HC Deb 18 February 1947 vol 433 cc999-1014

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £20,000,000, 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, 1947, for expenditure beyond the sum already provided in the grants for Navy Services for the year.

Sums not exceeding
Supply Grants. Appropriations in Aid
Vote. £ £
1. Wages, &c. of Officers and Men of the Royal Navy land Royal Marines and Women's Royal Naval Service 14,750,000
2. Victualling and Clothing for the Navy 950,000
3. Medical Establishments and Services 380,000
4. Civilians employed on Fleet Services 1,800,000
5. Educational Services 50,000
6. Scientific Services Cr1,050,000 150,000
7. Roual Naval Reserves Cr 100,000
8. Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance &c—
Section I—Personnel 4,250,000 250,000
9. Naval Armaments 1,500,000
10. Works, Buildings and Repairs at Home and Abroad Cr1,150,000
11. Miscellaneous Effective Services 6,350,000 350,000
12. Admiralty Office 800,000
13. Non-effective Services (Naval and Marine)—Officers 130,000
14. Non-effective Services (Naval and Marine)—Men Cr 300,000
Sums not exceeding
Supply Grants. Appropriations in Aid
Vote. £ £
15. Civil Superannuation, Allowances and Gratuities 430,000
16. Merchant Shipbulding, &c. Cr1,6000,000 400,000
Total, Navy (Supplementary), 1946–47 £ 20,000,000 18,000,000

4.18 p.m.

Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)

While I see that there is an increase in expenditure of some £3 million I would like to ask whether included in that expenditure is the pay of R.N.R. and R.N.V.R. officers and men. On Vote 7 there is a decrease of £50,000 for the R.N.R. and £50,000 for the R.N.V.R. Therefore I hope that I am right in assuming that the increase of £3 million means that there is a compensating increase in the amount for the services carried out by the R.N.R. and R.N.V.R. at sea in His Majesty's ships. Under this Vote if they are serving in His Majesty's Navy they are accountable under Vote A. It is very important that there should not be any reduction in the strength of the R.N.R. or R.N.V.R. services and the training which they are given in His Majesty's Navy. It is common knowledge to every hon. Member in this House how immensely dependent we were on the services of the R.N.R. and R.N.V.R. especially during the late war. There were I think over 6o per cent. of the personnel represented by those Services. It is also common knowledge of the services which they rendered in all classes of ships and in command of many of them. They have approved their efficiency and ability by their services in the late war. It is essential that we should in the future be able to rely on the numbers and efficiency of these two Services. In wartime we relied increasingly on the naval reserves. After every war there is a reduction in the expenditure on the Armed Forces of the Crown. After the First World War. We carried that to such an extent that—

The Chairman

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member, but he is not entitled to speak of decreases but only of increased costs.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

I apologise for getting out of Order. I was merely endeavouring to show the necessity that existed for maintaining these reserve Services, because they are vital to the efficiency of His Majesty's Navy in wartime. That is why I have raised this matter of the Naval Reserve, and I should like to have some assurance that their strength and training will be maintained.

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

I did not wish to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor), but I should now like to ask, if the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty is not going to say a few words by way of introducing this Vote and add something to the explanation in the Vote itself. I do not know what his intentions are, and perhaps he will now make them clear to the House.

The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. John Dugdale)

I intended to reply to the questions raised, rather than make two speeches.

Commander Maitland (Horncastle)

The question with which all of us are concerned is why there are so many men on the books of the Navy, why there are so few at sea and why the barracks are so full. If the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary can give a reply to that question, I assure him he will be serving a most useful purpose and helping the Committee on what is a burning question. Strictly on the Estimates, I only want to put two very brief questions. I am interested to know why it has been found necessary to find more money for the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. I should have thought it would have been possible to estimate accurately for that institution, and I should be most interested if the hon. Gentleman could tell us, in some detail, how it is that more has been spent than was estimated and on what it has been spent.

I next turn to Section III, A, of Vote 8, "Ships: Hulls, Machinery, Armour, Gunmountings and equipment." The big item, of course, is machinery for the Navy. At the same time, I see that the appropriations in aid have depreciated very considerably, and I wonder whether the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary can tell us if they have been made up by the sale of fighting machinery to foreign nations. I am sure the Committee would like to know whether there has been any such dispersal of naval instruments of various types to foreign countries, and to which foreign countries they have been dispersed.

