HC Deb 22 November 1948 vol 458 cc928-51

6.15 p.m.

Sir R. Ross

I beg to move, in page 3, line 14, to leave out the first "and."

The Deputy-Chairman

Perhaps the next two Amendments in the name of the hon. Member: in line 14, after "war," insert: and officers and other ranks of the Maritime Regiment, Royal Artillery, and in line 14, after "war," insert: and naval ranks and ratings and officers and other ranks of the Royal Marines serving in merchant ships"; and the Amendment in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton): in line 33, after "service," insert: or who were serving in the Anti-Aircraft (Maritime) Regiment, Royal Artillery, on such ship or vessel, might also be discussed, with, if hon. Gentlemen desire it, separate Divisions.

Sir R. Ross

The first Amendment is a drafting Amendment consequential on the next two. The second one deals with inclusion of officers and other ranks of the Maritime Regiment, Royal Artillery, within the benefits of the Bill. The third seeks to include naval ranks and ratings and officers and other ranks of the Royal Marines serving in merchant ships.

The most illogical thing in this Bill has been the exclusion of those who served in convoys as combatants because their position was distinguishable from that of the merchant seamen. I would not say that the financial reward of the merchant seamen was in any degree excessive, but they were getting very much more money than the men who manned the guns, whether they were Maritime Regiment, R.A., or naval ratings. The merchant seamen were getting a considerable bonus, whereas the Service personnel in the ships were not. The Maritime Regiment, R.A., were really only soldiers as a matter of administrative convenience. I am glad to see that an Amendment to the same effect is down in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton).

It is ridiculous that because at that period of the war it was more convenient to send soldiers to sea to perform functions which normally fell to the lot of sailors, they should be excluded from the benefits of the Prize Fund. They were in a very special category. Anyone who had to deal with matters of compassionate leave, with which I was concerned at one time, knew that the Maritime Regiment, R.A., were under particular difficulties in that respect. They had always to be available when their ships sailed and were in as great peril as any seaman employed in the Royal Navy. They were doing as much to win the war as any seaman performing a similar function.

The representatives of the Admiralty will probably find some argument in precedent which they will bring up, or they will try to get it both ways. There are many such cases. For instance, in the eighteenth century Admiral Matthews was cashiered for breaking the line to attack the enemy and shortly afterwards Admiral Byng was shot for not doing such a thing. The Admiralty had it both ways. In this case they have not kept pace with the times. In the 1914–18 war the manning of convoy's defensive armaments had not reached the same stage of development as it did in the last war; it was not of the same importance.

When one thinks of a convoy under attack, whether it be crossing the Atlantic in the days of the "wolf-packs"—U-boats—or going to the help of the Soviet forces through the Arctic Seas where a very short immersion in the water meant death, it is fantastic that naval ratings and their comrades in the Maritime Regiment, R.A., should be excluded from the advantages of any Bill or fund to benefit those who fought at sea. Their contribution was as great as anyone's contribution. No distinction can be made between the man fighting a gun in a merchant ship and a man fighting a gun in a much less vulnerable escort vessel with the same convoy. The only difference was that the man in the merchant ship was in the target ship. It may have been loaded with something which was particularly unpleasant, from his point of view, if it was hit. It may have carried high-octane petrol or explosives, as frequently was the case. Numerous ships loaded with explosives went up on being hit by a torpedo and all on board were killed instantly. A good many naval ranks and ratings and members of the Maritime Regiment, R.A., were in this category.

Convoy commodores also come into this category. I have not the slightest hesitation in supporting their case. Generally, they were old men of distinguished service who had every excuse for staying at home and acting as, say, air-raid wardens, or in a similar capacity. But they went to sea and many of them lost their lives in giving gallant service to their country right to the very end. They had already had a pretty raw deal, not from this Government but from its predecessor, in being given not the pension due to their own rank, but only that of a commodore. I expect that when these men went down with their ships, their last thoughts were of their widows.

They and all the humbler ranks—the signalmen and the men who manned the guns in the convoys—are to be excluded from the benefits of the Bill. Why? I have listened with attention to the Parliamentary Secretary upon this point but, so far as I know, the only argument yet adduced is that there would not be enough money, that the sums would be decreased by so much. Is that any reason for being unjust? I cannot see that it is. Is it only a matter of Admiralty convenience, that they cannot be bothered to divide up the sum any further? These men fought the convoys through, probably, the greatest dangers that ships ever faced—torpedoes, aircraft, and mines of a very much more dangerous type than ever before—yet those ships were taken through, and on them were not only the merchant seamen who were having an addition to their pay for these special risks but men who were getting far less money—those who were fighting with the guns and taking the signals. It is a gross injustice if these men are excluded for, apparently, the most technical of reasons.

