in some instances in 649 the case of submarines. When the construction per ton of light submarines begins to go up £50 in the course of two years, it seems to emphasise the great need for exercising every possible step against an undue call being made on the nation in this hour of emergency when it is called upon to shoulder this great burden.
The next point of the smaller kind to which I want to make reference is the service being rendered in the dockyards and the contract yards. The Parliamentary Secretary paid an unqualified tribute, which I was glad to hear, to the loyalty, efficiency and dispatch of those involved. I hope that means that we have heard the last of the system of private industrial espionage in the dockyards of which we had to complain a year or two ago, because we have never yet been given anything like a satisfactory explanation of the methods that were then adopted in dealing with personnel in the dockyards, some of whom we still hold were unfairly treated and discharged. In view of the unqualified tribute to the whole of the personnel to-day, I hope that we shall hear in the course of the Debate that there is no longer this system of spying on workmen by workmen in the yards where we depend on great and loyal service to the State.
I come to the larger questions which I want to bring before the House in considering this enormous Estimate for the provision of the Navy. It would be idle to suggest that there has not been in the last week a feeling of intense gloom in the country in regard to the international situation and it is impossible to separate it from our consideration of any of the Defence Estimates, including the Navy Estimates. The Debate which has taken place so far on the Defence Services, on the Army and Air Force, have hardly relieved our gloom in that respect. In thinking over the account which the Parliamentary Secretary has given of the provision being made in the naval sense, I should say that there is more light turned upon the dark background of the rest of the position than has been the case in the discussion of either of the other Defence Services. The fact still is that, whatever may be the changes in the methods of attack and defence to be employed in a major struggle in the world to-day, we recognise that the Royal Navy is, after all, for our Island position and 650 for the requirements that we have to maintain in the supplies of food and raw materials, the first line of our Defence; and in the provision which is made to-day we have, I think, a better story of foresight and efficiency, and of qualitative provision, than has yet been laid before us in respect of the other Services which may be called upon to deal with surface matters which may arise in the near future.
The Prime Minister's reference the other day to the almost terrifying might of this country's power would not have been very well-founded, or, indeed, have any foundation at all, but for the fact that the Royal Navy still stands as the largest, the most powerful and, I think I can submit, the most efficient Navy in the world. From that point of view I have always regretted in the last two or three years that the use made in forming national policy and in international relationships of that power has been far too little. Over and over again we have been creating tasks for the Royal Navy in future far greater than they would otherwise have been but for the continuous drift by the Government from the opportunities for applying collective security principles when difficulties in the international situation have arisen. It was really almost idle for this country to have maintained, as it has maintained—perhaps a smaller number of units at times, but always on an efficient basis—at great expense during the last 10 years a force stronger in relation to the other Naval Powers than it was even in 1914. In those years the Government have neglected the opportunity really to face up with the other peace-loving Powers at Geneva to the continuous policy of bluff and advance of those countries which are now putting us into the more and more difficult position in which we find ourselves of having to provide a larger sum for Naval, as well as for Air and Military defence, than at any time in peace time.
It is not because we want in any way to prevent the Royal Navy as a Navy having what is required in given circumstances to be able to do its job efficiently and well in the interests of the country and the Empire that we criticise the Estimates. It is because the Navy is being gradually faced with tasks of a growing magnitude from which it could have been saved by a sane, vigorous collective 651 policy at the right time. Is there any more clear illustration of what I have been saying than the remark which fell during the interesting speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, when he was dealing with convoys and outlining the various types of attack to which convoys and merchant ships might be subject? He said that it depended not only on the class of ship, but very largely on the distance of the base from which the enemy craft could operate. Is it unfair to say that, owing to the policy of the Government, especially in the last three years, the British Navy has to face to-day in its task of organising the protection of these shores and the safe convoying of its Mercantile Marine, a series of new and potential enemy bases for the operation both of surface and submarine craft against British interests which ought never to have been allowed to be developed? I say at once that Spain— [Interruption.] If the Noble Lady, who did not come in until nearly the end of the Parliamentary Secretary's speech—
§ Mr. Alexander
If hon. Members come in late during the Parliamentary Secretary's speech and then begin to interrupt as soon as one gets up to speak, it is hardly in accordance with the best method of conducting a debate. I was dealing with the question of bases which bring threats against the British Mercantile and Naval interests, and I was citing the example of Spain. We heard a great deal in the early discussions in the House about the situation there owing to the growing threat to British Naval and Mercantile interests in the Mediterranean. We could only obtain gradually from representatives of the Foreign Office and the Admiralty scraps of information as to how the piratical actions were arising against British ships. At the end of it all, the information which was given to us over and over again from other sources was confirmed not only by events, but by official statements, that places like Palma and Cadiz are being used not for solely Spanish naval bases, but for the use of naval craft undoubtedly supplied by Italy and Germany.
Moreover, during all the time we were complaining in the House about the lack of efficient Government direction of policy in relation to the blockade of a vast section 652 of Spain, we never got any real information except that instructions were occasionally sent to the British Mercantile Marine as if a real blockade by Franco's ships were operating. This held up again and again necessary and urgent relief to the Basque, Christian and Catholic population, thus leading, or helping to lead, to their downfall. Now that country has been passed over to dictatorship control. Is there any truth—I believe there is complete truth—in the wide rumour that the deep and very fine harbours of Vigo and Corunna are being used for the development of bases, not merely for General Franco, but for the use of German submarines and surface craft as soon as they have made Spain completely a vassal State of the dictators? There we shall have added not merely an increased threat to the vital line of our communications in the Mediterranean by new bases being provided at a very cheap rate to the Germans, but there is also a challenge right across our main route for our western approaches to the sources of our food supplies. It is a very difficult area in which to deal with a growing menace of that kind.
Whereas, I would have said three years ago that the force now being asked for was overwhelmingly larger than was required for collective security, the continuous drift and lack of policy of the Government has led us to wonder how far the Navy will still have to be developed in order to meet its commitments if the policy which the Navy has to support is the one which the Parliamentary Secretary put to us, that is, to provide safety and security, not only to this country, but to the whole of the British Empire and its trade routes. In present circumstances that is a task which will be exceedingly difficult for the Royal Navy to perform. We are approaching this matter in a very different situation from that of 1914. The Parliamentary Secretary could not give us any idea of the standard to which we are building to-day. He said, as the present Home Secretary put it last year, that we must have a Navy capable of operating successfully in both hemispheres. In 1914 we had Japan as an ally. Within a few months of the outbreak of War we had Italy as an ally. I would not say that in 1914 she was a powerful ally from a naval point of view, but to-day the transference of her present power to the other side is a factor of 653 considerable importance. We had on our side in 1914 a whole range of other Powers. At the moment we seem to have no actual contact—contact, for example, between the general staffs on the naval side—except between France and this country, and in the face of present events some of us fear greatly that the policy of the Government is not likely to give full satisfaction to the fears and anxieties of the French people, and that if we really want to secure their complete accord, help and sympathy at this time it is vital that the assurances for which they ask should be given.
It is a vast armada which we are now producing. The Parliamentary Secretary said that, apart from the vessels of the existing Fleet, ready for commissioned service at any time, we have 547,000 tons of naval ships on the stocks of which 150,000 tons will be delivered within 12 months. It is a vast armada—there is nothing like it in the rest of the world—and yet I say that unless the Government are prepared to adopt a different policy in regard to international relationships and commitments, no one knows whether it is sufficient at the present time. That is the real point which we want to put over in discussing this very large Estimate. We ought to ask one or two specific questions regarding the commitments that we have in that respect. The first is whether the Fleet, although so vast and powerful, is being organised in the best way for its task. We have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary that for the time being we cannot take a decision regarding an increase in the size of battleships. I did not gather from him whether, in relation to Japan's programme of capital ships, we have taken any decision about the armament for the five capital ships which are already on the stocks. I see that according to the list published a fortnight ago, we are still putting in 14-inch guns. I hope that during the Debate the Civil Lord will tell us what is the Admiralty's policy in regard to the armament of the five capital ships at present being built, and perhaps it might be as well if the Admiralty would give us a little technical advice on the question whether, in relation to the bases which carry the guns and the conditions of visibility and light, they consider that the 14-inch gun used with a proper charge, is the best for the type of ship we want to build. I think it is necessary for us to know that.
654 Further, I should like to ask what general organisation the Controller's Department is thinking of in the cruiser category. There are now about nine different types of cruisers. I speak from memory, and the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) will correct me later if I am wrong, but I think that before the War we had about three main classes of cruisers, and that they had their different duties, which were fairly well apportioned, as far as I can tell by reading the pre-war Debates. The cruisers had duties varying according to their separate stations. Now we have the County class, the Leander class, the Arethusa class, the Fiji class and the Dido class, in addition to the old "C" and "E" classes which are being converted into anti-aircraft ships. A little more information as to how the services of these ships are to be organised and what duties they are to perform would be exceedingly valuable, because some of us are thinking anxiously of what the task of the Navy will be in the world situation to which I have referred, and how that task can best be carried out.
There are those who say, and say with great force, I think, that perhaps the biggest and the first danger which we have to expect—and to counteract and to overcome—is a shock attack from the air upon this country, but if that shock attack from the air is withstood and overcome then, if the struggle in Western Europe begins, there is no doubt that the British Navy will be one of the most powerful factors in bringing about the conclusion which we should all desire to see in defence of collective security and against the aggression of the dictators attacking freedom and liberty. We should, therefore, like some more information as to how the tasks of this vital and important section of the Fleet are to be allocated.
With regard to destroyers, I was very glad that the right hon. Member for Epping asked what was the policy which had led to the abandonment, for this year at least, of any contribution to the destroyer fleet. It is true that in five years we have provided something like 80 new destroyers, but it is also true that there are a considerable number of destroyers still over age. We had certain limitations in the agreed standard of strength in 1930, but one of the points upon which I was most insistent at the time was that 655 if there were any increases in the submarine strengths of other naval powers, one of the first matters on which we should have to ask for release under the Escalator Clause in the Treaty of 1930 would be in regard to destroyers, which are fundamentally necessary to counteract the submarine menace. The figures of submarines possessed by the Powers forming the Berlin-Rome-Japan axis make it clear that there ought to be an adequate provision of destroyers to counteract them.
I have pages and pages of things which I want to say, but the Parliamentary Secretary spoke for an hour and 20 minutes. I am not complaining if it was necessary to enable him to present the picture which he had to put before the House—I do not grudge him a minute of the time he took—but in the interest of other Members I shall not continue with the other things that I had to say. I wish, however, to put this final word. We in this country have to face a most serious situation, one which seems to be creating in this House and in the country two main classes, those who are overwhelmed with gloom but feel unable to do anything about it, and those who feel equally concerned about the situation but are anxious to be helpful and constructive now. I think one can say both of the House and of the country—and sometimes one feels tempted to grumble about it—that when the problem of danger arises some people seem almost paralysed over what is to be the next course. We cannot get out of our present situation like that, nor do I believe that we shall get out of it simply by saying that we shall vote so many more millions of pounds for the three Defence Services and see what will come out of the bag after we have put the money in.
It is absolutely necessary, if we are to stop the oncoming danger of a most dreadful war in Western Europe, for immediate steps to be taken to pool the whole resources of the Powers in the world which can be brought together to agree to withstand aggression, aggression against the political, administrative and territorial integrity of other States, aggression against the institutions of freedom and liberty in those States. If we can get them together now, and get this, still the principal nation in the world, with its traditions of liberty and freedom and of the protection of the 656 weak, to give the lead, which it can give in that direction, and to give also the undertakings which it can give, then I think we shall see two results: First, the dictators themselves will be very chary about their next move; and, second, we shall get what I think we shall get in no other circumstances—the unity of the mass of the working class in this country behind rearmament on a moral basis, which we shall never get by the policy of waiting, waiting, waiting until we are forced to fight alone.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am sure that every one will sympathise with the disappointment which the First Lord must be feeling at being confined to a bed of sickness when he would have so greatly desired to present to the House his first Admiralty statement, but the task has been well and adequately discharged by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, whose statement covered the whole field and who had many interesting announcements to make to us about the interior economy of the Navy and the conditions of its ranks and ratings. I must say that I was astonished to see the state of the House during the Debate this afternoon. My mind goes back to the days before the War when the Navy Estimates were debated in a House which was crowded to the utmost capacity. I have been looking up the Debate of 1913. I see that owing to a political quarrel we did not begin the discussion until 7.30 and the House sat right on through dinner up to eleven o'clock. It may be that hon. Members feel more reassured in their minds about the position of the Navy than they did in those days, or it may possibly be that the fibre of post-war Parliamentary representatives is not up to what it was in the days of old, though perhaps it is discourteous to present such a suggestion otherwise than in the form of an alternative.
I should like to say how very glad I am that the Government have decided to prolong the tenure of office of the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Chat-field, and also not to allow the ordinary movements of the profession to interfere in any way with the continuity of the work of the Admiralty. In this officer you have, as the Parliamentary Secretary has told us, a man who commands the complete confidence of the 657 Naval Service and a man of the very highest ability, and it is extremely important, especially when the First Lord has several times been changed, that the continuity should prevail and that the study of these great measures of naval defence and their execution should not be interrupted frequently by new changes of view. I am very glad indeed that those decisions have been taken, and I hope that in the present critical conditions the importance of continuity in naval policy will be steadily borne in mind by the Prime Minister and the authorities.
I have one or two criticisms to make and questions to ask, and I will put my points as clearly as I can. They do not imply any want of confidence in the naval administration or in the Board of Admiralty, which I believe to be of the very highest quality and certainly unsurpassed at any period during our naval records. We notice in the programmes that we have nothing but a nominal statement of the new production; that is no doubt because we are waiting to see what Japan says about the character of the ships she has built. It may be all right to wait for a little while, but I think we should require an assurance that our essential security will not in any way be impaired through the delay, that unless we have the information in a very short time we shall go forward on whatever assumption we regard as most prudent and proper, and that we shall not delay in any way the preliminary preparation of those vessels. There is an immense amount of work to be done before a hammer is swung or a plate laid.
I hope that the promise which was made, I think as a result of a question which I asked last year, has been carried out and that 16-inch guns have all been made and tested and that all the plant is ready to construct them, should it be necessary to move to that calibre. Otherwise a whole year may be lost. I do not feel contented that the five battleships that are now being built, and that together are to cost us £40,000,000, will be armed with guns which are certainly smaller than those which are now being put into the contemporary vessels of all the great naval Powers throughout the world, so far as I am aware. It is not very satisfactory. I have no doubt that it will not be many weeks before we have a much fuller statement with regard to 658 the new programme, and that a Supplementary Estimate will be put before us.
I agree with the late First Lord of the Admiralty who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench, in drawing attention to the question of destroyers. When I read the White Paper I rubbed my eyes and thought there must be a misprint, because there was no mention of destroyers. I thought that it was, of course, a printer's error, not to include flotilla destroyers in the annual programme. However, it appears from the account we have received from the representative of the Admiralty that they are satisfied that they have enough destroyers. That is news to me. I have never heard of such a thing before. I thought destroyers were a commodity of which you never could have enough if war began. When we consider that we may find Germany or Italy in possession of submarines numbered I believe by the hundred, the number of destroyers that we possess is far below the demands that will be made upon us for security of convoy, for the service of the Fleet and for all the processes of reconnaissance. The fact that 40 destroyers are being built is not a satisfactory answer. I should be very glad to see the number doubled.
I remember asking three years ago that we should begin our construction of destroyers. If we had undertaken that construction at that time we could have looked ahead and seen that the gun plants were adapted to the full execution of that programme. I hope that we shall have some explanation of this position other than merely the argument that we have enough destroyers. If matters were left at that point they would recall the celebrated telegram which the War Office sent to Australia before the World War: "Unmounted men preferred." I hope that the Admiralty will be very careful not to lay themselves open to any reproach of that character in future. I trust that we shall have an assurance to-night that the flotilla of this year's destroyers will be undertaken at the earliest moment and conveniently fitted in with the general programme. Certainly, this class of vessel is not only indispensable in large numbers but happens to be a class that you can get in the shortest possible time. I do not think that we can look out on the affairs of the world on the basis that the tension is to last for 659 seven or eight years. It is clearly not possible for the world to stand such a strain. Either we must come to a climax or there must be a settlement and a happy release of disarmament. So much for the destroyers.
I am far from contented with the types of cruiser we are building. Much may be said for the Dido class, because they relieve larger vessels for more far-range work, but the type of cruiser that we are building now, of which we laid down two or three last year and are laying down three this year, the Southampton type, which is a 9,000-ton cruiser armed with 6-inch guns, is hopelessly inferior to the 10,000-ton cruisers with 8-inch guns which are now being constructed in considerable numbers by Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. I object strongly to the taxpayers' money being taken for a vessel which is not capable of facing its contemporary opposite number in single-ship action. True, we have been drawn into this position by treaty entanglements, but clauses are provided by which escape may be had from them; and by negotiation with other friendly Powers who are concerned in this attempt to limit naval armament it would be possible to get relief.
In Germany particularly—I am glad to have the chance of pointing this out—there are five 10,000-ton 8-inch gun cruisers which are being built, and none of our 8-inch gun 10,000-ton cruisers is within 10 years modernity of those ships, which are therefore superior to any of the similar ships which we have; nor are we building any ships capable of encountering them in single-ship action. If trouble should come, which may God avert, those German ships would be super-Emdens on the trade routes of the world, and we should have the very greatest difficulty in coping with them unless we had similar vessels. The Emden and her sisters that were loose on the ocean when the War broke out gave us the trouble of 120 cruisers to bring them to book, as they were eventually brought to book, and they did no end of damage. They were comparatively small ships that could easily be mastered by the more powerful vessels that we had.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the small 660 aircraft carrier and the cruiser squadron, searching in the wide waters, have an enormous range of search never open to them before. Consequently, you ought to be able to have either greater efficiency of cruiser work or possibly a saving in cruiser numbers; but when you have found the raiding cruiser and you have not a ship in your squadron which may face her in a single-ship action, the vessels all being spread out 100 miles or more apart, all your search is vain, and all that happens is that the raider, when eventually located, breaks through the line, probably inflicting very serious damage upon one or other of your vessels in the course of it. Each cruiser works separately, with its searchlight searching for its quarry, and when the quarry is found you must be able to send a vessel capable of destroying it. Your vessels need not all be capable of doing so, but there must be an adequate proportion of vessels which could not only catch but kill the raider when it is found. My comment upon the present situation is that we are not building any vessels equal to contemporary vessels now on the stocks in this most important class of large cruiser.