The Chairman

Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman goes on, I should point out that he cannot deal with matters which concern the appropriations in aid.

Commander Maitland

I apologise very much for having transgressed the Rules of Order. The last point I wish to mention is a small one. I cannot understand why at the foot of page 3 the word following "Section II" is "Matériel". It has a French accent on the first "e." I do not think this has anything to do with naval tradition, but if it has, I, who have served in the Navy, never knew about it. Why not use the English word? I have looked up the dictionary and I find that "matériel" means "material."

Mr. Guy (Poplar, South)

In Vote 5 there is an Estimate for "Educational services, Royal Naval College, Dartmouth." On that I should like to ask some questions. I have no objection to an increase under this head; I welcome it very much, but I am anxious to know whether in this provision of £50,000 there is any sum for an extra number of scholarships. The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary will remember that the Minister of Defence, when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, promised the House that in succeeding years, when these Estimates were submitted, more provision would be made for scholarships at the Royal Naval College. Dartmouth. I want to know whether ample funds have been provided for such scholarships.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas

I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary and the Admiralty on the fact that there is only an 8 per cent. difference between the original Estimate and the revised Estimate. Most of us in the Committee will feel that that is a very creditable performance in an immediate postwar period, when every kind of emergency is liable to arise. I notice in Vote I, C, which is for postwar credits and war gratuities, that compared with the original Estimate there is an increase£10,800,000, and I understand from the Explanatory Note that this is due to the decision that, as far as possible, the gratuities and postwar credits should be paid during the current financial year. I feel that that is a decision which will have support from these benches, and, indeed, from all sections of the Committee.

But I should like to ask the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary one or two questions. In Vote 1A, "Wages, etc. of Officers, Seamen and Boys", it is difficult to understand how the original Estimate was insufficient by so large an amount in view of the latest figures for demobilisation, which show that the rate of release is almost level with the programme. At the turn of the year the actual release of officers and men was only 340 below the programme of 651,640. Is the reason for the rise that the new entries and re-engagements have been greater than were anticipated by the Admiralty, or is there some other reason? For in Vote 2, G, Provisions, victualling, allowances, etc.," the increased estimate rose only by £200,000, so it would appear that the reduction of strength has not been unduly retarded. I should be obliged if the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty or the Civil Lord could give the House an answer to that query, and I hope very much that the increase in Vote I, A may mean that regular officers and men, now that they are no longer engaged in active operations against the enemy, are being employed on vital duties such as scientific research. I remember giving a pledge on behalf of the Admiralty during the Estimates two years ago to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith), who in a Resolution asked the Admiralty to encourage the development of scientific research, and that promise was re-inforced by the present Minister of Defence when he presented the Estimates last year. He said that the Board of Admiralty believed that expenditure on scientific research must have priority to produce the right and the best weapons.

The Chairman

I would remind the hon. Gentleman that that subject does not arise on these Estimates.

Mr. Thomas

With very great respect, I thought I was keeping quite clearly to what was concerned with the expenditure in Vote 1A, and I merely wanted some information in regard to scientific development with which this Vote is in directly concerned owing to the decrease in Vote 6. I pass from that to Vote 3H, and I see there is an increase for hospital stores. That is as it should be, and I think we all welcome an improvement in that particular branch of the Service. In Vote 8, Section III, on page 4, I note that there is an increase of over £4 million for hulls and armour of His Majesty s ships. Is that rise due to an increase in the wages paid to the workers by the contractors or, if not, what is the cause? Are we getting better guns; are our ships better protected in every way? I should be very glad if the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty could give me an answer on that particular point.

4.30 p.m.

In Vote 11F I see that there is an increase in rents paid by the Admiralty amounting to £1,300,000. This seems to some of us to be an enormous figure in view of the fact that we are reducing our establishments. Can the Financial Secretary tell us the answer to that, and while doing so could he also indicate what is happening in the city of Bath? Have they yet been able, or will they soon be able to hand back a certain number of houses to their owners in that particular city? I think that if the hon. Gentleman could give now, or perhaps later in the consideration of the main Estimates, an account of what is happening in Bath it would be of interest to a large number of hon. Members

