HC Deb 07 March 1945 vol 408 cc2080-100

Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

2.27 p.m.

Mr. Kirkwood

I was drawing attention to the discontent in the shipbuilding industry, particularly among the engineers, all over Britain, because of the low wages paid and of the present-day machinery for negotiating on wage complaints. The outstanding feature of all this is the remarkable loyalty of British marine engineers. We have not had a major stoppage of work on the Clyde in this war—in the midst of being treated in this fashion with these ridiculous wages and negotiations going on for months without a reply. As a Scotsman, as a Briton, I view all this with alarm. What is the atmosphere that is being created in every shipyard in Britain? They cannot get apprentices. Nobody is going to serve his time to become a marine engineer in order to get wages less than those paid to the scavengers in the streets. Hitler nearly judged right. Those who had informed him had almost informed him right. They said, "Go to war, there is a dearth of engineers in Britain." The war found us with a shortage of engineers and our union—the men for whom I am appealing to-day—because of their loyalty to their country, gave way. We gave away what I said at the time was not ours to give. We gave away the trade rights for which our forefathers had fought and which were ours to defend. We gave them all up and voluntarily agreed with the Government to a dilution of labour; and not only that, we also gave up the right to strike. And now this is the way our men are treated. Most important work has to be done on the Clyde and they do not want to stop work, They have threatened time and again that they will have to stop work.

I have appealed to Minister after Minister here, and employer after employer, to face the situation. If they do not we shall go down. Ours is a maritime nation and if we do not have marine engineers to man the ships where are we going to be? Clyde engineers are found on the Seven Seas of the world, and these men come from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. How many young men from the Highlands and Islands are serving their time on the Clyde to-day? Not one. How many boys are coming from the higher schools at Clydebank, which supplied us with the designers of the "Queen Mary" and the "Queen Elizabeth" and of great battleships? How many are coming from the higher schools to-day? None. Why? I have told the House the reason; it is because of the wages that are paid and the uncertainty of employment. I fear that we shall not be able to go on unless we are able to encourage the youth to come into the industry. When my mother put me to work as an engineer she was proud, and so was I. It was the ambition of the mothers of my race either to make their boys engineers or ministers. That has all gone as far as engineers are concerned. It has no appeal, and that is why I ask the Admiralty to take up this matter.

The men on the Clyde became so exasperated that they decided to have a token strike and stop work for two hours. They made application to the Director of Public Parks in Glasgow to hold a demonstration, as that was all they could do. The Director of Parks agreed to allow them the use of a field in order that they comdemonstrate, but the wiseacres, the magistrates of the City of Glasgow, were going to have none of that. They cancelled what the Parks Director had granted to the workers and took away the right to demonstrate in this field. What happened? Every shipyard on the Clyde stopped work. The shipyard workers were right, and I have taken legal opinion on it. Neither magistrates nor anybody else, not the British Government, have the right to stop a demonstration—

Mr. Speaker

The action of the magistrates does not come under the Navy Vote and is out of Order.

Mr. Kirkwood

Surely this has a bearing on the position.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member can talk about something for which the Minister is responsible, but he cannot be responsible for the action of the magistrates.

Mr. Kirkwood

No, Sir, but it is essential that this House and the Minister should know the actual facts. I am trying to tell the actual facts as I know them, and I am sure that if this House knew the facts it would not tolerate this sort of thing. We cannot get results from men who have to work under the conditions under which these men are working. They are as loyal as anybody in this House. They have their own sons and daughters in the Services, as I have myself, and they do not want to have to stop work. They have been agitating for six months, and at a meeting on 18th January the employers said they would have to have time to consider the matter, and have not sent back a reply yet. I am saying this on what I have always held to be the finest platform in the world for airing our grievances, instead of having strikes and barricades in the streets. That is where we are heading. I was up against this sort of thing in the last war when bayonets were introduced, and we were batoned by the police. I do not want to see the engineers and other Clyde workers come up against a position like that again. Some of us were not in this House in those days, but we are here now.

