HC Deb 27 November 1946 vol 430 cc1650-5

Order for Second Reading read.

5.18 p.m.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Walter Edwards)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

It is very nice to be able to move the Second Reading of such a short Bill, which is uncontroversial, and which, I am certain, will receive the approval of the House. The purpose of this Bill is to amend Section 1 of the Royal Marines Act, 1857, which laid it down that for a Royal Marine to qualify for a pension, 21 years' service was necessary. Hon. Members will remember that in Command Paper 6715, which was introduced into this House recently, paragraph 36 laid down that all the Fighting Services should come into line in regard to standardisation of pensions.

The position prior to the introduction of that Command Paper was that the' members of the Royal Navy had to perform 22 years' service before being eligible for a pension, except for the Royal Marines, who were only performing 21 years. The Army and the Royal Air Force were only performing 21 years. Because of the standardisation of pensions, I am certain the House will agree that it is absolutely essential that there should be standardisation of the qualifying period for obtaining a pension, and this Bill has been introduced precisely for that purpose. The Army and the Air Force were covered this year by an Amendment to the Army and Air Force Annual Act, 1946, by which they have now been brought into line with the Royal Navy. I ask the House to agree to the Second Reading of this Bill in order that all the Services, after the passing of the Bill, will be equal as far as concerns the standardisation of pay and pensions. I do not think it is necessary to say much with regard to the Royal Marines. The future of the Royal Marines, and other matters affecting them, can be raised on the Navy Estimates. This Bill is essen- tial for equality, and I ask the House to agree to give it a Second Reading.


Mr. J. P. L. Thomas (Hereford)

I think I can cause the Civil Lord double pleasure this evening. He was pleased at the shortness of the Bill, and my speech will be even shorter than the Bill. The Civil Lord has explained very clearly the reason for the Bill. From the point of view of the administration of the new pay code, it is obviously convenient that the period of service for pension should be the same for the Royal Marines as for the other three Services. The Bill has support from hon. Members who sit on this side of the House. As the Civil Lord said, more general questions about the future of the Royal Marines can be discussed on the Navy Estimates, and I will content myself now with supporting the Bill from this side of the House.

5.23 p.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)

I think we ought not to allow this occasion to pass without expressing some views about the contents of this Bill and the place of the Royal Marines in the Services. It does not happen often that we get an opportunity of talking about the Royal Marines by themselves, without reference to the Navy, the Army or the Royal Air Force, and as such this is almost an historic occasion. There are one or two matters which, I think, arise in connection with the pay code, because that is really what we are discussing this evening. The pay code was introduced in an attempt to stimulate recruitment. Its purpose was to stimulate recruitment. The time was put up from 21 years to 22 years in order that recruitment might be stimulated. I think that is going to achieve its purpose in some way, but I would like to ask the Civil Lord whether he can give us some indication of what response he is getting in the Royal Marines in the way of recruitment. Are they, in fact, signing on for the full 21 or 22 years, or are they not signing on for them? My indications are that recruitment for the Royal Marines is not going very well. If that is so, I am sure the House would like to know about it, because recruitment for the Navy is going well. I should be out of Order if I were to suggest why it is not going well, but may I put it to the Civil Lord that it is no use changing the terms of reference unless one has firmly in one's mind what job these people are to do. There is no doubt that during the war they suffered very badly through having a variety of tasks, and really did not find their mission in life until quite late in the war—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)

The hon. Gentleman is now right outside the scope of the Bill.

Mr. Callaghan

Yes, Sir, I rather had the feeling that I was. I am concerned with the very narrow point of whether putting the term up from 21 years to 22 years will solve the problem. May I respectfully suggest to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that it is in Order for me to put to the Civil Lord and the House some other reasons why putting the period up from 21 to 22 years will not necessarily solve this problem? It is a matter outside the Bill, but I submit to you that, on the Second Reading, there may be things outside the Bill that ought to be in it. I want, in the space of a minute or two, to put those reasons to the House. One of the things I would like to say, if I may ask you to be a little lenient, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, since we do not often get a chance to talk about the Royal Marines—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member must not ask me to be too lenient, since I shall have to show the same leniency to the Minister that I show to him.