Vote 12A, for Admiralty Office salaries, wages and allowances, shows an increase of £800,000—nearly £1 million, when the Navy is becoming smaller. If this is due to an increase in salaries for staff there, then, knowing that staff, I, for one, certainly do not grudge it. But is that so, or does it really mean that there is a larger staff, and, if so, why should there be a larger staff at the Admiralty Office at this particular moment? We should be glad to have information upon that point from the hon. Gentleman If, in fact, work at the Admiralty Office is increasing, I have been wondering how we can ease the burden from the Floor of the House. We have lately been dealing in the House with two small but important Bills—the Greenwich Hospital Bill and the Naval Forces (Enforcement of Maintenance Liabilities) Bill, and during the present Session the House has passed the former. This has meant an immense amount of work not only for the Admiralty but also for the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) and the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce). It cost them their Christmas Recess in referring back to Act after Act through two centuries of Greenwich Hospital legislation. Would it not be a relief to the heavy burden of work if those Bills were consolidated in one? If so—and I meant to say this on the Third Reading of the Bill—but owing to an unfortunate mistake in the Lobbies both the Financial Secretary and I were deprived of one of our rare opportunities of addressing this House—

The Chairman

The hon. Gentleman is not entitled in Committee of Supply to discuss a matter involving legislation.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas

I have only one more word to add, Major Milner. In order to relieve the Admiralty staff still further, I wonder if the House of Commons could not have back a certain amount of its own work to do so as not to overburden the staff of the Admiralty by making them deal with perpetual Orders in Council such as we saw in those two Bills. I have no more to say today, and although I think hon. Friends behind me have other points to raise, we shall, of course, reserve full discussion until the new Estimates are presented to the House next month.

Major Bruce (Portsmouth, North)

I wish to draw attention to a matter which has already been referred to by the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) and the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland)—in particular, Vote 8, Section III, which deals with the whole question of contract work. I share fully in the congratulations which the hon. Member for Hereford offered the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary when referring to the fact that the Estimates, broadly speaking, were within 8 per cent. of the original figure, but in this case the increase required under Item A of Section III of Vote 8 is £4,100,000 which, the Committee will observe, is some 14 per cent. higher than the original Estimate. This original Estimate was £28,990,000 and the revised Estimate is £33,090,000 which means, as I have said, an increase of £4,100,000. I should like to know why this increase has taken place. Is it because there has been more machinery; have we more armour, more gun mountings or more equipment generally? Or have we, perchance, during the year that has passed, had more hulls laid down? Or, on the other hand, has there been some fundamental defect in the whole process of estimating?

In this particular type of estimating we are, of course, up against a very delicate problem. This is one of the occasions when Parliament itself comes into contact with the whole machinery of private enterprise. I say that without the slightest desire to be offensive to hon. Members opposite, but it is a fact that there has always been some sensitivity on this point, as those who have read Pepys' Diaries will know. There is tremendous scope for all kinds of elasticity of a more or less desirable type which takes place when Government bodies do, in fact, negotiate with private enterprise. I should like to he reassured by the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary that this increase of £4,100,000 has not been accounted for by an altogether undesirable elasticity in considering prices to sub-contractors who do work on the Admiralty's behalf. I say this with good reason, because from time to time in the House the whole question of the control of sub-contractors' prices has been brought under review, and I should like to quote in particular the Report from the Committee of Public Accounts, Command Paper 105–1, published on 12th May, 1945, in which the Public Accounts Committee passed rather pertinent observations in connection with the Admiralty control over sub-contractors' prices. On page V of that Report they say: The Public Accounts Committee of 1944 reviewed the steps taken by the Ministry of Aircraft Production and the Ministry of Supply co control sub-contractors' prices by investigating firms' trading results, and in paragraph 23 of their Second Report they recommended that Departments should use their best endeavours to extend and develop this valuable method of control so far as present conditions permit. Then they go on to say that the Admiralty, so far, had not seen fit to adopt this particular method of price control that was adopted by the Ministry of Aircraft Production and the Ministry of Supply: Indeed, I think this Committee should take note of the fact that they passed some very pungent observations on this subject, and after all the Public Accounts Committee of this House are a very responsible body whose function it is to safeguard the expenditure of public finance. They said, in 1945: Your Committee are struck by the disparity in the refunds secured by the Admiralty as compared with the other two main Supply Departments. They note that the Admiralty appeal to have commenced their investigations of sub-contractors' trading results later than the other Departments and they were not apparently in possession of sufficient information to satisfy Your Committee that the profits of the Admiralty sub-contractors have not as a whole been more than fair and reasonable. Your Committee recommend that the Admiralty should continue to press these investigations with a view to ensuring a more satisfactory control of sub-contractors' prices. At the same time, in the minutes of evidence upon which that report was based, there were several indications of which I think this Committee should take note. The first is that the Admiralty in those days announced that they fully appreciated the causes of anxiety which had arisen—and indeed, since they are a responsible Government Department, one would expect them to do so. They announced that they intended to appoint a Director of Costing Estimates. When it came to 1945 and the Committee of Public Accounts reviewed the position they naturally queried this appointment and wanted to know whether it had yet been made, but evidence was given at that time that so far it had not been possible.

