HC Deb 15 March 1948 vol 448 cc1713-43

Resolution reported: That 167,300 Officers, Seamen, Boys and Royal Marines borne en the books of His Majesty's Ships and at the Royal Marine Divisions, and members of the Women's Royal Naval Service and the Naval Nursing Service, be employed for the Sea Service together with 1,592 Royal Marine Police borne on the books at the Royal Marine Divisions, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1949.

Resolution read a Second time.

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

3.51 p.m.

Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)

After the lively Debate we had last week, there are few points left for me to deal with. I shall make only a few criticisms of these Estimates, though I intend to offer some invitations to the Parliamentary Secretary which I hope he will accept. First, as the hon. Gentleman gave only about 40 seconds of his time last Monday to naval aviation, I hope that he will be more informative when dealing with this Vote today. The hon. Gentleman stated that the proportion of men employed in the Air Arm was approximately between a quarter and a third. Am I right?

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


Mr. Bracken

One need not be a Fellow of the Royal Society to calculate, therefore, that there are about 42,000 employed. There are at present, I understand, two carriers in full commission and two more in the Portland Squadron. Therefore, the great majority of these 42,000 must be shore based. This is, indeed, a most unsatisfactory position. I do not believe that either the Minister of Defence, the First Lord, the Financial Secretary or the Civil Lord can like it very much. They must feel that there are too many beached mariners or grounded airmen. I know that in the present redispositions, this position can be defended. Nevertheless, I imagine that it gives no comfort to anyone connected with the Admiralty.

There is another point upon which I should like to be enlightened. The Minister of Defence gave some surprising figures of the complement required today to man a ship. As the right hon. Gentleman is a great naval expert, he might be able to give me an answer to some amateurish questions which occurred to me after I read his speech. For instance, when speaking last week, he put the complement of the "Duke of York" at 1,760. "Brassey's Naval Annual" put the war complement at only 1,500. One might expect that in peace-time the complement should be less than that. I should very much like the Parliamentary Secretary to have a consultation with the Minister of Defence and explain to us the reason for this difference in figures. I suppose it is right to say that in peace-time there is no need to man every gun and every piece of radar equipment on the scale necessary to keep them fully manned for 24 hours a day as in wartime. I am not criticising this manning policy, but I was interested by the figures given by the Minister of Defence. The invaluable "Brassey" unfortunately gives no particulars about the complements of aircraft carriers, so we cannot make the same sort of comparison as that which I have just been trying to make. However, is it really necessary that an aircraft carrier in peacetime should have a complement of 1,400? I am not attacking the manning of these carriers but, as I told the Parliamentary Secretary, I am inviting him to give an explanation. These are comparatively small uncontroversial points.

Now I want to touch on a much more important point which certainly is controversial. I refer to the vast number of civilians employed by the Admiralty. A few weeks ago the hon. Gentleman gave some figures of the civil servants employed by the Admiralty, excluding those employed by the dockyards at home and overseas. These figures are quite startling. On 1st January, 1939, there were 7,650 non-industrial employees. On 1st January, 1948, there were 25,650. The figures for industrial workers show that 22,850 were employed on 1st April, 1939, and 57,100 were employed on 1st Janu- ary, 1948. That of course excludes the dockyard employees. These figures require a lot of explanation. I hope that we shall obtain that explanation from the Civil Lord or the Parliamentary Secretary. The Civil Lord, in answer to a Question asked some time in February, told us that the number employed within the Admiralty on 1st January, 1938, was 4,950, compared with 8,700 on 1st January, 1948. All I can say is that the holy of holies is thoroughly well manned. He also told us that there were no fewer than 5,350 persons employed by the Admiralty at Bath.

The dockyards also show an immense increase in the number of employees. We had a partial explanation of that increase last week when the Parliamentary Secretary told us that dockyard employees were now being used for the purpose of wiring houses on building estates in and around Portsmouth or Plymouth. I should not have thought that was the best possible work for dockyard employees. It certainly does not justify the staggering increase in their number. The Minister of Defence has interjected that they are principally electricians. I have no doubt that they are: otherwise, I do not suppose that they would have been engaged in wiring houses.

The Minister of Defence (Mr. A. V. Alexander)

I did not interject.

Mr. Bracken

The Government are constantly complaining or even wailing about the shortage of manpower. The policy of the Admiralty today seems to be to deflate the Navy and to inflate the Civil Service. I cannot believe that there is enough work to justify the immense increase in the civilian staff employed by the Admiralty. I hope that in the present calm and peaceful atmosphere of this House we shall have a thoroughly good and lengthy explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary and, later on, from the Civil Lord. We have plenty of time. We are most dutiful public servants. We look forward to trying to obtain some explanation of these astonishing figures, because they show a wanton waste in manpower. In my view, they should be reduced forthwith. I hope that the Minister of Defence will consider the question of reduction. It is not a good thing to employ superfluous persons either in the Admiralty or in the dockyards. It is hard enough in peace-time to get real support for the sums of money that must be spent on the Royal Navy. Any form of wastage should be cut out.

No one is a friend to the Royal Navy who does not criticise wastages of manpower at the present time. I was glad to see the other day that the Parliamentary Secretary said that there would not be any extensive axing of officers as there was after the last war. That is an entirely wise policy, but I do think there could be an axing of civil servants. There are far too many civilians employed by the Admiralty, and I do not think that any person, be he the greatest of mathematicians, doubly abler than Einstein, could justify the vast increase in the civilian employees of the Admiralty.

Now I want to touch upon another point. It would be wrong to say that it is non-controversial, because when aesthetic questions are raised in this House they generally lead to violent Debates. I understand that, on other Estimates, there will be a good deal of discussion about the land and other property retained by the various Service Departments since the war. I think I may begin with a generalisation. Before and during the war, the Service Departments showed a wonderful predeliction for establishing themselves in the most desirable parts of the countryside. It is quite astonishing, when one considers the many properties which were requisitioned by the Service Departments, to find that the gentleman employed should have shown such unerring judgment in seizing upon what are called the beauty spots of the country. No one can doubt that the Admiralty requisitioners, consciously or unconsciously, were sensitive to beauty. I regret to say that some of the mariners who followed in the path of the requisitioners were without much aesthetic quality, because the condition of the buildings and land which they occupied can only be described as disgraceful.

