That 153,000 Officers, Seamen, Boys and Royal Marines, borne on 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 1,400 Royal Marine Police borne on the books at the Royal Marine Divisions, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1950.
§ Resolution read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)
It is somewhat difficult to open this Debate, for two reasons. The first is that neither the Parliamentary Secretary nor the Civil Lord has seen fit to open it. That might have provided more ground for the many answers which were required as a result of the Committee stage and which have not yet been given. Secondly, whereas an overall view is allowed on the Committee stage of all the Votes, that is not the position now. We must confine ourselves to the Votes actually under discussion. That makes it difficult to produce logical arguments in sequence. Just as one wishes to make a point, one finds that it goes outside one of the Votes.
Before I come to some of the points which the Civil Lord left unanswered, there are one or two minor matters upon which I wish to ask questions of the Parliamentary Secretary. On Vote 4 of the Estimate, quite a new officer has been included. He is someone described as a "temporary narrator." I am extremely intrigued to know what a temporary narrator is. As far as I know, it is the first time that that term has appeared in Navy Estimates. A temporary narrator apparently is on the non-industrial civilian staff. I know that in days of old it was the custom to have bards who 46 attended courts and told stories of the victories of fighting men. If either the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister of Defence have now come to the level of a mere temporary narrator instead of a bard, that is something for which we ought to be sorry. I hope that there is some deeper and finer purpose behind the introduction of this officer than would appear on the surface.
During the Debate last week much was said about the improvement of barracks. For my part, I cannot help feeling that too little was said about too big a subject. It is true that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) proposed many improvements. It is true that those points were taken up later. But as far as I can see from the Debate, the only concrete answer from the Admiralty was that the Royal Naval Barracks at Chatham and the Royal Marine Barracks at Deal were now in course of reconstruction and that it was hoped that the Royal Naval Barracks at Plymouth and those at Portsmouth would be subject to reconstruction during the coming financial year. That is a very little offer to make towards solving this great problem.
I can remember how, two years ago, the Parliamentary Secretary, standing at that Box, made it clear once again that Tory misrule was to be made up for in a grand surge of Socialist enterprise. All these evil conditions were to be washed away, and conditions of the Navy were to be something for which the Navy had always striven and never achieved. If ever a big mountain was in labour and such a tiny mouse was delivered, this was the occasion. I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary of what he said two years ago. One of the worst barracks, the Stonehouse Barracks of the Royal Marines at Plymouth, were to have priority for rebuilding, according to the Civil Lord. That project has not even been included in the Estimates. It was easy enough for the Parliamentary Secretary to stand at that Box and to claim that he was ushering in a new age. If he really was doing that, he should be able to tell us in succeeding years that he has achieved something worthy of the promises made. He has been unable to do that on this question.
I come to the provision of married quarters. It is interesting to read the comments in column 1142 of the OFFICIAL 47 REPORT of the Civil Lord who gave figures of what has been achieved. I cannot understand hon. Members opposite being proud about what has been done. He said that 133 married quarters had been made available for officers and 131 for ratings. Then he said that 570 married quarters for ratings might be made available this year. That gives a grand total of 834 married quarters. What is that for a total serving strength—I am speaking about continual service only—of 140,000? What breach does that make in the problem? The Civil Lord continued by saying:We were held up for a little with regard to plans for naval officers' houses because at one time we were limited to a certain floor area. We have, however, gone very actively into the question, and we are hopeful that in the next financial year something quite good can be done for officers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 1142.]I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that never has anything been said which was more inconclusive or less liable to any concrete interpretation. What was the factor that held up the Admiralty in providing married quarters for officers? What was this floor limitation and who went into it? And when did they go into it? And how long is it to be before they will have found a solution for it? Particularly would I ask if, when he says, "in the next financial year," does he mean the year 1949–50 or 1950–51? In the context it is readable either way. I want an assurance from him that it means that in this current financial year we are now discussing we shall have some improvement in this respect.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
No, the hon. and gallant Member has had his turn.
May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary a few questions about pay? That was rather a thorny subject during the Committee stage, and the Minister of Defence interrupted one of my hon. and gallant Friends by saying that the Navy pay code has never been higher. I think that is true so far as actual money is concerned, but it certainly is not true as far as the value of money is concerned. Nor is it true when one is, trying to make an appreciation of what one wants a 48 pay code to mean to one of the Armed Services; an increased amount to be the reward of initiative or merit. Never has there been a pay code which took so little into account either as to the real value of money or the real value of men. That is the criticism we wish to make. The Parliamentary Secretary would be hard put to it to say that the pay code in the Navy is equal to the cost of living, or alternatively that the existing pay code has kept up with what people in civilian life can expect to get for equal effort.
Does any hon. Member of this House expect that we shall get recruitment for the Navy or the type of recruits we want unless we are prepared to offer pay and conditions of service that are at least equivalent to what can be obtained in civilian life?
The hon. and learned Member may disagree, but the whole of my argument was designed to show that that was the last thing we are getting. Every increase in the pay code has been made at the expense of the efficient and merely lifts up the bottom ranks in the Navy without making any additional incentive for those who may wish to make the Navy their career and by their career their living. If the Minister of Defence or the Parliamentary Secretary require any additional proof of that they have it in the re-engagement figures. Why are the re-engagement figures so low? It is not because in the last few years people have suddenly decided that they do not like the Navy. It is simply because they cannot afford to remain in the Navy, particularly if they are married and trying to bring up a family and to exist on the rates of pay which their enthusiasm and length of service will bring for them.
Another question which was completely ignored in the last Debate was that raised by two hon. Members opposite regarding dockyard development. Apparently there are large areas which are scheduled to be taken over by the dockyards for extension purposes. As I understand it, these areas are to be taken over under the Town and Country Planning Act. No decision has yet been made about them. 49 What will happen is that at some future date an order will be made under the Town and Country Planning Act which will designate this land. It is at present apparently covered by houses occupied by people engaged in the dockyards, and also by a large number of bomb-damaged houses. The people living in the area are to have no remedy whatever against the action of the Admiralty. If it had been done under the Defence Regulations the Admiralty would have had to pay the moment they scheduled this land, but by doing it under the Town and Country Planning Act they may give a purely statutory declaration that they will want the land at some time. It will then be left for an unknown number of years–5 years or 10 years or whatever it may be—before the Admiralty will implement that order and allow either the owners of bombed-out property to obtain their compensation or those now living in the area even to start to have a claim to get other accommodation.
It seems to me a most iniquitous thing for any Government Department to take advantage of the Town and Country Planning Act—which was designed for many purposes but certainly not that—and to use it to give them an overall claim on land which at the moment is occupied by homes of many people and above all, the damged property of bombed out families. These people are being told in effect, "We are going to take this land for some future use. We shall not tell you when or how; you cannot get any compensation; you cannot put your names down for other houses because no one knows when this is going to happen. We are going to keep you in suspense." Of all the points that arose during the last Debate that was the most worthy of objection.