Here let me say that there is one particular danger upon which the Admiralty is, I am sure, keeping its eye. Owing to the treaty arrangements which we have made and which have imposed such very artificial conditions upon our naval architecture—I am not making this comment in a controversial sense at all—there is a gap between the 10,000-ton limit, and I think the 25,000-ton, between the 10,000-ton limit of large cruisers and the 25,000-ton where the battleship or battle-cruiser begins. It is in this limit that the danger from Japan is most likely to cause inconvenience, because by the construction of 15,000-ton vessels with 12-inch guns a whole series of British and American cruisers would be rendered comparatively obsolete, and no remedy would be open to those Powers, those fleets and navies, except to despatch battle cruisers for the purpose of meeting with those new vessels. If it should be found that such vessels are under construction, an immediate reply would have to be made, and vessels capable of finding them and of catching them and killing them, would have to be set down. That is more important 661 even that the construction of a very large number of great vessels.
I have another point which I venture to submit to the House and to the Admiralty. The times in which we live are certainly critical enough to warrant what I may call a foreshortening of our programme. By that I mean that the exceptional priorities and the continuous shift or double shift method of construction should be applied to all vessels which can be brought into the water in six months, 12 months or 18 months, even at the cost of some slight retardation of vessels which cannot be finished until a later period. What we require is an increase of strength as soon as possible. That would increase our margin and increase the deterrents against attack, and would enable the execution of the rest of our programme to take place behind the cover of an ample margin of security. I hope that such a foreshortening of the programme may be considered. It would apply particularly to the reconstructed battleships, the "Warspite" and so on, which I understand are being reconstructed at great cost and with enormous advantage, making them far better than they were when they were new, when I proposed them to the House a quarter of a century ago. They will be admirable ships, I am told, certainly equal to any construction at present in the water. These vessels should certainly be brought forward, rather than consuming too much of our strength and energy upon the last programme of battleships, which cannot be available until five or six years hence. They, too, must go on in their turn, but the great thing is to be in possession of ample and adequate naval power in the near future.
The Financial Secretary, in his description of the methods of convoy adopted under various conditions, mentioned that some merchant ships would be armed against aircraft. That is a most indispensable requirement. I believe that aircraft will not do too much harm to war ships; they are not particularly anxious to go near them; but a merchant ship without a gun to fire is an easy prey. The aircraft comes right down, follows the track of the vessel, and almost with certainty destroys it. Before the War I obtained the permission of the House to arm all our merchant ships, or a great proportion of them, with what was called 662 self-defensive armament—a gun which fired astern, so that the ship could fire when running away, but no one could think it would be so wicked as to molest any other ship. That was found to be a very convenient and valuable defence against attacks, not, of course, by warships, but against attacks by enemy armed liners, of which there were a number. In regard to the air danger, it is indispensable that one or more anti-aircraft guns should be placed on all the important ships, and that the merchant crews should receive such training as is necessary to enable them to serve such guns. This will relieve to some extent the strain, which will be so great, on the Navy and the destroyers should we be engaged in a serious naval war.
I shall not follow the right hon. Gentleman into the political domain, which I will not say he trespassed upon, but which he skirted so very closely during the latter part of his speech; but I must say that I entirely agree with him as to the very serious strategic issues which are raised by the Italian fortification of the Mediterranean, which is proceeding ceaselessly at the present time. Not only are there the dangers, which have been spoken of, of fire from the land at Gibraltar; not only are there the dangers to which Malta may be subjected from mass air attack unless we have an overwhelming anti-aircraft defence; but we have to consider the very special measures which are being taken to fortify the island of Pantellaria, which have no other object than to enable the Mediterranean to be cut in half by an Italian fleet. They are not for any other purpose; it is certainly not for our benefit that that labour is being undertaken. Then there is the fortification of some other islands; which are being provided with very heavy armaments, much more than we think of putting in minor naval bases in the Red Sea. All of these constitute a process which, I submit to the House, requires the unceasing vigilance of the British Admiralty and of the British nation. I have a sort of feeling that we are being netted in in various direction. [Interruption.]
I certainly do not consider that easy explanations are sufficient in the case of these very expensive and elaborate arrangements which are being steadily advanced and matured in the Medi- 663 terranean. At the same time, I do not consider that the Navy should have any difficulty in discharging its duties in that Sea. The Navy Estimates of this year are, I think, £123,000,000. The Navy Estimates of Italy are £20,000,000. And, even in those years in which the locusts were so prevalent, our Navy Estimates were never maintained at a level of less than £50,000,000, or quadruple those of our colleague Power in the Mediterranean. If, with this enormous preponderance of expenditure of money, the British Admiralty are not able to assure us that our safety is maintained in that Sea, they must be less accomplished in their task than have been the Boards of generations gone by. I am pretty sure that they will be able to convince themselves, and, if necessary, other people, that, if we were forced to defend our interests in the Mediterranean, our forces would be ample for that purpose.
We have had several debates in recent weeks about defence, and I agree that, as has been already said, the gloomy feeling which was natural in many bosoms has not been particularly relieved by the course of those debates; but here to-night, on the Navy, at any rate, we have a right to feel a sense of good cheer and courage, because the Navy is far stronger relatively to Europe than it ever was in those days before the War, although then we had a far larger fleet. The Navy is not only far stronger than it was then, but I do not think that these new dangers which have menaced the Navy since the War and during the War—I mean the submarine and the air menace—have in any way weakened the power of the Fleet and of the Navy. I think the Admiralty have been proved right in this matter. They have assured us that the submarine menace, however serious it may be, is far less than it was at the close of the Great War, and, after all, we grappled with that menace in the Great War; so that, with ample supplies of destroyers and modern equipment, it should be possible to strangle the submarine and give full protection both to the Fleet and to the Mercantile Marine.
The air raises a different problem. I see my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) in his place. When I last spoke on these 664 topics he was rather vexed with me, because I said he indicated that all it was necessary for an aircraft to do was just to drop a bomb down the funnel of the ship, and how easy that would be. I ridiculed the idea, but I do not mind saying to the House that I was disconcerted when one morning I read a highly coloured account in the newspapers of the sinking of a Spanish battleship by a bomb being dropped exactly down the funnel. However, I did not lose courage entirely, and very soon I was reassured by the statement that inquiry by the Admiralty had shown that this outrage was wholly unfounded, and that the destruction of the vessel had taken place by means which, if they cannot be called more orthodox, were at any rate far less disquieting.
§ Sir M. Sueter
Did my right hon. Friend notice that the German pocket battleship "Deutschland" was hit by a bomb and great damage was done; and also that, in the case of the American gunboat "Panay" in China, a bomb dropped in the engine-room and blew her to pieces? There was also the case of a merchant ship which actually had a bomb dropped down the funnel, but it was a "dud."
§ Mr. Churchill
As regards the German pocket battleship, I have heard that, although she was hit by an air bomb, the naval view is that it was proved that the attack upon her was altogether unintentional. Broadly speaking, I venture to say that the course of events this year has done nothing to weaken our confidence in the judgment of the naval experts that great ships of war can be constructed which can exercise their full influence and efficiency under modern conditions, and that the air menace, however seriously it may operate in other directions, will not destroy the validity of sea power.
The only other point on which I venture to think we may congratulate ourselves this evening is the excellent relations which prevail on naval matters between this country and the United States. I have often criticised the Treaty of London, and I do criticise its consequences upon our naval construction, but it would not be fair if I did not say that undoubtedly an immense improvement in the relations between the United States and the British Government in respect of naval power has followed in the years 665 succeeding that treaty. At the present time, instead of these two branches of the English-speaking race meeting round the table, meticulously measuring swords and endeavouring to dock each other of a battleship or so many cruisers, or in the number of the guns and the armour provided, we have the spectacle of the two countries, not in virtue of any agreement, but by their own spontaneous feelings worrying whether the opposite country is keeping its Navy up to a proper level. The more ships that are built in the United States, the more confidence we have in this country that the course on which the peace of the world depends will be sustained; and, similarly, the great programmes we have had to put through and embark upon in this country have been received without the slightest suspicion or complaint from the great Republic across the water. That is a subject for rejoicing, and I congratulate the Admiralty, who have played a great part in this, on the relations they have established, and on the fact that naval rivalries between the two English-speaking nations are not only things of the past, but are impossible of renewal in the future.
§ 6.32 p.m.
Major Lloyd George
I rise to join the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me in expressing the regret that we all feel at the illness of the First Lord, and especially as to the cause of it. At the same time, I am glad to join in congratulating the Financial Secretary on his lucid and comprehensive statement, produced under serious difficulties this afternoon. I do not propose to detain the House except for a few minutes. I was interested in the references which have been made to destroyers and cruisers and I would like to say a few words on that point. The White Paper of 1935 referred tothe overwhelming importance of the Navy in preserving our sea communications and ensuring supplies of sea-borne food and raw materials.I should put that as being almost equally important to the actual defence of the country from a hostile fleet. I do not suppose that anybody, at any rate in Germany, at the beginning of the last War, doubted the strength of Germany on land. She was regarded, quite rightly, as being the most efficient army power the world had seen, yet it was through the sea that that army was defeated. I do not think 666 that, even yet, sufficient credit has been given to the Navy for the part played by it in the defeat of Germany. But it is interesting to note that, while it was the Fleet which was ultimately responsible for the defeat of Germany, it was on the sea, or I should say through the sea, that we almost suffered defeat. An even more interesting thing is that we were never nearer defeat than at a time when we had complete command of the sea. That was after the battle of Jutland, when, at least as far as surface craft were concerned, we were in complete command. Yet at that time we were in serious danger. The cause of that, as, of course, is well known, was the submarine.
When I say that the submarine came as a surprise to us, I do not say that it was a surprise to the Admiralty; but its use came as a complete surprise to us all. Fortunately for us, the enemy waited two years before they made any use of it, but I do not suppose we can count on any future enemy waiting two years. What the surprise will be next time, if there is one, I do not know. We know there is a new menace to be faced; but what surprises I do not know. The submarine was defeated by the convoy system. I do not know whether with this new menace the convoy system would be a better target than it has been up to the present; but, whether that is so or not, the fact is that there has to be some protection for ships; otherwise the future of this country is a dark one. So far as the protection of our shores is concerned, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, the British Navy is relatively more powerful than it was in 1914.
Major Lloyd George
In relation to Europe. But what is the strength of the Navy, relative to 1914, for the purpose of keeping our trade routes open? In 1914, we had about 100 cruisers, 280 to 290 destroyers and torpedo boats. Now we have 74 cruisers, as nearly as I can make out, including over-age cruisers and one building. We have far fewer vessels for convoying, with a possibility that they will have very much more work to do. We read in the White Paper of 1935 thatThe situation is constantly changing "—and I might add, changing almost as rapidly as First Lords of the Admiralty. We have had a good example in the last 667 few weeks of how the situation can change, and change quickly. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me referred to the Mediterranean as the lifeline of this country and the British Empire. During the last War most of the coast of the Mediterranean was in the hands of people friendly to ourselves or neutral, and, as far as I can remember, no islands, at any rate, were in the hands of people hostile to us. Nobody can suggest to-day that most of the coast of the Mediterranean is friendly or neutral, and, as the right hon. Gentleman has already pointed out, a great number of the strategic points are in the hands of those who, if not hostile to us, are hostile to democracy—and I should not like to say that they were not hostile to us. When I saw, in the "Times" the other day, a picture of Gibraltar, with great battleships lying at the Mole, it gave me a great sense of security, but when one realises how easily an attack may be made on them, not with fleet guns, but with great mobile guns, easily handled at a distance, I wonder whether the position is so secure from our point of view. This may mean that the Mediterranean Sea cannot be used in another war, or must be seriously curtailed in its use. That means an enormous extension of the trade routes that will have to be protected. That means considerably more craft would have to be used, and at present we have considerably fewer ships than we had in 1914.
I would like to see far more concentration on building light ships, cruisers and destroyers than in building capital ships. You are down in the number of your light craft, and the very building of capital ships means reducing the number of light craft which can be constructed. There was a shortage of these in the last War; it was one of the reasons given by the late Lord Jellicoe for the difficulties he experienced that he had no light craft to carry out the operations for which they were required. We have less than we had before the War; and we had not anything like enough then. It was only by carrying out a terrific programme, under great difficulties, that we managed to get them, and the chances are that we shall have to detach even more now to look after capital ships. We have something like 4,000,000 more people to feed. I want to reinforce what the right hon. 668 Gentleman said, when he asked what steps are being taken to protect these ships in time of emergency? The convoy system, of course, answered the submarine menace, but I would like to know what steps are being taken to enable ships to be protected against air attack.
Another thing that ought to be looked into is the serious shortage of skilled engineers in the mercantile marine. In time of war, a large number of mercantile marine ratings go into the Navy. At the present time there is a serious shortage of skilled engineers, especially in Diesel-driven ships. That is largely due to the present rearmament programme. I would like to know what steps are being taken to see that that deficiency is being made up. It would be a serious thing if, when an emergency comes, and you have to rely on merchant shipping as in the last War, such a deficiency existed. It is a matter of great urgency that something should be done to put that right as soon as possible. Last year, I made reference—and I make no apology for mentioning it again—to the question, suggested in the speech of the First Lord himself, of our having to divert shipping from the East Coast to the West Coast. I asked a question at the time, and got no answer. I believe I am right in saying that something like 50 per cent.—I have not been able to check this figure—of the imported foodstuffs of this country come through London. The Financial Secretary referred to the different system that would have to be adopted of convoying ships in time of war in the narrow seas. To get to London you have to cover the narrowest seas of all, and I cannot but imagine that the problem of Defence in that area is particularly difficult, because of the smallness of distance. You nay be faced with the problem, not only of curtailing the use of that port, but of hardly using it at all.
§ This question was raised last year. The First Lord then said that arrangements had been made for diverting shipping, if necessary, from the East to the West Coast. I then put this point: If you are going to divert shipping from the East Coast to the West, you are also going to divert the enemy's activities. The struggle in the last War was chiefly in the North Sea, but there was also a serious struggle on the West and South-West Coasts. I repeat the proposal I made last year, for the establishment of 669 bases adjacent to these West Coast ports when they are so used. In the last War you had Haulbowline and you had Pembroke Dock. There are two ports which you had in the last War, and have not to-day. I am told from the Government Front Bench that they always have these things in mind. That is not good enough. You have a great anchorage there, and you talk about having things in mind. You cannot make a base by merely saying that you will have one. Some consideration should be given to this question, because it will be too late when the trouble is upon us.
§ I promised that I would not be long, as many other hon. Gentlemen wish to speak. The White Paper told us a few years ago that the situation is constantly changing. We used to be happy in the old days with a stretch of water around us. There are people who think that the air menace has made it of no use, but I am not one of them. I feel that that stretch of water, however small, is still of great advantage to this country. There have been changes, but despite all which have taken place, it is to the Navy that we still have to look for protection of our liberties and our democratic institutions.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes
The tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) was so pleasing and helpful that I almost feel inclined to pass over the remarks in one part of his speech. I would like to remind him, however, as I reminded the House the other night, of what the British Navy did in the Mediterranean during the Abyssinian controversy. The whole British Navy was concentrated ready for war, month after month, ready to carry out any action it might be called upon to perform by the League of Nations. It is difficult to believe that the right hon. Gentleman who made that fierce denunciation of Government policy should have been the First Lord of the Admiralty when the London Treaty was passed, because under its terms Japan was enabled to build up to three-fifths of the British Navy in all respects, while we marked time in order to allow them to do so. At the same time, they shut down Singapore. I remember that about two years ago the right hon. Gentleman said rather contemptuously that I wanted a supreme Navy, and I said, "Yes," 670 having in mind our immense responsibilities all over the world. Since matters have become so troubled, I think that even he would want it; certainly the whole country would like to have a supreme Navy. Who would contend that the Navy, great as it is, is sufficiently strong to fight Germany in the North Sea, Italy in the Mediterranean and Japan in the Far East? At any rate, I can assure the House that it is not in a condition to do so.
I join with other hon. Members in expressing sympathy to the First Lord for not being here to deliver his very clear statement, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary upon the manner in which he filled the part. That statement contained information which will be most warmly welcomed by men of the lower deck and by warrant officers, the latter particularly. It has been a long-standing grievance that warrant officers have not enjoyed marriage allowances, and it has prevented a great many men of the lower deck who are, in all respects, well fitted for warrant rank, from wishing to attain it, because they would be worse off than a married chief petty officer with children. They will now have the same privilege as the lower deck of receiving marriage allowance at the age of 25 years, and they have got it without penalising their unmarried brother officers. My hon. Friend made no mention of what I believe has been done, namely, to give help in respect of the children of the young seamen who married before the age of 25.
I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend the Civil Lord, who I understand is to wind up the Debate, will be able to tell us something about this matter and give us an assurance that, whatever grant is made, it will be done sympathetically, and by people best qualified to help those it is intended to benefit. It is a very wise provision. I congratulate the Admiralty also upon having at long last established the principle of marriage allowances to naval officers. But the conditions under which they are being given are incredibly mean. I think that naval officers, whether they have entered the Navy through Dartmouth or through the public schools entry, or whether they have been promoted from the lower deck, who will receive marriage allowances at the age of 30, have every reason to be profoundly disappointed. Why should 671 they be treated differently from their brothers in the Army or the Air Force, and at the expense of their unmarried brother officers?