Great injury was done to fine buildings and much beautiful countryside by the Service Departments. The Royal Navy certainly was not the worst, though it must bear its share of responsibility. Their Lordships should be praised for giving up so much of the property they requisitioned in war-time. I think that the Admiralty have a better record than the other Service Departments in giving up land which had to be taken over for the purpose of the defence of Britain in wartime, and, while I give that praise to the Admiralty—it is not high praise to say that they were better than the others, but it is some praise—I must say that the Admiralty deserves the sharpest censure for their firm grasp on Bath.

It is one of the most beautiful of all our towns. It is probably the greatest triumph of Georgian architecture in Britain, and many good judges have said that it is one of the most beautiful towns in the world. I should not be surprised if, after all the bombing activities over Europe, that claim can now be made with greater strength. For Bath is certainly a noble city and a great attraction to foreign tourists. The Government has no right to use Bath as a sort of subsidiary outpost of the Admiralty. I do not know what the outpost is used for, but I suppose files are kept there, and various departments which cannot find a home in London—though the Admiralty still holds on to Queen Anne's Mansions—are relegated to Bath. I should have thought that that would be a very great inconvenience from the point of view of administration in the Admiralty, but, whether it is convenient or inconvenient, I think the Admiralty should make up their minds to depart from Bath.

What on earth has the Admiralty got to do with Bath? I have never heard that the city had any connection with sea power, though a notorious female beloved of Lord Nelson did live there for a space of time. That clearly does not justify the Admiralty in occupying so much space in Bath. I must say to the Minister of Defence that a spa is really no substitute for the deep waters, and that he ought to move his civil servants nearer to the sea. If, for instance, as I have heard suggested occasionally, the Admiralty find a great difficulty in knowing what to do with Rosyth, I suggest that it would be a compliment to Scotland and a very great advantage to Bath if the right hon. Gentleman would move some of his staff from Bath to Rosyth, or move them to any place he likes. I should think he might move some of them back to London.

According to Government experts, our tourist traffic could be worth £100 million a year. I think that estimate has been amended in a subsequent White Paper, and I am unable to access with accuracy Britain's capacity as a tourist centre. But this I do know. So long as the Admiralty insist on keeping more than 5,000 civil servants in Bath, there will be a sharp reduction in the possibilities of earning revenue from tourists. Surely, somebody ought to co-ordinate the policies of Government Departments. We are told that tourism is one of the greatest of our invisible exports, and I have read speeches on this subject by numerous Ministers, including the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. They all say that great sums can be earned by attracting people to Britain to see the great historic cathedral cities of Britain and Scotland's glories, more particularly, Edinburgh. Here, let me remind the Parliamentary Secretary that Edinburgh has recently staged quite successfully a wonderful entertainment whereby it can claim to be a sort of postwar Salzburg. I think that claim has been pretty well established. Bath, too, could arrange many festivals; in fact, an important one is being arranged in the course of this year, but accommodation in Bath is very limited.

Why do 5,000 civil servants still live in Bath? I hope the Government will take immediate steps to clear these civil servants out of Bath, though it is not for me to say where they should go. It is highly desirable, from the point of view of Britain, that we should make something more of Bath. I hold the view that tourism could be greatly developed in Britain, and, of all the cities in Britain that would help in developing the tourist trade, Bath is undoubtedly the best. I do not think there is any party point between us this afternoon. I feel that the Admiralty should consider the hardships which they are inflicting upon Bath by holding on to it for quite unnecessary purposes. They should give up that city to its proper use and find some other place for their 5,000 civil servants.

That is all I have to say, except to raise one very small point. I am really looking for reassurance here, because I think there must be a mistake in these Estimates. In Vote 11 (A), travelling expenses are listed amounting to £3,825,000, compared with £812,000 in 1939. This figure is between four and five times as large as that expended upon travelling expenses before the war and I think it needs a word of explanation. I wonder whether there is some misprint in the Estimate; if not it will take a powerful explanation to convince me that these travelling expenses are justified.

Let me make a final appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence and the Parliamentary Secretary. I hope they will give us an assurance this afternoon that they will try to depart from Bath as soon as possible. It was an honour for Bath to have the Navy there in wartime but in peacetime there is no justification in keeping so much space in towns which could play a great part in the revival of the tourist industry in Britain. I hope therefore to get an assurance from the Ministers concerned that they will clear out as soon as possible.

4.11 p.m.

Mr. Mallalieu (Huddersfield)

The eloquent plea on behalf of Bath to which we have just listened, from the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken), has, in my view, something to be said for it, but not quite everything which the right hon. Gentleman said. I do not think it matters that there has been no historical association between the Navy and Bath—that is true. I do not think there has been any historical association between the right hon. Gentleman and Bournemouth, but he still makes them a very admirable representative.

Mr. Bracken

If I could interrupt the hon. Member. Alas, I wish Bournemouth had what I might call the architectural advantages of Bath.

Mr. Mallalieu

So do I. This is the point I want to put. There is a suggestion that the beauty spots of England, such as Bath, should be reserved for the tourist traffic. I would say, personally, that there is no reason at all why civil servants or seamen should not have the advantage of doing their work in these beauty spots; I do not think there is a likelihood of harm to them. One of the beauties of a place is its architectural beauty, and another is its intellectual life. From the little I know about Bath and the sort of people who live there, I do not think the intellectual life of that city will be reduced by having an influx of highly cultured civil servants and highly cultured seamen from time to time. The new blood thus coming into the life of that town will, I feel, increase its attractiveness.

Mr. Bracken

The hon. Member is libelling Bath. Does he not know that a great part of the "Decline and Fall" was written in Bath, and that a great deal of Mr. Burke's writings were also done in Bath? Bath has always been a home of authors.

Mr. Mallalieu

I knew that. I also knew that both those works were written some time ago, and we are discussing the intellectual standing of Bath at the present time, which I would say is no higher and no lower than that of Cheltenham, where I believe an increase would result from an influx of new life. The serious point, as I understand it, is the question of the dispersal of Admiralty establishments all over the country. To concentrate the resources of the Admiralty in London or the resources of the Navy in three main depots would be a seriously harmful and dangerous thing to do in the light of the sort of war we might expect in the future. I would ask the Admiralty to go slow on any idea of retrieving their outposts and bringing them back into the centre, and rather to concentrate on the idea of building up a machine which can work efficiently when dispersed.