Up to the present we have had no argument for taking these men out of the class which is supposed to have done most to win the war at sea. We must remember that it is not only a question of money. They will have the feeling that, for some reason, their services have been thought inferior in quality to the service of those who get money through the prize award. This is a very important matter to consider. I have seldom heard of any decision so grotesque as that which up to the present appears in the Bill, to exclude the men who, of all others, were the targets of the war at sea, the men who went to sea on what were practically potential volcanoes. That they should be excluded is an outrage. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, having had a little time since the Second Reading to consider this matter, will realise that it is quite impossible, with any justice, to exclude these people.

Lieut-Commander Braithwaite

At the outset, may I say to the Committee that I stand to gain no financial benefit if any of these Amendments should be carried. I wish to support very strongly my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross). This group of Amendments seeks broadly to bring into the distribution naval personnel who fought under the Red Ensign as opposed to those who fought in His Majesty's ships. I will speak first about the commodores of convoys. The word suggests an exalted rank and, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, a number of these gentlemen were retired admirals—all honour to them for their splendid achievements. But very many commodores of convoys were Royal Naval Reserve officers holding the rank of commander and lieut.-commander. They were selected for those duties because they were particularly suitable, being normally employed in peace time in the Merchant Navy. They were able at once to establish friendly relations with the officers and crews of the ships in which they sailed. Let me give one example to underline my point. At the base from which I sailed, out of 32 convoy commodores 28 had never held command at all. This fact emphasises that many of them were quite junior men, whose task was particularly exacting.

Small coastal convoys, sailing from the Thames to the Tyne, through E-boat Alley, and slow convoys from the Thames to Southampton, through the Straits of Dover and Hell Fire Corner, comprised, mostly, colliers, many of them ships known as "flat-irons," which hon. Members often can see from the terrace here making their way up the river; very often the average speed of those convoys was no more than five or six knots. I accompanied them on one or two occasions and can tell the Committee that in a voyage of 56 hours the commodore invariably had to spend 53 hours on the bridge. One such officer, who had previously commanded a frigate escorting Atlantic convoys and was later appointed as a coastal commodore, told me that the latter task was an infinitely greater strain to him than when he was sailing under the White Ensign.

The same argument, of course, applies to the commodore's staff of signalmen—watch-keeping in exactly the same conditions as their comrades in the escorting destroyers or frigates—D.E.M.S. gunners, radar operators, telegraphists and the Maritime Regiment. All of them operated under exactly similar conditions as if they had been in His Majesty's ships and suffered casualties just as severe. Surely, the Government is not going to exclude them from this distribution, and surely it is not going to exclude their next-of-kin from the welcome concession announced by the Parliamentary Secretary a short time ago.

I am not going to address myself to the Parliamentary Secretary on this matter. He, after all, is the "Pinafore" Minister of the party. I am going to address myself to the Civil Lord, because I know—if I might have the hon. Gentleman's attention for a moment—that the Civil Lord has seen much active service escorting what we called the Russian convoys and will, surely, endorse the truth of what I have been saying about the men who manned the merchant ships in those Arctic hazards and the Battle of the Atlantic. Whether signalmen, gunners, telegraphists or the like, their case is on all fours with that of men serving under the White Ensign as regards the duties they performed and the perils they endured.

I should like to read to the Committee two letters which have reached me on this subject. The first is from a gentleman who was a commander, R.N.R., who acted as commodore of over 100 coastal convoys. I should be grateful if the Minister could give me his attention, for this is rather an important point. I am sure the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy) will not mind my bringing this to the attention of the hon. Gentleman. This gentleman who conducted over 100 coastal convoys, writes: I have noted that among many of the officers and ratings ineligible for prize money are the commodores of convoys and their staffs. This unjust and deplorable ruling urges me to express my deep resentment at the principle of the treatment meted out to many officers and men worthy of more consideration. The money, or the loss of it, will mean a lot to many chaps who did a good job of work. I feel so strongly about it that I am seriously considering the return of the decorations awarded to me for convoy work. That is what the commodore thinks about it.

Now, a leading signalman, who spent a great deal of time in exactly similar conditions. He writes: The information regarding the Prize Bill is somewhat disturbing and, I consider, grossly unfair. You know, only too well, of the work done by the men in question. I feel it is a disgrace that these chaps should suffer by omission. Then comes a very good point: Many of the Convoy Signal Staffs, D.E.M.S. and M.A.A. have actually been put aboard prize ships to deliver them safely to the Allies. What are the Admiralty going to do about that?

6.30 p.m.

May I deal with the chief reason for the resistance to this proposal? There is so little to distribute, say the Government. What on earth has become of the Socialist slogan "Fair shares for all"? What has happened to it? Whenever irksome controls are to be put on and regulations imposed, are we not told that the reason is that there must be fair shares for all and that if there is a small cake it should be divided as equally as possible? Have the Admiralty departed from this principle, or is it only for trade unionists, and our righting men are excluded from the formula? I think we ought to be told by one of the Ministers before we pass from this Amendment.