I hope that, when my hon. and gallant Friend the Civil Lord replies to the Debate, he will say a little more about the facilities that are to be given to the wives and families of sailors who have to go abroad. Why should not they, if there is a transport available, be given privileges similar to those enjoyed by the Army and Air Force? At present they have to pay their own passage, and nothing is done to help them unless they are going to take up a billet on shore abroad. Under present conditions sailors spend most of their lives abroad, and the naval town of Portsmouth is full of grass widows who would give anything to join their husbands. It often means that they have to sell up their homes in order to find money to enable them to join their husbands. When I was Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean we did everything we could to help seamen to bring their wives out, but it cost £10 to get a man's wife out, and it was only a little less for a child over five. Having been a Member of the Board of Admiralty when we actually passed Navy Estimates through this House which provided for marriage allowance for officers—we were thwarted in the end by the Treasury—I can well sympathise with the Admiralty in their difficulties. I hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have been here to take a note of this and bear it in mind. I can assure my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that the naval Members in this House are united in their determination to press for equitable treatment for the Navy.
There are many other subjects about which I should like to speak to-day, but as there are many hon. Members who wish to take part in this Debate, I shall confine my remarks to one matter which I consider of the utmost importance to the exercise of sea power. I refer to Naval Aviation, which is of ever-increasing importance. The development of it during the last 20 years has lagged deplorably behind that of other Maritime Powers; in fact, ever since the War, when it was handed over to the Air Ministry. I say this with some reluctance, because I know that the House will be heartily sick of Air controversy after the rather 672 disturbing disclosures we have had in the last two days. The relations between the men who fly and the men who go down to the sea in ships is one of cordial friendship and good comradeship. My quarrel is only with the Air Ministry, which has frustrated the development of naval aviation for the last 20 years. I realise that I may be accused of stirring up strife by reopening a matter which we all hoped would have been settled last year by the decision of the Government. Reference to Press reports of the proceedings which took place when that decision was announced shows that the opinion was pretty unanimous that it was a disquieting compromise.
I hate saying anything to add to the troubles of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. I am sorry he is not here at the moment. I told him that I was going to speak about the subject. We sailors owe him a great debt for all he has done, and is doing, to help the Navy in this hour of adversity. I know that it may be said that the Navy is fully occupied in taking over all that has already been granted to it, and that it is quite impossible to do anything else. I do not believe in the word "impossible," and I will not be deflected by such a contention. I am striving for something which I know to be absolutely essential to naval efficiency and the exercise of sea power, and something which, I am convinced, can and should be done.
The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence carries an immense burden and has to weigh a number of conflicting considerations and to deal with a multitude of questions. But after listening to the contribution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) to the Debate this afternoon I feel impelled to say that the task of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence would be immensely lightened if the Prime Minister would delegate to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping the task of reorganising and reconstructing the British Navy. Who has forgotten his immense contribution to Naval security, at the commencement of the Great War, by his conduct at the Admiralty? There is no one better qualified to carry out the task. In making these remarks, I do not wish for a moment to reflect at all on my right hon. Friend the present First Lord, but he has 673 neither the knowledge nor the experience to undertake such a tremendous task as the re-creation of British sea power in this dangerous and critical hour.
I do not want to go back too far into the past in relation to the question of naval aviation, the years that have been wasted can never be recovered. I would, however, remind the House that, year after year, I have pleaded for an independent inquiry, a Cadman inquiry in fact, free from all political or Service bias, to consider the question of the control of naval aviation. Lord Beatty frequently pleaded for the same thing up to two or three weeks before his death. My hon. Friends the Members for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) and Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Braba-zon) were more fortunate than Lord Beatty and I. Who can say that, if we had had such an inquiry four years ago, the Navy would not possess by now a really efficient Air Service? Not very long ago Lord Swinton declared in the House of Lords that this matter would never be reopened, and I do not believe it ever would have been if I had not been able to remind Lord Baldwin that he promised in 1923 that the matter should be regarded as an experiment. Everyone knows that the experiment failed. A committee—not the committee that we asked for but a committee of three Cabinet Ministers—sat to report. Even that was too much for the Air Ministry and Lord Weir was put up to threaten resignation if such a committee was appointed. It is almost incredible that Lord Baldwin should have surrendered to such a threat from someone who had no responsibility whatever. But the committee was cancelled.
§ The Minister for Co-ordination of Defence (Sir Thomas Inskip)
I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not make statements of that sort. I can assure him that what he has just said is not in accordance with the facts, and I know the facts.
§ Sir R. Keyes
I cannot question the right hon. Gentleman's assertion, but a statement to that effect by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping was not contradicted in the House at the time. However, I will not dwell on the subject. I do not want to make trouble. [Interruption.] I only want to insist that the Navy must have its own Air service. I think it was very unfair to 674 my right hon. Friend the Minister for Co-ordination that all the onus should, have been thrown on him of having to make the decision between two Departments in violent conflict. However, he had to make a decision and both the Prime Minister and he are to be congratulated on having done something, at any rate, towards giving us a Naval Air service. When the Prime Minister made this decision in July he said that all ship-borne aircraft would be placed under the administrative control of the Admiralty, and he added:Under one proposal which has been before the Government, the Admiralty would in each case have been given both the administrative and the operational control, and the whole of the personnel would be naval. The Government have, however, decided that with the case of the second class, namely, shore-based aircraft, which term includes flying boats, there shall be no alteration in the present systems. In the case of the Fleet Air Arm the Government consider that these ship-borne aircraft should be placed under the administrative control of the Admiralty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1937; col. 3512. Vol. 326.]The Prime Minister evidently regarded that as final and, no doubt, thought that the Admiralty gained a greater benefit from the change than the Air Ministry.
But that is not the point. The Air Ministry retained control of something which had been taken away from the Navy and of which it should never have been deprived. It is simply not fair to press the present Board of Admiralty to accept yet another compromise for, if they did, they would be placing their successors under a most unfair handicap. The Navy can never be satisfied till it has complete control over all the aircraft that it needs to operate with and against ships. The Navy needs aircraft, including flying-boats, for purely Naval functions, and it may not always be convenient to carry these in ships or to bring into narrow waters ships carrying them. It is no doubt difficult for a layman to understand these Naval problems, but the Admiralty cannot be dependent on aircraft over which it has no operational control, which are not trained by the Navy and may not be available when they are required. They must be the sole responsibility of the Navy and must therefore be on the Navy Votes.
I had experience in the War of operating ships working with aircraft. I carried out scores of exercises in which seaborne aircraft were engaged with ships, and I say quite definitely that flying-boats are 675 an indispensable part of any modern fleet, and that no Admiral responsible for the conduct of naval operations in war would tolerate in his Fleet flying-boats which were not under the administration of the Navy, trained by the Navy and under its sole operational command. It is well known to sailors that flying-boats, under the conditions under which they work to-day, are a ceaseless anxiety in Naval operations. When the Royal Air Force flying-boats were sent out to the Mediterranean to operate with the Naval patrol in carrying out the Nyon Agreement, the Admiralty had to lend them the "Cyclops"—the subarmine depot ship—otherwise they could not have functioned at all. The Admiralty were able to lend this ship because all British submarines were virtually confined to port under the terms of the Nyon Agreement. That might never happen again. It was an absurd anomaly that the Admiralty should have had to provide the Royal Air Force with a ship in order to make it possible for flying-boats to operate, quite independently of the Navy. Is it suggested that in the future the Air Ministry should have a Navy of its own in order to enable it to retain the control of flying-boats, which have no functions that are not naval? It is simply foolish. It ought not to be difficult for a layman to understand what confusion this would cause in war.
The decision of last July can never be regarded as final, since it severely affects naval efficiency in peace time, can only lead to confusion and disaster in war and places a cruel handicap on naval officers, who will bear all the responsibility on the day of battle. It is seven months since the Government announced their decision as to the control of the Fleet Air Arm, and yet we are told in the First Lord's statement thatThe method of effecting the transfer from the Air Ministry of those functions for which the Admiralty will in future be responsible is being examined in conjunction with the former Department.This is painfully reminiscent of what occurred when I was a Sea Lord in charge of naval aviation 15 years ago. It was decided in 1923 that all aviation should remain under the control of the Air Ministry but that the Navy should have 70 per cent. of the pilots of the Fleet Air Arm, and that all the observers should be naval. Month after month passed but 676 we could not get the Government's decision implemented, until the first Socialist Government came into power. They had the wisdom to place all matters concerned with defence under the guidance of Lord Haldane, and I invoked his aid. He appointed a small committee of three, over which he presided and of which I was one of the members, and the result was the Keyes-Trenchard agreement which has governed all the relations between the Air Ministry and the Admiralty for the last 14 years. I beg my right hon. Friend the Minister for Co-ordination to insist on the Air Ministry doing everything that is necessary to enable the Admiralty to put into operation the decision made last July. It is no secret that very little progress is being made, and that much obstruction is being encountered.
I should like to draw attention to what is happening in the Far East to-day. The Japanese Navy has an immense naval air force, both ship-borne and shore-based, including splendid flying boats. The American Navy, with which we are supposed to have parity, is carrying out manoeuvres in the Pacific in which 500 ship-borne aircraft are taking part, and scores of splendid flying boats, 18 of which made a non-stop flight of 2,570 miles in company in 20 hours, 20 minutes. Compare this with the little Fleet Air Arm which is being handed over to the Navy so tardily by the Air Ministry without one single flying boat. Compare the flight of the American flying boats with that of the three Royal Air Force flying boats to Australia the other day. They had troubles and difficulties from the outset. There is no comparison between our Naval Air Service and that of the nation which enjoys naval parity with us. British sea power will not be restored until the Navy has all the aircraft it requires to carry out all its functions, irrespective of the nature of their under-carriages, floats, wheels, or boats, or whether they are carried in ships or whether they are based at strategic points on our trade routes, the security of which is the Admiralty's sole responsibility. In fact the Admiralty must control all aircraft which work with and against ships.
The last Government decision was a political compromise and, having established the principle that the Admiralty as the responsible authority must control its aircraft, it left all the flying boats, whose 677 functions are purely naval, under the Air Ministry for administration, training and operational control. It is really absurd. The "Times" described it as the judgment of Solomon. It was, but I would remind the House that the right mother got the whole baby in the end and I am convinced that the Navy will get all the aircraft it needs in the end. But these delays and compromises are monstrous in this critical hour through which we are passing. An immediate start should be made to enable the Admiralty to provide and maintain all the aircraft the Navy needs to carry out its great responsibility.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Parker
I want to discuss the general question of the recruitment of officers for the Navy and then to raise one or two special grievances. Hon. Members on this side of the House consider that the efficiency of the Navy is definitely retarded by the fact that the officers are largely recruited from one section of the population. In the Debate on the Navy Estimates last year the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) said that she deplored class consciousness in the Navy, indeed, that she deplored it anywhere, and then went on in the course of her speech to give us an example of what she was deploring. We feel that the question of class discrimination as regards the recruiting of officers for the Navy is a very live issue. It is worth while looking at the present position. Take the figures for the recruitment of officers for the executive and engineering branches for the years 1931 and 1936. In 1931 there were 97 entrants from Dartmouth, or 66 per cent. of the total; special entry by recruitment from public and secondary schools 34, or 22 per cent. of the total; and from the lower deck, 16 or 12 per cent. of the total. In 1936 there were 135 entrants from Dartmouth or 56 per cent. of the total, 98 entrants through special entry, or 41 per cent. of the total; and only eight from the lower deck, or 3 per cent. of the total, although during these six years there was an increase of the total entrants from 147 to 241 owing to the expansion following the beginning of the rearmament programme.
During these years there was a gradual decline in the total number as well as in the percentage of those coming from the lower deck. If you take the figures of those coming from the lower deck during 678 those six years there has been a steady decline since 1931 to 1936–16, 12, 10, 9, 6, and finally 8. If you examine the position in 1937 you will find that the total number of commissions granted, including Royal Marines and paymasters, was 410. Of these 146 came from Dartmouth, 264 were special entries and 23 came from the lower deck. If you add the 125 executives and 30 paymasters who came in from the Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, you get a grand total of 565. Of these only 23, or under 4 per cent. of the total, came from the lower deck. There has been an increase in the number of naval officers required as a result of rearmament, and in that expansion we are not using the talent on the lower deck. It is worth while comparing these figures with the position before and during the War. In 1913 and in 1914, 44 officers came from the lower deck; in 1915, 136; in 1916, 88; in 1917, 141, and in 1918, 63. In other words, during the War we had to get our officers in the best way we could, and to get the best talent we had to go largely to the lower deck. Why not now?
There are three different channels of recruitment for officers. First, there is the Dartmouth entry. Boys enter Dartmouth at 13½ and are there until 17½ years of age, and their parents have to give an undertaking that when they finish their course they will enter the Navy. It is generally agreed that at 13½ years of age a boy cannot possibly know what kind of a career he wants to follow, and it is a mistake to force the parents of a boy to make up their minds as to his career at such an age. The cost of Dartmouth to the Exchequer was £34,000 last year, or more than half as much as was received from parents in fees. It is estimated officially that the cost of the four years at Dartmouth works out at £788 per boy. Actually it must be a good deal more, because that does not allow for extras or maintenance during holidays. It probably means a cost to the parents of about £300 a year. That means that only sons of people who are comparatively wealthy can possibly go to Dartmouth in order to enter the Navy in that way.
Then there is the special entry from secondary schools instituted by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in 1913. It is generally agreed that this 679 has been a great success and that those coming into the Navy in this way show more ability than those coming from Dartmouth. During the last few years, owing to the rearmament programme, there has been an expansion of this particular form of entry. These officers come in at the age of 18, have eight months training on the "Vindictive" and then pass on to different ships. The cost to their parents is about £180 for the first two years. It means that although this particular form of entry is a much more democratic form than Dartmouth, parents must have at least £200 to be able to allow their boys to take advantage of this channel of entry into the Navy. It is interesting to study the considerable difference between the types of schools which send their boys to become officers in the Navy and those which send their boys in order to go into the Army. Twenty-five per cent. who come in through the special entry come from State secondary schools, and that is a considerable advance on the position in the Army.
With regard to the lower deck, I would remind hon. Members that promotion from the lower deck was very common in the Navy in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century it disappeared altogether until it was revived by the right hon. Member for Epping before the War. At the present time most of the seamen in the Navy enter at about 15 to 16£ and they have a certain amount of training at a shore training establishment and then on a training ship. There are, however, great difficulties about these boys becoming officers. First the kind of education they get at the training establishments is specifically of a Service kind, and does not provide a general education of anything like the kind provided in an ordinary secondary school or at Dartmouth, and it means that when these particular men want to become officers they have considerable difficulty in passing examinations on a broader syllabus than purely Service matters. Then, again, recommendations are necessary from an officer before a man from the lower deck can go in for an examination to become an officer. It means in some cases that the best men are not always selected by the officers; for it is not always the best men who get on well with their officers.
680 Difficulties also arise on the question of seniority. The age at which a sublieutenant from Dartmouth is supposed to obtain a commission is 20, and from the special entries at 21. Lower deck candidates are also supposed to obtain it at 21, but actually all the successful candidates from the lower deck in recent years have been 22 and 23 years of age. Later, when they wished to become lieutenants their promotion has been delayed because it is difficult for people from the lower deck to pass examinations which are on a broader basis than the general service standards. Recently changes have been made to get over this question of seniority and to see that candidates from the lower deck shall be admitted at the age of 21. It is to be hoped that they will be successful.
A number of reforms seem to be necessary. Most people who have studied these matters will agree that it is desirable that Dartmouth in its present form should be abolished. I suggest that it should become a training college on the lines of the "Vindictive," for people coming in as special entry candidates. The buildings need not be wasted. I think it is also essential that we should abolish fees for special entry candidates. It is also desirable that a higher proportion still of secondary and technical schools entrants should go in for officers, and that candidates from the lower deck should have a much broader education than at present. I think that part of the curriculum for those entering the ranks should be adapted to lead up to the kind of examination they will have to pass later if they wish to become officers.
Finally all sailors ought to have the right to enter some kind of preliminary examination to qualify as officers even if an officer does not recommend them. Although an officer's views should be taken into consideration, I do not think it should necessarily prevent them from going in for the examination. I should like to see the Navy recruit more of its places a cruel handicap on naval officers improve the general education of the country and get a more democratic secondary education it would modify the position considerably. A word about the position of warrant officers. This may be absolute sacrilege. I am told that warrant officers have a long history, but I do not see the necessity of keeping 681 warrant officers separate from ordinary officers. If you take the smaller ships, the warrant officer messes and mixes with the ordinary officers, and has exactly the same duties. On bigger ships they have a separate mess, and do not carry out the more responsible work which falls on the ordinary officers, but it seems to me that a good deal may be gained by fusing the warrant officers with the ordinary officers. No doubt that will seem sacrilege to many people in the Navy.
I should like to deal with a number of grievances in the accountancy branch. At the present time there is no promotion to commissioned rank in the accountancy branch, and there is a strong feeling of grievance among these people that there are no facilities to enable them to get commissioned rank. Many of the best educated men in the Navy are in this branch, and that is why they feel this grievance strongly. They have no opportunity of becoming lieutenants. Before the War the various changes made by the right hon. Member for Epping came in year after year. In 1912 there was the mate scheme. In 1913 the Royal Marine scheme and in 1914 there was the mate (E) scheme. It was generally expected in the Navy that there would be a mate (A) scheme coming into operation in 1915, and that people in this particular branch would have facilities for obtaining commissions. In fact, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, the Duke of Devonshire, went as far as to say, in a speech in 1916, that he thought it would be well worth considering whether young writers of about 25 should not be selected for promotion to commissioned rank. A scheme of that kind already exists in the Canadian and Australian navies, and I gather that it works very well. I do not see why such a scheme should not exist in the British Navy. Many people in that branch of the Service had hoped that such a concession would have been granted this year.