My main subject and the one in which I am directly interested is the Royal Marines. I looked through the Debate and I found an extract from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford-Holt) in which he complained that the Parliamentary Secretary had spend 45 seconds last year and two minutes 10 seconds this year on the Fleet Air Arm. May I congratulate my hon. Friend on being lucky; because for the second year in succession the Royal Marines were not mentioned at all. I cannot understand why it is that the Parliamentary Secre- 50 tary and the Civil Lord—I should have thought he would have known better—made no reference to the Royal Marines, unless they are specifically asked. They always ignore them and leave them out. That is particularly to be deprecated since of all the branches of the Royal Navy there is none that has received a greater increase in their tasks since the war than the Royal Marines.
Before the war their job was to provide detachments for his Majesty's ships. They had one main turret and a part in the secondary armaments. They had to provide a shore landing party if it was needed to maintain order in port, and, sometimes raiding parties to capture Chinese pirates, or something of that nature. But their main job and, so far as hon. Members in this House were concerned, their sole job, was to provide detachments for His Majesty's ships. Now, in addition to that and many increased duties in His Majesty's ships such as being the people concerned with radar, they have been made solely responsible for Commandos and responsible for landing craft—two very great additions. They are two additions which might amount to the difference between victory and defeat in a great many operations that this country might be called upon to carry out if, alas, another war ever occurred.
What has happened? Even before the war, with their limited duties, they were given an arbitrary scale of one in ten of naval personnel. How that original percentage arose I have no idea. I do not know whether it dates back to Nelson or Drake, or where it comes from. There has never been any explanation given in this House. If it was necessary to have a percentage of 10 per cent. for the duties they did before, how much more is it necessary to have a bigger percentage now? And with all these duties to do how can the Marines afford a 7 per cent. cut in their continuous Service personnel? I should like to know how the Parliamentary Secretary tries to justify those figures.
I wish to ask him why he made no reference whatever to what the Royal Marine Commandos have done in the Mediterranean? He thought it fit to say something about his joy at arriving on time in one of His Majesty's ships. I have not been to sea much but I shudder to think what would happen to me as a Royal 51 Marine if through any fault of mine one of His Majesty's ships arrived a minute before time. Those who have been in His Majesty's ships would agree with me that far from the hon. Gentleman's experience being a matter of surprise, it would be a matter of surprise if anything else happened. It seems to me that a matter for surprise here is that this Royal Marine Commando Brigade, which is a new departure, was completely ignored by the Parliamentary Secretary. [Interruption.] The Minister of Defence indicates that there is a single sentence in the statement published with these Estimates; but how little does it convey? How much do we not owe to the Royal Marine Commandos for what they did in Palestine? Did they not cover the retreat, were they not the last people off and were they not asked at the last minute to undertake this engagement? One single sentence from the Government Front Bench is not a tribute which should have been expected.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary say something of the further call which is being made on the Royal Marines today at Akaba? I hope I shall not stray outside the rules of Order if I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he can give me an assurance that these Royal Marine Commandos have every piece of equipment which would enable them to do their job? I think I am right in saying that that is so, but I should like, as I am certain all those in the Royal Marines would like, a further assurance on that point today.
I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a further question. We have now some 14,000 people in the Royal Marines. How is that 14,000 split up? How many of these Royal Marines are supposed to be in detachments afloat, how many in the Commandos and how many are supposed to be dealing with landing craft. It is true that at the moment we have fewer capital ships so that probably the immediate commitments for that particular branch of their Service is less, but that must certainly be far more than outweighed by the requirements for Commandos. The real sufferers at the moment seem to me to be those dealing with the landing craft aspect of the duties of the Royal Marines. That is the least immediate of the needs but it is possible that 52 it will be the most immediate in the case of emergency. I should like to hear something about the numbers available for that aspect of their duties, and particularly what numbers of landing craft we have available at the moment.
The Royal Marines, like the Royal Navy, depend chiefly for their appeal for recruits upon the fact that they enable people to go to sea. What is the percentage of Royal Marines who can expect to go to sea at the moment? I think I am right in saying that the ratio is not more than one in four. If that is so, surely the Admiralty ought to take hasty steps to increase that percentage. If they leave the ratio at one in four they are destroying the main basis for which the Royal Marines were intended.
If I understand these commitments aright, I want to ask what is the minimum continuous service intake which the Royal Marines must have? I suggest that the figure must be in the neighbourhood of 2,000 to 2,500 a year. How many are they getting at the moment? If my information is correct they are 25 per cent. under their minimum requirements. I should again like to emphasise that it is no use giving a corps like the Royal Marines vastly extended responsibilities unless at the same time they.can obtain the intake which will alone enable them to carry out those responsibilities. It may be true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) said, the fact that the National Serviceman will now serve for 18 months instead of 12, will enable him to be of use to the Navy instead of a liability. I very much doubt whether 18 months is sufficient to teach a Royal Marine any one of the specialised jobs which he has to undertake. I can see that there are many general service branches in the Navy in which that would be possible, but it would be unwise to assume that the National Serviceman after 18 months will be of any real value to the Royal Marines in an emergency.
All my criticisms on Vote A so far as the Royal Marines are concerned can be summed up in the simple statement that whereas time and time again in the last few years their duties have been extended they have never had an opportunity to extend their ability to make known their requirements. Two years ago I asked the Parliamentary Secretary 53 whether the time had not come to put a member of the Royal Marines on the Board of Admiralty. I ask him that question again tonight. He answered me two years ago by saying that the Board of Admiralty were conservative and took a long time to think about anything, and that I could not expect him to answer that question in the course of one short afternoon. He has had two years in which to think about it and I hope that he will be able this afternoon to give me the results of his deliberations. I do not ask that the Commandant-General of Marines should be on the Board of Admiralty. It would be impossible to have the executive head of the Royal Marines on the Board, but it would be possible to have another Marine of general rank on the Board to see that these various duties were properly made known to those in charge.
Looking at the whole of our naval service we have in these times to try to make up our minds whether the Government have safeguarded the interests of the Navy, and whether they have made proper plans to meet any emergency in the future. I must admit that I was horrified when I heard the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) say that we must go into battle unprepared, a statement which was echoed by another hon. Member opposite. It may be that in some future war, as has happened in the past, the Army or the Air Force will be given time for consolidation; there may be a "phoney" war. But in all wars that have ever occurred in which this country has been involved the one Service which has never had a "phoney" war has been the Navy. They have had to be on the spot, deployed from the moment we declared war. We can take no chances; we must see that the Estimates are sufficient to cover the duties which devolve on the Navy. It is for that reason that I am very unhappy that we have had no information on the Committee stage, nor any reassurances which would alone be able to satisfy us that we can deploy and maintain the role of the Navy. Unless the Parliamentary Secretary can give us more information this afternoon I shall remain unconvinced. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can do so because if the Navy be unprepared and unable to fulfil its traditional task of being deployed fight- 54 ing fit the moment war is declared, then indeed ours will be a sorry fate.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Commander Pursey (Hull, East)
The hon. and gallant Member has covered a great deal of ground, mainly by means of questions to the Admiralty, and it is not my purpose to follow him in all the ramifications of his queries. I make no criticism on that aspect of the hon. and gallant Member's speech; it is his job, although he has been concerned to paint an unnecessarily gloomy picture of the Navy today. As I previously said, leaving out of consideration the United States, we are in a position relatively and actually, as compared with any possible enemy, better than we have ever been in before in our long history as a maritime nation.