Especially, I would press again the question of the Royal Naval Barracks which I have raised previously in the House, but I cannot get any sort of reference to it in the winding up speeches of Ministers replying to the Debate. I know that was not the fault of the Civil Lord on this occasion, as he was very pressed for time. It is a very serious point to be considered. These Naval Depots are far too large from the point of view of maintaining discipline and the point of view of security, and I want the Admiralty, now they have the chance, to prepare new plans in terms of having many more depots of a much smaller type—whether at Rosyth, or elsewhere dispersed about the country.

There is one further thing I want to raise this time on the matter of Vote V— Educational Services—and I want to use the words "Educational Services" in the widest sense to include ordinary instruction as well. A good deal of money is being voted in these Estimates for educational purposes. There is a good deal about salaries and so on, and a certain amount about equipment, but it seems to me to be not very much use providing the Navy with first-class instructors and good apparatus if we cannot also provide them with proper classrooms in which to do their work. The classrooms in the Navy, such as I saw them, were quite frankly disgraceful. The main instructional buildings in Portsmouth Royal Naval Barracks were known as seamanship huts. They were of the temporary type, put up about 1898 I imagine, and they will still be temporary in another 100 years' time unless we do something about them.

They were very small; each classroom could comfortably hold 12, but when I saw them unfortunately they held normally a class of 30 at least. There were the thinnest of partitions, so one instructor was continually being interrupted in his lessons by the voice of the instructor in the next door compartment. He was not only interrupted by the other instructors; just along the passage was the cobbler's and he could hear the cobbler smacking away all that forenoon while he was trying to teach the men the intricacies of bends and hitches and the rest of it. Moreover, and almost worse than that, the parade ground was immediately outside and squads marched up and down doing squad drill under a G.I. Anybody knows that a G.I. does not tend to give his orders sotto voce—an air-raid siren is, by comparison, a lullaby. It is impossible for instructors to give of their best under such conditions.

So far as I could judge, the Navy has made tremendous advances during wartime in the method of giving instruction. The old way of instructing in the Navy used to be of someone standing up in front of the squad: "At the order One, Number One, and Number One only, springing to attention and moving at the double, will take up his position at the right of gun, facing the breach." That was tremendously changed during the war. The idea of instructional technique was developed very widely, but it will all come to nothing—all these new ideas—unless the instructors are given a chance to teach properly. I want to ask the Financial Secretary, when he deals with the depots, to tell us that the Admiralty really are concerned with providing not only first-class instructors, not only first-class apparatus, but also the environment of first-class classrooms, without which the others are not very much use.

4.18 p.m.

Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)

I wish to raise the question of the payment of 25 per cent. by the Admiralty to those officers who joined the emergency list prior to 31st October, 1930, and on being called up were promoted to the rank of commander or captain. I raised the question with the Admiralty with regard to the case of a particular officer who was on the emergency list before 31st October, 1930, who was promoted to the rank of acting captain and to whom the Admiralty refused to pay the bonus of 25 per cent. in addition to the full pay of the rank to which he was entitled according to the contract made by the Admiralty with those officers.

I do not raise this matter merely on account of this one officer, but as a matter of principle that the Admiralty should fulfil their obligation under a contract which they entered into with officers joining this emergency list. In 1927 the regulations covering this 25 per cent. bonus were altered and the bonus was then discontinued, but it was discovered by the Admiralty when the present Minister of Defence was First Lord of the Admiralty; I brought to his notice that the officers who had joined prior to that had not been informed of the change in the regulations in 1937. The right hon. Gentleman very rightly saw the justice of that claim, and the 25 per cent. bonus was paid to those officers. The Admiralty did justice in that matter, and I am very grateful for the action taken by the Minister of Defence in that respect.

The regulations under which officers joined the Emergency List were stated in the July Navy List. I must go back on this question, because it is very important. The July, 1911, Navy List said: (1) When called up for active service, officers on this list will receive the full pay of their rank, and (2) On discharge, after being called up for active service, officers will be granted a bonus of 25 per cent. on full pay (exclusive of allowances) earned during their employment. Then, in April, 1916, the following regulations were published: Emergency officers re-employed in time of war may be promoted irrespective of the regulation governing the promotion of officers on the active list. In April, 1918, a further publication on regulations took place, which said: If called up on active service, officers on this list, if promoted subsequently to being placed on the emergency list, receive the rate of full pay of the higher rank. It went on to say: They will also be granted a bonus of 25 per cent. on full pay (exclusive of allowances) earned during their employment. Those are very important statements for the Admiralty to make. It is quite clear from those two regulations that the Admiralty recognised that these emergency officers might be promoted to the rank of commander or captain, and that they also clearly laid down that, if they were, they would receive the full pay of such rank, and, in addition, a 25 per cent. bonus. There is no getting away from that; those were the regulations which they issued.

The point at issue is that the Admiralty have refused to carry out the regulations which they laid down. The particular officer, whose case I brought to the notice of the First Lord, was refused the 25 per cent. bonus on promotion to acting captain. The plea on which the Admiralty have rested their refusal to pay the bonus, as stated to me in a letter from the Financial Secretary which I have here, is as follows: That such officers had no prescriptive right or claim to such promotion. The Financial Secretary went on to say in his letter: In other words, as the original contract with these officers did not bind the Admiralty to promote them to either the rank of commander or captain, they are regarded as coming on to new contracts when promoted to one of these ranks after being called up. The letter then goes on: The date of such promotion being an appropriate moment to vary their conditions of service, i.e., to cease payment of the bonus on full pay. In view of the regulations which I have quoted, I can only say that that is a very ingenious excuse on the part of the Admiralty to get out of paying these officers the 25 per cent. bonus. In fact, I have no hesitation in saying that, in my opinion, it is a most dishonest thing to do. The Admiralty, by their own regulations, are bound to pay this 25 per cent., but, on the plea that they are not bound to promote these officers, they refuse to do so. Everybody in the Service knows quite well—and I am sure the Financial Secretary now knows it—that the Admiralty are not bound to promote any officer, either on the active list or any other list to the rank of commander or captain, and that such promotion is entirely a matter of selection. That, therefore, has nothing to do with it, and is not material to this question. In any case, even if it was, such a reason would not absolve the Admiralty from carrying out their obligations under the regulations which they themselves issued with regard to the payment of this 25 per cent. bonus in April, 1918, and which I have quoted.