This is a very serious situation. The Admiralty has had a good many honours showered upon it but with honours comes responsibility. The Admiralty has responsibility not simply for the Navy but for the shipbuilding industry. It is all in the hands of the Admiralty. That is why I am taking advantage of the situation to-day to try to get the Admiralty to use its influence. As I have said already, I have tried every Minister from the Minister of Labour—every Minister either up or down, including the Prime Minister—and we are still waiting for a reply. We British engineers would not be men of the calibre we are if we were to lie down under this sort of thing. No other section of workers in Britain have been treated in the same fashion as the engineers. Upon no section of workers does Britain depend more than upon the British engineers. The highest authorities in the Admiralty have paid the British engineer every tribute that a man could be paid, but flattery and nice smooth words do not affect their wages and do not clothe them. The engineer likes his wife and members of his family to be as well clad and fed as anybody else, including millionaires, or First Lords or Second Lords or any other sort of Lords.

There is one other item upon which I must touch—Rosyth. There are 1,800 engineers in my union at Rosyth and 5,000 on the East coast of Scotland. After the last war, Rosyth became a derelict area. It took six months after war broke out before Rosyth was put into a working condition again. Our men went there from the Clyde. Two of our most capable managers, at the behest of the Admiralty, went to organise Rosyth. It is now one of the best equipped dockyards in Britain, and I have visited every one of them within the last two years, including Rosyth. In Rosyth we have not only got the machinery but some of the finest engineers and shipbuilders from Scotland and England, and the authorities inform me that Rosyth is a valuable asset, and that it would be madness to allow it to go under.

Surely, these are all things to which it is essential that the Admiralty should pay attention. This House of Commons is the place to explain these things; this is where we have the power, and, surely, we are not asking too much when we ask to see that work is provided. We do not want charity. We do not want the employment exchange. We do not want to be told, as the Minister of Labour said in reply to me: "If that is not enough, they can go to public assistance." What an insult to my race. After the last war I saw men of my race glad to go to the employment exchange. I have seen them forced to go and take public assistance, but I never dreamed that that sort of thing was going to be held out to the men and women who made possible the mighty accomplishment of the invasion of Normandy. It would not have mattered how able, how brave, and how courageous and well led the Navy were unless they had the tools, the ships, the landing craft and the landing platforms that were produced by the workers. There must be better prospects in order to ensure that the workers will continue to give of their best and that young workers will come forward eager and anxious to go into this business instead of, as at the moment, refusing to do so. Engineering firms all over the country require very many apprentices, but connot get them.

My last word is this. If the First Lord of the Admiralty wants to be worthy of the praise that has been poured out to him to-day, and the thanks that I myself have tried to tender to him, he will heed the warning I have given to him. It is quite easy for me because I do not get anything out of my union: I never did, and I do not need it. It is the welfare of my country that causes me to speak to-day. I speak in the interests of the working class in general and of the conditions, especially the wages, that are paid to the marine engineer in particular. I hope that what I have said will receive all the attention and consideration that the First Lord of the Admiralty can give it.

2.50 p.m.

Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)

The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) combines in his colourful personality the roles of protagonist for Scotland and champion of the shipyard workers, and in both respects he speaks with an eloquence which the whole House admires. In the past I have sought to acquire for those whom I represent—mainly farnaworkers—the same rights as my hon. Friend has asked for his shipyard workers, and in this matter we can join in an appeal to the Government to ensure that neither of these grand groups of men shall be forgotten when this war ends.

One of the most remarkable features of the First Lord's speech was his confession of faith at the end, in the course of which he pleaded that his successors on the Board of Admiralty would never again allow the British Navy to fall into disrepair or unpreparedness. He said that in the future we must take profit from the experience of the past. The First Lord's remarks and the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs link at every point. I want to take up now the question of Rosyth, which my hon. Friend has just been dealing with, for I think it is admitted all round that without adequate royal dockyard facilities the British Navy could never attain readiness for troubles in the future. One of the greatest naval dockyards in Britain is Rosyth on the Firth of Forth, and I speak, I believe, for every Scottish Member of Parliament of all parties and, I am confident, for every local authority in Scotland, when I tell my right hon. Friend that in our convinced view an announce- ment indicating the Admiralty's intention to retain Rosyth is clue now. I am not qualified to speak of the technical attractions of Rosyth, but I do consult with those who are entitled to make such claims, and I and my hon. Friends in all parts of the House are satisfied that here is an instrument of first-class efficiency and of supreme importance to the general naval preparedness of this country.