I want to take up one or two points which the hon. and gallant Gentleman dealt with. First, there is the question of barracks. We are continually getting this argument from the Opposition about barracks. They tell us that the barracks are over half-a-century old. The time to have renovated them was between the wars, when we had between two and three million unemployed, unlimited materials and when the money could have been voted for the purpose.
§ Commander Pursey
The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that I do not give way to him, but I did on the last occassion, and if he has anything sensible to contribute to the Debate, I am quite prepared to give way to him now. On the other hand, I am quite prepared to go on, despite the guerrilla warfare, because that will not worry me. But there is a time limit, so I hope that I shall not be interrupted unduly with nonsense. The position about barracks so far as the Conservative Government is concerned is the same as it is about everything. The hon. Member for the New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) has complained about the Labour Party's theme song, but the Conservative Party had no complaint about the barracks and had no theme song, so that there is no use in my wasting time on that point. I was in the Service then, and at that time the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite was non est. Apparently, the significance of 55 that is taken up by former naval officers opposite who were also in the Service.
Now I come to the second point about married quarters. We never heard anything from the Conservative Government about married quarters, because they never did anything about it. [Interruption.] It is no good going on with the guerrilla warfare. I am prepared to say that we never heard anything from the Conservative Party before the war on the subject of married quarters because that matter did not concern them at all, and if anyone wants to challenge me on that point, I will sit down immediately. I get no takers. All right. Before the war, the only married quarters provided were those for officers and ratings on foreign stations in shore establishments, and, at home, for the limited number of officers and ratings who were on what was known as the compensation and lodging basis, because they could not be accommodated either in the ships or in the barracks. I am prepared to give way if anyone will take me up on that.
The question of building married quarters for officers and ratings is an entirely new aspect of naval policy adopted for the first time by the Socialist Government. There is no challenge again, so that it is arrant nonsense for people to make these statements. Moreover, the hon. and gallant Gentleman could not even be fair in the figures he quoted. I am not challenging his figures, but he used the figure of 834—I do not want to quote him wrongly—for a strength of 130,000 or 133,000—
§ Commander Pursey
Why pick upon that idiotic figure, when over half the personnel are unmarried and not interested in houses? Obviously, the larger number in the Service are in the junior ranks and they are unmarried, and it therefore presents an entirely false picture to compare the houses with the total strength, when the majority of the men are unmarried and not interested. In addition to that, a large number of the married men in the Royal Navy do not want to live in the ports. They live in their own towns and villages and are not interested in this question of houses for naval personnel. The question of the provision of houses for the men in the Service 56 is one for the Minister of Health, and he is doing more about that than anyone else has ever done.
This picture of housing for the Services is an entirely false one. I am all for houses being produced in the ports for the men in the Service who want to live there, but it is the responsibility of the local authorities. Commanders-in-chief have stated, as one did last week at Portsmouth, that the local authority, and I believe he was referring to Portsmouth, was doing the Navy well for housing, so that the Opposition have got nothing on the Admiralty so far as housing is concerned.
I come to the question of pay. What is the good of hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite talking all this nonsense about pay? They just do not know what the pay was. I do. I had it—6d. a day as a boy, and, as a fully-qualified able seaman, 1s. 8d.
§ Commander Pursey
You were only worth half that. In fact, if I were asked how you got into the Navy at all, I should say you only got in as a consolation prize.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and gallant Gentleman keeps saying "you," and he is thus addressing me and not the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite.
§ Commander Pursey
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. I naturally would not suggest that you were only worth a consolation prize. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked for it, and, if he asks for any more, he will get it.
The pay of the Royal Navy remained static for 50 years, and Conservative and Liberal Governments were not interested at all. It was fixed when continuous service was introduced after the Crimean and Baltic wars of 1854, and it remained static for over half a century. Today, hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite have the cheek to argue that pay has not been increased. I am not going to waste any more time on that point, except to say that pay today is better, actually and relatively, for the majority of the Navy—[Interruption.] Let me finish what I am saying, and the hon. Member will know. It is a fairy story which they have been putting over. The trouble today is that, with officers in particular, the messing 57 and other expenses need to be cut down. We have got more married officers today with their wives chasing the Fleet than ever there were before. That is the problem, and good luck to them, because I did it myself when I was in the Service. I went about with my wife, and I expected to foot the bill.
If the naval officer needs to improve his financial position, he should cut down his mess expenses, his wine bills, his dance expenses, his unnecessary travelling expenses and his motor car expenses. There are more of them today running motor cars than ever there were before, so what nonsense it is to say that they have no money. Obviously, they are spending their money in other ways.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern) rose—
§ Commander Pursey
I am not giving way to the hon. Gentleman, who does not usually take part in Navy Debates; I am not answering any questions about fish.
I come to the final point with which I wish to deal and which was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre). It concerns the Royal Marines. There is not justification at all for a marine to be on the Board of Admiralty. There are any number of branches in the Services, many of which may well have a claim to be represented on the Board of Admiralty, but they certainly do not include the Marines. After spending a considerable amount of time talking about the Royal Marines, there was one thing which the hon. and gallant Gentleman omitted, and in which I thought he would have been interested. He said that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty spent a long time on the Estimates and mentioned nothing about the Marines. But one thing which the hon. and gallant Member himself did not mention, and never has mentioned, is the question of promotion from the ranks to commissioned rank in the Royal Navy. The present system of promotion is a disgrace to the Service. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman would interest himself in that matter, he would get more recruits for the Royal Marines, because there would be greater inducements and it would be a Service more attractive to recruits.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre rose—
§ Commander Pursey
The hon. and gallant Gentleman refused to give way to me, but I am quite prepared to give way to him.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman for giving way. I only want to ask him whether he is aware that in the Royal Marines we have had for a long time a very good and worth-while system of promotion from the lower deck which has worked very well? We have now a large percentage of officers in the Royal Marines who have come from the lower deck, and they have done very well indeed.
§ Commander Pursey
The number of promotions under what we understand as the lower deck promotion scheme—equivalent to the sub-lieutenant scheme —has been very small indeed. The figures since 1939 are not readily accessible, but previous to that year the number was one and two per year.
§ Commander Pursey
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to improve recruitment to the Royal Marines, let him go into the question of promotion from the ranks and make the Royal Marines more attractive as a career.
My purpose this afternoon is to deal with another subject, a new one raised by the Parliamentary Secretary in his speech on the Navy Estimates a fortnight ago. As the only Member of this House who has served as a Naval warrant officer, I wish to make the most vehement protest on behalf of naval warrant officers at the announcement about the new titles for their ranks made by the Parliamentary Secretary on 8th March. In doing so I wish wholeheartedly to support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Medland) who is unable to be present this afternoon, and whose speech was reported in the following day's OFFICIAL REPORT because he spoke late at night.