I wish to mention one other thing which is also of some importance. It is the fact that, prior to May, 1927, when the bonus was done away with, the regulations provided that emergency officers called up for service would receive the full pay of their rank plus a bonus of 25 per cent. in lieu—and this is very important—of any pension to which their further service might entitle them. Therefore, the Admiralty quite obviously recognised, when they issued these regulations, that other officers would receive an increment to their pension for their additional service during war-time and that, in the case of those officers on the emergency list called up, instead of an addition of pension, which they were not receiving, they would receive this 25 per cent. bonus. To withdraw this bonus from those officers is comparable to withholding an increased pension from officers on the active list for the additional service they gave during the war. It is quite improper on the part of the Admiralty to refuse either a pension or to take away the bonus from an officer because he has been promoted.

Therefore, because it is a matter of principle that the Admiralty should fulfil the obligations which they undertook to these officers, I ask them to reconsider the matter. I have already referred to the present Minister of Defence, and how he acted when his attention was drawn to a case of injustice—he put the matter right; the Admiralty did the right thing. I now ask that the Admiralty may do the same in this instance. It creates a feeling of injustice and does immense harm to ask officers to serve under certain conditions and then for the Admiralty not to fulfil their obligations, as is happening in this particular case. I ask the Admiralty not only to reconsider this one case, but also the case of any other officer in the same position. As I have said, it is a matter of principle. I am sure there are few officers involved in this, and that it would not cost very much, although that is not the point. It is, as I repeat, a question of principle, and, in this case, I ask the Admiralty to do justice to these officers, and to pay them their 25 per cent. bonus.

4.29 p.m.

Commander Maitland (Horncastle)

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) has raised a very important matter, of which many of us became aware as we were leaving the Navy after the war. I sincerely hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give serious consideration to the plea which has been made to him. If he feels that he cannot give a favourable reply today, I sincerely hope he will consider the matter very carefully and not make any sudden judgment about it. Many officers have been affected by this problem. As for the civil establishments which were mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken), it is of no use for the Parliamentary Secretary, should he try to do so, to explain to the House that the Navy are in camp like a nautical host of Midian about Bath. It is true that this is where they work, but it is where they have to live which matters. It is their accommodation that is taking up so much room at the present time.

There are several questions to which I should like an answer. The first is about warrant officers, of whom the Parliamentary Secretary spoke in his speech last Monday. I have an enormous admiration for warrant officers. When I was a very junior officer they guided my footsteps into the right ways—I hope—and when I became a little more senior they acted as righthand men to me in every sense of the word. They are of the finest stuff the Navy has. I am not very often in agreement, I am afraid, with the hon. and gallant Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey), but I was very much in agreement with his comment the other day, in regard to the report on warrant officers, that the mountain had laboured and brought forth a mouse. It is a very poor mouse, too, in my opinion. All that is achieved is to give warrant officers wardroom messing. I know that there are warrant officers who appreciate very much that wardroom status. I think it is a very good thing for them to have. The House should realise, however, that in the vast majority of the ships in the Navy warrant officers have had that status for a very long time. Now it is to be extended to them in big ships as well and, presumably, in barracks. It is a very good thing. I must tell the House, however, that I do not think that all warrant officers without exception will appreciate it as much as the Parliamentary Secretary expects. For one thing, it will involve them in certain extra expenses which may make difficulties for them. I do not think, therefore, that this is a very big concession, although I am glad it has been made.

The position of warrant officers has changed very considerably during recent years. It is not so very long ago when a man who reached the rank of warrant officer had reached the peak of his ambition. Now we wish to offer incentives to all men on the lower deck to qualify for gradual and steady promotion, and yet the rank of warrant officer, which was once a target to achieve, is now becoming—indeed, it has become—a sort of dead end whence men can go no farther. I should like to see a system in the Navy whereby every officer and man can always look forward, no matter how small the hope, to further promotion. Therefore, I should like to see the status of the warrant officer brought more into the steady stream of promotion as it is in the Navy today. No officer or man should ever find himself in a position in which the door to higher promotion is for ever closed. I do not believe in zones, or in passing out of zones. They do not do the Navy any good. I am speaking without rancour because this sort of misfortune did not happen to me.

At present when a man has passed a certain age and can no longer hope to get promotion it is obvious that he will not have the incentive that he had before. I should like to see a system of promotion in which incentive always remains. Particularly would I like to see it in the case of chief petty officers. Chief petty officers, particularly after a certain age, at present have no hope of further promotion. All of us know the magnificent work done by acting warrant officers during the war. Men who were chief petty officers before the war were called in the time of their country's need to serve as warrant officers, and very magnificently did they do their duty. Indeed, I think they did their duty in their higher rank in a way that far exceeded even the hopes and expectations of the Admiralty. I see no reason why chief petty officers, after attaining a certain age, if they happen to do particularly well, should not have the opportunity of promotion. The door should be kept open a little. Obviously, it is very difficult to keep it wide open to men beyond a certain age, but it should always be kept open a little, despite age.

Now I come to the question of the repairs of barracks, hospitals and the like. When considering Navy Estimates in the past we have always had the hope that we should have new barracks, new hospitals, new classrooms, and so on. Now we have to face the fact that we shall not have new buildings for a very long time to come. Therefore, we must patch up and improve those we have, wasteful though that would be could we expect new buildings soon. I hope that the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary will assure us about this matter when he comes to reply to the Debate. I recently had to spend some time in the vicinity of the naval hospital at Stonehouse. I should like to say at once that I make no manner of criticism of the staff of that hospital. From my own personal observation I can say that I have never seen more devoted service, or better work, than the staff of that hospital puts in. They are perfectly magnificent. But they are labouring under very serious difficulties. This is a hospital which, to all intents and purposes, is condemned.