As my hon. Friend has just said, Rosyth played its part nobly in the last war and, at the end, despite its past record, the Admiralty, with a foolishness which is almost incredible, let the whole thing collapse. That great centre of industry, those thousands of houses, streets and services and all the innumerable buildings that go to make up a community of that kind, gradually sank into decay, until a visit to Rosyth after the war made one feel that the British Empire itself was crumbling. That calamity must never be repeated, and I ask on behalf of my country and other hon. Friends for a statement from my right hon. Friend to-day giving some indication that this essential link in the naval defences of our land shall be retained.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) did say he was speaking for all the local authorities in Scotland.

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and I have been closely concerned in this, and what he says is true. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs approached the matter, quite properly, from the point of view of his trade union. I am approaching it from the point of view of my own local authority and the authorities surrounding the Firth of Forth. Great plans are now being considered for the development of the Fife coalfields. Whatever may be said about coal in this country, Fife offers a dazzling future for the industry. Under its soil are some of the richest coal seams in any part of the land, and schemes are being made for their development. But neither these nor any of the great housing plans that are now on foot can be brought to completion until we know what is to happen at Rosyth; nor can the other problem, vital to the whole transport system of East Scotland, namely, the Forth road bridge, be settled until the Admiralty makes up its mind on this question. I cannot see why it is not possible for my right hon. Friend to-day to indicate that, as he saw the dangers of the future, so he sees the necessity for preserving this naval dockyard.

I do not want to detain the House long, but I would ask permission to raise another matter dealing with the post-war situation. I am informed by those closely concerned with naval education in Fife that the pilots of the naval air service are much concerned about their future. I feel it would be in order, coming as it does under the head of education or administration, to ask my right hon. Friend for an assurance on this matter. This is their anxiety. The Government have indicated very plainly to the House that they intend to create one, or possibly two or three, large-scale air monopolies for civil aviation after the war. That is to say that one way or another the Government will exercise a controlling influence on the development of civil aviation. If that be true, the anxiety of those I speak for is to know what steps the Admiralty is taking to implement its post-war rehabilitation policy in respect of naval air branch pilots, the majority of whom do not hold the qualifications necessary to engage in civil aviation. One knows that these naval airmen are among the bravest of all the fighting men of our Empire. One sees them training in Fife, and one is filled with admiration for their daring and courage and for their achievements. My right hon. Friend has to-day told us something of the epic story of their trials in this war. Many of these men will, naturally, have to leave the naval air service when the war is over. There will not be room for all of them, and yet they are admirably suited for—and most of them are eagerly interested in—employment in civil aviation. But under the present regulations the Admiralty is taking no steps, so I am informed, to give these men a chance to train for the necessary pilot's certificate for civil aviation.

I wonder if my right hon. Friend could tell me how many naval pilots are at present qualified in this respect, how many have applied to him for qualification in this respect, and would he, in his reply, give me the assurance that he will look into this complaint in order that one may comfort these men as regards their future? They look around, just as the Women's Land Army have been looking round, and see a great many plans being made for other sections of the community. They feel that they are being left out in the cold and they would like some reassurance.

May I say in conclusion that I thought my right hon. Friend's opening speech told one of the most remarkable and stirring stories that I have ever heard in this House? Indeed, the party opposite are entitled to-day to take pride in their spokesman on the Navy Estimates. If ever a man has justified himself in his appointment, it is my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and it will be, I am sure, for the House and the country a very sad day when he is called upon to give up his great office. I, myself, would hope that that possibility will not arrive. Nothing would please me more than if, by some political arrangement, it were possible for one who has guided the Navy with such care and such brilliant success to continue in that office in the days of trouble that lie ahead of us.

3.2 p.m.

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

I at once echo and repeat in my own mind the words that have just been uttered so rightly by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart). We remember that the present First Lord succeeded another very great First Lord, and it was a difficult task to take over from one who had had experience of that office in the last war, one who was summoned to be Minister of Defence and afterwards Prime Minister; and worthily, if I may say so, has the First Lord succeeded in discharging this very heavy task. I can say it with all the more sincerity because in the past we have not seen eye to eye with regard to a few things, but he knows that none of that was meant personally. He, like myself, is only anxious about one thing—the efficiency of the war effort. I most sincerely tender to him my congratulations upon the great speech he delivered to-day. How different was it from the scenes which have passed before us as he has recorded them year after year standing at that Box. The terribly serious situation of 1940 to 1941, when we were doing as best we could with one aim, to defend all the seas of the world; and how in 1941, first a small Navy and then, at the end of the year, a very mighty Navy came to our assistance. How near we were to disaster time and time again only perhaps a few of us know, owing to the terribly serious losses of our merchantmen; and how tremendous were the efforts that had to be made to replace, repair, do anything in order to keep that Service going, protected as it was by only one set of destroyers, whereas, in the last war, we had the protection of five sets of destroyers. To-day it is an entirely different story.