As the House is aware from speeches made on the Navy Estimates over the last four years and from numerous Questions asked during that time, the warrant officers of the Navy have been striving for a long time for the abolition of warrant rank as such because of its invidious 59 and unnecessary distinction from other officers. Their main requests have included: (1) improved status consistent with their rank; (2) a change of title to something more suitable; (3) abolition of a separate warrant officers' mess. With others I have advocated this long overdue reform, and from time to time have made practical suggestions to this end. In fact, the Admiralty appointed a special committee under Admiral Sir Percy Noble to go into the whole question, but this House has never been given any information about the report of that committee. A year ago, however, the Admiralty announced that the warrant officers' mess was to be abolished, and that, in future, warrant officers would live in the commissioned officers' mess.
I wish to give the Admiralty full marks for that decision because it was an important one and one which no Board of Admiralty except the present one would be likely to have accepted. The hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) laughs and nods his head. He has always opposed such reforms, so naturally he would not approve of a progressive effort such as this. The Board of Admiralty would certainly not have made the reform had they been advised by such people as the hon. and gallant Member who has always vigorously opposed these reforms in order to keep the warrant officers in their place as different from commissioned officers.
§ Captain Marsden (Chertsey)
I have frequently been the shipmate of warrant officers and they have been the best of messmates. If I suggest that they are more comfortable by remaining in their own mess, I am only thinking of their comfort.
§ Commander Pursey
If the hon. and gallant Member will allow me to say so, the warrant officers can look after their own comfort and prefer to say what they desire rather than rely on the misrepresentation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
A fortnight ago the Parliamentary Secretary said that in future all warrant officers would be appointed by commission and not by warrant. I admit quite frankly that is another important decision to the advantage of the warrant officers. In fact, the two most important 60 of the three reforms to which I have referred have been granted. As a result, warrant officers will in future live in the commissioned officers' mess, and will also be appointed by commission. In other words, they will be practically commissioned officers in all respects. Therefore, all that was left to do was to find a suitable set of titles fit for their new status whereby they would be merged with the other officers and not singled out because of their lower-deck origin with the distinctive mark of Cain. This, however, was too much for the Admiralty. They could not stay the whole course of reform, and, having surmounted two obstacles, they got ditched at the last hedge over the question of titles.
In his previous speech, the Parliamentary Secretary said that at present these officers bore titles describing the duties they performed as well as indicating rank. He gave examples, such as "warrant ordnance officer" and "commissioned warrant ordnance officer." He said that in future the word "commissioned" would be substituted for the word "warrant" and that the word "senior" would be added for the senior officer. What nonsense. We now have to omit the word "warrant" and have such titles as "commissioned ordnance officer" and "senior commissioned ordnance officer. "What has happened is that the Admiralty mountain has laboured for three years—more than sufficient time in which to produce an elephant—and has produced only a mouse. Consequently, at official functions these officers will be announced as "Senior Commissioned Ordnance Officer Jellicoe" and "Senior Commissioned Boatswain Beatty." Even the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey—and I say this to his credit—opposed this idea and suggested a title with a branch letter. But he wanted a distinctive title, to which the officers strenuously object.
This question of titles has now become quite farcical, and even Gilbert and Sullivan could not have improved upon it and made it more ludicrous. All these officers are to be commissioned officers. Why label only some of them as such? Is the idea that whereas in the past we spoke of officers and warrant officers, we are now going to refer to officers and commissioned officers in order to denote the distinction? The solution was so 61 simple and obvious. All other commissioned officers have the title of sub-lieutenant, except the late entries who joined as lieutenant. These titles should have been given to warrant officers, with a letter to show the branch to which they belong, such as "G" for gunner in the same way as for the "pukka" officer. The problem cannot be regarded as solved until this proposal is conceded, and the warrant officers and their advocates will go on to strive for this goal until it is achieved.
There are two other points about which no announcement has been made: distinction lace on uniform, and pensions. Is the new commissioned gunner to wear the thin gold lace stripe of the previous warrant officer? The stripe for a commissioned officer has always been the normal thick stripe, and as the future officer will be a commissioned officer he should wear the same thick stripe; otherwise the thin stripe will continue to be the brand of Cain. As regards pensions I am informed, and I believe it to be correct—the Parliamentary Secretary can correct me if I am wrong—that the commissioned officer has only to serve one year in any rank to become entitled to the pension of that rank. On the other hand, the lieutenant promoted from commissioned gunner has to complete two years in that rank before being entitled to a lieutenant's pension. If this is correct, now that the ranker officers are to be promoted to commissioned officers, even if only pseudo-commissioned officers, the pensions regulations should be the same for both types of officers. They should get the same advantage as the more fortunate entries who started as officers much earlier and who get much higher pensions.
These matters are rather technical and they may not be of particular interest to the House. They are, however, of vital importance to the officers and to the Service. Although there are new schemes of early promotion from the lower deck to commissioned ranks, the old warrant officer avenue is still the main one to the quarterdeck for the majority who join on the lower deck. The flag rank in a naval career from the lower deck is, therefore, a lieutenancy, but an officer does not achieve this distinction, which a pukka officer gets at 23, until he is 48 or 49 years of age. By this time he has one foot on a bar of "purser's soap" and the other one 62 on the retired list, as he is retired at 50. Surely, therefore, he should be allowed to count the last year of his service for pension in the rank which is held, instead of having to count it in the rank which he previously held, and thereby be on a par with the cadet entry officer.
These matters are of vital importance today because of the effect on the all-important problem of recruiting. By and large, the Navy is able to get the recruits which it requires, other than in the technical branches, but obviously anyone considering joining the Navy considers the possible careers, emoluments, pensions and so on. When such a person finds that it is possible to get the two stripes of the long and zealous service lieutenancy but not to get the pension, he is very concerned about it because it is not fair play. The warrant officers appreciate and are grateful for the reforms which have been made by this Board of Admiralty, but they say, and I support them—and I hope we shall get support from the other side of the House—that the Admiralty should go the whole hog and clear away all these distinctions which the warrant officers still have to tolerate, and make them fully commissioned officers.
The hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey, who I am sorry to see has left, has paid a tribute to this branch. I hope someone else on the benches opposite will support me in my argument that if these officers are to be commissioned officers and are to live in the commissioned officers' mess there should be no distinction at all. Give them the same gold lace on their arms as the commissioned officers. Give them similar titles to the commissioned officers. Give them the same pensions regulations, and then it will be a more attractive, happier and even more efficient branch of the Navy of which it has always been the backbone.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
As I propose to speak for only a few minutes, I shall not answer the points which were made by the hon. and gallant Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey). However, perhaps I might suggest an appropriate epitaph for him—though long may the necessity for it be delayed: "What Nonsense!"