A new hospital is proposed—possibly, rather vaguely; but it is generally understood that there will be a new hospital at Plymouth for naval ratings. Because that has been understood, nothing has been done about the existing hospital. It is common sense that if we are to build a new hospital we do not want to patch up an old one which is falling to pieces. The doubt and delay in this case have gone on too long, however. There is no doubt now that it will be many years before we have a new hospital. Therefore, though I should be the last person to advocate patching up as a policy, I think we have to do something about that hospital to make it more comfortable for the sick men and the staff who are in there now. There are lots of simple things which can be done at not very great expense, perhaps not very tidily, but which would make a big difference. We should face the realities and examine our hospitals and barracks and try to make them a little more comfortable, even considered on a temporary basis, because that temporary basis may last for a very long time indeed.

In the Defence White Paper I noticed certain duties common to all Services, such as the chaplaincy and the medical department; committees are being set up to try to co-ordinate these duties between the three Services. I wonder whether we could be told exactly what is happening as far as the Navy is concerned. Is there any question of an alteration in the pay and conditions of these services? Is there any question of a reduction in their complement? Will the officers or men so affected by that White Paper consider that something is being held over their heads, or can they look forward, as should every officer and man in the Navy, with confidence to the promises which have been given that there will be no axing. I hope we may have a clear reply to that.

I will refer to one small matter which I omitted to mention at the beginning of my speech, namely, civil establishments. Is the Parliamentary Secretary happy that the civil establishments are properly balanced? There are undoubtedly shortages in some of them. For example, there is a shortage, which is spreading throughout the Admiralty, in the various draughtsmen branches. Such shortages often mean an increase in other manpower in order to try to produce the same efficiency in a more laborious way. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will deal also with that aspect.

4.43 p.m.

Commander Pursey (Hull, East)

I had not intended to speak in this Debate, but as I am the only Member in the House who has served as a warrant officer and as the subject has been raised it behoves me to say something for the warrant officers, about whom I have spoken previously.

Commander Maitland

So have I.

Commander Pursey

Wait for it. I am prepared to pay a tribute. I was very glad to hear what the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) said about warrant officers and the support he got from his colleagues on that side of the House. The three points of the Noble Committee's Report were: title, standing and messing. The hon. and gallant Member said that he was doubtful about the feelings of some warrant officers in regard to messing in the wardroom. I can say emphatically that by far the great majority want to be there, because of the injustices that they suffered during the war when messing with the other Services, as prisoners of war, or in other similar circumstances, and they were down-graded and messed not with the officers, but with the petty officers. The answer to the hon. and gallant Member's contention in regard to expenses, is to cut down the expenses and bring them within the limit of a warrant officer's pay.

Since I made brief reference to the titles last Monday I have heard that last week at Portsmouth there was a general meeting of warrant officers—called presumably by the Commander-in-Chief—to discuss the question of titles. I understand that before they started consideration of a new title two proposed titles were ruled out as not being open to consideration, the very titles they wished to consider, namely, those of sub-lieutenant and lieutenant. The suggestion has been put forward that the new titles should be mate and acting mate. For 20 years from 1912 there was a mate scheme, and I was a mate myself; and it took 20 years to get this distinctive title abolished. The great disadvantage of that title is that it is the second part of a title for all sorts of ratings, such as blacksmith's mate and painter's mate and so on. I say, frankly, that the warrant officers will never accept the title "mate." They had 20 years of it, with the consequent dissatisfaction; only with great difficulty were they able to get rid of it, and there is no question of that coming back.

The title they want, and will strive after, is that of "sub-lieutenant." Now that the warrant officers are in the wardroom mess, the commissioned officers' mess, there is further ground for their being given the title of sub-lieutenant. They are wearing the same uniform; they have the same stripes; and they should have the same rank. Moreover, the difference in their qualifications and the duties which they perform today is practically nil. For instance, a warrant officer in a small ship performs exactly the same duties as the sub-lieutenant. He takes his watch on the bridge; he does officer of the day in harbour; he messes with the other officers; and, in addition to that, by virtue of his special gunnery and torpedo qualifications, he has superior knowledge over the sub-lieutenant.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Not always.

Commander Pursey

Yes, always. Before he qualifies, a warrant officer must have qualifications in some specialist branch, so that he has technical knowledge over and above that of the sub-lieutenant. There is no doubt about it whatever.

Although there has been a difference of opinion about the title, with various suggestions put forward, the majority of warrant officers want the title of the comparable rank with which they are serving—sub-lieutenant. In order to distinguish them from other officers, it would be quite easy to give them the specialist designation of their branch, in the same way as the long-term specialist officer gets his G.T.W. and so on. What they are particularly interested in—and I did not interrupt the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle, because he was batting on my wicket, rather than bowling against me, as he usually does—is the question of further promotion. In order that it may be clear to everybody, I ask the hon. and gallant Member does he advocate that they should be promoted to commissioned rank early in their career? We ought to get that clear from him.

Commander Maitland

As the hon. and gallant Member knows, at the moment there is a scheme whereby they can go ahead. I believe that they should go ahead, that the same scheme should exist right up until their age for retirement. But there is a very definite age limit within which they are allowed to take their examinations. I maintain that that is a mistake. I do not like age limits or time limits for promotion. As I tried to explain, I do not think the door to promotion should ever be closed.

Commander Pursey

The difficulty about promoting officers from the ranks is that they are thereby saddled with an age handicap. That was the problem of the mate scheme introduced by the Leader of the Opposition when he was First Lord in 1911. In the original mate scheme the intention was to select men early and give them a free run, but they were promoted late, with the consequence that they carried a handicap of five to 10 years in their ages, which meant that they could never take part in the promotion stakes on equal terms. I am in agreement with the hon. and gallant Member as regards the present scheme of accelerated promotion to lieutenant, skipping the commissioned rank of commissioned warrant officer. But again, they start off too late, at 25 or 26, or even up to 30 years of age, which gives them an age handicap of nine or 10 years, compared with the sub-lieutenant who gets his commission at 21. While the hon. and gallant Member is doing a good thing in advocating further promotions, these officers, owing to the undue age handicap, will be at the bottom of the list when it comes to selections for promotion to commander, captain and so on.