A month ago, in reply to a question which I put on the subject, the First Lord of the Admiralty stated that commissioned officers in the accountants' branch are required to supervise several specialised branches, and that it would take a rating promoted from the ranks 2½ years to learn those duties. That is a ridiculous statement, since there are only three specialised 682 branches in it, writers, supply and cooks, and the writer or supply rating who was promoted would already be an expert in one of the branches and would have some knowledge of another. Yet the Admiralty claimed that the 30 reserve officers who entered the accountants' branch last year as a result of a special appeal were able to learn these duties in six months, although they have had no previous experience in that branch of the Service. In cold fact those officers had to carry on very largely with the help of ratings to whom promotion has been denied. The 30 ex-reservists and 39 paymaster sublieutenants who entered as cadets from public schools are employed in ships with superior accountantcy officers. Why should it not be possible to have similar machinery for training ratings in this particular branch to obtain commissioned rank? Promotions to warrant rank in that branch are not sufficient to satisfy the grievances which exist. I hope the First Lord will reconsider the matter, since it is one on which the people in that branch of the Service have a very real grievance.
§ 7.33 p.m.
I deeply regret that I was unable to be present when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty made his statement, but I was carrying out one of the best traditions of the Navy, and had gone to help a fellow Member in distress. Therefore, I was rather sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) reproach me for not being in the House. I would remind him that this is the nineteenth year in which I have been in the House during a Naval Debate, and that this is the first occasion on which I have not been present to hear the opening statement. I think the remark of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough was a little ungenerous. I was glad that I heard his speech, which concerned itself more with the shortcomings of the Government's foreign policy than with conditions in the Navy, although, of course, he admitted that the concessions and reforms which had been announced were so great that they had taken away a good deal of his speech. I, too, wish to thank the Government for giving marriage allowances, and other things for which we have begged for many years, although I wish that the allowances were a little more generous.
683 Every time the House has had one of these Naval Debates, hardly any hon. Members from any party are present. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) reminded us that before the War the House used to be crowded when the Navy Estimates were brought up. That was because the Liberals wanted to do away with the Navy and the Tories had to fight hard for it. The Tory party may have many shortcomings, but it has never lost sight of what the Navy means to this country. It has had some blind spots, but it has never been blind on that. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough made a gallant effort when he was First Lord, but his party made it difficult for him, and we had to fight hard even to save Singapore. Evidently hon. Members opposite know better now, and they are delighted that we are to have an in crease in the Navy. When the right hon. Gentleman talks about the failure of the Government's foreign policy, I would remind him that it is a failure of the whole country. We thought the last War was a war to end war, and that we were making the world safe for democracy, but look at Europe—how much democracy is there in Europe?
We thought that the League of Nations would keep the peace for 100 years in the way that the British Navy did before the War, but now we see that the League was incapable of doing so. To talk now about collective security is to talk about something which does not exist except in the minds of a few hopeful people. I even had to fight some people in my constituency who wanted to cut down the Navy. I feel that we ought to apologise to the Navy, but we really believed that the last War was to end wars, and that somehow or another the League would bring peace to the world. Now we realise how blind and stupid we were. It is not that collective security has failed, but that it has never been tried. Apparently nobody in Europe believed in democracy, and now the only democratic country which there is in Europe changes its Government every two months. That is not my idea of democracy. We ought to be quite honest with ourselves and to realise that until there is a league of all the nations in the world, we shall not have peace unless Great Britain is strong. I hope that hon. Members will be as 684 honest as we are and say that they were wrong about the Navy, and that it ought never to have been cut down.
The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) said that on the last occasion on which I made a speech on the Navy, it was a class-conscious speech. Now, I deplore class consciousness, because I believe in Christianity. I think class consciousness is a horrible thing. I do not agree that there is this great desire for promotion by those on the lower deck. I have lived more or less among naval people for the last 25 years. It is not that they cannot get to the top, but that many of them do not want to get there, and do not want to take even of the facilities which exist. It is quite right for the small group, of which the hon. Member is one, to go on trying to get promotion of the men from the lower deck, because I believe these men ought to get to the top; but surely the marriage allowances which are now being granted will make a tremendous difference. Some of those who refused warrant rank do so because they were better off as they are. It is a little unfair to say that it has been the desire of the Admiralty to keep the men down. I would remind the House that the men in the Navy are the most conservative body of men in the world.
The Government have made vast improvements in the Navy during the last two years and I am grateful to them, but I still wish that they would be a little more generous with the officers' allowances. Anybody who has lived among these officers, and particularly among their wives and children, knows the heart breaking task which they have. The Navy is our first line of defence. Surely, we should be generous to the people who are responsible for that first line of defence. The Parliamentary Secretary reminded us how splendid has been the Navy's services during the Spanish civil war. It is amazing how the commanders have taken the right decisions quite by instinct, even when the politicians have not known what to do. We ought to do all we can to make these men satisfied about the position of their dependants. I do not know how some of these men dare marry on the small sum which they have, or how the women dare marry them, except that we are told that sailors have a way with them. I was surprised to hear my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) say that 685 my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping ought to reorganise the Navy, because I was amazed to hear that at last my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping had found something about the Government of which he could not complain. He said that the Navy is all right. He said that he had no fault to find with the Admiralty and the great work they are doing, and the only thing about which he was quite happy was cruisers.
There is one other thing which I feel I must say. It is a wonderful step forward that when we hear that England is increasing her Navy and that America is increasing her Navy, the people in both countries know that it will be for the safety of the world. That is something for which we may be grateful in these dark days. I think we ought to have had a crowded House to listen to the record of the Navy both in Spain and in the East. The Navy have upheld in a marvellous way its high traditions, and I deeply regret that I was ever a party to reducing the British Navy. That was because I believed in the League of Nations, but the more I see of the world, the more I realise that collective action is a pious hope. I pray to God that we are not going to start a war for the sake of collective action when we are the only people who can collect and the only country in the League of Nations ready to act. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about France?"] France would not even co-operate with us doing away with submarines. Whenever it has been a question of collective action, the other countries have always run away at the last moment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough said we ought to have given the world a lead in disarmament. We did give the world such a lead, and that is why things are so dark to-day. While we were giving that lead, other countries were rearming. That is not a tragedy of the Government's foreign policy, but a tragedy of not being awake to what was going; on in Europe.
I hope that the British Navy will always be used as now for justice and mercy, and that it will not at the beck of a few small countries in the League of Nations risk the safety of the world by involving us in a war which is pressed upon us by people who talk about democracy. It is 686 no good fighting for democracy in Europe, because Europe does not believe in democracy; if it did, it would not be in the state in which it is to-day. I am grateful to the Government for being so alive to the needs of the Navy, but I ask them to be a little more generous than they have been. I am certain that now is the time to be generous. People pay no attention to the Navy unless they are afraid, and when they are afraid, they become generous. Perhaps with a little more pressing the Government will be more generous next year.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Commander Marsden
I should like to add my congratulations to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty for the way in which he gave his statement. I think he said that he was taking the chief actor's part in a drama. I should rather have imagined that he was going in first wicket and scoring a lot of runs for a side that did not encourage stonewalling.
The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) gave a good many statistics about promotions from the lower deck, but he did not visualise the matter correctly. He said that promotions were arrived at through examination, and that if you could pass the examination you became a good officer. That is not the case. The qualification that the hon. Member put last ought to come first. The first qualification for an officer is that he should be able to take command, and it is a matter on which his senior officer is the best judge. Through the scheme which the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) introduced, the lower deck have had ample opportunities for promotion whenever they were worth it. The fact is they did not make good enough officers. That is the truth. The hon. Member also made other statements on which he did not show complete knowledge. He talked about children of 13½ being forced into the Navy, when they did not know their own minds. I entered the Navy at about 13½, against my parents' wishes. They visualised for me quite a different career. I have forgotten what the career was to be, but I think I was to have been very distinguished in some lucrative calling. The fact is that I went to a training ship, I went to sea at 15 years of age, and I went to a foreign station as a Naval 687 cadet at 1s. a day. There is not a single cadet who enters the Service who does not do so at his own wish and desire.
This Vote of £123,000,000 is a colossal sum, and I am surprised that so little was said about the expenditure on construction, because that is the main charge against this big amount. The whole House seems to be in agreement as to the question of a larger provision of light craft. We have five battleships building, each costing an enormous sum. No doubt the older battleships must be replaced, but if more of this money could be utilised for the purpose, and we have the skilled workmen who are necessary, I would much sooner see a greater construction of destroyers and light cruisers. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) asked up to what standard we were building, and what for? You never know against whom you are building. Before the War we had a definite building standard, the two-power standard. For every ship that was built by the two next strongest Powers, we built one ship of equal strength.
To-day, we do not know who our enemies may be. At one time we did not know who our friends were. So long as the present Government continue their sane and sensible policy there is little chance of our going to war, but if the party opposite could give vent to what they have in mind, we should have no friends, but all enemies. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have no friends now."] That is not so. We are on friendly terms with everybody. What about the party opposite? I read in the "Times" a paragraph with regard to one of the most distinguished members of the Socialist party, who has left them. In tendering his resignation from the party, Lord Sanderson said that he could not work for a party whose foreign policy involves so much hatred of other nations. He went on to say that their attainment to office he would regard as a menace to the peace of the world.
§ Commander Marsden
I do not know what the hon. Member means by "defending my policy." I have only quoted from the "Times" a statement, which 688 has never been denied, of the reasons which were given by Lord Sanderson for leaving the Socialist party. The reason was that they were a menace to the peace of the world.
§ Mr. Sorensen
May I inform the hon. and gallant Member that Lord Sanderson left the Labour party because he is a pacifist? He does not believe in arms at all.
§ Commander Marsden
I have read the reason he gave for his resignation, and that is that the party opposite are a menace to the peace of the world. Why do we want a strong Navy? We do not know who our enemies might be, and we want a Navy by which we can defend ourselves. I agree with the Noble Lady. We need a strong Navy to defend ourselves, independent of such assistance as we might or might not get from any other sources. [An HON. MEMBER: "You cannot do it."] As far as our Navy is concerned, we can do it. The two nations that hon. Members may have in mind as constituting a possible enemy are Italy and Germany. So far as they are concerned there is very considerable danger from one source, and that is the submarines. Their combined submarine strength is, I think, something over 80; but if the policy which I advocate were adopted we could meet that danger by having a larger number of light ships—destroyers and light cruisers.
I would rather see a considerable increase in the number of these light craft, even if it means retarding the building of the five battleships. We do not know what the Japanese are going to do. They have broken away from all treaties, and can build anything they like. I think they will build 16-inch gun ships, for the simple reason that they have the plant, the plans and the arrangement for the 16-inch gun ships. If they do that, it looks as if we shall have to increase the size of our guns and ships. Lord Fisher said, "Build last, and build fast." I do not know whether you can build a model battleship very fast, but, at any rate, there is no immediate necessity for doing that, and so far as we can visualise any possible combination against us, our battle fleet would be quite competent to deal with it.
I should like to endorse what the right hon. Member for Epping said. I cannot understand why in our cruiser construction 689 we get such a variety of classes. I think it was said that before the War we had three different types. I think we had many more than that. Then we had no restricting treaties and ships when they had passed their active life remained in reserve a great number of years. When the War came they were all hauled out for some purpose or other. I cannot see why at the present time we cannot fix upon one or two types, one for ocean cruising and another staying by the battle-fleet for work with them.
The right hon. Member for Epping spoke about certain cruisers coming out to attack our convoys and that we have no adequate opposite number to defend them. There is something even more serious than that in the existence of the two German pocket battleships. If we went to war with Germany they would attack us in the two places where they were most successful in the last War, by means of raiders in the open seas and by submarines wherever they could attack. If the two Deutschland pocket-battleships were after our traders we have only three ships in the whole of our Navy that could run them down and sink them. One of these battleships was out in the Pacific recently, and I thought it was a most dangerous situation. We had no ship of our Navy, east of Suez, that could have attacked the German battle ship. The cruisers that might have caught it had not the gun fire, and our battleships had not the speed. We have only three ships, the "Renown," the "Repulse" and the "Hood" which could pursue these Germans ships and by superior gunfire sink them. I think this reveals a great omission in our construction programme. We had one warship, a very capable and comparatively new battle-cruiser, the "Tiger," which, owing to arrangements under various treaties, had to be scrapped.
§ Mr. Alexander
Can the hon. and gallant Member as a naval expert explain how he justifies his previous statement that we could defend the British Empire?
§ Commander Marsden
Certainly. I am only pointing out a few of our weak spots. I am not saying that one is perfectly satisfied. I believe that the battle-cruiser is essential. Lord Fisher realised that we must have that particular class of ship, largely because it is economical. What was our experience in the South American 690 seas during the War? At the battle of Coronel the German cruisers "Scharn horst" and "Gneisenau" sunk our fleet, but Lord Fisher sent out to the Falkland Islands two battle-cruisers, which sank the German fleet without loss of life on our side. The battle-cruiser is not only effective but economical.
With regard to the marriage allowances to naval officers, which have been announced to-day, although they are not as generous as one would have liked, the Navy are very thankful for small mercies. The marriage allowance is not what it ought to be. It is not as much as the allowance that is given to officers in the Army and the Air Force. The sum origin ally voted from the Treasury was £350,000, but the total cost to the Treasury now is £240,000, which shows that the amount is not up to what was originally intended. Part of the cost will be met by reducing the pay of unmarried officers. I asked a friend of mine, a unmarried officer, what he thought of it, and he said: "I suppose it ought to be good, but it means that I have not only to pay for the married officer, but when we are in port I have to stay on board and do his work as well."
§ Sir M. Sueter
Where does my hon. and gallant Friend get the figure of £240,000? I thought the Parliamentary Secretary said £105,000.
§ Commander Marsden
If I understood him correctly, it was £105,000 for commissioned officers and the balance was made up by the marriage allowances to warrant officers. The warrant officers have been very well done by, and I am glad of that, because every naval officer values the warrant officer. The warrant officer always has been the backbone of the Service. I cannot help feeling that one of the reasons that the warrant officers have been so handsomely done by is that the Admiralty want to give bigger inducements to men to become warrant officers. Unfortunately for the other officer branch of the Navy there is such a rush to join as cadets and to become executive officers that no special consideration has to be given to recruitment in that direction on the part of the Admiralty. The warrant officer, in addition to the allowance, gets no reduction from his pay, and he also gets the marriage allowance from the age of 25.
691 The class that I am sorry for is the lieutenant who marries at 26 or 27 and who gets no marriage allowance at all till he is 30. There is only one other point in this connection that I want to mention, and that is in regard to the stopping of the marriage allowance for officers on half pay. Now that we have an increasing Navy there is not a great number of men on half pay, but when, as we all hope, in the years to come it is possible to decrease the Navy, there will again be a lot of half-pay men, as there was after the War. Then you will get the married officer who is on half pay, and I may add that half pay is not half pay really, but frequently only one-third pay or something like that. He not only loses any extra allowances that he gets for being a specialist officer or for being in command of a ship, but, according to this arrangement as I understand it, he also loses his marriage allowance. One of the best points of the marriage allowance used to be that it was paid direct to the wife. I do not know whether that will be so or not, but I can imagine the horror of the wife when her husband goes on half pay, which means that everyone must tighten their belts, and in addition she will not get any marriage allowance. I hope the Treasury will be a little more generous on that point.
There is one more subject on which I think I spoke two years ago. We were then voting for a small Navy, but small as it was, the party opposite voted for no Navy at all. I then made a point which I should like to make again, and that is in regard to the position of the senior engineer officers of the Navy. At present there is only one really important job that they can hope to get, and that is engineer rear-admiral. After that there is nothing. I will be very frank with the House and say that I do not believe that when engineer officers get to a certain position and a certain age, the Navy gets 100 per cent. out of them. They have very little more to look forward to. They are men of ability, very able men, and if the First Lord were here, he might be able to recall to the House that when he was at the War Office he took the senior engineer admiral, who had no future in the Navy, and put him on the War Council; and when the present Secretary of State for 692 War had the rake-over the other day, this ex-naval officer was not only retained, but was given greatly increased responsibilities. He is a very good man indeed, but I would not like to say that he is exceptional. There is a continual stream of officers of the same sort coming on, but they get no chance.
The reason why this situation should be considered particularly now is that up to date the senior engineer officers have entered the Navy through Keyham as naval officers, but a large number of officers are now coming along knocking at the door, who originally entered the Navy under the arrangement that they might either become engineers or be executive officers and possibly commanders of ships and fleets. It was held up to the man on the engineering side that he should go in for engineering because he would get extra pay all the way up, which is true, that he would be much more likely to get permanent employment, which also is true, and that when he had got to the top, there would be all the dockyards waiting for him. I am afraid the position now is that if you mention to executive officers to give engineers any form of command like that, they shudder. There is no other word for it. They cannot visualise it. The Navy is conservative, and in this particular question of the engineers it is far too conservative.
I have only to thank hon. Members for so kindly listening to me so soon again after my temporary absence from the House. I rejoice when I hear hon. Members opposite getting up and putting what I call the robust Labour point of view, which we appreciate, rather than the hysterical nonsense put forward by the Socialist specialists who occasionally air their opinions from those benches. As long as we have a strong Navy they can say what they like. We can dispense with the gloomy forecasts—I had written down about six adjectives used by hon. Members opposite—and as long as we have a strong Navy, we can look forward to the future with every confidence.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Commander Marsden) in his references to foreign policy, as I am anxious to make a speech on Defence for once without introducing 693 any references to foreign affairs. I agree with that part of his remarks which referred particularly to cruisers and light craft, but I do not altogether agree with him about promotion from the lower deck. I believe that if men from the lower deck are given proper opportunities for training and education while serving in that period of their career, and if the conditions at the top are made sufficiently just and attractive for them, we shall have no difficulty in getting a flow of the right type of men from the lower deck to the wardroom. I am sure we have all quite genuinely sympathised with the First Lord in the great disappointment which he must feel at being absent on what should be his great day of his political year, but his misfortune has enabled the Parliamentary Secretary to realise the great dream of an understudy's life, which is that the principal actor should fall sick on the night of a command performance. Very appropriately for one who bears his name, he quoted from "Hamlet," but I was more interested in his references to Nelson and his claim to come from Nelson's native county. That encourages me to hope that he may commemorate his term of office at the Admiralty by securing the erection of a monument to Nelson in Nelson's birthplace, which is still without one. As one of those conservative, ordinary, highly class-conscious naval officers of whom we have heard so much to-day, I would like to say that I think the Parliamentary Secretary's speech showed that spirit of real humanity and consideration for the men of the Navy which was the most prominent and lovable characteristic of Nelson.