They desire to secure the services of a suitable accountant, but so far in consultation with the Treasury they have not been able to secure one. I have the honour to have been at one time an active practising accountant and I can assure my hon. Friend that if he cares to get in touch with the Institute of Chartered Accountants or the Society of Incorporated Accountants and Auditors he will be provided with a list of trained people from whom he can select, and who will be extremely pleased to assist him in this matter of costing. I should like to know what has happened to that appointment which was mentioned by the Committee of Public Accounts in the course of their deliberations published in 1945. On page 238 of that report we find that, of 732 firms into whose costs inquiries were made, 291 firms made profits of over 15 per cent. Of those 291, 115 made profits of between 15 and 5o per cent., 78 between 3o per cent. and 5o per cent., and 54 made profits over 5o per cent.—

The Chairman

The hon. and gallant Member is now reading from a report, which seems to me much more appropriate to the general question of contracts. To do that might be in Order on the main Estimates, but it is not in Order on a Supplementary Estimate.

Major Bruce

I am grateful for your Ruling, Major Milner, but I respectfully submit that in view of the fact that there is this rather large sum which is some 14 per cent, in excess of the original Estimates, it might suit the convenience of the Committee if we probed rather carefully the whole system of price control as applied by the Admiralty, or has been applied in the past—nobody knows exactly what is going on at the moment—with a view to ensuring so far as it is humanly possible to ensure that this sum of £4,100,000 paid by the taxpayer to a variety of firms has in fact been—

Vice-Admiral Taylor

I am not quite certain, but I understand that Woolworths make about 100 per cent. How would the hon. and gallant Member's remarks apply to that case?

Major Bruce

I am very grateful for the hon. and gallant Member's interjection. His interest in these naval matters is almost legendary. All I can say is that if the Board of Admiralty in their wisdom sought to enter into negotiations with Woolworths—I can conceive a situation in which that might arise, possibly a contract for the supply of millions of elastic bands for some indefinable purpose—I should expect the Admiralty to ensure that they were paying a reasonable price. I want to know from the Parliamentary Financial Secretary something that the Public Accounts Committee of this House has wanted to know for years, not merely under this Government but the Governments of the last 25 years—

The Chairman

The hon. and gallant Member is again raising a question of main policy, and, if that is so, the proper occasion is on the main Estimates and not on a Supplementary Estimate. He can deal with a question relating to the increase in this Supplementary Estimate, but he cannot go on to the broader questions of policy.

Major Bruce

May I put my remarks in the form of an interrogatory? I feel that with a sum of this magnitude one is entitled to know the reason—

The Chairman

In dealing with this sum of £4,100,000, the hon. and gallant Member is entitled to ask the masons for the increase, but he is not entitled to go into the whole question of policy, costings and price, under which contracts are made, and so forth.

Major Bruce

I accept your Ruling, Major Milner, but I would like to ask the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, first, what has happened to the Director of Costing Estimates who was mentioned in the deliberations of the Public Accounts Committee? I would also ask to what extent the Admiralty have pursued their further investigations—

The Chairman

The hon. and gallant Member cannot, on the Supplementary Estimates, raise points about the Director of Costing Estimates. If at all, that could be raised on the main Estimates. I cannot, however, allow the hon. and gallant Member to continue on this subject, neither could I allow the Financial Secretary to answer him. I can allow him to deal with any point as to the reason for the increase; otherwise I must ask him to resume his seat.