Commander Maitland

I agree with almost everything which the hon. and gallant Member has said. I should like to make it clear, however, that a man who gets into that position has already had an opportunity of obtaining promotion at a very much earlier age through other schemes.

Commander Pursey

I accept that from my hon. and gallant Friend. We are going a long way together in this, and I hope that in a moment or two I shall be able to carry him a little bit further with me. Looking at the matter from the point of view of both the Service and the officer concerned, he is to be made a commissioned officer at the age of 26 or later; why not make him a commissioned officer at 21, or alternatively introduce some ante-dating method whereby previous service counts for promotion, which would put him on a par with his contemporaries for promotion? The warrant officer wishes to be given commissioned rank. If a rating is worthy of being promoted to officer rank, there can be no argument against his being given a commission instead of a warrant, so that he can then go on in the full stream of promotion.

The longer we go, the less becomes the difference in education and qualifications. In other words, the warrant officer of today, instead of being the old "salt-beef squire" of 50 years ago, who was in a different category from the pukka officer from Dartmouth, is fitted, by virtue of his technical training and education, to do all the duties of the commissioned officer. That is proved when it comes to a question of promoting a warrant officer direct to lieutenant without his having to serve as a sub-lieutenant. The only additional training which is required is a short course in navigation and signals. The only difference is that under the sub-lieutenant scheme of promotion, a man is given a commission and is then trained, whereas warrant officers have completed their training before they get their warrants.

My suggestion of a solution of all these problems is that the warrant officer should get the navigation and signals training, which he now gets as a warrant officer in the case of promotion to lieutenant, in the ordinary course of his training as a rating for promotion to warrant officer; and then, instead of being promoted to warrant rank, he should be promoted to commissioned rank. This would abolish all class distinctions. If a rating is worthy of being promoted to officer status and to enter the officers' mess, as he will do now, then he is worthy of the full status of an officer, and should be given a commission and the title of sub-lieutenant. He should then have a clear field and no favour. Ability should be the deciding factor, and he should have an opportunity to go straight through to flag rank, or to any other rank to which his ability can carry him.

4.55 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

On page 114 of the Estimates, I see that there is a sum of £8,372,000 specified for fuel lubricants and so on. I suggest that this is a very large sum to budget for this purpose at a time when there is so much discontent in the country about the loss of the basic fuel ration. I suggest to the Admiralty that instead of increasing this item, they should be prepared to make a substantial cut in order to help the home consumer. The Parliamentary Secretary, in reference to the future movements of the Fleet, which will mean the consumption of more fuel, said: I am glad to be able to inform the House that the Home Fleet will proceed on a cruise this autumn to the West Indies, leaving the United Kingdom towards the end of September and returning at the beginning of December in time for Christmas leave."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 805.] I should like to know whether these movements will mean an additional consumption of fuel as compared with the consumption envisaged in these Estimates. I strongly protest against the Fleet going on exercises to the West Indies at this time. I do not believe it is necessary for it to carry out its exercises in American waters. If hon. Members have followed the American Press, and especially the New York Press, they will see that there has been some disapproval and criticism of the Admiralty in sending the cruisers to Belize. One of the criticisms in the "New York Times," which was presumably speaking for a moderate public opinion in America and from a pro-British point of view, was that this is an outmoded 19th century gesture. I subscribe to that view.

I do not see that we are justified at the present time in carrying out exercises of this kind in the West Indies. I believe that it is a gesture of impotent Imperialism which will be resented in South America and in North America. I should be very much relieved if these exercises could take place, not in American waters but off Northern Ireland.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)

Is the hon. Member suggesting to the House that the Caribbean Sea is American waters, and that the West Indies are in American waters?

Mr. Hughes

I suggest that the ordinary student of geography would say that the Caribbean Sea was in American waters.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Does that not show complete ignorance of the facts of the case?

Mr. Hughes

I accept the correction of the hon. and gallant gentleman the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor). We have to remember, however, that other people have their own ideas about the Caribbean Sea. South America does not subscribe to the doctrine that the Lord God Almighty gave the Caribbean Sea to the British Empire.

Mr. Bracken

He certainly did not give it to Colonel Peron.

Mr. Hughes

To whomsoever He gave it, I suggest that the action of the British Government in sending the Fleet to exercise in the Caribbean Sea or in the Western Hemisphere, is a gesture, in spite of all the enthusiasm with which the announcement was greeted, which may be interpreted in a very different way by people with whom we wish to be in friendly relations. If this programme were abandoned, it would save a substantial amount of liquid fuel which is badly needed by the British consumer at the present time.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

The hon. Member is apparently in complete ignorance of the enthusiasm with which the British Fleet is always welcomed in whatever waters it goes, whether it is the Caribbean Sea, American waters or any other waters.

Mr. Hughes

I thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman for his interruption, but all I can say is that, judging from the Press reports coming from the Western hemisphere, people out there do not share in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's enthusiasm for the British Fleet.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

What awful nonsense.

Mr. Hughes

I need hardly say that what the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself says in this House sometimes seems awful nonsense to me, but I tolerate it, because I believe in toleration of the rival viewpoints of different people.

I would like to reinforce the plea which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) on the Committee stage about the naval aerodrome outside Ayr. This is a sore point in the West of Scotland, where people wish to know how long the Admiralty are to hold on to this aerodrome, thereby blocking the housing and industrial development of Ayr. The Parliamentary Secretary had not time to deal with the matter then, but I hope he will consider it now. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), and everybody in this area—no matter what their political opinions may be—are all agreed that the Admiralty should give the greatest possible consideration to removing the air squadrons which are stationed at this aerodrome. People are anxious that the development of their town should not be crippled. I am sure that in this matter the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington will cordially endorse what I have said.

5.2 p.m.

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

Last Monday we had a battle, during which the principal ship engaged was the battleship "Churchill." That battleship has now retired from action, somewhat battered after its contact with the battleship "Alexander," and the Opposition are now dependent entirely upon the light cruiser "Bournemouth," which has displayed its usual competence and agility.