Mr. Callaghan

I trust you will extend that leniency to him, Sir, and I am sure the House would welcome it. Has the Civil Lord got in mind a job for the Royal Marines to do? They had a job at the end of the war—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Even that does not come within the compass of the Bill.

Mr. Callaghan

I was only going to say that putting the term up from 21 to 22 years may help, but it will not help alone. Far better than putting the term up from 21 to 22 years, which is, I gather, the object of the Bill, would be to improve the standards of accommodation in the Royal Marines barracks at Portsmouth and Eastleigh.

5.27 p.m.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)

I would like to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) on the Royal Marines, but I will not do so tonight. I simply want to assure the Minister that this Measure is being very well received by the Royal Marines, and they are grateful for being brought into line with other of His Majesty's Forces. It is a good thing and a worthy step for a corps which deserves well of this country.


Mr. Mallalieu (Huddersfield)

I wish to reinforce everything that my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) has said—everything that was in Order. I would like to congratulate the Civil Lord, not only on the shortness of the Bill, but on his optimism in moving the Second Reading, because I feel sure that unless certain very drastic changes are made in the Royal Marines, it will be no use asking people to serve for 22 years, and that better than moving the period from 21 to 22 years would be to bring it down to 10 years. The changes that must be made are the changes that my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff has mentioned. Questions of conditions, of collective grievances, or promotion, all those things have to be dealt with, not only in the Royal Marines, that great Service, but in every one of the other Services.

5.29 p.m.

Mr. W. Edwards

I would like to reply to the points that have been made by my hon. Friends the Members for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) and Huddersfield (Mr. Mallalieu), and to thank the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) and the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) for the very generous welcome they have given to the Bill. My hon. Friends the Members for South Cardiff and Huddersfield have simply lost sight of the Bill. The intention of the Bill is not to bring about increased recruitment for the Royal Marines. The Bill has nothing to do with that. If my hon. Friends had listened to what I said in moving the Second Reading, they would have known that the purpose of the Bill is to bring the Royal Marines into line with the other three Services as far as pensionable time is concerned. I was very happy to hear from the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch, who served very well in- deed in the Royal Marines, that the Bill is being greatly welcomed by them. One would assume, from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff, that the Royal Marines are treated in a shocking way, that they have no job of work to do, and that they are just doing anything that any officer likes to put on to them. I think I can say that the Royal Marines have always played their part in the work of the Royal Navy both afloat and ashore, and there is good scope in the work of the Royal Marines allied with their brothers in the Royal Navy.

Mr. Callaghan

I would not like any impression to get abroad that I was suggesting that the Royal Marines had not got a job to do. The Civil Lord will realise that I was making comments under some difficulty, and that that certainly was not my intention at all.

Mr. Edwards

In any case, I can assure the House that the Marines have a job to do, and there will always be a job for them. We hope in the future, as in the past, that they will always do that job well. For the information of the House there is one point I wish to add in view of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff which left the impression that, because of the awful conditions existing in the Royal Marines apart from pay, accommodation and things like that, we are finding it hard to get men to volunteer for that Service. It may interest him 10 know that, despite a fair amount of exaggeration which has taken place in regard to conditions in the Service, and also a fair amount of what I might call non-cooperation in connection with the new pay codes which were introduced this year, the target for this year has been reached to the extent of 65 per cent., and that is in the first 10 months. We have also to remember that this has happened in the interim period of the changeover from war to peace. I think that is a creditable figure and shows that the Royal Marines are comparatively popular and far more popular than some of their sister Services.

Mr. Mallalieu

Can the Civil Lord tell us what the target was?

Mr. Edwards

One thousand.

Mr. Callaghan

That is about 600 odd.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

This is the result of my being too lenient. I do not think that I can allow the hon. Members to go any further on this subject.

Mr. Edwards

I am very sorry, but in view of some of the remarks which were made during the course of the Debate I think it would have been rather unfair, so far as the Admiralty is concerned, to let those statements stand without some reply being made. On the general issue, whilst we should like to get our target before the date fixed for it, we are a little bit in advance of most other Services. I think that I have dealt with the relevant points to which reference has been made, and, therefore, I would ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Monday next.—[Mr. Joseph Henderson.]