HC Deb 07 July 1943 vol 390 cc2067-70
13. Mr. Astor

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has considered the representations made to him on the employment, promotion and appointments of Royal Navy (Retired), Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve officers; and whether he can make a statement?

The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. A. V. Alexander)

The suggestions which my hon. Friend made during the Debate on the Navy Estimates have now been fully considered. Since my reply is inevitably rather long, I will, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of my hon. Friend, make a statement at the end of Questions.


Mr. Alexander

The question of making arrangements in peace for ascertaining the capabilities of retired officers in order to secure their appropriate employment when called up is one which will have to be dealt with after the war. I have arranged that my hon. Friend's suggestions should be placed on record to be brought up at that time. My hon. Friend also referred to the possibilities of promotion for retired officers. I can assure him that these officers are given acting promotion during their re-employment as freely, and on the same basis, as active service officers.

As regards the appointments open to Reserve and temporary officers, I can state definitely that no officer is barred from any appointment for which he is fitted merely because he is a reserve or temporary officer. It is the policy of the Admiralty to give important appointments to such officers in increasing numbers, and there are now officers of the R.N.V.R. and R.N.R. in command of destroyers, of submarines and of groups of corvettes, and others are executive officers of large vessels such as cruisers, with the rank of commander.

My hon. Friend also raised the question of promotion and suggested that the Reserve and temporary officers are not receiving promotion in accordance with their employment. This belief, which is possibly widely held, is ill-founded. A Fleet Order was issued last September which was designed to encourage the promotion of such officers to the rank of acting lieutenant commander, and over 1,000 officers have already been so promoted under that order alone. Instructions have been issued to make it clear that recommendations for such promotion should not be limited to officers who are capable of performing all the duties of lieutenant commander's rank: normally it will be sufficient if an officer is able to perform the duties of that rank in the branch in which he has specialised.

We are now in a position to make promotions also to the rank of commander from among temporary officers as well as from the officers of the permanent Reserves. These promotions to lieutenant commander and commander are semi-permanent promotions, which do not depend on the officer remaining in a particular appointment. In addition, there are continual cases of appointments which can be most suitably filled by Reserve and temporary officers and which carry the grant of one or more steps in acting rank. There will be no hesitation on the part of the Admiralty to grant the necessary acting rank in such cases, and there is now no rule or practice which prevents the grant of double acting rank where it would be appropriate to an appointment of this kind.

Reserve officers with sea experience are already employed at the Admiralty, and inevitably the number so employed will increase. In accordance with a recent decision, a commodore R.N.R. and a commodore R.N.V.R. have been appointed as Naval Assistants to the Admiral Commanding Reserves.

As regards staff courses, officers of the Special Branch of the R.N.V.R. intended to replace R.N. executive officers have received, ever since 1940, a course of instruction in their duties. This course now extends to six weeks. My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary explained on 17th March that staff courses proper would be re-opened for both R.N. and Reserve officers. This has now been done, and it is the intention that a large proportion of Reserve officers shall be appointed to these courses.

In conclusion, I should like once again to express the appreciation of the Board of Admiralty for the invaluable services rendered by the officers of the Naval Reserves in every sphere of the war at sea. The work they have done, and are doing, is thoroughly admirable, and it is the policy of the Admiralty that they shall have prospects commensurate with services they have rendered, and comparable to those of corresponding officers of the other Services.

Mr. Astor

While it is impossible to comment on the very important statement which has been made by the Minister, may I ask whether he realises that it will give great satisfaction to many Reserve officers?

Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare

Is it not time that the Board of Admiralty reviewed the whole question of the age at which a lieutenant in the Navy can be promoted to lieutenant-commander? Is it not a fact that a man of 25 or 26 years of age might be a group captain in the Royal Air Force or a lieutenant-colonel in the Army while a man in the Navy, who has been an officer for eight years, has to remain a lieutenant until he reaches the age of 29 or 30?

Mr. Lawson

Is not this rather an unusual way of trying to have a Navy Estimates Debate?

Mr. Alexander

I do not think the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare) arises on this Question, but I will keep it in mind.

Captain Peter Macdonald

Will the Minister give an assurance that a number of these Reserve officers will be given full facilities to be absorbed into the Regular Force after the war?

Mr. Alexander

That is a larger question than the one on the Paper.