HC Deb 15 March 1945 vol 409 cc412-5

3. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding ģ10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1945, for expenditure beyond the sump already provided in the grants for Navy Services for the year."

Sums not exceeding
Supply Grants Appropritions in Aid
Vote. £ £
1. Wages, etc., of Officers and Men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines and of certain other personnel serving with, the Fleet 10 40,000,000

First Resolution agreed to.

Second Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

3.22 p.m.

Mr. Astor (Fulham, East)

During the Debate on the Navy Estimates, the First Lord had a great flood of Scottish and Welsh eloquence breaking over his head, but I hope that he will stand up to various suggestions that were made to him, notably the one that he should invite the R.N.V.R. to give up their stripes. We value our distinctive stripes, and we hope that he will pay no attention to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Davies). [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because he knew nothing about the subject and was not in any way representing the views of the junior officers. That is why. I was very glad to hear what the First Lord said about the institution of a new scientific development and research department at the Admiralty. That announcement has been very well received by the Navy. We only hope that there will be effective machinery for correlating its work with the scientific research done by the other two Services and by the Lord President's Department. It is no use depending on good personal relations between scientists, who, after all, are inclined to be like prima donnas. To get that real correlation, it is important to have machinery by which they have to compare notes and work together. Before the war we were very handicapped because there was no research in this country in regard to motor boats for the Light Coastal Forces—

Mr. Speaker

I am sorry to say the hon. Member has lost his chance. This Vote deals entirely with pay, and the subject he is raising is out of Order. That should have been raised on the Vote to which the House has already agreed.

Mr. Astor

Last year and the year before you gave a rather wider latitude on Vote A, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

We have passed Vote A.

Mr. Astor

Does the Vote before us include conditions, pay and promotion?

Mr. Speaker

Yes, but it has nothing to do with motor torpedo boats.

Mr. Astor

I hope that the conditions in pay will include right treatment for the Fleet Air Arm after the war. I hope the First Lord will not reject too lightly the precedent of the Air Force for having short service commissions, which may have many advantages. As regards pay and promotion in the R.N.V.R., I desire to say that, at the moment, there are still not the same satisfactory prospects of promotion to the higher ranks, which has been achieved for the Reserve officers in the Army and Air Force. I hope very much that even now, at this late stage in the war, there will be a greater feeling that the Reserve officer and the naval officer are taken entirely on their respective merits. I wish to say something also about the pay and prospects of the Royal Marines. The First Lord said that the Royal Marines have unique qualities. Before the war, they had not a role worthy of the prestige and discipline of the Corps. This war has produced situations in which the Royal Marines have shown great skill in amphibious operations, and we hope the First Lord will consider, the role of the Corps after the war and create opportunities for Royal Marine officers to reach higher employment.

I would like to deal with the question of the welfare of the people who have gone to the Pacific. We hope the First Lord will not imitate the War Office, who allowed the question of welfare to go by default for nearly two years, and who, after considerable Parliamentary criticism, sent Lord Munster out there, and found everything we said proved true. We hope the First Lord will set the standard for welfare in the Pacific. We should give our Navy the standard of welfare which the American Navy are receiving in the same area. We should not be regarded in any way as an inferior Navy in the provision of things like newspapers, rest camps, entertainment, etc. As the W.R.N.S. are going there I hope that special steps will be taken for their welfare, and that they will get adequate tropical outfit, both in quantity and quality. I hope the First Lord will put on his pay roll an energetic and authoritative senior officer to look after the welfare of those serving in the Pacific.

Commander Aģnew (Camborne)

Is it not the case that it is one of the duties of senior officers, whether they are captains of ships or are serving in some subordinate capacity, to look after the welfare of the officers and men under their command? Are special welfare officers needed?

Mr. Astor

Most emphatically they are. I have certainly seen in the Eastern Mediterranean that all the commanding officers were so busy in the essential business of war, that they had not the time to prepare for these facilities ashore, rest camps and so on, which do require somebody's time. I hope that something will be done in the case of the Pacific Fleet.

Mr. Speaker

Welfare work certainly comes under Vote A but not under Vote I.

Commander Aģnew

May I ask the hon. Member whether his opinion that there is need for the appointment of special welfare officers is based upon sea experience of his own or only upon what he had heard and from his visits to some shore establishments?

Mr. Astor

It is based upon a fairly comprehensive knowledge of the problem, and especially of what is needed when people come ashore. Most welfare work is done when these sailors arrive in port and need various facilities for recreation. On that I think I have a certain amount of experience, and I not only reflect my own views but views which have been put to me by many officers with sea ex- perience. I have been back in this House for two and a half years and I cannot pretend to be up to date on this subject, but I have spoken to a great many officers, and I hope the First Lord will realise that the views I have put were not my own but those of a great many officers who are proud to serve under his leadership.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

Would it be in Order to call attention to the organisation of the Sea Cadet movement?

Mr. Speaker

That does not come into the question of the wages of officers and men, and it would not be in Order.

3.32 P.m.

Commander Aģnew (Camborne)

When the time comes to review pay, may I ask the First Lord to look into the system of mulcting pay as a punishment and also consider the effect which that may have upon the pensions of men later? A comparatively young seaman may commit some offence very early in his career, perhaps when he has hardly started his career, and that offence has an effect upon the pension which he will ultimately receive which no amount of good service subsequently can altogether eradicate. Will the First Lord look into the naval discipline code with respect to the system of mulcting pay and its effect upon pensions to see whether he can improve the present position?

3.33 p.m.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Captain Pilkington)

I am a little sorry that the opportunity went by and that my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor) was not able to elaborate in the way he might have done some of the things which he obviously had in mind, because there was a certain amount which I could have said. As things are, all I can say is that those subjects which he did succeed, skilfully, in inserting into the Debate will be considered, as well as the points raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Camborne (Commander Agnew).

Question put, and agreed to.

Third Resolution agreed to.