All officers in the Navy will rejoice about the grant of marriage allowances, although, of course, we must be prepared to find them looking the gift-horse in the mouth a little. I certainly hope some consideration may be given to that point about the cessation of marriage allowance to an officer on half pay, otherwise I feel that there will be an encouragement to have half-time wives as the unfortunate result of this concession. I believe that we owe the long-delayed granting of these marriage allowances very largely to the Parliamentary Secretary, as a result of his visit to the Home Fleet, which he told us he paid this Summer, and I believe also that as a result of that visit the Navy has to be 694 grateful to him for a very great impulse indeed in the matter of anti-aircraft gunnery.
I wish to ask one or two questions about the "Warspite." I asked a question in this House, and I was told that the trouble was due to the "inter-action of the propellers," a phrase that is repeated in the statement accompanying the Naval Estimates. I have made some inquiries from engineer officers, and I cannot get any explanation of the meaning of the phrase "inter-action of the propellers." I should, therefore, like to have a little light on that subject, because, as a matter of fact, I do not believe the trouble was due to anything of the sort. The trouble was due to the fact that the naval constructors certainly did make definite miscalculations about the alteration of the hull which was rendered necessary by the reconstruction of the "War-spite." Are there at the present moment instructions to the "Warspite" not to put her helm over at full speed? We have three out of 15 capital ships undergoing reconstruction, and I believe that that reconstruction will not be through until 1940. Knowing that, I should not be at all surprised to hear that the Admiralty had received some representations or protests from the Foreign Office owing to there being so many capital ships out of action at the present moment with consequent reactions upon foreign policy.
I wish to call the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the naval engineering college at Keyham. The hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey and myself both had the great pleasure and privilege of training cadets at Dartmouth. He left behind him a great reputation as a term officer. We both remember the delightful and splendid conditions under which cadets there are brought up. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that the Royal Naval Engineering College at Key-ham now falls very far indeed behind being a desirable site for carrying out the training of young officers. I do not think that, from the point of view of health or from any other point of view, we have satisfactory conditions at Keyham College. Provided that easy access to the dockyards can be preserved, which, of course, is necessary, I think the time has come when the Admiralty should face the question of removing Keyham to another and more suitable site.
695 I now pass to a matter raised on page 23 of the Statement accompanying the Naval Estimates. It refers to orders which have been placed with the British Power Boat Company for the provision of motor torpedo boats. This raises grave and disquieting questions, and it is one that must be inquired into. If my remarks are unwelcome and I am told by the Minister that the matter will be inquired into, I shall be very glad indeed to discontinue this part of my remarks, to say no more on the point, and to pass to other topics. I have sifted this matter to the best of my ability. I can assure the House that my information comes to me from very responsible persons and that I can, if necessary, produce my evidence and place it all at the disposal of the Parliamentary Secretary, subject, of course, to a proper undertaking about immunity. I bring this forward, not with any wish to make a party score, or to oppose any portion of the rearmament programme, but merely because I wish to make sure that in every department of that programme we are getting proper armaments and that there is no waste or misuse of public money. My criticisms are directed to that end. I am opposed to criticism for the sake of criticism at the present juncture in our affairs as I am far more anxious to see a concentration of national effort to face a situation which is not merely difficult or dangerous but which is, in fact, desperate. These motor torpedo boats replaced what we used to call coastal motor boats during the War. This Service was closed down after the War, except for a little experimental work. About 1937 articles began to appear in the Press "boosting" motor torpedo boats ordered from the British Power Boat Company. I have one here which the Parliamentary Secretary might like to see. It is headed:Navy Starts Death-or-Glory Squadron. Britain's miniature battleships can fire at 40 knots.That article, appropriately, was written by a gentleman named Kidd. It is quite misleading, and expert opinion is adverse to its contentions. This article introduces the name of Mr. Scott-Paine who, after the War, sold out Supermarine Boats to Vickers. Then he started a Southampton and Channel Islands Air Service which he afterwards sold out to Imperial Airways, becoming a director of Imperial 696 Airways. Then he took over the British Power Boat Company of which he is sole owner—it is not a limited company. He got a contract from the Royal Air Force for 20 or 30, 35-foot tenders. That contract was never put out to competitive tender. Then he got a contract from Imperial Airways for what they call "crash boats." Again, there was no competitive tender. This Government-subsidised firm gives contracts to another firm, owned by one of its own directors, without any competition.
Admiral Geoffrey Blake who was once Fourth Sea Lord has retired and has joined the British Power Boat Company. Let me say at once that anyone who knows Admiral Blake knows that he would not be involved of his own knowledge in anything not strictly honourable. Let me make that quite clear. Mr. Scott-Paine approached the Admiralty about three years ago and got an order first for six and then for four 72-foot motor torpedo boats which were claimed to be capable of 42 knots. May I say incidentally that I have no connection with or interest in any firm in the boat business? I have no friends in it, and my information does not come from firms or anybody connected with firms. Thorneycrofts, who used to do the coastal motor boat work at the end of the War, were at this time selling abroad boats doing 42 knots service loaded with depth charges and torpedoes. Having got this order from the Admiralty, Mr. Scott-Paine found he could not get any 500-horse power marine engines. So he approached Napier's for the purchase of a number of 500-horse power Napier Lions which used to be fitted in the old Imperial Airways machines, but which had become obsolete.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
My hon. Friend is right. I am making that quite clear. Napier's have long ago given over the manufacture of these engines, but the Royal Air Force had a lot of unused engines in hand and Mr. Scott-Paine purchased engines from Air Ministry stocks and adapted them for marine work. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) will appreciate this point. He did so by putting in reverse 697 gears and water-cooled manifolds but, being aero-engines, they are full of ball races and consequently quite unsuitable for the constant load under which marine engines must work. Three of them are fitted in each boat. I can say from conversations with engineer officers that these engines give trouble. Is the Parliamentary Secretary prepared to say that there have been consistently satisfactory reports from the engineering officers of the Fleet on the performance of these boats?
§ Sir M. Sueter
Has the hon. and gallant Member been in one of these boats? I have been in one of these high-speed motor boats and they run very smoothly, and with little vibration.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend is perfectly correct in his statement of his experience, but may I say that I have frequently been taken out in a motor car by a gentleman who wanted to sell it to me, and have had a very fine run indeed. A flotilla of these boats recently went out to the Mediterranean. To take one point alone, their engine-room ventilation as tested on the passage is certainly not satisfactory. I understand that the Commander-in-Chief tried these boats out under service conditions in the Mediterranean. He ordered them to proceed at 30 knots to carry out an attack at a rendezvous 200 miles distant. They never arrived. The flotilla ran out of petrol on the way. Their maximum speed is 40 knots, and they cannot do 200 miles at 30 knots. I believe that the maximum speed of these boats, service loaded, is 33½ knots. In February, 1938, comparable Italian boats ran for nine hours at 45 knots with service load.
Let us see what other type of British boat is on the market. In 1937 Vosper's, of Portsmouth, built a comparable boat, only this boat had three 1,000 horse-power Isotta Fraschini engines instead of the three 500 horse-power engines in the Scott-Paine boats. Their maximum speed, light, was 48½ knots, and their maximum speed, service loaded, was 43.7 knots. I believe that this boat was accepted and bought by the Admiralty, but I cannot hear of any more orders having been given for these Vosper boats. Incidentally, if further orders are given, I trust that no foreign mechanics will be employed in 698 connection with the Isotta engines, otherwise they may learn some of the secrets of its hull construction, which are very important. But although Vosper's, as I understand, have had no further orders, Mr. Scott-Paine has just received an order for nine more of the boats which failed when tried out under service conditions in the Mediterranean.
Old-established firms like Thorney-crofts and Whites, to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude for their war work, firms of great experience and high reputation, have had no opportunity to tender or to run boats on trial, but Mr. Scott-Paine, who has been in the business only since 1927 or 1928 enjoys a virtual monopoly of orders from the Royal Air Force, from Imperial Airways and from the Admiralty. I would like to know if the Admiralty costings branch has investigated the price of £23,000 quoted in the Navy Estimates of 1937 as paid for these boats. I can tell the House this, that Mr. Scott-Paine and his boats are a by-word in the boat-building trade, the members of which laugh at this and call this business a racket. They say that "Mr. Scott-Paine must run the Admiralty contracts department." An officer in charge of the repair and maintenance of these boats has vouched that the engines are unsatisfactory for marine work. Even structurally they give trouble and they have a tendency to "hog." Engine-room artificers who have served in them say the same thing. In fact, you have to get on dry land and take a train up to the Admiralty before you can hear a kind word said for these boats.
They cannot be compared for instance with the Hickman Sea Sled boat which has a far better performance. Has any sea specification ever been put in with these boats, that is to say that they are to be refused if they do not maintain their speed in a sea way. I quoted the Italian boat, and I have been given the official figures of its trials. It is a 56 by 14 ft. boat with two Isotta 1,000-horse-power engines instead of the three in the Vosper boat. Its highest speed was in the first hour 48.44 knots; its lowest speed in the twelfth hour, 44.96, and in 12 hours she ran 625 miles. The official speed of the Scott-Paine boat with load of 20 tons is 34 knots and, running light, 37.12. To get that maximum speed light of over 37 knots the Scott-Paine 699 was specially tuned and she was grossly over-revved at 2,600 revolutions a minute. The standard when used by Imperial Airways was only 1,800 revolutions per minute. The maximum ought to be about 2,000 r.p.m., which would reduce the speed by four or five knots. If these boats are run continually at 2,000 or 2,600 r.p.m. they will have a short life and not at all a merry one. The sea-keeping qualities are not good and the firing gear has been unsatisfactory. Naval officers scout as ridiculous the idea that these boats can hold their own with aircraft as attacking weapons.
They may have some advantage in range and sea keeping over the small craft used in the War, but they are no faster and have no better striking power being still armed with 18-inch torpedoes. They are well below the speed of the modern destroyer, which would place them in great jeopardy, especially in bad weather. In bad weather and all-round sea service they are not comparable with the destroyer. Let those who say so try them out in a gale in the mouth of the Channel or off the coast of Portugal. They would only have an outside chance against air attack. It is fantastic to claim that they could hold the North Sea or the Mediterranean against war ships. If these boats are to be developed two types are required—40-feet boats to be carried by a cruiser to operate in reasonable weather off an enemy coast and 50- and 70-feet boats operating under their own power.
I will come back from the consideration of the qualities and functions of these boats to the conditions under which they were ordered. Will the Minister who is to wind up state what was the exact purpose for which they were ordered and whether it was in response to a request from the Naval General Staff? Has the staff allocated a war function to them? Why were there no competitive tenders called for? There have been no tenders since 1935, and yet in the Navy Estimates on page 151 it says thattenders for work are invited from eligible firms, the object being to keep the area of competition as wide as possible.No competitive tenders have been issued for these boats since 1935. What competitive craft have been available since orders were passed to the British Power 700 Boat Company? I believe that a boat building firm has supplied comparable boats to foreign governments. Were they asked to compete when orders were given? As regards the latest order, why could not two be given to each of three firms instead of passing all six to British Power Boats?
I want to come to what, I think, is the most serious part of the whole business. I have spoken about the Napier-Lion engines which are fitted in these boats. I can produce evidence that these engines have been bought for from £5 to £10, and yet Mr. Scott-Paine has been charging £3,800 for them. It sounds extraordinary, but I am willing to produce the evidence to the Minister. I am told that some of these engines bought by Mr. Scott-Paine were painted white and put into some of these boats. They went out to Malta, and, as they gave trouble, spare parts, including pistons, had to be ordered from Napiers. When the pistons came it was found that they would not fit as they were too small. Over-size pistons had to be ordered, and then it was ascertained that the cylinders of these engines had been re-bored. They were not even new when they were put into the boats at the price which I have quoted. The brand new engines used in the Vosper boat, which are 1,000 horse-power instead of 500, are charged at £4,500.
The Vosper boat brought out in May, 1937, is a more advanced design. It is 10 knots faster than the Scott-Paine boat; it has a service load of 32 tons, a speed of 44 knots, and carries two 21-inch torpedoes and two ¾-inch automatics. That compares with the Scott-Paine boat with a service load of 20 tons, a speed of 34 knots, two 18-inch torpedoes and four 303 Lewis guns. Yet nine Scott-Paine boats were ordered in February, 1938, although the Vosper boat was out in May, 1937. The Scott-Paine boats are obsolete before they are even launched. They are costing £29,000 each. They are held in contempt in the Service. Destroyer officers of experience tell me that they could run down a flotilla of the Scott-Paine boats without opening fire. They say they could run over them and sink each of them on their bows in turn.
I ask the House to note that the Vosper boat appeared in May. In June an effort was made on behalf of the British Power 701 Boat Company to introduce what I can only call as a spy into the Vosper works. I dare say that the Minister would like to deny that, but he will have great difficulty in doing it because the police got wind of this, but they thought it was the work of a foreign country. They intercepted telephone messages. One message was "What about the dough?" These facts were reported by the police to the Admiralty, and the gentleman, if you may so call him, who was engineering this business and passing the agent into the Vosper works, was interviewed at the Admiralty, and I should very much like to know why he was not prosecuted. The boats are not the best. The circumstances attending the contracts for them are certainly unsatisfactory. They give great reason to those who believe the finance of our rearmament is unsatisfactory. I think the facts call for inquiry. All my evidence is at the disposal of the Admiralty. I hope the Admiralty will go into the matter drastically and let us have the best boats for the Navy, constructed under conditions which give no reason for suspicion.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) into the question of the fast motor boats. I think the whole House will wish to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on his discharge of his difficult task. When one realises the enormous sums of money which this Estimate involves, and at the same time realises that, large as the Fleet will be which that money will provide, it will not be even comparable with the Fleet with which we finished the War, I think that both the House and the country will realise how much leeway there was to be made up. We finished the War with an enormous Fleet, but not one ship too many for the work which it had to do. I want to join with other speakers who have referred to the building programme, particularly as regards cruisers and destroyers. The Parliamentary Secretary said, I think, that the reason why no destroyers appear in the building programme of 1938 is that we already have 40 boats on the stocks. Even if we have 40 destroyers on the stocks—and I think the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) will bear me out, from his experience of the Admiralty, I say 702 that we cannot have too many destroyers. In war time the strain upon the personnel in destroyers is very great.
In the early days of the War, when we were woefully short of destroyers, the strain, upon the officers and men was almost intolerable. A tremendous effort was made and the destroyer force was built up, but, even so, at the end of the War we still had not enough destroyers for the work they had to do. I hope the Admiralty will press on with the construction of more destroyers. I often wonder why they do not build a smaller type of boat for patrol work in the Channel and outside harbours. A modern destroyer is a very big ship. At the beginning of the War we had some small very efficient oil-fired turbine-driven destroyers which were excellent for carrying out the various wartime patrol services at the naval ports, and I think that we could effect a considerable saving to the national purse were we to build a sufficient number to carry out the patrol services which in wartime will otherwise have to be carried out by the large and very expensive modern destroyers.
My hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last from this side referred to battle-cruisers. One of the most disturbing features of the present time is the threat that Japan may build battle-cruisers. It is perfectly true that the possession of battle-cruisers by a potential enemy presents a menace to our sea-borne commerce which it would be very difficult for us to meet unless we had an overwhelming number of vessels of a similar type. We have only three battle-cruisers at the present time, and it was the experience of the War in connection with convoy work that as the War went on heavier and heavier vessels had to be provided for convoy duty. The first convoys across the North Sea were escorted by destroyers. The Germans then sent out an attacking force of light cruisers and mopped up the destroyers, and towards the end of the War we were sending out battleships to take the Norwegian convoy over. We have not now got enough battleships to carry out the ordinary functions of a battleship. We have only got three battle-cruisers, adequate if they are all in service at the same time; but if any other nation is to build battle-cruisers it will be essential for us to build battle-cruisers to match them, and not only to build ship for 703 ship, but sufficient ships to give us an overwhelming superiority.
I was sorry that I did not hear the speech of the right hon. Member for Hillsborough. I think it is over six years since I spoke in a Debate on Naval Estimates, and I remember with pleasure the occasions on which we used to cross swords on the Floor of the House when he occupied the position of First Lord of the Admiralty and I was one of the Opposition. He will remember that during the whole of the time when the London Naval Treaty was under discussion I and other hon. Members on the side of the House on which I then sat pressed continuously for an increase in the number of cruisers. The figure of 50 cruisers, which was then considered to be adequate, we attacked on every possible occasion. I think we laid down that there ought to be 70 cruisers. That is about the number we have now, with a battle fleet of 12 battleships and three battle-cruisers. The number of cruisers which are required for service with the battle fleet is practically a fixed number, but even 70 cruisers will not be sufficient for our purpose. If we are going to increase the battle fleet, a larger number of those cruisers will have to be earmarked for service with the Fleet, and the number and extent of the trade routes of the Empire does not grow less. Indeed, if circumstances rendered the Mediterranean untenable for us at any time the trade routes would be vastly increased, because a lot of our Eastern trade would have to go round by the Cape of Good Hope. I rather deplore the present shortage of cruisers. We want sufficient large cruisers, capable of keeping the sea with comfort to the personnel on board, and with good powers of endurance, which could be used in wartime for convoy work.