I would like to answer some of the questions that have been put to me by the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken). Dealing with naval aviation, he complained that only 40 seconds had been devoted to this subject in the Estimates speech which I made to the Committee last week. I would like to remind him that naval aviation is now thoroughly integrated with the rest of the Navy. We do not have special parts of the speech to deal with destroyers or submarines, or some other part of the Navy's work; nor do we with naval aviation. I would mention, in passing, that the First Sea Lord designate was himself in naval battles in the Pacific, in which naval aviation played such a vitally important part. I was asked about the increase in civilians. There are various reasons for that increase. I can only pick out one or two at random, but I would remind the House, again, that we are spending a very large sum of money on research, much of which is carried out by civilians. We are spending, this year, £9 million, as against £700,000 prewar.

Mr. Bracken

The hon. Gentleman is not going to say that the Admiralty staff in Whitehall has practically doubled merely because it has been filled up with scientists. That will not wash.

Mr. Dugdale

I gave that as one example. I take more than one kind of soap to do my washing. I will give another example. We are, and have been, engaged in the process of demobilisation which, as every Member knows, involves a large amount of office work. When an establishment is closed, and the large mass of ordinary seamen and other uniformed men are sent away, a limited number of officers have to settle up and straighten things out. That applies to small establishments in any Service, and even more in the case of a whole Service, such as the Navy. When a great number of sailors leave the Navy, there are people who must remain behind to clear up. There is, for instance, the work of handing out civilian clothing, and looking into the question of ration arrangements. Then there is the question of derequisitioning, which requires a large staff. Fortunately, as buildings are being derequisitioned, that staff can be reduced. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that no one is more concerned that I am that this staff should be reduced. We have taken what steps we can to see that the staff is kept constantly under review and reduced whenever possible. We have effected very large reductions, and I hope we shall effect many more in future.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the installation of wiring on a housing estate as a waste of manpower. I do not consider it was a waste of manpower. I am glad that certain people in the Navy were able to instal that wiring and so help forward certain housing schemes which might otherwise not have gone ahead. The right hon. Gentleman referred to beauty spots, and complained of the condition in which certain buildings were left by naval personnel. Here, I am in a rather difficult position, because as one who served in the Army I now represent the Navy. I do not want to draw invidious comparisons, but I think I can say that the Navy did leave their buildings in tolerably good condition, perhaps not as good as some would like, but, nevertheless, in tolerably good condition.

Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)

Is the hon. Gentleman casting aspersions on the Army?

Mr. Dugdale

I was very careful to say, a few moments ago, that I was on delicate ground. I merely said that the Navy left their buildings in a tolerably good condition. I am sure that my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for War and Air will be able adequately to defend themselves in relation to those for whom they are responsible. The right hon. Member for Bournemouth discussed Bath at some length. I agree that Bath is perhaps the most beautiful city in England—I think it probably is—but I do not think he would maintain that the Navy had done any harm to the buildings in that city. I thought the right hon. Gentleman rather laboured the point about tourist traffic. The Admiralty took over about 70 buildings, of which 50 or more have already been derequisitioned. That is quite a good proportion. There are only 18 or 20 buildings now under requisition, including only four hotels. So far as I can see, eight or nine hotels have been derequisitioned and four remain. They include small hotels and big hotels. I think that on the whole that is a fairly tolerable record. I do not think that the loss of these four hotels even if permanent, which it is not, would mean that the entire tourist trade of Bath would be ruined.

Mr. Bracken

Surely, the hon. Gentleman does not assert that these four hotels contain the 5,200 Admiralty employees in Bath? The Admiralty own a lot of other buildings—boarding houses which could be used for tourist traffic, and which are now occupied by their beach mariners an8 civil servants.

Mr. Dugdale

I said that there were only four hotels and that there were approximately 20 buildings altogether left. A large number of the Admiralty staff, as I think the right hon. Gentleman himself mentioned, is in hutments outside Bath and others are temporarily in these 15 or 20 buildings, but I do not think that it can be said, as the Admiralty have given up eight or nine hotels, that it is strangling the tourist traffic of Bath. So far as the people of Bath are concerned, I think that the presence of Admiralty officials there may have been of some benefit to their trade. They may not bring in dollars, but they certainly bring in pounds.

The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of expenditure on travel. He said that there was vastly increased expenditure on travel, and he wanted to know the reasons for it. One of the reasons is that railway fares have gone up by some 55 per cent., as, indeed, has die price of many other items. I think that perhaps the most important reason, however, is that the Government, unlike Governments before the war, give three free return fares a year to their sailors. They did not get these three free return fares before, and naturally the issue of these free tickets puts up the cost of travelling as it appears in the Estimate. It is, however, a cost which we are very willing to bear. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mallalieu) asked about the buildings in which instruction is given. I agree with him as to the importance of these buildings being adequately constructed so that the instructors may have every possible facility. As he knows, many of these buildings are old. They had not been repaired during the war, and many of them had not been repaired for a long time before the war. It is difficult to see that they are kept in the state of repair in which we would like them to be, as much as he would. We will see, however, particularly after his speech, that they are not forgotten.

The hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) raised rather an obscure but none the less important point. The answer is briefly this: after the outbreak of war in 1939 it was decided that 25 per cent. bonuses should be paid to emergency list officers up to and including the rank of lieutenant-commander, but not to officers promoted to commander's rank or above after being called out. That was based on the fact that, although the Admiralty has power to alter conditions of service without notice and without recognition of vested rights, it has been usual, so far as we could, to defer the enforcement of non-beneficial changes until the officer's next promotion following the change.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Will the hon. Gentleman deal with this matter from the point of view of the regulation, which I gave today, under which these officers serve on the emergency list? It was in the contract that they were to receive full pay and 25 per cent. bonus.

Mr. Dugdale

There seems to be some doubt about the contract made. I will explain to the best of my ability the nature of the contract.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

This is very important.

Mr. Dugdale

I think perhaps that I might be allowed an odd sentence or two. I suggest that the continuance of the bonus to officers when promoted to lieutenant-commander is allowed as each promotion is automatic, but promotion to commander or captain, a promotion to which an officer on the emergency list has no vested claim, is not, and the bonus would, therefore, cease if an officer were promoted to those ranks.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

That is not in accordance with the regulations.