I propose to deal with the question of Regular personnel recruitment and the 63 wastage, which is of the utmost importance. The total for this year is to be 153,000 of which the net number is 145,000. A year ago it was 144,000 which contained 114,000 Regular personnel. On 1st January this year there were 144,000 of which the Regular personnel numbered 117,500. That means that in nine months there was an increase of only 3,500 which cannot be regarded as satisfactory. During the Debate the Parliamentary Secretary told the House that during the past year we had accepted 19,700 Regulars. He drew attention to the high proportion of wastage and he said, as an example, that the number of those who had to be discharged from the Service on account of that terrible disease, tuberculosis, had increased from two per thousand to seven per thousand. If my arithmetic is right, that merely means that the wastage due to that disease was.7 per cent.
It would have been much more to the point if the Parliamentary Secretary had referred to the wastage of some 16,000 chiefly due to those who are not prepared to re-engage at the end of their first period of service. That is a very distressing fact. It is one which must cause the Admiralty grave concern, because those men, having spent 12 years in the Service, have had all the training that was necessary to make them efficient, not only as seamen but as gunnery, torpedo and signals ratings and so on, and they would be lost to the Service. The reason can only be that they are not satisfied with the conditions of service offered to them. The rate of re-engagement has decreased from some 60 per cent. before the war to less than 30 per cent. Only half as many men are satisfied to re-engage for pension.
The Admiralty must take some definite action in this matter. I think we all realise that to maintain an efficient Naval Service we must have the maximum of Regular personnel and as few conscripts as possible. But with an enormous wastage and a net intake of 3,500 Regular personnel, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get back to our reliance upon Regulars for the Service. I ask the Government, therefore, not only to consider this matter—no doubt they are considering it very closely—but to make up their minds as quickly as 64 possible as to what difference they can make in the Service so that these men may be attracted to sign on for extended service for their pensions. We do not wish to lose these men; we wish to retain them. They are the highest trained men we have.
Apart from the conditions of service, there is also the question whether the length of time for which they engage should be reduced and whether they should go on step by step, as has been suggested. That should be taken into consideration. I have always very much doubted whether it was a good thing for the whole of the non-substantive pay in the Service to be abolished so that a man received nothing more for being a high gunner rating, a high torpedo rating or any other specialist of that kind. That was all, abolished. There was no inducement for a man to take on additional responsibility and to work extremely hard as he would have to. The highest gunner and torpedo ratings are very skilled men and we cannot afford to lose them. In my opinion there should be an attraction in the way of additional pay in this respect. I wonder whether the Admiralty are satisfied that the abolition of pay for the non-substantive rating has been a good thing. I hope the matter will be reconsidered.
In view of what I have said, I suggest that at the present time we are not getting value for the money which the Navy is costing the country. I hope the Admiralty will not only seriously consider improvements in the attractiveness of the Service but will come to a decision on the point in order that we may return to the position of the old days when we had an entirely voluntary Regular Service.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Willis (Edinburgh, North)
I think the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) has touched on a matter of the utmost concern to anybody who considers the well-being of the Royal Navy—that is, the enormous wastage of manpower as a result of men leaving the Navy at the end of their 12 years' service instead of signing on for an additional ten years. It must be borne in mind that these men are exceedingly valuable. They are trained men; they are in the prime of life, able to give of their best to the 65 Navy. Yet at present they are drifting out at the rate of some 75 out of every 100. Why is that? There must be reasons why a man who has completed 12 years is not prepared to sign on for a shorter period in order to complete his time for pension, in many cases at 40 years of age.
I should like to consider some of the reasons which occur to me for this wastage. We had the revised rates of pay issued just before Christmas and in them, I think, the Government tried to do something worth while. Their action was in accordance with ideas which I and other hon. Members put forward in previous Debates. The intention was to give an incentive to people to take higher ranks. But this increase in pay is not really so good as it appears at first sight. At the end of the war many men were in receipt of war payments which brought their total payments up above the level at that time. When the 1946 pay code was introduced, their rate of pay was reduced but they were given a war excess in order to keep it at the previous level. Now that the new scale has been introduced, however, instead of getting the full benefit of it they get only a matter of a shilling or two of it, because they lose their war excess payment.
I have a case here of a chief engine room artificer with three children. At the end of the war he received 17s. 6d. a day. Under the 1946 pay code he received 16s. 5d. a day with, of course, war excess to keep it up to 17s. 6d. Under the new code, which was heralded as being a great achievement, he receives 18s. 2d. a day. In other words, his net increase is really 8d. a day. His marriage allowance, which in 1945 was 62s. a week, was reduced under the new pay code of 1946 so that, including family allowance, he received 52s. 6d. and, under the new code altogether, he receives 62s. 6d.—that is, 6d. more than he received in 1945. That is no inducement to a man to stay in the Service and it explodes the idea that the new pay code settles all the problems in the Service.
With the change in the status of the warrant officer rank, we must recognise that in the Royal Navy the pay, marriage allowance, pension and relative rank of the highest non-commissioned officer is 66 two stages below the rank of the highest non-commissioned officer in the Army or in the Air Force. That is a very serious matter and it is causing a great deal of concern among chief petty officers in the Royal Navy. I do not know what is to be done, but might I ask whether the time has not arrived for consideration of the introduction of two classes of chief petty officer—first class and second class? I understand that that scheme has been adopted in the Canadian Navy. It would encourage a man who attained the rank to chief petty officer before the end of his 12 years' service to stay on for another ten years if he thought he would gain an additional rank and, of course, the extra pay that went with it.
The next point with which I want to deal is the very vexed question of promotion, and here I would refer mainly to the engine room artificer branches. In reply to a Question I asked in the House some time ago I was informed that whilst in 1947 eight engine room artificers were promoted to acting sub-lieutenants (E), only three were appointed last year. That is not good enough. Of engine room artificer apprentices, two were appointed to cadet (E) in 1947 and three in 1948. I looked up the pamphlet dealing with engine room artificer apprentices and in it they talk in terms of a dozen being promoted to cadet (E) each year. That is not happening today. That year the Estimates provided for an increased bearing of commissioned and subordinate officers in The engineering branches. I ask my hon. Friend to consider seriously the provision of more and greater opportunities for the promotion of men to commissioned rank.
There are a large number of other factors, of course, and probably my hon. Friend may be aware of some of them. I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary paid a visit to H.M.S. "Vanguard" just before Christmas. I understand he was informed by petty officers and chief petty officers of what their grumbles were; after which he asked how many would take their tickets rather than go on the Royal tour, and he received the rather astonishing answer that 90 per cent. would sooner take their tickets than go on the Royal tour. I see my hon. Friend is shaking his head, but my information is to that effect. That indicates that there are causes for complaint. The bathroom accommodation was not good 67 enough; the mess itself, in which 41 men had to sleep, was not good enough; the chief petty officers were not even provided with proper locker accommodation —in the show ship of the British Navy. There are a number of other reasons, of course, why this general discontent prevailed.
I believe the Government have tried honestly and sincerely to give the men of the Navy a fair deal, but they have not been able to do so. In my opinion the reason is, that they have never taken the men of the Navy into their confidence. After the first World War the conditions of pay were settled by the Jerram Committee, which consulted with every branch of the Navy in determining the rates of pay. The men had a much greater opportunity of presenting their grievances after the first World war than they have today. I put it to my hon. Friend that if he wants to get down to the solution of the problems concerning the men of the lower deck, he must consult with the representatives of the lower deck to learn where the shoe is pinching most.