§ Sir A. Southby
I think we should have at least 45—I do not say 45 cruisers of 10,000 tons—for convoy work on the trade routes, if they are to carry out their duties properly. I do not like the 10,000-ton cruiser any more than does the right hon. Gentleman. It was a cruiser which was rather forced upon us by the desire of the Americans to build them, but it is 704 not a type which is really suited to our needs, and is a most expensive and unwieldy vessel. It is the reduction which has taken place in our naval power since the last War which has very largely led us to the position in which we now find ourselves. I was glad to hear a reference to Singapore in the opening speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, and I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend who is going to wind up the Debate, and has recently been to Singapore, may be able to tell us something of what he saw. I think nobody will deny that had we completed the base at Singapore after the War and been able to maintain there a large and efficient battle fleet, events which have taken place in the Far East in the last few years would not have occurred. I should like to know when it is expected that the base at Singapore will be complete, and when it will be able to house, maintain and look after a large, fully-equipped battle fleet?
Reference has been made to the Fleet Air Arm and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) went into the question in some detail. I do not want to start again the controversy which I hoped, after the decision of the past year, had been set at rest for ever, but I view with great disquiet the fact that the flying boats have not been handed back to the Navy. They are an essential part of the naval service. By no stretch of imagination can it be claimed that their duties are such as should be carried out by the Royal Air Force. Their functions in war and peace are bound up with co-operation with the naval Service. The Parliamentary Secretary touched upon the question of training officers for the Fleet Air Arm and he said that we were to embark upon the experiment of having short-service officers for that Arm. In my opinion, short service is a very great mistake. The flying life of the efficient pilot is not very long—I do not mean that he comes to an untimely end. The best pilots are young men who remain at the peak of their efficiency for only a short period. The wastage which short service involves is that when you have trained your young officer as a pilot and he has come to the end of his five years, you have nothing very much to offer him. I always hoped that we were going to have in the Fleet Air Arm an opportunity for specialisation by young officers—sub-lieutenants and 705 junior lieutenants—who would be able to spend a portion of their time in flying, specialising in the same way as officers specialise in gunnery, torpedo or signalling. A large proportion of them would then revert to ordinary naval service at the end of their specialised flying time.
§ Sir M. Sueter
Is the hon. and gallant Member aware that about 75 per cent. of those who take short-service commissions in the Royal Air Force find employment when they leave the Service?
§ Sir A. Southby
I do not gainsay that for a moment, but it seems to be a great waste from the Service point of view. If the country is spending money to train those pilots, they should go on with their service instead of being sent to outside employment. It is bad to introduce short-service specialised flying into the Navy.
Reference was made to pilots from the lower deck. It is excellent to take smart and efficient men from the lower decks and train them as pilots. Are they to be short-service men, too? If so, when their flying time is over, do they revert to the lower deck, or are they discharged from the Service altogether? I have never been able to see why it should be essential that the Naval Air Service officers should be trained for the first part of their time by the Royal Air Force. I speak open to correction, but I do not think that in the very efficient American naval air service training is undertaken by anybody but the naval flying personnel. I hope it will be possible to build up in the Navy such a service as will train its own pilots without having any reference whatever to the Royal Air Force. The Parliamentary Secretary said that personnel from 1938 was to be 119,000. Does that figure include the Fleet Air Arm or is that only naval personnel?
§ The question of the marriage allowance has been touched upon. Half a loaf is better than no bread, but as a naval officer myself I think it is a very mean concession to the naval officer. Naval officers suffer under many disabilities which their brethren in the Army and Air Force do not endure. For example, those employed in the barracks ashore at Portsmouth, either as officers in the barracks or for courses, have the privilege of having a servant in the barracks, but, unlike the soldier, the married naval 706 officer, whose wife is living perhaps in Southsea, and who has quarters in the barracks of which he makes practically no use, is not allowed to take his servant from the barracks to do any work at all in his house in Southsea. Not so the soldier, who is married and living, say, outside Tidworth or outside Aldershot. He is allowed to have his soldier servant to do work for him in his own house. Then, again, the Army officer—I do not grudge it to him—is allowed transport for his wife and his luggage when he moves from place to place. Not so the naval officer. The Parliamentary Secretary made some reference to the question of the removal of officers from one shore job to another. I am not quite clear what he meant by that. I understand that if an officer is moved from one shore job to another, he will get his lodging allowance as well as his marriage allowance, but suppose he moves from a sea appointment to a shore appointment, does he then get both marriage allowance and lodging allowance?
I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend who spoke last from this side of the House. To deprive an officer on half-pay of his marriage allowance is a particularly shabby thing to do. It is not right to suggest that officers are placed on half-pay for the purpose of punishment. Many of them are put on half-pay by the Admiralty very much against their will, in the transitional period between one employment and another. I know the case of a young officer being so put on half-pay. Were that officer married, his marriage allowance would immediately have been stopped. I cannot imagine that that is either fair or just. It is not a fact that the pay of a naval officer without marriage allowance is equal to that of the soldier officer or Air Force officer with marriage allowance. A lieutenant-commander ranks with a major in the Army and with a squadron-leader in the Air Force.
Critics immediately say: "Yes, but the naval officer is much younger, rank for rank." My reply is that his responsibilities and his duties begin some five years earlier than is the case with the soldier or the airman. Even if you take officers at the same age you will find that the pay of the naval lieutenant-commander, before marriage allowance, would be about £582 a year. A major of the 707 same age would receive £782 a year. If you add to the naval officer's pay the new marriage allowance, he will get a total of £662 a year, which still leaves him £120 a year worse off than the major in the Army. I am not considering these officers rank for rank, but age for age. If you take the case of the squadron-leader, he gets, with marriage allowances and other allowances, £852 a year, against the £662 a year which will be given to the naval lieutenant-commander.
§ Sir A. Southby
Thirty-seven to 42. But there are many advantages which the soldier officer and the Air Force officer obtain which are not obtained by the naval officer. One is that, by custom, the soldier officer's wife and family get service medical attention, which is not the case with the sailor. Then there are differences in the amount of luggage that he is allowed to have carried free when going from one appointment to another. For example, I think about 6 cwt. is all that the sailor is allowed, but the married soldier is allowed 12½ cwt. All these things may seem small to hon. Members, but, having been a naval officer myself, having married rather young, and having lived at Southsea, I know the grave disabilities under which the naval officer labours. He may be suddenly ordered from one appointment to another. He may have settled down in a house in Southsea with his wife, and be suddenly appointed to China. Then, even if his wife is able to go to China, he has to get rid of his house in Southsea and pay the whole cost of transporting his wife and family to China, even if they are lucky enough to be able to afford to go. These marriage allowances which have now been given to the Navy are really so inadequate that I hope the Admiralty will perhaps reconsider the whole question, and see if they cannot do a little more to help the married naval officer.
I do not think it has been made sufficiently clear that in fact the money, or a good proportion of it, for the allowance to married officers in the Navy, is being taken from the unmarried officers in the Service. I am one of those who dislike marriage allowances of any kind in any Service. I think you have no right to 708 subsidise the married officer at the expense of the unmarried officer. Not only in the Services, but in every walk of life, I would like to see the salaries and pay of the individuals engaged in them sufficient to enable them to marry or not as they like. A man should have sufficient to enable him to have a wife and family and home if he so desires, but I do not think it is right to single out married men and say that they shall be paid more for precisely the same services as are rendered by their unmarried colleagues. If that be so, it is all the more wrong that you should cut the pay of unmarried officers throughout the Navy in order to find the money to pay these allowances, inadequate though they be, to their married brethren.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I must confess that I have listened with much interest to this discussion, which has ranged very widely. As one who is a layman in every sense of the word, I have found it fascinating to listen to the experts dealing with all the intricacies of the vast naval arm of this country. On the ground of my purely lay ignorance, I ought not, perhaps, to have intervened in this Debate, but, on the other hand, seeing that the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) herself intervened, I see no reason why I should not follow suit. At least I can claim that I am more likely to be interested in the Navy than the Noble Lady is, seeing that they would never recruit her, but they might recruit me as a last resort. On the other hand, although some of the speeches I have heard to-day were amazing and alarming, I cannot say that of the Noble Lady. She never alarms me by her speeches. For a long time I have merely taken a mild psychological interest in them. Other speeches certainly do alarm me, because they rather seem to suggest that in some cases it is desirable to divorce the technique of the Navy from the question of policy.
I noticed that both the Noble Lady and the hon. Member who followed her referred scornfully, on the one hand to any possibility of ultimate naval reduction, and, on the other hand, to any relationship between the naval Service and the question of policy, which they identified with my own party. I will merely say, therefore, before I come to the matters in which I am more interested, 709 that, if there should grow up in the country and in this House the assumption that we can divorce the consideration of the Navy Estimates from the ultimate policy to which the Navy is to be related, it will be a very sorry day indeed for this country. The idea that we should merely blindly worship the Navy detached from other considerations is menacing in the extreme, and I would urge upon those who have spoken in that sense to-day, were they here—but they seem, like the Arabs, to have folded their tents and stolen silently away—that it is precisely that worship of blind force which is menacing the world at the present time. I earnestly hope that the Front Bench opposite may give us some assurance, before the Debate closes, that they at least are not going to adopt the malevolent nostrums put forward by some over-zealous Members of their party.
That spirit of complacent arrogance is the very spirit which spells ultimate destruction for this world of ours. For hon. Members to talk, as some have talked, of a British Navy capable of defending the Empire alone against the rest of the world, is surely sheer nonsense. How can our scattered Empire possibly be defended against a combination of two Powers of the world? It is very difficult to contemplate the defence of the whole Empire against even one Power, and certainly, if there were two, this country would be forced into some kind of alliance. If we recognise that the old assumption of naval supremacy has gone for all time, if it is recognised, as it must be recognised, that the arrogant insularity which has characterised so much of the talk of the past must now be put on one side, surely it is better to approach another conception of associated defence than mere alliance, namely, associated defence through the League of Nations.
It is not my intention, however, to deal with these matters, but rather with more human matters. So long as a Navy is required, or so long as this country believes that a Navy is required, I suggest that the personnel of the Navy should be related both to humanity and to justice, and, I might even add, an element of democracy as well. Those whom I know in the Naval Service, both on the upper and on the lower deck, are certainly very fine types of British citizens, and we do not wish them to be cut off from the civic 710 and cultural life of their friends who are not in that Service. Therefore, I want to see, if I can, some still further attempt made to recognise that those who are in the Naval Service are as entitled to justice and the principles of democracy as are those outside the Service.
For that reason I am sorry that there has not been a more generous announcement regarding marriage allowances. Although, probably, I agree with very little of the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), I must say that in his plea for better marriage allowances I give him my whole-hearted endorsement. Why should either naval officers or those in the lower ranks of the Service have to wait for many years before they can marry? Why should there not be an encouragement to them to marry as early as possible? I am not thinking of this matter merely in terms of a possible increase in the birth rate, from the point of view of replacing the possible damage that would be done to human beings if war took place; I am thinking of it from a human standpoint. Surely they are entitled, especially in view of their vocation, to enter matrimony at a comparatively early age, instead of, in many cases, having to wait many years.
Finally, I would urge that the Front Bench opposite should appreciate that there is in many quarters of this country a growing demand for what I call the democratisation of the officer class in the naval Service. Yesterday or the day before I asked a question as to the number who have been promoted from the lower deck to the officer class, and I found that it was 16 per cent. In other words, some 84 per cent. were drawn from some other class of society. I trust I shall not be accused of blind class prejudice or class consciousness when I say that it is perfectly obvious that the great majority of the officers in the Navy are drawn from one class—and that a financial class. There is no reason why that should be so. There is surely every reason to encourage not merely promotion from the lower deck, but entry of working-class boys into the Service as officers.
§ Sir A. Southby
The hon. Member really is quite wrong. Officers are not drawn from one financial class. I could give many cases to prove that what he has said is incorrect.
§ Mr. Sorensen
All I can say is that, in answer to a question which I put to the Civil Lord yesterday, I had this reply:The number of serving commissioned officers who have risen from the ranks is 986. This figure is 16 per cent. of the number of serving commissioned officers. The number of commissioned officers who have been promoted from the ranks in the last 10 years is 919. The term 'commissioned officers' has been used throughout as including commissioned officers from warrant rank."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1938; col. 391, Vol. 333]Surely the hon. and gallant Member recognises that that means that the great majority are not promoted from the lower deck. What has been stated to-night about the expenses attached to the life of a married officer makes it clear that, unless you have parents who can put a certain amount of financial backing at your disposal, you cannot start as an officer.
§ Mr. Sorensen
The hon. and gallant Member shakes his head, but surely the working-class boy does not stand the slightest chance of becoming an officer, except by joining the lower deck and being promoted. How many working-class families in my area, for instance could send a boy as a cadet to one of the naval colleges? They know that, even with whatever grants may be obtained, the expenses are far beyond the capacity of the family with an ordinary working-class income. That bears out my statement, that the officers are drawn from a particular financial class. I am not making any reflection on them: they may be very estimable people; but I say that the officers should not be drawn solely from that class. The position, in other words, is that here you have a crystallisation of what some regard as the ordinary divisions of everyday society. If the Government wish to rebut and refute this argument, and substantiate the claim that the fighting services can be democratic services, they should devise some scheme by which working-class boys who wish to become officers are able to do so. It is not merely a question of providing scholarships; it is a question of all the incidental expenses to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred a few minutes ago. The fighting services, and this service in particular, if they are to be looked upon as the safeguards of the British Empire, should not be divided, as they are now, very largely into two class divisions; but 712 there should be a steady approach to that time when those who are officers in the Navy, together with those who are officers in other services, should be there, not through some particular financial advantage of their parents, but on their merits.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Captain Plugge
As one associated with a constituency so closely connected with the Royal Navy, I would like to add my congratulations to those already expressed by other Members to the Parliamentary Secretary on his statement this afternoon. I would also like to express my regret at the absence, especially in view of its cause, of the First Lord and I would like to convey to him, on my own behalf and on behalf of my constituents, our best wishes for his speedy recovery. The figure of £123,000,000 is a vast sum, and, much as we may regret that it is necessary to expend such a sum on the Navy, it is agreed, more or less on all sides, that this expense at this juncture is justified, and that, as stated in the Statement accompanying the Estimates, it will be well spent. Despite the invention of new instruments of war, it is always towards the Navy that the country turns as the backbone of defence. It is to the Navy that the country looks for its guarantee of the inviolability of its shores, its trade routes and its far-flung Empire. A Navy cannot be created with such rapidity as the other Services. In the last War, it was possible to raise during the course of the War a great Army. It was also possible during the course of the War to create a great Air Force, but it is far more difficult to change the Naval parity of two nations within a war period.
The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) delivered a very interesting and very well documented speech on the fast torpedo boats. I was very interested because I remember the time when I was engaged on research work at the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough. The engines used in these boats were introduced in 1917. We experimented with them at Farnborough for the first time. The first models, therefore, were built somewhere in the neighbourhood of 21 years ago. Although it would be agreed that such engines are not all that could be desired for marine work, I would ask the Minister whether the question of speed of delivery was not an important factor in deciding 713 the choice of torpedo boats. In regard to speed, the engine has always seemed to be the principal consideration. As in many other industries, it appears to me that it is in the matter of the engine that we lag. Could the Admiralty give more encouragement to our pioneer engine designers? The Napier-Lion has one or two special qualities, and one of these is the very small weight—approximately 1½ lb. per horse power; consequently you can use the device of having one complete spare engine on board to replace any engine which may become defective.
I was particularly pleased on reading the statement which accompanied the Estimates under the heading of "Personnel." I join with the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chertsey (Commander Marsden) with regard to marriage allowances for naval officers. Although quite a junior Member of the House, I have on many occasions called attention at Question Time to the necessity of reform in this direction. It is really very unfortunate that this grant should have been so meagre, and the more so when it incorporates, at the same time, a reduction in the pay of unmarried officers. It is a fallacy to think that the bachelor does not also have family ties which necessitate financial aid. Many a bachelor naval officer may have a widowed mother or an aged father to support, and it is very unfair to differentiate between the married man and the bachelor who has family dependants.
I cannot see why a naval officer ever gets married because, of all married men, it seems to me, he gets the least value for his money. He generally gives part of his pay to his wife—in fact he has to keep himself on board as well as keep up his normal establishment. He rarely sees his children, and they are very often born when he is on the other side of the world. The only consolation and pleasure he is able to give his wife is probably in introductions to his fellow-officers when they come home on leave. It is surely a fact that the naval officer is more entitled, probably, than any other officer in the Services to a marriage allowance, because a marriage allowance can be used not only to keep his wife and family, but also to provide travelling expenses to enable his wife to join him in any part of the world where he might be stationed.
714 The naval constituents in my Division will welcome the increase of marriage allowances to ratings and other ranks, and I would like especially on their behalf to thank the First Lord. But in the light of these concessions, I was very disappointed to find that civil servants in naval establishments have been entirely left out in the cold. The personnel of our naval establishments and dockyards form an integral part of our naval services. Their work is very different from that of the actual personnel on board ship. They are not able to dress up in attractive uniforms, and they do not have everybody admiring their great prowess, but they have to keep their noses to the grindstone day in and day out. The number of officers, seamen, boys and marines who will benefit by increases under the heading of personnel will be 12,000. In the Naval establishments and dockyards we employ at present some 40,000 men, and I want to make a special plea that they should not be overlooked in any future concessions which may be in the mind of the First Lord. They are a loyal body of men yho are most necessary to the Navy; they are becoming increasingly so because the greater the number of ships that are built the more and the greater the repairs that will be required. These men have to work continuously for many decades to come on this particular job.