Every war has its record of acts of courage, of heroism, and of triumphs of organisation and strategy, but this, the greatest of all wars, involving the whole world, has undoubtedly the greatest stories of tragedies and of sacrifices, though it also has, as an offset, the greatest stories of heroism and courage, epics which will be spoken of by those who come after us 2,000 years from now.

If one ventured to try to pick out certain great events, I suppose the greatest of all epics in this war was the Battle of Britain, the tremendous fight made by those few men against extraordinary odds, and their wonderful triumph. However, using the word "military" as covering the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, the greatest military triumph in this war, I should think, was the successful invasion again of Normandy, the landing of our troops there, and the defeat of the Germans behind their Atlantic wall. Very properly did the First Lord devote the main part of his speech to that to-day. I suppose we shall in course of time get the full story of the individual acts of heroism. I always feel this with regard to the Navy, however, that they do not get that daily publicity which the Army and the Air Force are always getting. From the early morning broadcast, through mid-day and the evening, and until late at night, we follow with anxiety and with pride the movements of the Army and the work of the Air Force. Every night we hear of their great deeds, but not a word is being said, or can be said, about the continuous 24 hours, day and night, steady vigilance of the Navy all over the great seas of the world; protecting the Merchant Service, without which we ourselves could not exist, without which the Armies could not possibly have carried on; bringing material to them, moving the great armies from one Continent to the other—all the work of the Navy. Very righly did the First Lord pay tribute at the end of his speech to their great work. Let us realise that we are an island people dependent upon the sea, that on us depends the peace of the world and the maintenance of civilisation as we have understood it, and that it is due to the men of our Navy that the flag of freedom is flying to-day in every corner of the world. We can never pay a sufficiently high tribute to the Navy.

I imagine that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) will raise again the question which he has so often raised, and rightly, of the differences between pay and allowances in the Army and in the Navy. Surely the time has come when we should not, by differences in payments and allowances, make distinctions in what we owe to the men of the various Services. Cannot something be done whereby there shall be a real equalisation of the pay and allowances of all of them, so that they are treated upon an absolutely fair footing? I am not asking that anybody should be cut down, but that those who are below should be raised up to the proper level. Then why this distinction, that exists only in the Navy, between those who have straight stripes and those who have wavy stripes? Why continue this?

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

Does the hon. and learned Member mean what is called the "wavy Navy"?

Mr. Davies

They are all volunteers in the Navy. Why should they not be put on the same footing, instead of having that distinction made between the services of one and of the other? The right hon. Gentleman paid a wonderful tribute, quite rightly, to the minesweepers, and I heard him say, I think, that nine-tenths were men who had gone into minesweeping from ordinary civil life. Then there are the ordinary civilians who have gone to sea in Coastal Command: Why carry on this distinction? Has not the time really come when they should be given the equal honours of equal position?

Mr. Astor (Fulham, East)

Has the hon. and learned Gentleman any authority from the R.N.V.R. for asking this? I think most of us are intensely proud of our wavy stripes and would not give them up for anything.

Mr. Davies

If those are a higher honour than the others, then why not make them all wavy? Why make a distinction? In the Air Force no distinction is drawn between those in the Air Force before 1939, and those who came in afterwards.

Mr. Astor

Yes there is—they wear a "V.R."

Mr. Davies

No, that has all gone; and there is no distinction in the Army between someone who was in the Army prior to 1939 and one who came in during 1939. If it is a higher honour to have a wavy ling, by all means give it to every one. My last word to the right hon. Gentleman is an appeal which I have heard made year after year, and to which sympathetic reference has been made from that Box by the right hon. Gentleman. The Navy, as he has rightly pointed out, is 'becoming more and more a mechanised force. When shall we pay proper regard to the engineer, give him a nequal chance with everybody else to reach the highest positions?