I hope the Government will yield to these unanswerable arguments. I am sure the Civil Lord will be the first to appreciate that the men who are included in this group of Amendments are in exactly the same category as those who served on His Majesty's ships—many more so, because it is possible to serve in one of His Majesty's ships, swing round a hook for months and count that as sea time. I hope the Government will reconsider this important matter and yield to our plea. If not, I hope that my hon. Friends will see that it is subjected to the acid test of a Division.

Lieut-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)

I quite appreciate that the Admiralty are not anxious to widen the scope of distribution unduly, because, by doing so, we might be creating even more unjustifiable anomalies than exist at present. I am even prepared to accept the argument that if we failed to make some distinction between Service personnel in the strict definition of the term and other persons engaged in a civilian capacity, we might find ourselves in difficulties. Nevertheless, I cannot see how the exclusion of personnel of the Maritime Regiment can be justified. I must confess that I find myself in complete agreement with the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) in this regard.

It may be argued that various categories of loyal citizens who did magnificent service during the war in their civilian capacity are unfortunate as they did not happen to be embodied, or placed in uniform, or did not happen to take the King's shilling, but, in the case of the Maritime Regiment, I do not think it an exaggeration to say that it is purely an administrative fluke that they happened to be Army personnel at all. They might just as easily have been naval personnel, with naval pay. Just because this comparatively small number of men happened to be in khaki and drew Army rates of pay when subsequently they were directly involved in naval operations, I cannot see how their exclusion can possibly be justified.

I hope my hon. Friend, even if he cannot stretch a point for the many worthy cases of civilian personnel or naval personnel described by the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut-Commander Gurney Braithwaite) as having served under the Red Ensign, will be able to reconsider these men who were actually embodied in the Armed Forces of the Crown. At least he should not let it be thrown up against him that there was a section of personnel serving in the Armed Forces of the Crown engaged in naval operations who, by virtue of their Service, were excluded. Whatever other concession my hon. Friend finds it necessary to reject, I hope he will not reject this one.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will pay attention to the speech we have just heard from the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), one of his supporters. I strongly support what has been said about the commodores and ratings who served in the convoys and the men employed in the merchant ships as gun crews. There cannot be the slightest doubt in the mind of the Parliamentary Secretary that these men carried out far more sea service than most of the naval officers and men, and it was under most dangerous and exacting conditions. I imagine that the reason why they have been left out is the scarcity of money.

Mr. W. Edwardsindicated dissent.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

The Civil Lord shakes his head, but we are always getting back to the scarcity of money. What is the reason? Is it because the Government do not consider these officers and men were worthy of receiving prize money? Under Clause 4 it can be paid if the Admiralty wish to pay it. What is the reason they are excluded? I hope we shall be told.

If it is not scarcity of money, what is the reason? It cannot be that their services were not so great, or well understood, or well appreciated by the Admiralty. Were their services not appreciated? As has been shown by the two letters read by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite), it will cause grave discontent to the men who were engaged in this perilous work. It is a scandal that they should be excluded. I wish to reinforce what has been said about those who have lost their lives, and to remind the Government that many commodores who lost their lives only received the pay of commodores R.N.R. I presume their widows would receive nothing. That is a disgrace. That many of the widows of these officers who were carrying out very dangerous convoy work are to receive nothing, the Government think is just and right, but I think it a monstrous thing and I heartily support the Amendment, which has been so ably moved.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu (Huddersfield)

I hope the Parliamentary Secretary and the Civil Lord will look at the whole question again. I especially appreciated the way in which the Amendment was moved by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross). He did so not on the niceties of legal definition, but on broad common justice. I wish to reinforce that plea for common justice with a small personal sentimental point. Several hon. Members have mentioned the Russian convoys. I had an experience with those convoys and remember one occasion when, seven or eight days out, our destroyer was sent alongside a merchant packet to pick up a couple of men who had been hit by tracers. We took them aboard and transferred them to the cruiser. I had the handling of the stretchers on which they laid. Both belonged to the Maritime Regiment. One had a tracer through his stomach and died about four hours later and the other lived, but without either of his hands.

If there were no other reasons, I should never give my vote in this House against the man who lived or the dependants of the man who died receiving some slight recognition of the dangers they ran. They did run much bigger dangers than they would have run in many vessels of the Royal Navy. Many of us have seen those vessels hit and vanish in smoke. It would be scandalous if we were to exclude the men who ran that danger and gave such great service from the rewards, such as they are, which are being given in this Bill to others who include some who spent months swinging round a buoy in a battle wagon.

Captain Marsden

We have heard from both sides of the Committee support for this Amendment by Members who have had great experience of this subject. To no one is it closer than it is to me. If we do not concede to these men what is their due, they will feel that the Admiralty has broken faith with them. The Admiralty has broken faith with them before, but I am afraid that they will also think that I have broken faith with them. At the beginning of the D.E.M.S. we had to persuade these men that they were in the Royal Navy whether they were serving in a small ship or in the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief. Had they been in the latter, they would have been much more comfortable and safer. They went in any ship to which they were sent. My remarks cover the commodores of convoys and their staffs and the Maritime Regiment. We were all in it together. We had to get these men, train them, put enthusiasm and esprit de corps into them. Generally speaking, that was done by quite junior officers at the Admiralty, commanders with the acting rank of captain. I wonder whether the D.E.M.S. are left out because they have no senior officers at the Admiralty to plead their case?