I have had a fairly long experience of the men of the lower deck, both in the Navy and outside it, working with those men. I have always found that the men of the Navy are prepared to face up to their responsibilities in a proper manner. I am quite confident that they would be prepared to act in that manner if they were taken more into the confidence of the people who are trying to arrange things to better them. I do suggest to my hon. Friend that he gives this matter serious thought if he wants to solve the problem of enticing men to stay in the Navy. I believe this: the man who leaves the Navy because he is discontented is the worst recruiting sergeant we could possibly have.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)
I agree with a good deal of what has been said by the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis), but I do not propose to follow him along the lines on which he was speaking, except to say that we must not forget one thing at present, and that is, the enormous complements there are in warships nowadays, brought about by air power, because a 68 modern ship, large or small, has to be provided with a very large number of close range anti-aircraft weapons, all of which require men to work them. That necessity has inflated the complements of ships to a size almost unthought of in the old days, and we now have to fit a quart into a pint pot, because the ships have not increased in size to anything like the same extent proportionately as their crews.
Now I want to pass on to what is always of interest to people, and that is a mystery. The mystery in the present case is that of the Admiralty Office. In the good old days the Admiralty Office was a comparatively cheap institution. At one time it cost less than £1,000,000 a year, and quite shortly before the war it cost only £1,500,000. Now it is rapidly overtaking naval armaments. The cost is going up. The extraordinary thing about the increase in the cost of the Admiralty Office is how little it accords with the announcement of the Admiralty on these Naval Estimates. In the Admiralty statement explanatory of the Estimate, we are told that the number of staff at Admiralty Headquarters was 11,990 on 1st January, 1949—a reduction of 660 in the size of the staff on the previous year.
At the same time the cost of that Office has shot up by a very substantial amount. There is a further increase in Vote 12, and the Admiralty Office, moreover, is included in the Supplementary Estimate. How is it that fewer people are costing more to the extent of nearly £500,000? We are quite accustomed to the phenomenon that, as the Fleet becomes smaller, the Admiralty Office becomes larger, but the complementary situation, that as the number of people employed in the Admiralty becomes smaller, toe cost becomes larger, is a rather strange one. It is not for the pay of naval officers. The increase in the number of officers in the Admiralty Office is comparatively small.
What is the explanation of this? By Report stage one hoped that Ministers at the Admiralty would have taken some note of what was said on the Motion that Mr. Speaker should leave the Chair and looked into the matters then raised. I hope that, perhaps, the Parliamentary Secretary is hearing some words of wisdom at the moment, from the previous 69 holder of the high office of First Lord of the Admiralty, as to why the Admiralty Office is costing so much money and why that cost is increasing. I think it is important that we should be told.
Is there any provision for research in this Vote and if so, where is it stated? I hear rumours that research is being reduced. I should like a specific statement whether that is so or not, because this is certainly the worst time in the world to think of reducing that. No one will wait with greater interest than I to hear the explanation of why a reduction of 660 in the staff involves an increase of £500,000 in the cost. On the question of research I should like to ask about H.M.S. "Research." There are two ways in which the Navy and the Merchant Navy show their unity—their essential unity. One is through the Royal Naval Reserve. The other is in the fact that the Royal Navy, in peace as in war, has for one of its functions the safe navigation and conduct of merchant ships throughout the world. H.M.S. "Research" was a very special vessel for inquiring into questions connected with the magnetic field, and was constructed specially of non-magnetic substances. She was well on the way to completion, but the work was stopped during the war. That was fair enough, but nothing has been done since. What is the policy of the Admiralty as regards H.M.S. "Research"? It was for a valuable purpose. Why has she not been completed? What is the cost of the outstanding work that has to be done on H.M.S. "Research"? It is very important that the Navy should not in any way scamp or diminish the work which they do directly for the assistance of the Merchant Navy.
The third point which affects me more than any of the others, concerns what, I think, is a real scandal in Admiralty administration. I have drawn attention again and again to the fact that the Admiralty in Northern Ireland, where the National Service Acts did not apply, have constantly scorned the rights of ex-Service men. They do not attempt to give them any precedence or priority over those of military age who did not volunteer, and they have gone further than that—they prefer the non-ex-Service men. The Civil Lord said the other day that they had done a tremendous lot for the ex-Service man, and I took note of that 70 statement. I brought up a particular case of which I can be quite sure of the facts, and I put a Question to the Civil Lord. I always had great hopes of the Civil Lord until he came to deal with this Question because we honour him for having served in the Navy for a long period, and I thought that he was a man who would have some sympathy with the ex-Service man wishing to get employment. It would appear, however, that the Civil Lord, when he left the lower deck, left his sympathy for the ex-Service man at the same time. I do not say this lightly; it has taken quite a long time to convince me of the complacency of the Admiralty over this matter.
The case which I have mentioned occurred at Toome airfield, which has been taken over by the Admiralty and which is Admiralty property. Two men were required for work which did not involve any great skill. The employment exchange were asked by the foreman to send two men along. The official at the employment exchange very properly sent two ex-Service men—two men whom I defy the Civil Lord to find were unsuitable for the job for which they were sent. They arrived at the aerodrome, where they saw the foreman. The foreman would not employ them. He knew that they were ex-Service men, and I think that there is little doubt that he did not employ them because they were ex-Service men. He said that their names had not been down on an Admiralty list for a fortnight, or some quite ridiculous and fantastic story of that nature. He sent them away, and he then proceeded to recruit two men, who, I think, had not been sent by the employment exchange, and who certainly were not ex-Service men. He took them on instead of the two men who had served their country, one of whom had served it at sea.
The Civil Lord, when he answered my Quesion, gave an answer which was no doubt supplied to him. I do not blame him for that, but I do blame him for not inquiring into the matter. For what reason were they considered not to be suitable? The suitability in the case of one man who was taken on was I think, that he was a personal friend of the foreman, and in the case of the other that he was the foreman's brother. Neither had served in the Armed Forces of the Crown, whereas the two ex-Service men were 71 sent back to the employment exchange. This is the Admiralty as an employer. This is the Government who are calling on private employers to make sacrifices by encouraging men to serve in the Auxiliary Services and the Territorial Army and who are asked to make up the difference in pay which they get while with those Services and what they would get if they stayed at work. This kind of behaviour by the Admiralty as an employer is killing recruiting. The Admiralty are too complacent to make any inquiry or serious investigation into what is going on. The case which I have given can be verified, if necessary by affidavit.
It is not the only case. It is notorious that in Northern Ireland the ex-Service man is suffering and not getting employment, and the man who is being taken into employment is the man who did not volunteer to serve his country. I think that this is a disgrace, and I should be interested to hear what steps the Admiralty are going to take about this case. I hope that they will do something to rub out this stigma which, I think, this kind of action by the Admiralty is placing upon the Royal Navy. I resent very much that there should be this utter failure to try to give ex-Service men a fair deal.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Walter Edwards)
I am sorry to interrupt the discussion on this subject, but in view of the fact that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will reply at the end of the Debate, I think that it is best for me to deal with the particular point which has been raised by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross). I am very sorry that I have not pleased him since I have held my office. I do not expect to please everybody, and sometimes, from the point of view of being a Member of the Government, it may be just as well not to please hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Londonderry. I am of the opinion that this cheap publicity which the hon. Gentleman is trying to get every time the Admiralty is mentioned with regard to the employment of ex-Service men in Northern Ireland is most unjustified. The policy of the Admiralty today in Northern Ireland is even better, so far as the employment of ex-Service men is concerned, than under any previous Government.
