HC Deb 31 January 1940 vol 356 cc1121-3
17. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the Honourable E. L. Chatfield, who was appointed to be a temporary clerk in the Admiralty, registered at a Ministry of Labour Employment Exchange in accordance with the Government's regulations in order to obtain his appointment, and if so, at what Employment Exchange he registered; whether his subsequent promotion to the administrative class within a week or so of his initial appointment was made in accordance with the promotion board procedure in operation in the Admiralty; and what steps he is taking to allay the grave discontent that exists amongst the experienced permanent staff in tile Admiralty who, after many years of service, remain unpromoted and who are now junior to this newly-appointed officer?

The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Churchill)

In the transition from peace co war it is necessary to make considerable temporary expansions of the Admiralty staff, as indeed of the staffs of ill other Services, and these cannot be filled even mainly from the permanent and pensionable staff. The normal promotion board machinery has been suspended for the period of the war, and in any case is not applicable to tem- porary appointments and promotions. Mr. Chatfield is one among a considerable number of persons brought in to the Admiralty from outside as temporary administrative officers. The only difference I can discern between his case and that of the five other persons similarly appointed is that on the day before the outbreak of war he succeeded in obtaining an appointment as a temporary clerk. He had already served in the Royal Navy as a cadet and midshipman for three years before being invalided. Thereafter he had joined the Territorial Army and was again invalided. He therefore sought to serve in a clerical capacity, that being the only one which the state of his health permitted.

It is regretted that in the stress of the hours preceding the declaration of war the process of registering at an Employment Exchange was omitted. I cannot see that these facts constituted any bar to his being selected with five others for appointment to his present temporary rank. On the contrary the zeal shown by the applicant and the fact that his abilities and his work were found satisfactory in a subordinate grade were elements which justified his appointment to a higher grade with others who had not gone through this trial procedure. The reports about his work in both grades are good. There is no grave discontent among the experienced permanent staff in the Admiralty which it is my duty to allay; and I am sure that the respect in which Mr. Chatfield's name is held in that Department has proved in no way prejudicial to the public interest.

Mr. Creech Jones

May I ask what were the special qualifications of this man to perform this particular type of work? May I also ask what is the procedure which has been established to deal with this type of appointment, and why in this case the procedure of registration was not utilised? May I ask further why it is that a junior and temporary person is permitted to come into the Admiralty and to assume seniority over long-established and senior persons, and whether this sort of thing does not undermine public confidence?

Mr. Churchill

I took a great deal of pain to give a very full answer to the hon. Gentleman, whose Question raised public issues of importance. I prepared the answer with my own hand, and I do not mind saying that I was very well satisfied with it. If I were to attempt to embellish it at the moment, I should only spoil it.

Mr. Shinwell

It is most unsatisfactory.