Mr. Dugdale

The particular officer to whom the hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring is claiming a 25 per cent. bonus for the period he is serving as acting captain. That is after promotion since being called out. He was promoted a commander before he was called out, but allowed to receive bonus while holding this rank because he was on the list before 1930. When he was promoted captain, and only then, the bonus ceased under the rules in force. That is our interpretation, and we consider it a good interpretation, of the rules. It is unfortunate that our interpretation does not agree with that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. We have looked at this matter in the most sympathetic manner, but that is the decision reached.

One of the questions asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) dealt with chaplains and doctors. He asked if their pay and conditions of service would be altered. It is not our intention to alter their pay or conditions of service. I cannot say more now because investigations are still proceeding, and until they are completed I cannot say what in fact will be the exact new set-up. It may be the same as now or it may be altered, but whatever happens to it their pay and conditions of service will not be altered.

Commander Maitland

Can the hon. Gentleman give the number of redundant officers in this respect?

Mr. Dugdale

The committee is now discussing what the future of this service will be, and I cannot anticipate what figures they will give. They may say that there will have to be fewer officers, or they may not. We realise to the full the services that have been given and are being given by chaplains, doctors and others, and we shall see that they do not suffer. More than that I cannot say now. I obviously cannot commit myself to saying that there will be a definite number now and a definite number hereafter. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that warrant officers had guided his footstetps. I am not clear where they guided them and whether it was on to the benches opposite; but wherever they guided them he is apparently satisfied with the concessions we are giving them.

Commander Maitland

I do not think much of them.

Mr. Dugdale

The hon. and gallant Gentleman may not think much of them, but they are concessions which give warrant officers something which was not given them by previous Governments which he supported. In fact, even though they do not give the warrant officers all they want, they give them something definitely more than they were given by previous Governments. That is something which he ought to realise. He said that he did not want the door to promotion closed. Nor do we. We want to see that every opportunity is given to every rank to get the highest possible promotion, and we have taken steps to see, as he knows, that, roughly speaking, something like 25 per cent. of those on the lower deck will get promotion to commissioned rank. That figure is not the exact one, but it is the figure we are reckoning on now. At any rate, it is certainly more than the prewar figure.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman then passed to the question of the repair of buildings. He said—using, perhaps, a rather curious phrase—that he hoped the buildings would not fall between two stools. That, I agree, would be somewhat unfortunate. We fully realise the difficulty that exists in getting these buildings repaired. I wish to make it perfectly clear that many of these buildings had not been repaired for years before the war, when there was an ample supply of material with which to repair them, and when there were men out of work. Those buildings should have been repaired many years ago; it is now our duty to repair them as best we can, at a time when there is a tremendous demand for both labour and material, which are in very short supply.

Mr. Bracken

Modernise, not repair.

Mr. Dugdale

I agree, modernise would be a better expression. We will certainly do everything we can to see that they are repaired as far as possible, but it is unfortunate that the modernisation which many of us would like to carry out cannot be done for reasons of which we are all aware.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) was very concerned about the expenditure on fuel. I am not certain, but I think he may have been under the misapprehension that our battleships burn coal.

Mr. Emrys Hughes


Mr. Dugdale

I thought he was worried that the shortage of coal was due to the fact that our battleships were using coal. I can assure him that that is not now the case. Dealing with the question of the use of oil, I most emphatically disagree with him. We consider it of the greatest importance that the Home Fleet should go on its cruise this autumn, and that the West Indies is a suitable place for that cruise. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that there are British subjects in the West Indies which have been threatened with attack, and threats have been made that British territory would be invaded. In those circumstances, it seems most suitable that British ships should go for a cruise in that part of the world.

The hon. Gentleman said that it was American territory. In a sense, it is part of the American hemisphere, but I think that even the President of the United States would agree that not all of it is American territory. Just as ships of the United States cruise in the Mediterranean with no protest from us so, I think, they will be quite agreeable to our ships cruising in the West Indies. I do not foresee receiving any protest from them on that score.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Could the hon. Gentleman give us the approximate costs of the exercises to be carried out in the West Indies?

Mr. Dugdale

I could not possibly give even the approximate costs without notice. I cannot even give the exact mileage they will cover. The costs no doubt, will be considerable, but I believe that they are perfectly justified. If the Navy decided that its Fleet was not to cruise, it would be most unjustifiable. Whatever the hon. Gentleman's views on the subject may be, I respect them. I know that he does not approve of any Fleet at all. However, whatever his views may be, I, as the Minister here responsible for the Fleet, say that it is the duty of the Fleet to go on that cruise, and that it is right that it should go on it. In that, I think I shall have the approval of all other hon. Members.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey) raised a number of points, but I do not think he required an answer from me. He dealt largely with the subject of warrant officers.

Mr. Bracken

Could the hon. Gentleman give me a promise that he will look into the question of when the Admiralty are willing to depart for good from Bath?

Mr. Dugdale

I will certainly look into that question. Obviously, I cannot give an assurance now, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that we fully realise the importance and the beauty of Bath, and that we have taken steps to de-requisition as many of its buildings as we can.

5.26 p.m.

Captain Marsden (Chertsey)

I apologise for not being in the Chamber earlier, but I wish to comment on one statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary. As regards the improvement in the position of warrant officers, he said that had been done by this Government and by no other Governments. [An HON. MEMBER "Quite true."] That is a very silly thing to say; it rather suggests that no other Government ever did anything at all. Other Governments have done far more for warrant officers than this Government has ever done. Their position has been enhanced and their status improved, chiefly by Conservative Governments. There is nobody on this side of the House who would not welcome the improvement of the position of the warrant officers. Whether they would prefer the wardroom mess to the very happy, comfortable surroundings of a warrant officers' mess remains to be seen. A great number will not. Do not let us have it on record that this Government have done something which no Conservative Government have ever done, because the greatest good done for warrant officers has been done not by this Government, but by Conservative Governments.

About the West Indies cruise, I am sure that everybody is glad that is being undertaken. What is bothering the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is, I believe, that he thinks the Duke of Edinburgh is going on it.

Commander Pursey

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman give the House some idea of the concessions which a Conservative Government ever granted to the warrant officers? The main concessions given to warrant officers came from a Liberal Government; they received practically nothing from Conservative Governments in the years between the wars.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)

I cannot allow that question to be answered.