We have heard of the Russian convoys. Any bookmaker in the country would have given odds of five to one against any of these men coming out alive and on the majority of their ships being sunk. These men went to sea. They never quailed at their tasks. We had little East Coast convoys. So tense was the action, so short were we of men, that we actually had a shuttle service. Men had to be taken off a ship at Southend and transferred to another one to go as far as Southampton and back. Guns were so short that in the case of their small antiaircraft guns the men took them with them. They were practically always under fire.

Now we are asked to say that they must not have their share of the prize money. Yet they were under the Naval Discipline Act and borne on the ship's books on H.M.S. President III. But because they were not sent in what is described as an offensive ship but only in a defensive ship, they are to get no prize money. The enemy were not after the offensive ships; they were the one type which they wished to avoid. They were chasing after the defensive ships. They were the whole target and object at which the enemy were aiming, and we are asked to exclude the men we are talking about.

6.45 p.m.

Let me quote another example which remains vivid in my mind—Malta, which was given the George Cross, Malta which was just on the verge of collapse and was saved by the Merchant Navy plus the D.E.M.S. I remember that one last oil tanker. If she had not got there, Malta would probably have surrendered. I remember her going in, badly hit, down by the bows and just getting in. An award was made to the captain and I believe the chief officer got something. Malta got the George Cross; the D.E.M.S. ratings nothing at all. Now is our chance, and we are missing it.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will get out of his head any idea that it is the amount of money concerned in which these men are interested. That has nothing to do with it; it is the recognition which they want. They were part of the Royal Navy and did their job, and they did it well. So far as I know, the total amount of money involved would be in the neighbourhood of £300,000. The D.E.M.S.—the figures can be checked—totalled about 37,000 and the Maritime Regiment about 10,000. If they received £6, £5, £4 or £3 they would not care a bit. They would be glad not for the money but for the recognition given to them for their services.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will accede to the demand which has been made equally from both sides of the Committee. We have already been told that the next-of-kin or the legatees of those killed in action in the Regular Navy and who are qualified, will receive their share. It is within the competence of the Admiralty to make this award under the terms of the Proclamation, so if the Parliamentary Secretary cannot make a declaration on that point now, I hope he will do so at a later date. I have always put my faith in the Civil Lord. He comes from the Navy; he comes from the lower deck. I am indeed sorry to think that he is slipping. Three years ago he had the broad good commonsense of the lower deck, which I fear is now being gradually submerged by all the jargon and routine of the Civil Service. If the Civil Lord had heard the eulogies upon his appointment by high officers of the Navy when he was first appointed he would have blushed, that is, if a first-class stoker can ever blush—it has never yet been thoroughly explored.

But seriously, and I am very serious, I feel more deeply about this subject than I have felt about any subject upon which I have spoken in this House. These are the men I know and with whom I have served; these are the men I have trained. If the Admiralty let them down now I shall be very unhappy.

Mr. Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

I rose because, although I feel that the eulogies of the Navy are well justified, and I take not the slightest exception to what has been said about the personnel of the Service—it is very true that too much cannot be said—I feel that the Merchant Navy has been forgotten in this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I take exception to the observation made by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) that the Merchant Navy were paid for the danger. It is principally because of that remark that I have risen. I realise that in matters like this it is difficult to know where to start and end, but I would say that every member of the Merchant Navy is entitled to consideration. They all shared the dangers. As one who comes from Liverpool, and who was concerned with the subject, and who saw many of the naval personnel in the convoys, I know a little about the matter. I would remind the Committee that the Merchant Navy were not paid——

The Chairman

I am afraid the hon. Members is out of Order. The members of the Merchant Navy are not concerned.

Mr. Keenan

I was referring, Major Milner, to the remark of the hon. Member for Londonderry that the men for whom he was now pleading were only paid the ordinary nominal Service rates and that they shared the dangers in Merchant Navy ships with men who were paid danger money. The danger money of £10 which those men got was only the equivalent of wages, and they were never really paid for the risks they undertook.

Commander Maitland

The point which the hon. Gentleman for Kirkdale (Mr. Keenan) has raised can be dealt with as a fact. I can only say that there was a feeling of enormous admiration for the men of the Merchant Navy, but one realised that they were paid a great deal more than we were. I wish to make one point. It seems to me that something turns here on whether a man is in an offensively armed ship or a defensively armed ship, and I am wondering if I can help by making the following suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary. He and the Committee know that the definition of a defensively armed merchant ship is most carefully worked out and thought out in International Law.

One of the curious factors which make a ship a defensively armed merchant ship, is that she must have no gun which fires before the beam. That is a fact, and at the beginning of the war when we re-equipped merchant ships, we had to equip them for defensive purposes and they were not allowed to have a gun which fired before the beam. As the war went on, with aircraft attacks and various other attacks, those restrictions, as the hon. Gentleman knows, went by the board. I believe that in International Law they were offensively armed ships. If that could be upheld, the whole difficulty would be solved and these men might be paid like anybody else.