Commander Agnew (Camborne)

Does my hon. and learned Friend mean that the engineer-officer ought to be allowed to command a ship or a squadron? Or does he mean that he ought to be able to attain to almost the highest rank, such as engineer vice-admiral, because if so, he does that already?

Mr. Davies

Does he really? Has he the the same opportunities? I have certainly never gathered that from any speech in this House and, what is more, I do not think he has a place on the Board of Admiralty. Why not? Surely the time has come now when there should be no distinction in the positions to which these people can attain. I would like to end as I began, with my warmest and most sincere congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman, not only upon his speech today but upon his record in the office he holds.

3.13 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)

There are one or two points I wish to raise on the Naval Estimates this afternoon. The first is the future of Rosyth Dockyard, which is a matter of great concern to us in Scotland. The second, and a rather complicated one, is a question of naval pay, about which I have had a prolonged, but not very satisfactory, correspondence with my right hon. Friend the First Lord and with the Financial Secretary. So far as Rosyth is concerned, it has been touched upon by both my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart) so I will not go over all the ground again. I would say, however, that it is a matter which is causing very intense anxiety in Scotland, because Rosyth has never received fair treatment at the hands of the Admiralty, and we are very anxious to retain it for the Fleet after the war.

I will give, very briefly, three or four cogent reasons why it should be retained as a permanent Fleet base. The first reason was advanced by the First Lord himself to-day, when he said that he hoped the country would insist upon the maintenance of an adequate Navy after the war. If we insist upon that, we shall undoubtedly require more base accommodation than we have had in the past, and therefore, as a matter of broad national policy, Rosyth ought to be kept as a permanent Fleet base. The second point is the question of location. Rosyth is the only naval dockyard of size which faces on to the North Sea, and it has been a great advantage in the present war that it has not been harassed from the air by the enemy so much as any of the southern ports. The third point is the matter of local defence. Anybody who knows the location of Rosyth will agree at once that it is a base very easy to defend from attack from seaward, and also comparatively easy to defend from aerial attack. Then, as to accessibility, of course every important permanent dockyard should be accessible by rail and road communications. I would just remind my right hon. Friend the First Lord that Rosyth lies only a few miles from one of the main north to south trunk railways in this country, and is also very well served by a good road system which will be improved very shortly, we hope, by the construction of a road bridge across the Forth.

Finally, there is the question of the supply of labour. Everyone who knows that part of Scotland will agree that a plentiful supply of competent workpeople is assured from Dunfermline, Fife, Edinburgh and the districts immediately South of the Forth. These are all cogent reasons why Rosyth should be retained as a principal base after the war. There is another reason of a national character. There has not always in the past been such a close contact between Scotland and the regular Navy as we should desire. The explanation is quite simple. All the manning ports of the Fleet are in the South of England and it is not attractive for a Scotsman to join the Navy. It takes a long time to travel home, he cannot take advantage of short leave facilities, and it is very expensive. As part of our post-war scheme of re-organisation of Naval dispositions and establishments, naval barracks should be constructed at Rosyth, it should be provided with training establishments—gunnery and torpedo schools—and it should become a manning port for sailors and stokers drawn from Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland and become one of the permanent bases, upon the same footing as Portsmouth and Devonport. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to give the matter his most serious attention in connection with his plans for the future.

I pass to my second subject, the pay question, about which I have had a lot of difficulty. It concerns the pay and service of permanent officers in the Naval Ordnance Inspection Department. I served for the first four years of the war in a temporary capacity in that Department, and I know the background, but my remarks do not refer to officers serving temporarily during the war, because they actually receive full naval rates of pay and allowances. My remarks refer entirely to the permanent officers who were in the Department before the war, and will continue in it afterwards. Actually, there are, very few involved. There were only 88 at the outbreak of the war, and they have now shrunk to 77, showing the very high percentage rate of invaliding and mortality which has been experienced owing to the strain of the work undertaken by them during the war. Every one of these officers is a key man; they are the people responsible for the efficiency of all the new weapons and armaments supplied to the Fleet, and also for the safety of the ammunition sent to sea in our ships. It is their function to train, organise and supervise the vast inspection staffs stationed all over the country, in depots and factories in the industrial areas, where armament stores for the Navy are being produced. Thanks to the vigilance of these officers and their staffs, flaws in guns and torpedoes have been checked, and defective ammunition has been turned down, and, thereby, the lives of thou- sands of our sailors and millions of pounds of public money and valuable ships have been saved from destruction. In the last war there were quite a number of regrettable disasters, where ships blew up owing to defective ammunition and lack of the proper inspection service that we have to-day.