§ Sir R. Ross
If the hon. Gentleman, instead of making offensive and personal attacks on a matter which has been represented to me by the British Legion and other bodies in Northern Ireland, would answer the concrete case which I have put to him, it would make a bit more sense.
§ Mr. Edwards
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman cannot take it. He likes to give a lot from all angles, but he does not like getting it back himself. Can he tell me when a Tory Government gave preference of employment to ex-Service men in Northern Ireland, all things being equal?
§ Mr. Edwards
The position today is that instructions to employing bodies in Northern Ireland are that ex-Service men are to get preference of employment, all things being equal.
§ Sir R. Ross
Will the hon. Gentleman inquire into this specific case and have a proper inquiry made by some responsible person, and will he also inquire why these instructions are completely flouted?
§ Mr. Edwards
If the hon. Gentleman and I are to keep bobbing up and down, we shall take a long time. I am going to explain the situation of these two men. Two casual workers were required by the Admiralty. The Admiralty sent to the employment exchange, and four men were sent along—two were ex-Service men and two were not. By Admiralty regulations, the men on the spot are instructed to give preference to ex-Service men if they think that the men are suitable. Every employing Department in the Government has to leave it to the men on the spot to see that those they engage are suitable. The man on the spot in this case decided that the two men who had not been in the Services were the most suitable for the two jobs. Why is all this hullabaloo being created over two casual jobs which are now defunct? The two men who were employed are no longer in those jobs.
It might interest the hon. Member to be able to inform the British Legion in Northern Ireland that no less than 60 per cent. of the men employed in the Works Department in this area of Northern Ireland are ex-Service men. It is sought to 73 create the impression that ex-Service men are badly treated, but I maintain that they are being treated far better than they ever have been; and, whatever the hon. Member may say, we shall go on treating them in the fairest possible way, all things being equal.
§ Sir R. Ross
The Civil Lord has admitted that two non-ex-Service men were employed in preference to two ex-Service men. That is only one instance out of many.
§ Mr. Edwards
I have said that the people on the spot decided that the two men who had not any service were most suitable for the job. That is always the test.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)
I hesitate to do anything to lower the temperature of the Debate which has just been going on, particularly as I am by no means certain whether, in accordance with the Ruling given by the hon. and gallant Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey), I am eligible to speak in this Debate. He was rather firm with the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), who was not, he asserted, a suitable person to take part in this Debate. I hope that I may get past that barrier on the ground that, while I have not had the honour of serving in the Navy, I have for some years taken a very keen interest in the relationship of the Navy to the Merchant Marine, in both war and peace, and I have a fairly close connection with the Merchant Marine.
§ Commander Pursey
We must get this right on the record. I do not object to the speakers; that has nothing to do with me. My point was that, in view of the number of interruptions and the number of Members who wanted to speak, I was not prepared to give way to an hon. Gentleman whose contribution could only be irrelevant to a technical subject. I am more than glad that we should have the contribution of the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) who is representing the vast party of which he is an honoured member.
§ Mr. Maclay
With that welcome I can continue at ease.
It was in, I think, 1946 that I first raised in this House on the Navy Estimates the question of the availability of 74 escorts, and I was very delighted when in 1948 the Civil Lord answered that question which I had asked in 1946. It was very handsome of him to give a duly deliberative reply. I am still more delighted that this year the subject of anti-submarine warfare and the availability of escorts for convoys, by aircraft and other means, has been fully dealt with by both Front Benches. I sincerely hope that the same attention will continue to be given to that subject indefinitely into the future, so that never again shall we be caught short on that all-important part of our defence ability —as, quite frankly, we were caught short very seriously in 1939, in spite of the lessons of the 1914–18 war.
There is one aspect of co-operation with the Merchant Marine in war, which has been just touched on in the general Debate on the Navy Estimates, but which has not been answered as far as I can find out, which I should like to raise definitely this evening. I refer to navalair co-operation, and to the question whether there is any link between the training of the Naval Air Force and the Merchant Marine. There is provision in the Estimates for members of the Navy to attend courses at Royal Air Force establishments, and I should very much like to know if any members of the Merchant Marine or the Royal Naval Reserve have ever been in any of these courses. It is very regrettable that the R.N.R. should not yet have been properly re-established. It is most vital, particularly in these years, that the great experience of wartime co-operation between the Navy and the Merchant Navy should not be wasted.
I hope we shall get something more definite than we have been given so far by the Under-Secretary of State for Air on the closeness of co-operation on antisubmarine work and convoying. We know that there are courses attended by members of both Services; but does that work go on at the top level, the medium level, or the working level? I do not yet know the answer. That subject received only 10 lines in the OFFICIAL REPORT, although it surely must be of immense importance, bearing in mind the increasing speed of the submarine and the other matters which were discussed earlier. It is essential that some of those responsible for handling the Merchant Navy at sea should be brought in; that they should be learning how the 75 developments are progressing, and giving the benefit of their experience in the problems of convoy work from the merchant ship side, making certain that the very best general advice is given and experience gained in developing new techniques.
That leads me to discuss the development of the autogyro or helicopter; I never remember which it is, but I know that one is better than the other. It is common knowledge that during the war there were experiments with the helicopter, and I should like to know whether that would properly come under the Admiralty or the Air Force; whether it is a Coastal Command or a Navy job; and, if so, whether the subject is being examined. There are two possible uses: first, the straight detection of submarines; and secondly, as the development of that type of aircraft continues it may prove to be a greater weight lifter than at present, in which case there are obvious uses to which it could be put in the defence of convoys and merchant ships.
That is an extremely important factor, yet at the moment we simply do not know who is responsible, or whether the experience gained during the war in this field—admittedly on the other side of the Atlantic—is being studied. At that time it never reached the stage of practical use, to the best of my knowledge, but it is clearly valuable to be able to take a hovering plane and carry it with the convoy on a merchant ship for use in certain, if not all, weather conditions for submarine detection or attack. This may be a very amateur way of dealing with the subject, and there are probably experts here who know a lot more about it; but it has not yet been mentioned, and I hope we shall be told whether that aspect is being dealt with.