Mr. Levy

I should like very briefly to add my support to this group of Amendments. It does seem to me that anybody who has been listening to this discussion must feel that the whole weight of logic, sentiment and ordinary rough, decent justice is in favour of including these men. I do not wish to add to the list of personal illustrations, but one of the convoy routes which the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) mentioned was one on which, as it happened, I myself served in a very humble capacity. As he spoke, it went through my mind that it was surely quite fantastic, that I, as an ordinary seaman in the convoy, should be entitled, under this Bill, to receive a sum and an award to which the commodore of the convoy would not be entitled.

I am at a loss to anticipate exactly what answer my hon. Friend may give and what arguments he may advance. It may be that the principle which has decided him is that these men when they joined had no particular expectation of prize money. That may be the dividing line. The matter is a very difficult and arguable one. The whole of this subject is one of great complexity and intricacy of detail and that is why I, personally, am sorry he could not find it possible to accept the Amendment for a Select Committee. But as he has not done so, may I suggest that he may have some obligation to look upon these Amendments with particular sympathy and realise that in default of a Select Committee, it must be open to this House to discuss very fully and thoroughly Amendments of this kind.

Mr. Dugdale

It would be as well if at the outset I made clear the reasons which have made the Admiralty think that it may be better if these men were excluded. It is not for some of the reasons which have been adduced by hon. Members. There is no question as to their bravery. No one says for a moment that these men are not brave. But there are other men, equally brave, who do not get this award. Let me give as one example a naval airman who may be shore based at a naval air station, and may do very gallant work indeed. But he is shore based, and does not get it. Another case is that of the man, also in a shore establishment, engaged in bomb disposal work. Those people are very brave indeed. It is not suggested that this particular class we are considering, the Maritime Regiment and the D.E.M.S., are any braver. It is not questioned that they have not undergone great strain and have been exceedingly brave.

With regard to the gentleman who wrote to the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) and who said he would return his medals if he did not get this award, I hope that this explanation will at least reassure him that we are not in any way maintaining that his action is not the bravest and finest action. The hon. and gallant Member for Holderness also raised the question of one of the men who had written to him and said that he had been put on board a prize ship. Here I come to the main point, which is that that man did not capture the ship. He was not in any way in a position in which he could, and the dividing line we have made is that the people entitled to the award shall be in a ship of war, which is a ship which might be supposed to be able to capture other ships.

I agree that in arguments of this nature it is difficult to maintain that every possible ship of war might have captured another ship. Some ships of war might not have been anywhere near the scene. But the theory is that a ship of war can capture another ship and a merchant ship cannot, and that people in a ship of war are, therefore, entitled to the prize money.

Vice-Admiral Taylorrose——

Mr. Dugdale

I would ask that I might continue. The hon. and gallant Member has already spoken.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

May I ask——

Mr. Dugdale

I would like to continue my argument. Another question that was raised by hon. Members was, is it because there is too little money in the "kitty? "I would say definitely that it is not. The reason is the one I have given—that these men were not in ships of war. That is the dividing line that has been taken.

Having said that I will add this, and I think it is a point that should interest hon. Members who have maintained that a Select Committee is the best place for discussing this matter. I have listened to the arguments put forward from all quarters of the Committee and I realise that there is considerable feeling on this matter. I can see the force of that feeling. I have given the reasons which have persuaded the Admiralty that in fact our division was the best division—ships of war, or not ships of war. But I can see that there is a case on the other side. That being so I am perfectly prepared, while I cannot accept the Amendments as they stand, to consult my noble Friend and see whether it is possible to have an Amendment with this object in view introduced in another place. [HON. MEMBERS: "On Report stage."] The Report stage comes tonight and I think it would be much more convenient if the Amendment could be brought in, not on Report stage, but in another place. I think hon. Members will agree that that is a very reasonable suggestion which makes a very considerable concession.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

The hon. Gentleman has said, in view of the expressions of opinion from all parts of the Committee, that he will ask his noble Friend to consider this matter. That we welcome as an invitation, but it leaves us in this position. We in this Committee are being asked to pass this Measure without these categories being included. I do not think that we in this House of Commons, in Committee, would be right to pass this Bill, and give up the power of exercising further influence upon the hon. Gentleman, merely upon the assurance that he will ask his noble Friend to consider this matter. I do not wish to put him in a difficulty in view of what he has said, but, at the same time, I think we ought to know what is the position before we pass from this point, or the Bill leaves this House. Some of us feel very strongly upon this matter and would not rest content merely with an assurance of that kind. I understand that if time permits we are to take the Report stage, if there is one, and the Third Reading of this Bill to-day.

7.0 p.m.