Major Bruce

I have a practical suggestion which the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary may agree to adopt, whereby it may conceivably be that the necessity for a 14 per cent. increase in the future will not arise. This is referred to on the Paper, but it is not in Order for me to refer in detail to appropriations in aid. That is one of the pitfalls one meets in discussing Supplementary Estimates—but I do not intend to be trapped. My point is that if there is shipbuilding work to be done, by far the best way of getting that work done economically is to employ, to the full, the facilities of the Royal dockyards themselves.

4.45 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)

I should have found it agreeable had the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary found it possible to offer us a few words as a preliminary. It might have avoided some of the violations of Order into which some hon. Members have been straying, including the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce). I congratulate him however, heartily, on his tight-rope performance and I shall endeavour to emulate it. The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary expressed the desire that this Debate should take an interrogatory form and said that afterwards he would be prepared to reply to such points as were raised.

There are two items alone on which I would concentrate. There is Vote I (A) dealing with the wages of officers, seamen and boys, which shows an increase of £3 million. I wonder if the hon. Gentleman has come armed with the information as to what percentage of this figure is covered by the Reserves? Are there not now some reservists doing sea-time in a training capacity? Have we got back to that stage of our operations? Are there any refresher courses for the more senior officers of either Reserve who might be required for a staff capacity in the event of hostilities? Is that taking place, and is it shown in this figure, and, if so, to what percentage?

There is also Vote II (M) which deals with naval clothing, soap, tobacco, and allowances in lieu. This would be more familiar to the Civil Lord under the heading of "slops." There is a figure of £500,000 for "slops" in the Supplementary Estimate. Could the hon. Gentleman break down that figure for us? It is a little remarkable that with demobilisation proceeding as it is, and with naval groups being reduced as they are, there should be such a large increase under this heading. Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the naval clothing which can he purchased by officers and men through the dockyards and so on is still being rationed as it was in the later months of the war? If so, why is this extra £500,000 being expended under this heading? It seems a little odd. Again, there is an excellent and historic system of issuing duty free tobacco in His Majesty's ships.

We all know there has been some increase in these things. One's views of these matters alter when one returns to civil life. One takes a contrary view when serving. Is it not rather important now, in the present state of affairs, that there should not be an unduly generous allowance of clothing to the Services, but that it should run more or less concurrently with what civilians can obtain, particularly in the shore establishments? Is it still the case at certain naval bases—I think at Gibraltar—that personnel serving ashore still get these duty free privileges? The Civil Lord will easily recall the harassing scenes when liberty men come ashore and have to pass through the dockyard gates. Is that still taking place? Could we know what percentage of this figure is represented by clothing, and how much by tobacco and by soap, which is becoming a rare commodity in this country? Is that still obtainable in almost unlimited amounts by naval officers and men, and if so, what percentage of this figure does that represent? Had the hon. Gentleman addressed us at the beginning, no doubt he would have covered these points. I hope that when he comes to reply, which will not be yet because some of my hon. and gallant Friends have other points to raise, he will state what is the present expenditure on the training of reservists, and why we are spending £500,000 more on "slops" in the year 1947.

Captain Marsden (Chertsey)

I wish to keep within your Ruling, Major Milner, but when we come to an authorisation to spend a large sum of money. I hope you will permit some general criticism, rather than just a series of questions as to "slops" and how much soap can be taken ashore. The total amount involved here is in the neighbourhood of £38 million, and it is by the selling of secondhand goods to our Allies and the Dominions that we have been able to diminish it to the neighbourhood of £20 million. You would not permit me, Major Milner, to go in detail into appropriations in aid, which would have a material effect upon the sum we are discussing. We are really trying to ask whether the Admiralty are making the fullest use of the money to which we are being asked to agree, and which they have largely spent. I often wonder what would happen if we did not accept these Supplementary Estimates. No doubt they would be passed for the honour of the House.

Is the Admiralty going to spend the money on the Naval Reserves? Of all questions apart from national security at the present time, the most pressing and the one on which most questions are asked, is: What is the future of the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve? So far, we have had no official communication of any description. We are now asked to give an amount for the purposes of the Royal Naval Reserve but we want to know something more about it.

The Chairman

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is in error in raising that matter on Item 7. That cannot be discussed now.