The rate of pay in naval establishments is to some extent governed by that prevailing in private yards, but this fact ought not to detract the attention of the Minister away from any improvements in the conditions of work. I am referring particularly to non-established and non-pensionable employés in the naval dockyards. At present there are some 37,298 men of whom only 7,500 are established and pensionable. I cannot see any ground why a greater number of men cannot be placed upon the establishment list and become qualified for pension. These men are suffering under a real grievance. They work with a cloud over their heads. There are at present in His Majesty's dockyards approximately 15,000 men who have completed over 10 years' continuous service, and yet they are not established. I would like the Minister to try to put himself in the shoes of these men. They have done excellent work. They are diligent, and have to concentrate very hardly on the work they are carrying out. The position is not like that of the serving man who is given 715 a great deal of leisure, for these men have to strain every nerve at their bench. All the time they are working they suffer under that great disability of not being established. A man never spends much of his money. In this world he is merely a clearing station. He receives with one hand and gives away with the other. These men have dependants and every night they wonder whether they will be able the following week to hand over the money needed by their dependants. They have always to wonder whether their job is a secure one or whether in the near future they will not be told that they are no longer required. I am not appealing for credits, I am not appealing for money; I am appealing for security of tenure for the peace of mind of these men.
It is incredible with the great amount of naval construction that is going on at this very moment that we should ever require as few as 7,000 men out of 40,000 at present employed. I urge strongly that the Minister may give these men some assurance that this matter will be looked into and that a greater number of men will in the near future become established and able to qualify for pension. I feel very strongly indeed on this point. There is a growing demand for skilled men in naval dockyards. The establishment of these 15,000 men who up to the present time have worked for over 10 years in naval dockyards and establishments is the best way the Admiralty has to maintain the best type of men in these centres, and to maintain the high efficiency of naval establishments which at present obtains, and which is so necessary to our Fleet's supremacy.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Watson
This Debate cannot be allowed to finish without the House being reminded once again that there is a dockyard called Rosyth. I have risen principally for the purpose of putting two questions to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who, I understand, is to wind up the Debate, and I hope that he will be able to give me an answer, if not to-night, at any rate in the best way he possibly can. It can be a written answer so long as it is satisfactory. It will be very acceptable. It is true that the position at Rosyth has improved during the past year. We have now a training ship where boys are being trained for the Navy and as artificers. That is all to the good, but 716 I want to draw attention to the situation that has arisen because of the establishment of the Caledonia at Rosyth. We have had a housing problem there for a number of years. Houses which are nominally under the control of the Scottish Housing Company really belong to the Admiralty. They were built for the men who worked in the dockyard. When Rosyth was reduced to a care and maintenance basis in 1925 hundreds of established men were transferred to the Southern dockyards and a great number of these houses became empty. The housing company had the greatest difficulty in finding tenants, especially in the case of higher rented houses. But in time they all became occupied. Tenants engaged in business at Edinburgh or some of the surrounding areas came to live there and the company has had no difficulty in getting the houses occupied.
With the bringing up of the "Caledonia" a number of houses are required for Admiralty workers, and during the past fortnight the Admiralty have given notice to the company that 12 of these higher rented houses are required. I do not dispute their right to the first claim on the houses, but the tenants will have the greatest difficulty in procuring other suitable accommodation. At least four of these families have made provision for leaving their houses at the time specified, but there are still eight families who are being threatened with eviction on 28th May. It is true that the Admiralty have given longer notice than they were legally bound to give, and I appreciate their action, but I hope that something will be done, either by them or the local authority to find accommodation for these eight families. There are cases of permanent invalidity in two of them and it will be a very serious matter if they cannot find suitable accommodation when the time comes.
The Dunfermline Town Council has been trying to get land in the neighbourhood for building houses. First of all they approached the housing company, but the ground offered them was impossible for building. The Admiralty have a considerable amount of unused land, but they were not prepared to give it up for building purposes. A considerable amount of time was lost in the negotiations between the town council, the housing company and the Admiralty. Ultimately, the council got land from a private estate company, and I dare say 717 that before long plans will be approved for the building of additional houses, but it will be months before any of them can be completed and within the next two months tenants are being called upon to leave their houses. Is there any intention on the part of the Admiralty to ask for more housing accommodation? Do they intend to give other tenants notice to leave? I want to know whether the number is confined to the 12 who have already got notice or whether there is to be further displacement. A statement has appeared in some newspapers that the Admiralty will require a thousand houses. I shall be very surprised if that is the case because it will mean that every house in Rosyth is going to be occupied by a tenant in the service of the Admiralty. There are only 1,700 houses and there are 800 tenants already who are employed at the dockyard and, if a thousand extra houses are required, it means that every house that is available is going to be occupied by Admiralty workers. The dockyard is almost wholly closed and yet there is the demand for these extra houses.
I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to give an assurance that, as far as the Admiralty is concerned, there is no intention to ask for additional accommodation beyond the process that has been going for some time. It is true that, as houses have become vacant during the past 18 months or so, they have been taken by Admiralty workers, but here is a special case where 12 tenants occupying higher rented houses have got notice to leave and there is the greatest anxiety among the tenants who are not engaged in the service of the Admiralty as to whether or not they are going to have security in their houses, because in that area there is the greatest demand for houses.
I should like to ask also whether plans have yet been approved for the building of a gymnasium at Rosyth for the boys on His Majesty's Ship "Caledonia"? Some time ago I drew attention to the fact that there was no pool in which the boys could learn to swim, or a proper gymnasium. I am aware that plans for the building of a bath have been approved, but I should like to know whether plans of the gymnasium have also been approved, and whether there is a reasonable prospect of these requirements being installed within a reasonable time. I hope 718 I may have an answer to these points, if not to-night, at the earliest possible moment.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Sir M. Sueter
I should like to join other hon. Members in congratulating the Parliamentary Secretary on the able way in which he put forward the Estimates to-night. He had a difficult job to do at short notice, but he carried out his work very efficiently. At this late hour I propose to put only one or two questions to the Civil Lord. The Parliamentary Secretary has spoken about the design of battleships of large and small displacement. I have always been rather against the large displacement battleship. I prefer the smaller battleship as being a less target from the air. Are the Admiralty quite satisfied, from the experience of the Spanish civil war and the bombing of the "Deutchsland," that the design of our battleships is efficient from the point of view of air attack in regard to their superstructure and fire control tower? Are they satisfied with the design? It seems to me that the bigger ships are more easily knocked out. Also in regard to the multiple gun turrets, are they satisfied with having so many guns in one turret?
I see in the Press that the Japanese Foreign Minister has put forward a proposal that battleships and aircraft carriers should be abolished. I should like to know whether anything has been sent to the Foreign Office or to the Admiralty on that matter. I congratulate the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence on having settled the question of the Fleet Air Arm. During the time of the Great War and for 20 years afterwards the Admiralty failed to appreciate the value of the air. I told them in 1912 that the air might be of some value and that they should develop a naval air service. They did not; indeed, they turned most of the airmen out of the Service, because we got at loggerheads with the sea Lords. All we did was to tell them that the air would be of value to the Fleet. They did not believe it then. Now, I think, they understand the value of air development. The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) gave us a very interesting story about Mr. Scott-Paine's fast motor torpedo boats. I think the hon. and gallant Member must have got a good deal of information from rival firms. I should 719 like to ask the Admiralty how it comes about. If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty and the Civil Lord keep up a running conversation I am afraid we shall not get our questions answered. I am sorry to have to say that, but I am an old Member of the House, and if we cannot put these small questions, we might as well go outside.
§ Sir M. Sueter
You cannot discuss a point before I have put it. On the question of these Scott-Paine fast motor boats, I should like to ask whether the Vosper Company tendered at all or were asked to tender for these boats. The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton said that Mr. Scott-Paine had practically a monopoly, but there are other firms like Samuel White and Company, who specialise in fast boats. Were these other firms asked to tender?
I congratulate the First Lord on having come to a decision on the question of the marriage allowance. This has been considered for many years, and the Parliamentary Secretary was quite clear about it this afternoon. I thank him for putting it forward. But it seems to me that the Admiralty have been a little sharp over this. The pay of a major in the Army of the ages from 37 to 42 is, with his allowances, £780 per year. A lieutenant-commander of the Navy of the same age gets £582. There is a difference of £200. The marriage allowance will reduce the difference to £100, but I understand that the Admiralty say that the accommodation on board ship is worth £100 and that that brings the pay up to the level of a major in the Army.
When he goes on shore a lieutenant-commander, if he is going to have a marriage allowance, will not get compensation, and he will, therefore, be £100 behind a major's pay again. If you are going to give marriage allowance when he goes on shore, he should have compensation for the allowance he gets when living on board ship. I should like an answer to that point, as it is very important. The lieutenant-commander is penalised £100 a year as compared with a major's pay. I am sure the Sea Lords could not have possibly have approved of this proposal if this further information had been before them. Then there is the removal allowance of £40. Does that 720 mean that they are to have this allowance if they have to move from one port to another? Then, there is £20 assisted passage money. Is that all that they will get? Do not Army officers and Air Service officers get a higher rate than £20? This marriage allowance was discussed 19 years ago, and if it is right to give this allowance now, it was right to give it then. Therefore, I reckon that the Admiralty owe naval officers something like £5,000,000.
Of course, they could not possibly return that money to married naval officers, but I am going to ask them to do this: Will they be generous and look into the question of widows who have very small pensions? The Admiralty owe £5,000,000 to the Naval officers, and I think that the widows of the officers, who did very great service to the country in the War ought to have a small percentage added to their pensions in the same way as was done during the War. At that time, when the cost of living was high, those widows found that a little extra money made all all the difference. At Devonport, Chatham and other places, where many of these widows live, the cost of living has gone up considerably, and I make a strong plea to the Civil Lord that the Admiralty should do something for these widows.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Tufnell
I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on the way in which he presented the Navy Estimates, and on making such clear announcements on very complicated matters. I wish to follow other hon. Members in thanking the Admiralty for granting at last these marriage allowances. I assure my hon. Friend that the allowances will enable petty officers wishing to be promoted, to get promotion without feeling that they will lose their marriage allowance. I think we may be very grateful that at last the Admiralty have removed the injustice that was done to naval officers, who were the only officers in the three Services who did not receive a marriage allowance. These marriage allowances will be received with great gratitude.
However, I do not like the way in which the allowances have been given. To give them to married officers at the expense of their brother officers is rather like giving a dog a bit of its own tail. It seems to me that it will cause embarrassment to the naval officers, and that the officers 721 who are having a deduction from their pay will feel that they have been badly let down. Such a reduction in pay would be justified only if there were a financial crisis, and as we are not faced with a financial crisis, I think it is a great pity that the Government were not a little bit more liberal and that they did not give the allowances without making any deductions from the pay of the officers. However, I sincerely thank the Admiralty for at last granting to naval officers this allowance, which has been merited for so many years.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Ammon
My right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) said at the beginning of his speech that he wanted to keep the Debate on broad lines, and that he was more concerned with policy than with matters of detail. With one or two exceptions the Debate has been on those lines, which I intend to follow. Hon. Members have expressed regret at the absence of the First Lord and have complimented the Parliamentary Secretary on having taken up the task of bringing forward the Estimates at short notice. Possibly I am more in a position to commiserate with the hon. Gentleman, since for one period I held that position, and as my chief was in another place, I had to shoulder the burden in the House. I wish also to congratulate the Civil Lord who is to wind up the Debate and who, I believe, undertakes that difficult task for the first time; but the task to-night will not be as difficult as it has been on other occasions, since the stream of criticism has not been as antagonistic or destructive as in former Debates.
Before dealing with the points which I wish to raise, I would like to refer to the very serious statement made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher). I think that statement was a little more serious than was suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear Admiral Sueter), who said that it was a case of whether or not two rival firms should bid one against the other. I am not concerned, as I hope no one in the House is concerned, with any mere advertisement between different firms, but I think that the case presented by my hon. and gallant Friend was so specific and so detailed as to be a very serious accusation, and I think it should be answered publicly in the House in order 722 that any disquiet may be allayed. I know nothing about the case, but I think the position cannot be left as it is at the present moment. A public statement ought to be made in order that we may know whether there is a case for an inquiry as was suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) spoke of tire serious times in which we are living and expressed concern about the position. He commented adversely on the very sparse attendance in the House when the Parliamentary Secretary made his very important statement. Since then, the attendance has been small. It is indeed regrettable that, in dealing with these important matters concerning the Royal Navy, there should have been hardly more than a dozen Members in the House at some periods during the evening. It is all the more regrettable in that we are considering the largest expenditure of national funds on the Navy that has ever been called for in time of peace. Let it be borne in mind that that expenditure is being made to guard the nation against the effects of the Government's own policy. They have brought us to the point that dangers and fears surround us on every side, and we have to consider the largest Vote for the Navy which has ever been before the House, as a result entirely of the policy of the Government.
In opening the Debate, my right hon. Friend drew attention to the position which has been created in the Western Mediterranean. He drew attention to the transfer of Italy from one side to the other, but he said, in parentheses, that probably that did not mean very much. If it were taken alone it would not, but when we read that there is now a line-up of the dictator countries joined together as possible enemies to cut our lifeline and our line of communication, it is a very serious problem. Much as we are concerned, and as we are bound to help in time of need and emergency, we have a right to make it clear to the House and the country the part the Government have played, and to point out that if the policy of the Opposition had been carried out and we had stood by the League of Nations, we should not have found ourselves in our present position.
My right hon. Friend asked that some reply might be given with regard to the 723 armament of the capital ships now building, and whether 14-inch or 16-inch guns were to be installed. He also made some reference to the question of the charge. I have seen statements made, and I have heard statements from people of authority in naval matters that at the battle of Jutland the Germans were more effective with their 12-inch guns than we were with our 14-inch guns, and that that was due chiefly to the charge. That matter certainly calls for some inquiry, and I have no doubt it will receive due attention from the Admiralty. It might allay a certain amount of uneasiness if we could get a definite statement in regard to it.
The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) made reference to the importance of smaller craft. I agree with him as to the importance of smaller craft rather than capital ships in the present circumstances. The Parliamentary Secretary called attention to the fact that preparations had been made for developing the convoy system. Unfortunately, the policy of the Government has brought us to a position in which we are very doubtful how many friends we are likely to have in any trouble that may break out. The fact is that we have fewer merchant ships and seamen than we had in 1914, and there are more powerful weapons, of greater precision, than on the former occasion. Therefore, smaller craft, such as destroyers, will play a more important part than was realised in the last War. It is important that there should be some further statement from the Government on this matter, and we should welcome a statement, if possible, from the Civil Lord.
The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, North (Sir R. Keyes) made several statements which were commented on by my hon. Friend the Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen). My hon. Friend said that it was stupid to spend money on the Navy in the way suggested by the hon. and gallant Member, merely because it is the Navy. We must consider the Navy in regard to its relationships. It is still our first line of defence, and we have to depend upon it, despite the development of other arms, to keep open our sources of supply, in order that we may have the necessary sustenance. It is, however, foolish to try and put the Navy on other lines. The hon. and gallant Member criticised a point made by my right hon. Friend with regard to 724 the position of the Navy in the Mediterranean, particularly during the Abyssinian struggle. He said my right hon. Friend was unfair to the Navy in suggesting that it took no action. He said that the Navy was there all the time, and stood by. That makes the position worse, because we were under some obligation to the League of Nations. We were a member of the League, we had given specific promises. I think it will be agreed that had a rigid line of policy been adopted then we should have been in a different position to-day and the whole aspect of these Estimates would have been altered.
The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, North, made another extraordinary statement. He wanted to see the Navy prepared, in effect, to take on the whole world. He visualised the possibility that we might find ourselves engaged against the whole world. He suggested that we needed a Navy capable of holding its own if we had a war in the Far East, the Mediterranean and the North Sea at one and the same time. That is a perfect nightmare. I consulted with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough on the point, and so far as we could make out, our requirements in such circumstances would be 45 battleships, 160 cruisers, 400 destroyers and 100 submarines. A vast programme like that, when we are appalled by the present one, would certainly give us a sleepless night. That is carrying the thing to an absurdity. What we are hoping for, even now, giving the support that we are bound to do in present circumstances, is that nothing will be left undone that will enable us to co-operate with other nations, to bring us again to something like the League of Nations idea, whereby we could so pool our resources and so rely upon each other that it would not be necessary for any one nation to have to go in for this sort of thing, which simply sets up an armament race without any permanent good or any benefit to anybody, but merely keeping on edge the nerves of the nation and at the same time wasting our resources.
There was a lively passage between the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, North, and his own Front Bench with regard to the Naval Air Force, which called for the intervention of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, who said that the hon. and gallant Member was wrong and that he was not in full possession of the facts. What are the facts? 725 The House ought to be informed, because the hon. and gallant Member made serious accusations. I think he said the Navy would never rest while things remain as at present. That is a wonderful example of unity at a time of great national difficulty. I would ask the Civil Lord to set our minds at rest in regard to that matter, and let us know what are the obscure facts to which the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence referred.
The Civil Lord has paid a visit to Singapore. Many of us regretted that we did not hear that vibrant, sonorous speech of his which was relayed to the ends of the earth. We are interested in his journey and want to know something about it, what it was for, and what is the policy that it portends. For instance, is it proposed to defend Hong Kong, or are they going to retire behind a north and south line running through Singapore and leave all British interests in the Far East to their fate? I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to give us some information about what I am sure must have been the very enjoyable trip which he had with the Royal Navy. Anybody who has had anything to do with the Navy knows that it must have been a good time, even if hard work accompanied it.
A lot of reference has been made to the West Mediterranean. What about the Eastern Mediterranean? I should like to know what steps are being taken there and what is the state of contact at present between the French and British naval staffs in that regard. There was a great deal of talk, when the present Home Secretary was First Lord of the Admiralty and visited the Mediterranean, about the value of Cyprus as a naval base, and we should like to know something more about that. We understood that there were great possibilities and advantages in equipping the island with a modern harbour. Has that project been abandoned, or is it still a policy that is being pursued and developed? That is a matter that is of real importance to us and also, I imagine, to our French allies. Have we any naval plans regarding Cyprus? I think it is not too strong to say that these are very grave and great questions, and there is a host of others also which should give the Admiralty staff great anxiety and call for mature consideration.