It might be convenient to adjourn this Committee stage until we know where we stand. The Parliamentary Secretary has really said nothing more than that he will ask his noble Friend to reconsider the matter. The answer of his noble Friend may be that he will not do anything about it, in which case we shall have given up all the power we have to do something about it. I was interested by the hon. Gentleman's argu- ment. It seemed to be remarkably thin in character. He said there was no question of bravery, and then he sought to compare the bravery of these individuals with the bravery of those serving on land. No one has sought to distinguish on the grounds of bravery between those entitled to receive prize money and those who are not. The fact is that here we have people in the Navy serving afloat under the Naval Discipline Act and one man gets his prize money because he is sent to a warship and the other is deprived of it because he is sent to a merchant vessel.

The hon. Gentleman's answer to the powerful speeches made from both sides of the Committee was most unsatisfactory. He told us today that it was not merely on financial grounds that this Amendment was opposed. But on Second Reading the Civil Lord said: Because of the small amount of money at our disposal we had to lay down careful regulations concerning the qualifications for prize money. In the same paragraph he dealt with D.E.M.S. and the Maritime Regiment. That was the basis——

Mr. W. Edwards

Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to explain that the first sentence to which he has referred dealt with the qualifying period of six months and not with the question of the D.E.M.S.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I would willingly read out the whole paragraph but those who wish to refer to it can find it in Column 1935 in HANSARD. Then the hon. Gentleman said: There are many others outside the categories laid down in the Bill who could be added, besides the D.E.M.S. and the Maritime Regiment. He was questioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) and by me, and finally he said: There are many civilian bodies, attached to the Navy, which carried out certain work during the war … Those connected with salvage, boom, wreck dispersal and wireless work.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 1935.] No one has suggested that those civilians are at all in the same position as naval ratings in the Navy serving on merchant ships. It would be interesting to know—and surely the hon. Gentleman could tell us—what would be the financial cost involved. How much bigger would the Prize Fund have to be to meet the claims of all these individuals? Putting it another way, how much would the effect of their inclusion reduce the amounts receivable by those who are qualified? I do not believe that the sum would be large. If the hon. Gentleman could only think again, I believe that that sum could be secured from other sources without diminishing the scales already proposed.

I come back to the point on which I started. I suggest that we cannot leave this matter where it stands at present. It is not enough on a serious matter of this sort, with the interests of so many affected, merely to say, "I will ask my noble Friend and I hope that perhaps something may be possible to be done in another place." I do not wish to hold up the proceedings, but I suggest that the hon. Gentleman might think out some way whereby, perhaps at a later stage, we could come back to this Clause and he could give some more definite information upon it.

Mr. Dugdale

I really think that I have made a most reasonable suggestion. I am sure that my hon. Friends will realise that when I say that I will ask my noble Friend to consider, in the light of the views expressed in this Committee, whether it is not desirable for an Amendment to be introduced in another place to include these men, I am making a plain statement. It means exactly what it says. I think that hon. Members, knowing that my noble Friend has himself served in this House for many years, and knowing that he appreciates fully what weight to give to the opinion of hon. Members, will be confident that he will take that into account. I have no doubt that in due course the result will be what hon. Members have requested. I think that will undoubtedly be so, but it is obviously impossible for me to commit my noble Friend from this Box. In the circumstances, I have done the best that can be done. I have agreed that I shall ask my noble Friend to introduce this Amendment. I know that my hon. Friend the Civil Lord will support me in what I have said.

Mr. Bracken

The Parliamentary Secretary has told us that he has no doubt whatever that the point of view expressed by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) and several other Members of his party, reinforced by the points of view expressed by my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee, will be acceptable to the First Lord. I am very glad to hear that he has no doubt about it.

Mr. Dugdale

I think the word I used was "undoubtedly."

Mr. Bracken

Really, this is a quibble—the difference between, "I have no doubt" and "undoubtedly." Sometimes when I look at the hon. Gentleman I wish that he would take that enamelled sneer off his face and remember the sacrifices—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Not a bit. I will not withdraw anything. I wish he would remember the sacrifices made by the seamen who helped to save him in the war.

Mr. Levy

While the right hon. Gentleman is taking, on so little provocation and so unaccustomedly, such a high moral tone, he might perhaps at the same time think it wise to fulfil the rest of the quotation that he made from my hon. Friend who went on specifically to say that he was not in a position to commit his noble Friend.

Mr. Bracken

That is our dilemma. The Parliamentary Secretary says, "I have no doubt that he will accept the point of view put forward by bon. Gentlemen on both sides of this Committee." A sentence or two later he tells us that he cannot commit the Admiralty. This is an impossible situation. On the one hand, he says that he has no doubt that our wishes will be fulfilled, and later he qualifies and destroys the validity of that statement by saying that he cannot commit the Admiralty. How can he expect us to accept his strange reassurances? The hon. Gentleman is trying to placate his supporters behind him. He says to them that he has no doubt that he can accept their point of view but, on being questioned from this side of the Committee, he says that he cannot commit the Admiralty. He has given us no assurance at all.