Captain Marsden

If one surveys the Estimates generally, one is forced to the conclusion that the services of the Navy are very largely wrapped up with foreign policy. Yet we cannot discuss foreign policy because this is a Navy Debate. We may however ask why the Admiralty is continually under-estimating. Is it the case that the commitments of the Navy are far greater now than was thought to be the case a year ago, when we thought we would be sending men home from overseas, paying off ships and reducing establishments? That has not been done, merely because a Department of State rather let the Navy down in that respect. I do not ask for a general survey of the position, but I ask hon. Members to refer to Vote 11 which will justify what I have said. That deals with travelling expenses, and one would have thought that some more or less accurate forecast could have been made. But what do we find? It is £2,700,000 short. The next item, pilotage, is £400,000 short; telegrams, telephones, lodging allowances and rents are also short. I do not know what rents are concerned; I am sure that there are some places where the original occupiers would be thankful if the Navy got out, but the Navy still sticks there. There is a Supplementary Estimate for £1,400,000 for rents. Then there is compensation. Judging by my knowledge, the figure might have been much larger. Nobody seems to get enough compensation when the Government's occupation is cleared up, but with due respect, the Navy leaves accommodation in a far better condition than the Army does. The figure for industrial canteens is, I notice, £450,000 more than was estimated.

There is another point to which I should like an answer from the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, and that is in regard to the Indian Defence Expenditure Plan. There was an original Estimate there of £1,000,000, which has now gone up to £1,650,000. With India taking over our obligations and establishments, I should have thought that that item might have been an appropriation in aid, and that they would have paid money for taking things over. Perhaps I am on the wrong track, but I would ask the hon. Gentleman to explain that item, which is incomprehensible to me and to every other person I have spoken to on the matter. The general trend is that the Navy, taking into account our foreign policy, is not being reduced to the extent that everyone expected, involving extra expenditure of which I think the Parliamentary Secretary, without bothering too much about individual items, must give a really satisfactory explanation.

Mr. Mallalieu (Huddersfield)

Of all the questions which have been asked today there is one group which I hope will not be answered, namely those asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite) on Vote 1, because those questions were apparently directed to the cutting down of certain privileges to men serving in shore establishments. Anyone who has any experience of Royal Navy barracks and of the sort of buildings they are knows that men in them need all the soap, rum and other amenities they can have. Indeed, it is staggering to me that expenditure on repairs is actually lower than the estimate. I do not see how they can possibly cut expenditure on repairs to the barracks. There is one question about stores on Section II of Vote 8—stores and equipment—or rather since it is covered by that revolting word "material," I suppose I should say "equipment." How is it that at the present time Item A shows an increase? Ships have been paid off and shore establishments are being closed down rapidly, and stocks of all kinds are piling up in the dockyards and on agricultural land round about Portsmouth, covered with tarpaulins. How is it that the total for stores has been increased, and is that increase a net figure or does it take into account the proceeds of the sales of naval surplus stores which are going on at the present time?

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)

I want to make one or two points on this Estimate and I trust I shall be able to keep in Order, as to take part in this Debate is rather like skating on thin ice. There appears to be an increase of £3 million against the wages etc., of officers and men of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines which, on the original amount, is an increase of approximately 6 per cent. It appears to me, if we turn to the next page and study for a moment the increases on travelling, assisted passages and expenses, and also under E for lodging allowances, etc., that the increases have been in these cases about 56 and 82 per cent. I was wondering whether the difference between these two percentages is due to the fact that under expenses the real values of today become apparent, whereas in questions of pay they do not appear straight away.

My next point is concerned with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and the R.N.R. I realise that I cannot refer to that particular Vote because it would be out of Order, but at the same time no doubt somewhere in this particular Estimate provision will be made from time to time for expenses inclined through having the R.N.R. and the R.N.V.R. I sincerely trust the Admiralty will make every provision they possibly can to take into the R.N.R. the men who are sailing in the fishing vessels and who are so absolutely vital to our security.

I would make a further comment, which applies not only to this particular Estimate for the Navy, but to all these Estimates. Today it is very important to know what exactly are the expenses of this country incurred externally. On all occasions, when the actual figures arise in this House, they are quite properly arid naturally expressed in sterling, and I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he can state how much of the £20 million asked for as a Supplementary Estimate may be required in hard currency when it comes to the actual payment. Lastly, I would like to refer for a moment to Vote 16, but unfortunately I see that there is a decrease, and therefore I should be out of Order if I referred to the fact. Perhaps, however, I might be in Order in saying that somewhere in this paper, provision will have been made for—

The Chairman

The hon. Member is out of Order. He cannot discuss a Vote on a decrease.

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