The officers engaged on this work deserve good treatment for their very valuable services. Unfortunately, their rates of pay are highly unsatisfactory when compared with their brother officers, whether recalled from the retired list or still on the active service list. I should like to illustrate my point by quoting net pay rates received by three different groups of officers of the same rank and the same domestic responsibilities, and I think hon. Members will be startled by the differences. Take the case of three captains first. A man who retired with the rank of captain a few years before the war was called up again on the outbreak of the war and is to-day probably employed in an administrative shore job. Suppose him to be married with two children. He receives a net rate of pay of £1,174 a year. If he had no children it would be £1,054. The second captain is a much younger man, and is still on the active list—he was probably a commander at the outbreak of the war and has recently been promoted. Like many junior captains, his first job in that capacity is a shore job. We will suppose him to- be married with two children. His net pay is £1,042 or, if he is married but has no children, £919. Finally, there is the case of a captain serving in the Naval Ordnance Inspection Department, with something like 15 years technical service, occupying a responsible position, possibly in the Design Department, possibly a member of the Ordnance Board or an Inspector of Naval Ordnance in charge of one of the seven or eight major inspection areas into which the country is divided. If he is married with two children his net pay is £714 or, if he has no children, £664. Here in plain language is the position—the very highly qualfied specialist officer who has under his command perhaps 10 or 15 junior officers and a staff of up to 10,000 examiners inspecting armaments, does not receive much more than half the pay of some long retired officer called up and occupying an administrative job in some, perhaps, quite secondary port. I ask, is that a reasonable state of affairs?

I have similar figures for equivalent groups of commanders and lieutenant-commanders. In each case there is a similar wide distinction between a technical officer of the Inspection Department and officers recalled for service during the war or still on the active list. A commander serving in the Naval Ordnance Inspection Department as a Deputy Inspector of Naval Ordnance draws anything from £285 to £190 less in net pay than his colleagues in the other branches of the Navy. In the case of a lieutenant-commander who is an Assistant Inspector—they make up the bulk of the officers in the Department—he will be drawing anything from £222 to £162 less than his colleagues who are on the active list or who have been recalled from the retired list. I think it will be agreed that these technical officers are very much worse off than their colleagues. In this age of science, when we are so very dependent on technical skill and invention, and there is so much new apparatus fitted in ships, the officers who are responsible for the safety and efficiency of this equipment should receive better treatment than they are getting.

There is, of course, an official answer on these variations in pay. It is what I call a stone-walling reply. The Admiralty point out that the pay rates for officers of the Naval Ordnance Inspection Department were consolidated in 1929 and, once a naval rate of pay is consolidated, apparently it becomes quite untouchable and nothing that has happened since consolidation is deemed to be a reason for altering it. But there have been substantial alterations in conditions in this country since 1929. Income Tax is now 10s. as against 4s, then. Marriage allowance and children's allowance, both tax free, have been introduced since then and a tax free provision allowance has been increased. The basic pay of inspection officers has been heavily reduced owing to the steep rise in Income Tax, but the same position does not hold good with officers re-employed after retirement or active service officers because, though by taxation their basic rate has been reduced, they get these tax free allowances which the inspection officers do not get.

Furthermore, there is this important distinction between these two sets of officers. Last Autumn a White Paper, Cmd. 6553, was laid before the House setting out increased rates of pay in respect of war service. From it it will be seen that anyone of or above the rank of lieut.-commander with five years' service will draw 35s. a week additional pay, but the unfortunate officers in the Inspection Department are not eligible for that increase at all. That is really unfair, because the charter of these officers, Admiralty Fleet Order 2078 of 1931, states in regard to their rates of pay that they will be comparable to the standard—1919—rates of pay of officers on the active list and will be subject to similar variations as the latter rates. They have been badly treated in not getting the increases which everyone else in the Service is drawing.