We on this side of the House are in this unique position to-night, that owing to 726 world conditions none of us, however strong our opinions might be in some directions, feel that we want to embarrass the Government, at a time of such great difficulty, with regard to this great Service. At the same time, we are only doing our duty as an Opposition, and safeguarding our own position, in pointing out that the present position has largely been brought about by the Government's own policy, and that they are responsible, both for this tremendous expenditure and for the unease and fear that exist in the world to-day, and particularly in our own country; and in that measure they must take the full share of responsibility. The Opposition are not going to do anything to embarrass their own country, however.
While we consent to this very large expenditure, we are hoping that the Government will, even at this late hour, realise that it is impossible for any nation nowadays to live entirely to itself, that a narrow nationalism is not enough, and that to go on building up armaments in competition with other nations is bound to lead to disaster, both financial and military. While we look upon this as an interim action on the part of the Government, we hope they will pursue every means possible to get agreements with other nations, and that the time may come when we shall be able to consider a great reduction in these Estimates, because there will be less fear among the nations that each is building against the other. We hope that we may come into harmony rather than into conflict, and that we may bring those elements which are likely to bring disaster in the world into line with the common rule of law.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Lieut.-Colonel Llewellin)
I would like, first of all, to thank the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), for his kindly references to myself. I feel that perhaps I should ask for the indulgence of the House, speaking as I am from this Box for the first time, and particularly so as I was for some years in the Whips' office, where one was not able to give forth many views in this House. At any rate, I have this help at the present moment, that, as the hon. Member said, I have just returned from a tour, in part representing this House, with two Parliamentary colleagues in Australia, where I think we spoke in the House of 727 Commons or Assembly in each of the different States. I therefore come back with a little more practice at speaking than I should otherwise have had. In fact, I have found that in my case the recruiting caption of the Navy, "Join the Navy and see the world," has very promptly come true. I would also thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), not only for the spirit in which he opened this discussion, but also for his very kindly references to the two distinguished Naval officers who respectively at present occupy, and will shortly occupy, the post of First Sea Lord. I am sure the Whole House will agree that those two officers have very well merited the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman.
To come to some of the points that have been raised, the House will, I know, forgive me if I do not enter into the complexities of foreign affairs to-night, because although one might do that in ones' own constituency, there are others in this House to whom that task falls, and, therefore, I will confine myself to those matters which are strictly relevant to the Estimates before us. The first question that the right hon. Gentleman asked—and it was repeated by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—was with regard to the size of guns to be supplied to the battleships now in course of building. Those guns are going to be 14-inch guns. It is too late to change. It would mean something between three and four years' delay in delivery if we were to attempt to change to 16-inch guns at the present moment, because, as the right hon. Gentleman probably knows, the turrets are the parts of the ship that take the longest to manufacture, so that we are going to equip these five battleships with 14-inch guns. The right hon. Member for Epping asked me whether we could give an assurance that our essential security would not be imperilled, and that the preliminary preparations are now being made should it be necessary to go ahead with 16-inch guns for the two battleships which are projected in the White Paper and which will form the basis of a Supplementary Estimate. I can give him the unqualified assurance that we are going forward now with all the plans necessary, and that we shall be ready should the time come, which we hope will not come.
§ Mr. Alexander
We ought to get some assurance, in view of the changing calibre of the principal guns in capital ships, that if we have to go on for the present with the 14-inch guns, some examination will be made of the question of increasing the strength of the charge and questions of service and fire.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Llewellin
I am told that the charge is satisfactory, that the naval authorities are fully satisfied with the 14-inch guns, that the guns we have are very efficient and, in fact, may well be as effective as 16-inch guns manned by people who would not, we think, man them as well as our own sailors. With regard to cruisers, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping said that Germany, Italy, the United States and Japan were all building cruisers carrying 8-inch guns. He suggested that we must be mad if we were not doing the same. If the case were as he indicated we probably would be mad not to do the same, but the United States is certainly not building such cruisers. She is bound by the same Treaty as we are. If we were to build 8-inch gun cruisers, we should have to invoke one of the escape clauses of the London Naval Treaty. Italy, although not bound by the Treaty, is not building 8-inch gun cruisers and we have no suspicion at the moment that Japan is building any. Germany is the only country which is building them. The position with regard to Germany is that under the Treaty she was entitled to build five. We have an agreement with her to build three only, and as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will know, we have ourselves 15 cruisers of this type. It is true that they are old cruisers, but we are reconditioning them entirely. We have already completely reconditioned five and two are in hand. I think the House can rest assured that the position with regard to these 8-inch gun cruisers is satisfactory.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the duties of the different classes which he pointed out were fairly numerous, and it was, I think, the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Commander Marsden) who expressed wonder at the fact that there ere so many different categories to cruisers. That has an historical basis. The "C" class, the "D" class, the "E" class and the Hawkins class were all cruisers built hurriedly during 729 the War. They were not built to pattern, but were built as they could be turned out in those days. Since that time, the policy of the Admiralty has been to try, by agreement, to reduce the size of cruisers for trade route duties so that all nations may be on an equality with cruisers of a smaller type. We tried to tempt others to come down by building the "Leander" of only 7,000 tons, but the others did not follow our example, and so we had to go up again with the cruisers of the "Southampton" class. Then we got the agreement in the London Naval Treaty of 1936. We got the agreement of the signatories of that Treaty to come down to 8,000 tons. That is why we have come down to that tonnage in the "Colonial" class of cruisers. With regard to the "Arethusa" and the" Dido," they are in a different category. They are fleet cruisers for duty with the battle fleet.
I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping who suggested that our most vulnerable point lay in the possibility that Japan would start building a bigger type of cruiser, something between 10,000 tons and the lower limit of the old Washington Treaty. At the present moment there is no indication that Japan is doing anything of the sort. Of course, if we found she was, we should consult our fellow-signatories of those treaties with a view to making use of the escape clause. We still, of course, hope that Japan will not do anything of the sort and that she will come into line with a large number of nations of the world and help towards preventing any new race in armaments. With regard to destroyers, both the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping suggested that we had not enough. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough, when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, made a point in any discussion he had with other Powers of saying that unless submarine strengths were reduced, it might be necessary for this country to keep its older destroyers.
That provision, which he most wisely made, has been made use of, and we have kept a large number of these old destroyers and are now equipping them for convoy purposes. Then I was asked, chiefly by the right hon. Member for Epping, why we were not building more. The answer is that the efforts of this 730 country have to be put into so many different directions that everything that may be theoretically desirable cannot be carried out at the same time. While we cannot, however, say that we are satisfied with the number of destroyers, we have started to replace the destroyer programme earlier than any other, and by using the loophole that the right hon. Gentleman left we are in a better position in regard to destroyers than in regard to any other ships in the Fleet.
Two other points were mentioned by the right hon. Member for Epping, but he does not appear to be here, so I will turn to the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George). He was concerned about the anti-aircraft guns for merchant ships. We are taking steps in the Admiralty to have the necessary guns and equipment ready. We have a large amount of it ready at the present moment and we are making provision for the necessary men to man the guns. We are also consulting with the Shipping Advisory Committee, which represents the shipping interests, the Board of Trade and the Admiralty, as to the best method to be pursued with regard to mounting the guns on the ships. He asked us again whether he were going to do anything with regard to Pembroke and the dock there. The answer, I am afraid, is that at the moment we are not going to reopen a base there. The diversion of shipping, should the need arise, has been work out in detail, but, again, money will not do everything, and we have other docks, so that the naval ships will not be so far away from the west coast of Wales. There are Devonport, Liverpool and the Clyde. After all this is not such a very vast island, and although we may think they are some distance away, to one who has been travelling at least 1,200 miles a day by air they seem fairly close to each other.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Llewellin
I noticed that the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his speech was rather gloomy about the Mediterranean and the difficulty of our position there, and so I do not know whether I can welcome him, as I would like to do, as a supporter of the policy being advocated by the Prime Minister of encouraging more friendly relations at the moment with Italy. But I want 731 to come back to something a little more serious which was mentioned by the hon. Member for North Camberwell, who was taking up the point made by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) about the Scott-Paine boats. Those boats were not so bad as he made out. They are quite good. They went out to the Mediterranean under their own power. They were, as a matter of fact, ordered quickly during the Italo-Abyssinian war, and Mr. Scott-Paine's firm was at the time the only one which was making such boats. Vospers have since produced a boat, an experimental one, which we have bought for the Navy. The hon. and gallant Member made a certain number of other accusations, and if he will let me have the particulars, as he promised to do, I will go very fully into the matter at the Admiralty. I will investigate it fully myself, or the Parliamentary Secretary and I will do it together. I think that if we go fully into the matter we shall be able to dispose of it—I hope so—and at any rate if it cannot be disposed of the necessary action will be taken.
§ Mr. Alexander
I am much obliged to the Civil Lord. I have been very much concerned about this, because I have had correspondence privately with the First Lord on the question of motor boats. I did not raise the matter publicly in case it might be dangerous to the public interest, but in view of the terms of the First Lord's letter to me and the charges now made I think it is essential that they should be publicly refuted if they are not true, and that if it is not possible to give a full explanation there ought to be a full and detailed inquiry.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Llewellin
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that many points of detail were put forward, and he will realise that it is impossible for me to go into them and to give a reply to-night. Rather than attempt such a reply I thought it was better to give the undertaking that I have given, and we shall certainly by some method make public the result of the inquiry which we have undertaken to institute. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) asked me about Singapore. Wonderful progress has been made there. As the Parliamentary Secretary explained, the store houses, wharves and accommodation for the men 732 constitute the main work to be undertaken there during the course of this year. We hope to be able to refit some of the smaller ships there within the next month or two, and to refit cruisers as soon as barrack accommodation for their crews is completed. The fact that we are not refitting the cruisers does not mean that the docks would not be ready to take the cruisers in the event of war, because whether accommodation for the crews was ready or not would not matter so much then.
The right hon. Gentleman raised a small point about petty officers losing promotion because of the number of men who were kept on. The position is that the time spent before a man is promoted to chief petty officer in the seamen's branch has fallen since 1935 by over two years, and I am glad to say is still falling. The rate of promotion in the lower deck is much faster than it was. Re-entered chief petty officers are not blocking advancement in the seaman branch as they are allowed in addition to those normally in Vote A. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) made one or two remarks about the Fleet Air Arm to which I ought to reply. The proposals that were made as a result of the inquiry were loyally accepted without any complaint, and they and ourselves are determined to get on with the job. My hon. and gallant Friend said that he mistrusted the Air Ministry, but we have no reason to do so in the Admiralty. At the present moment the Air Ministry are offering us some of their aerodromes, and to let us have a certain number of their personnel on loan. They are offering also to grant facilities for some of their personnel to transfer to the Royal Navy. I think he was a little inaccurate, as indeed he was when he said that the United States of America had scores of aircraft carriers in operation, whereas they have only three of those vessels.
Another point raised by the right hon. Gentleman concerned the cost of construction. In addition to increased prices wages have gone up a bit and so have the prices of materials, but it is not quite a fair method of arriving at an estimate because the tonnage of cruisers has gone down. You need the same number of gadgets in these cruisers; therefore the smaller the cruiser the larger proportionately is the cost than for the larger 733 tonnage class. That factor helps to make the price of construction higher.
§ Mr. Alexander
I wish the Civil Lord would look at this matter again before the Report stage, when we might have an opportunity of raising it afresh. I was comparing like with like. I see that in the case of small submarines the price has increased by £50 per ton, a very substantial increase to take place in the course of only two years.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Llewellin
I was informed that submarine tonnage is now down from 1,500 tons to 1,100 tons, or even to 650 tons. You have to see that exactly the same size of ship was wanted in 1935 as in 1937 before you can have an accurate percentage on that score. Ships are smaller, generally speaking, and therefore work out at rather more per ton. But I will go into the matter.
The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) asked us to do away with the Dartmouth entry, but I am afraid we cannot give him that. At present most of our senior officers in the Royal Navy have gone through Dartmouth, and when we have a good way of getting good officers for the Navy we intend to stick to it. With regard, on the other hand, to officers promoted from the lower deck, we have now made it very much easier for these officers to get the necessary instruction before they have to go in for their examination. It is a great help to the selected young rating who is to go in for promotion to officer to take his time in a special cruiser with special instructors. He now goes to the "Ramillies," and is there given special instruction in seamanship and in leadership; and, instead of doing the ordinary duties of his rating, he is used—because the "Ramillies" is also a boys' training ship—to act as assistant instructor and instruct the boys, which also helps him to fit himelf for his job.
The hon. Member made a point about the warrant officers messing with officers in the larger ships. They do it in the smaller ships, but I believe they much prefer to have their separate mess in the larger ships. If the hon. Member had been in the wardroom of one of these ships, he would have found that it is a very much overcrowded place at certain times of the day. He also criticised the fact that we take in Royal Naval 734 Reserve officers, who become efficient officers in nine months, whereas it takes two-and-a-half years for a rating. The answer, of course, is that the Royal Naval Reserve officer is an officer who has passed his examination in seamanship, who has taken his master's certificate, probably, in the big line to which he belongs, and is already equipped as an officer, so that, when he has done his nine months' naval course, he can go straight in as a Royal Naval Reserve officer; and, while there is the present temporary shortage of lieutenants, we want to encourage more Royal Naval Reserve officers to come in. In this connection I am authorised to say that in future the Royal Naval Reserve officers will be on the same list as other executive officers in the Fleet, and not on a special supplementary list of their own, as they have been hitherto.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Captain Plugge) made a plea for a further increase in establishment in the dockyards. I am glad to say that we much increased the establishment last year. There has been again a further increase since I have been Civil Lord, and it has been arranged with our Industrial Council—a most valuable body—that that shall be the establishment at any rate up to 1941. The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) was, I thought, going to ask me whether Rosyth Dockyard would be re-opened, but all that he asked was a question about the families who have had to be given notice because the houses are needed for Admiralty purposes. I am afraid that we do need those houses, but with regard, perhaps, to the couple of sick people, we might be able to make some arrangement in their case.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Llewellin
I am afraid I cannot guarantee that that we shall not do. I know that the hon. Member has been asking before that we should put Rosyth Dockyard on something more than a care and maintenance basis. He cannot have it both ways. We shall need these premises because we have put the Caledonia Training School there. With regard to the Caledonia, we have no provision in this year's Estimates for the gymnasium; and 735 that may have to wait for another year. I have attempted to answer the greater number of points made by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, and I wish to thank right hon. and hon. Gentlemen for the very friendly reception—if I may put it so—that they have given to our Estimates, and all those who have made constructive suggestions for the interest they take in, and the study they have made of, the senior of our defence forces. I think that, without party distinction, we all realise what a debt of gratitude we owe to the officers and men of the Royal Navy. Without undue advertisement, with a quiet efficiency and with the good humour and common sense which are typical of all ranks in our defence services, and which
§ we all hope we ourselves possess, they carry on their duties, in fair weather and rough, in hot climates and cold. These Estimates are framed to ensure that these men shall be properly paid, accommodated and cared for, and that the ships in which they serve shall continue to form the strongest and finest Fleet in the world. In these anxious days, and as a tribute to what the Navy has done in the past year, in dangerous waters in every part of the world, I hope that the House will let us have these Estimates without Division to-night.
§ Question put, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 211, Noes, 114.737
|Division No. 141.]||AYES.||[10.43 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Dunglass, Lord||Loftus, P. C.|
|Acland-Troyte, Ll.-Col. G. J.||Eastwood, J. F.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Eckersley, P. T.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Ellis, Sir G.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Apsley, Lord||Emery, J. F.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||McKie, J. H.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Fildes, Sir H.||Markham, S. F.|
|Baltour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Fleming, E. L.||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Balniel, Lord||Foot, D. M.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Beamish Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Gledhill, G.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portstm'h)||Granville, E. L.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Moreing, A. C.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Griffth, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Grimston, R. V.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Bull, B. B.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Munro, P.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Nall, Sir J.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Butler, R. A.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Channon, H.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Higgs, W. F.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Clarke, F. E. (Dartford)||Holdsworth, H.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Holmes, J. S.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Peat, C. U.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Petherick, M.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Cooper. Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Hulbert, N. J.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Cox, H. B. Trever||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Crooke, Sir J. S.||Keeling, E. H.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H F. C.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Cross, R. H.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Kimball, L.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Latham, Sir P.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Donner, P. W.||Lees-Jones, J.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Dower, Major A. V. G.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rots, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Row Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L||Lindsay, K. M.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Rowlands, G.|
|Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Russell, Sir Alexander||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Storey, S.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Salmon, Sir I.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Sandys, E. D||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Savery, Sir Servington||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Scott, Lord William||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Seely, Sir H. M.||Sutcliffe, H.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Shakespeare, G. H.||Tasker, Sir R. I.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Tate, Mavis C.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Tree, A. R. L. F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Captain Hope and Major Sir|
|Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Wakefield, W. W.||James Edmondson.|
|Spens, W. P.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Adams, D (Consett)||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Parker, J.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pearson, A.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hayday, A.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Price, M. P.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hicks, E. G.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Barr, J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Ridley, G.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Jagger, J.||Riley, B.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Ritson, J.|
|Benson G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Bevan, A.||Kelly, W. T.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Broad, F. A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Kirby, B. V.||Silkin, L.|
|Burke, W. A.||Kirkwood, D.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Chater, D.||Lathan, G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Leach, W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, F.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Daggar, G.||Leonard, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leslie, J. R.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Lunn, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Thurtle, E.|
|Day, H.||McEntee, V. La T.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dobbie, W.||McGhee, H. G.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Maclean, N.||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, J. C.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Marshall, F.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Mathers, G.||Westwood, J.|
|Frankel, D.||Montague, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gallacher, W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Muff, G.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Grenfell, D. R||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Groves, T. E.||Paling, W.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Anderson.|
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]