If the hon. Gentleman cannot give us a clear statement of where he stands—and I suggest that the Civil Lord would be a much better personage in every way to answer us—if he cannot give us a clear answer, we cannot allow this issue to pass on this double-barrelled assurance that, on the one hand, the Parliamentary Secretary can give us what we want and, on the other hand, that he is not in a position to fulfil our request without consulting with the First Lord. If we cannot get anything better than that, we shall certainly vote against this Clause.

Lieut. - Commander Braithwaite

I should like to make one appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary. [Interruption.] I am not addressing the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Mellish). He can reserve himself for "The Week in Westminster." The hon. Gentleman has told us—and we were very glad to hear him say it—that this matter is now to be reconsidered and that he will place it before his noble Friend. He appeared to take some simple comfort from the fact that noble Lords in another place would be able to put this matter right. I suggest to the Government that this is essentially a House of Commons job, and that this matter should be put right by this House. I suggest that it can be done on the Report stage of this Bill. All that the hon. Gentleman has to do is to postpone the Report stage and the Third Reading for a week—and he has been long enough in bringing the Bill in—while the matter is put right in the House of Commons.

The hon. Gentleman has told us that he cannot guarantee that his noble Friend will agree to what has been suggested. We are all elected people, responsible to our constituents, and, for my own part, I am not prepared to leave this question to another place, without going on record as having stated that this matter is important and ought to be brought within the ambit of prize money. After all, the shadows of a General Election are slowly approaching, and all hon. Members are likely to be questioned upon this point. If the Socialist Government says, "We would not do it, but the House of Lords will put it right," all well and good, but I should prefer the House of Commons to do it.

Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)

This really is a matter on which the Committee is in some difficulty. In a matter as grave as this, it is a big decision to take. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree. I do not think it is right that we should allow three stages of this Bill to go through, before we see how the Bill is going to be amended. It is not a drafting matter at all. What is proposed by the Government is that we should allow the Committee stage, the Report stage, and the Third Reading to go through, and then wait to see what is done in another place and considering Amendments when they come to us from another place.

If this was a perfectly simple matter, there might be something to be said for that. I do not think it is quite so simple, and I suggest that the Financial Secretary should consider the matter from the procedural point of view, quite irrespective of the merits of the Bill itself. It is not that anybody wants to delay the consideration of the necessary Amendments by another place; all of us would wish to accelerate it. To allow the three stages of this Bill to go through simply on an undertaking that something is to be done in another place, does not seem to me to be wise or in accordance with the best practice and procedure of this House.

The Chairman

I do not think we can have a long discussion of this nature. We must deal with the Bill as it stands.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I was endeavouring to deal with the Bill as it stands, and I was desirous of throwing a little oil on the troubled waters by making a further suggestion. The position is that this House is being asked to pass all stages of this Bill today. I see that the Patronage Secretary is here, and, if he could say that the Report stage of the Bill can be taken at another time, so that the hon. Gentleman can table his Amendment, we should have the matter resolved beyond doubt. We could pass from it today without any further discussion upon it, since there is plenty of business for this Committee to deal with today. I suggest that this is a way out of the difficulty, and I leave it to the hon. Gentleman whether he accepts the suggestion or not. If he does not, we shall then see quite clearly what is meant by his undertaking.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Whiteley)

Personally, I do not see the difficulty that is supposed to have arisen. The Parliamentary Secretary has made a very clear statement, and I think the Committee ought to appreciate the position which he has put so clearly. On the other point, I do not see that it arises at all. This Business was announced last Thursday, and my hon. Friend has promised that he will consult his noble Friend in another place with a view to putting down an Amendment to meet the wishes of the Committee. I think the Committee ought to accept that.

Commander Noble

May I ask why it is necessary to go through the remaining stages of this Bill on the same day as the Committee stage? It would seem that, if the Report stage is not to be taken, it is not very much good trying to amend the Bill in Committee. All these Amendments might well have been accepted, but where would we have been then?

7.15 p.m.

Sir R. Ross

I am very anxious to be able to feel that I can withdraw the Amendment with complete assurance, but I do look upon this as a serious matter. I have probably got a good deal more respect for another place than some hon. Members opposite, but this is so essentially a House of Commons matter that it ought to be settled here. I wonder whether the Government cannot reconsider the suggestion to take the Report stage on another day, because the practice of taking all stages of a Bill on one day has generally been associated with Bills on which there has been very little contention. Although the general prin-

ciple of this Bill has been accepted by all, there have been many matters of acute non-party contention and discussion on what is the best thing to be done.

We have now come to one of the most important features of the whole Bill, and I make an appeal to the Patronage Secretary. Every Patronage Secretary I have ever known since I have been in this House—and that is now quite a long time—has always been extremely reluctant to upset the pattern for weeks or months ahead, but I do not think this suggestion would upset it very much. I think the Report stage and Third Reading, which should be very short, should be taken on (another occasion, and I believe that that is really the proper way for the machinery of Parliament to function. Previously, when we have agreed to taking three stages of a Bill on one day, it has been because it has not been contentious, but this is not that kind of a Bill. Unless it is possible for the Patronage Secretary to make that concession that we should take the Report stage on another day, I do not think it would be proper for me to withdraw the Amendment, although I am very anxious to do so.