An attempt may be made to show that the officers of the Inspection Department are not, in the true sense of the term, naval officers, but civil servants, but while the inspection officers are not entitled to the war service gratuity recently announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they do not even get the normal Civil Service gratuity on retirement, nor do they get any guarantee of employment up to 60 as do civil servants. In other words, thanks to the ingenuity of the powers that be these 77 unfortunate officers have been manoeuvred into a position in which they have none of the advantages and all the disadvantages both of retired officers recalled, active service officers and civil servants. This matter deserves review and action by the Admiralty. I hope that the Debate will focus some attention on the predicament of these officers and that the Admiralty and the Treasury will be shamed into taking some action to put things right.

3.30 p.m.

Mr. Guy (Poplar, South)

The House has been privileged to listen to-day to a record of achievement, on the part of the Royal Navy, and, if I may be permitted to add with pleasure, the Merchant Service as well, such as has never been surpassed in the long and glorious history of those Services. We would be failing in our duty to-day if we did not convey our sincere congratulations to my right hon. Friend the First Lord and those associated with him in this glorious year of work and achievement. Especially should we convey, through you, Sir, the sincere appreciation and heartfelt thanks of the nation to the gallant officers and ratings of all branches of the Service, not forgetting the Fleet Air Arm and the W.R.N.S., for their valour, enterprise and courageous devotion to duty during this exceptional year. I say to the First Lord and those associated with him that we owe a debt of gratitude to all these brave and loyal personnel, whom I hope we shall continue to remember in peacetime as we have in war-time.

There are a few points in which I am interested and which I wish to stress. What I have to say must not be treated in the spirit of carping criticism. I raised the question of promotion from the lower deck last year, and the First Lord gave some interesting figures. These showed that there were four promotions in 1936, 17 in 1938, and an average of 37 for the years 1941–3. I agree that this is an improvement, but it is still not good enough, taking into account the number of personnel serving in the ships and all branches of the Service. I do ask my right hon. Friend and my Lords of the Admiralty to broaden out their ideas a little more in this direction, and to increase the ratio of lower-deck Servicemen who are given commissioned rank. We have fine material in the Service, and it is our bounden duty to use it in the best way possible. The men in every field should be judged by their capacity and not by their bank books.

May I say a word or two about the Dartmouth Training College and its scholarship scheme? Anyone who knows anything about the work of this college must agree that since this scheme was started by my right hon. Friend in 1941 it has been a success. I am anxious that the work of the college should be extended, and every facility and opportunity given to all boys, whether they be sons of dukes or sons of dustmen. We were informed last year that it was intended that there would be an average of 90 scholarships per year from grant-aided schools. Recently the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) put a Question to the First Lord in connection with the Dartmouth College scheme, and followed it with many supplementaries. I gathered from the points which he stressed that he was not in favour of any means test being applied to anyone. It is a new one on me for any hon. Members on the opposite side to be against any means test being applied, and I welcome the hon. and gallant Member's change of view in this direction. I agree with him, and I suggest that entry for all boys should be free of any kind of financial test of the parents' income. The State will benefit from the service of these boys in the future, and it is for the State to provide free the facilities for their training.

Finally, I would like to say a word about shipbuilding and ship repair work after the war. I trust that there will be no slackening off in the rebuilding and replacement of our naval and merchant ships and that we shall not lag behind any other country in this respect. Our post-war policy should be so regulated and ordered that it ought to be possible to provide at least to years' full work for our shipbuilding yards. This policy should also apply to the ship repairing yards, for it makes one shudder to think what would happen if we allowed matters to drift into the state in which they were after the last war. I do not need to remind the House of the misery and despair of the men who had toiled throughout the last war repairing ships, And of their families being compelled to seek outdoor relief, because patriotic shipowners found it convenient and cheaper to send their ships to other countries, including Germany which had just been defeated, for repair. I warn the Government and the House that our workers will not tolerate anything of this kind happening at the end of this war. Therefore, I urge the Government to prepare and plan ahead while there is yet time, so that those who have so bravely fought our battles and those who have toiled so heartily in our ship repairing yards—those of whom we have spoken all the good things to-day—shall have that which they are justly entitled to when the war is finished, namely, security of tenure in their lives.

3.38 p.m.

Mr. Kendall (Grantham)

The tributes which have been paid by the First Lord and hon. Members to the Royal Navy are very right and just. I add my tribute to those which have been paid and agree with those who have said such nice things about the First Lord of the Admiralty. I would, however, rather deal with the question of the Merchant Navy and the men and officers of that Service. I do not believe that, for the last three years, anybody has really got up and championed that very proper cause.