Question put, "That the word and stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 189; Noes, 84.

Division No. 14.] AYES [7.19 p.m.
Albu, A. H. Cocks, F. S. Guy, W. H.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Coldrick, W. Hale, Leslie
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Collick, P. Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.
Alpass, J. H. Collins, V. J. Harnison, J.
Attewell, H. C. Colman, Miss G. M. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)
Ayles, W. H. Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. Hewitson, Capt. M.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Cove, W. G. Hobson, C. R.
Bacon, Miss A. Crossman, R. H. S. Holman, P.
Balfour, A. Daggar, G. Horabin, T. L.
Barstow, P. G. Daines, P. Hoy, J.
Barton, C. Davies, Edward (Burslem) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)
Battley, J. R. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)
Bechervaise, A. E. Deer, G. Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)
Benson, G. Diamond, J. Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)
Berry, H. Dodds, N. N. Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)
Beswick, F. Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Binns, J. Dumpleton, C. W. Jeger, G. (Winchester)
Blackburn, A. R. Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly) Jenkins, R. H.
Blyton, W. R. Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)
Bottomley, A. G. Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Ewart, R. Keenan, W.
Bramall, E. A. Fernyhough, E. King, E. M.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Follick, M. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Foot, M. M. Kinley, J.
Brown, George (Belper) Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Levy, B. W.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Gibbins, J. Lindgren, G. S.
Burden, T. W. Gibson, C. W. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Longden, F.
Chater, D. Grey, C. F. Lyne, A. W.
Chetwynd, G. R. Griffiths,. D. (Rather Valley) McAdam, W.
Cobb, F. A. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Lianelly) McEntee, V. La T.
McGhee, H. G. Perrins, W. Thomas, John R. (Dover)
Mack, J. D. Platts-Mills, J. F. F. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
McKay, J. (Wallsend) Popplewell, E. Thurtle, Ernest
McLeavy, F. Porter, E. (Warrington) Titterington, M. F.
MacPherson, M. (Stirting) Porter, G. (Leeds) Tolley, L.
Macpherson, T. (Romford) Proctor, W. T. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Pursey, Comdr. H. Turner-Samuels, M.
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield) Ranger, J. Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Marquand, H. A. Rees-Williams, D. R. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Mayhew, C. P. Reeves, J. Viant, S. P.
Mellish, R. J. Reid, T. (Swindon) Walkden, E.
Messer, F. Richards, R. Walker, G. H.
Middleton, Mrs. L. Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Mitchison, G. R. Robens, A. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Monslow, W. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Warbey, W. N.
Moody, A. S. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Morgan, Dr. H. B. Sargood, R. Weitzman, D.
Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Segal, Dr. S. Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)
Moyle, A. Shackleton, E. A. A. White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Naylor, T. E. Sharp, Granville Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Neal, H. (Claycross) Silverman, J. (Erdington) Wilkins, W. A.
Oliver, G. H. Simmons, C. J. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Orbach, M. Skeffington-Lodge, T. C. Williams, R. W. (Wigan)
Paget, R. T. Skinnard, F. W. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.) Willis, E.
Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.) Wise, Major F. J.
Palmer, A. M. F. Snow, J. W. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Parker, J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.) Yates, V. F.
Parkin, B. T. Sylvester, G. O. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield) Zilliacus, K.
Paton, J. (Norwich) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Pearson, A. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Peart, T. F. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Mr. Collindridge and
Mr. Richard Adams.
Baldwin, A. E. Crimston, R. V. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Birch, Nigel Head, Brig. A. H. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Pitman, I. J.
Bossom, A. C. Hope, Lord J. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Bowen, R. Howard, Hon. A. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Bower, N. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Renton, D.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Keeling, E. H. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Lambert, Hon. G. Ropner, Col. L.
Braithwaite, Lt-Comdr. J. G. Langford-Holt, J. Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Lipson. D. L. Savory, Prof. D. L.
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Shepherd. W. S. (Bucklow)
Byers, Frank Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Clarke, Col. R. S. Low, A. R. W. Smithers, Sir W.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Lucas, Major Sir J. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Lucas-Tooth Sir H. Strauss, Henry (English Universities)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O. E. MacAndrew, Col. Sir C. Studholme, H. G.
Darling, Sir W. Y. McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S. Sutcliffe, H.
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Digby, S. W. Maclay, Hon. J. S. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n,[...] S.)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Donner, P. W. Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Drayson, G. B. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Drewe, C. Marples, A. E. Touche, G. C.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Marsden, Capt. A. Walker-Smith, D.
Duthie, W. S. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Ward, Hon. G. R.
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Medlicott, Brigadier F. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gammans, L. D. Neven-Spence, Sir B. Commander Agnew and
Colonel Wheatley.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 5 to 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.