Commander Agnew

On a point of Order. Are we to understand that for the purpose of this Debate, the Merchant Navy is the responsibility of the Board of Admiralty? Is it not the responsibility of the Ministry of War Transport, or the Board of Trade?

Mr. Speaker

Merchant shipbuilding comes under this Vote, but the conduct of the Merchant Navy comes under the Ministry of War Transport, and to that extent I am afraid that it is out of Order to-day.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)

If my hon. Friend says that he has a grievance in regard to the Merchant Navy, is it not in Order for him to put his grievance before you, Sir, leave the Chair?

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. and gallant Member suggests that the hon. Member should be allowed to raise the question of the Merchant Navy because he gave notice to do so when the Ballot was taken, I would remind him that the only Amendment is that in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith), and that that will come before the House in due course.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is it not in Order for the hon. Member to use the Merchant Navy as an illustration of what he is about to develop in his argument?

Mr. Speaker

It all depends on how far the illustration goes.

Mr. Kendall

May I ask for your advice, Sir? When I had the good fortune to draw second place in the Ballot, I gave notice that I would move a Resolution in reference to the conditions of employment in the Merchant Navy, and it was accepted by the Table. Am I not, therefore, in Order to continue on that subject?

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid not. I have never seen the Amendment which the hon. Member would have put down on the Order Paper. As far as I know, he only gave notice that he would draw attention to the Merchant Navy and move a Resolution. It might have happened that the Amendment would have been out of Order in the discussion on the Estimates.

Mr. Kendall

There was a notice on the Order Paper 10 days ago of the Amendment I wished to move, if I had been called.

Mr. Speaker

The only notice I have seen is that of the hon. Member's desire to call attention to the conditions of employment in the Merchant Navy, and to move a Resolution. I have never got to the stage of considering whether that would have been in Order or not. It would be in Order on the Ministry of Transport Vote, and I think that the hon. Member had better make his speech on that Vote.

Mr. Kendall

Perhaps I may be allowed to continue to make my points, and, if I am out of Order, I will give way and sit down. Under war-time conditions, the Merchant Navy without doubt comes under the discipline of the Royal Navy. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am speaking as one who, many long years ago, belonged to the Merchant Navy, and when I was in port I certainly came under naval discipline.

Hon. Members


Commander Agnew

Is it not the case that when the hon. Member was in port, he was under the Merchant Shipping Act, and not under the Naval Discipline Act, which is the Act for the governance of His Majesty's Royal Navy?

Mr. Kendall

My hon. and gallant Friend may be right, but at the time of which I am speaking I was 15 years old and was not deeply concerned with Acts of any description. I knew very well, however, that if I was stationed in Hong Kong or Gibraltar or Copenhagen, the whole of the ship's company came under the jurisdiction of the Royal Navy and the admiral of the port. [HON MEMBERS: "No."] The admiral may have been wrong, but we accepted that position. There have been many references to the grand job of work done by the Merchant Navy, and quite rightly. My right hon. Friend has himself paid very glowing tributes to the wonderful and extraordinary work of these men, who have manned the transport boats, the majority of which were tramp steamers in peacetime. I want to ask that every consideration—not just glowing tributes by the Minister of the day—should be given to these men. Plans should be put in operation to ensure that practical steps are taken to guarantee that the tributes paid to them shall take some realistic form, when peace comes, in matters concerning their employment—I shall be very careful, Mr. Speaker. Believe me, I am in great difficulty, now, trying to keep in Order.

Lieut-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

The hon. Member will go over in a minute.

Mr. Kendall

Between watching the nods of approval from the First Lord and watching you, Mr. Speaker, I find it somewhat difficult to steer a course without capsizing. I want to be assured by the Minister that the men of the Merchant Service shall not, once again, become the forgotten men, after the grand job that they are unquestionably doing. How that is to be done, and what suggestion I would like to put forward, I may have to leave to some eloquent speech made by myself on some other occasion. If I am compelled to do it in that way, I hope that on that occasion I shall be able to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. Till then, I hope that these words of practical experience and constructive thought will register with Ministers who can bring to bear so much influence upon those responsible for the better treatment and better service conditions of officers and men of the Merchant Navy.

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