Finally, might we be informed about the intake of fishermen into the Navy to do their National Service? I have had to deal with quite fantastic cases of boys who have been at sea from the age of 14 for one or two years, who have taken 50-ft. fishing boats out to sea under their own command for short periods, who have had to go into the Army to do their National Service because they were told they could not be taken into the Navy. Grave dangers attach to that. To begin with, it is most disheartening for a boy 76 who is keen on the sea to be forced away from it to do his National Service. In taking a boy of that age away from the sea to another kind of life there is always the risk that he may drift away from fishing. Fortunately, that has not happened in East Scotland after this war; it has been most encouraging to see how men serving in Forces other than the Navy during the war have returned to the sea. That certainly was not the case in many areas after the 1914–18 war. I know that some time ago the Navy was taking no National Service entrants at all; they were giving all their places to long-service men. I sincerely hope that that difficulty has now been overcome, and that we shall be told something about it.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
I have risen to suggest that today all these Estimates are obsolete. Since they came out we have had the Atlantic Pact which puts the whole defence picture into a different frame. If the Atlantic Pact is to work at all, it must work as a single co-ordinated defence. It cannot work as a number of independent and overlapping defences run by various countries. A system of that sort will either fall apart under pressure or will impose an impossible burden upon the economies of the various countries concerned. The Minister of Defence must work out how equipment can be standardised with that of America and eliminate overlapping. We should think out this problem not as two independent forces in one sea but in terms of a single defence force for the Atlantic.
I also ask the Minister to consider very seriously the question of the various arms and the contribution they have to make to this common defence. Now that we have the Atlantic Pact these Navy Estimates seem to be quite disproportionately large. They are utterly disproportionate to the other Services. There is a surface sea defence job to be done. We must weigh up its size, look at the joint navies of Britain and America, and ask whether they are enough for the job, or whether they are not in fact miles too large for that job. If that is so, we should divert that expenditure to the air and land where we are obviously falling short of our needs. We need some of the cruisers for peace-time functions, such as incidents like Malaya and the Falkland 77 Islands, and there is perhaps a case for maintaining one battleship. Beyond that, the joint surface forces available are far larger than the task.
I would also ask the Minister of Defence seriously to consider whether there is a case for a fleet air arm. In that which I referred to as the only possible war, it is pretty unlikely that we shall want to fly aeroplanes off ships at all. There is the Norwegian passage, but that is only of value while we have Norwegian aerodromes, and because we have Norwegian aerodromes, it is a.job that can be done more effectively by land based aircraft. Britain is the intersecting base from the point of view of air in the Atlantic. It may be that we shall find, because surprising things happen in wars, that there is a use for carrier-borne aircraft, but the fact remains that there are so many other things in respect of which we know there will be a use and a desperate shortage. In these circumstances, can we afford expenditure on mere possibilities particularly when we know these things are in huge supply in America and are immediately available?
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Is the hon. and learned Member aware that there is a very reliable report by the political correspondent of one of the Scottish papers which shows that the United States Government have asked our Government to increase their defence Estimates?
§ Mr. Paget
I can well imagine that the United States Government have done that, although I do not know it to be a fact. I am certain that they have not asked us to increase the surface Fleet or the Fleet Air Arm. There are many branches in which we are desperately short, particularly in the case of our fighter forces and in the armour of the Army. These are things that are most urgently and certainly required. I am speaking all the time of the relative needs of this country. We cannot have all that we should like, and we can never have what is really adequate. We have to choose between what is most urgent and what is less urgent. In the light of the Atlantic Pact, many of the things we are asking for in these Navy Estimates are obviously less urgent than the things we lack under the other two Estimates.
I seriously ask the Minister of Defence to reconsider what can be saved in these 78 Estimates in the light of the Atlantic Pact and also what must be expanded in the light of that Pact. Both of these things have to be done. For instance, it seems to me that the amount of personnel in the Navy is disproportionate to the share of the sea function left to us to perform in the Atlantic. It may be that there is a very strong case for forming Naval divisions. We have had Naval divisions before. What is wanted is divisions not battleships. There is no likelihood of anyone wanting to use a battleship. There may be a strong case for keeping the Fleet Air Arm personnel together—they have a wonderful morale—but they should be organised as land squadrons to do the land fighter job as part of Fighter Command.
We should leave to the Americans those jobs for which they have the arms and men available and concentrate on the jobs that we must do ourselves if Europe is to be held. That is what we have to do if the Atlantic Pact is to be a reality. All these Estimates are designed on the old idea of an unintegrated defence of Britain. For Parliamentary reasons, we have to have these Estimates a certain time before the Budget, but I urge the Ministers concerned to regard them as provisional and not to hesitate to change them around as any new situation demands.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Captain Marsden (Chertsey)
I do not dissent from very much that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has said. We certainly need a joint defence if the Atlantic Pact is to be effective. One of the underlying motives of the Atlantic Pact is that we should be able to reduce the money that is being spent, always bearing in mind that the security of those within the Pact is the first consideration. I would point out, however, that apart from the United States there is no country which will be of much help to us so far as the sea is concerned. I do not suppose that the Admiralty rely on a single ship from any other country. We have to keep up our Navy because the United States would not think very much of us if we told them that we do not need a large fleet because they have the biggest navy in the world. On the contrary, I think that reaction would be very objectionable indeed. The more we keep up our Services and prepare to do our share in 79 mutual defence, the more likely are we to have effective assistance from our friends on the other side of the Atlantic.
I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) refer to merchant shipping defence, a question with which I have had a lot to do. We have asked about it and have been told nothing. We have put Questions down and have had very polite but uninformative answers telling us the usual story—that the matter was under consideration, or was in hand, or something of that sort. I know there is a shipping defence advisory committee—if that is the exact title—of shipowners and the Admiralty, but what results they have arrived at or what plans they have made for the future, we have not been able to ascertain. I would like to hear something about this from the Parliamentary Secretary. I want to see for every merchant ship, blueprints showing what the gun positions would be if war was declared and the ship was likely to be in a danger area. We are not told about this despite the lessons of the last war, when we learned that even if the various stiffenings and positions were not embodied in new construction, at least plans were prepared to show how guns were to be fitted when required.
Running through this Debate and others on naval affairs what has been insisted upon by everybody is the necessity for getting satisfactory replies to questions about arrangements made for training. We have been given vague and "airy fairy" answers which might have forced us to the conclusion that no arrangements had been made at all. May I make a suggestion? We have all sorts of different entrants into the Navy—the Fleet Reserve, the Royal Naval Reserve, the R.N.V.R. and the Sea Cadets. I should like to see all these forms of training under one head, with the same establishment, the same instructors and the same equipment. I am sure that this would be of considerable benefit. Unfortunately, Sea Cadets have to struggle along with antiquated boats which they can hardly keep afloat, antiquated weapons and with very much retired instructors. They do the best they can. We do not want from the Admiralty a promise that more will be done in the dim and distant future; we 80 would like to hear that prompt action will be taken to train and to continue to train the Navy's Reserves.
It is rather a temptation for one who has closely followed naval affairs for so long to comment on practically every page of the Estimates, but I shall confine myself to just a few. Page 170 refers to canteens. This strikes me particularly hard, in view of the Debate here last Thursday on catering for the House. The Explanatory Note on the subject points out that canteens are normally operated by the Admiralty under the management of the Controller of Canteens, and then says:The general principle upon which these canteens are operated is that, taken as a group, they shall neither make profit nor incur loss after meeting running costs which include goods used, salaries and wages of canteen staff, maintenance and replacement of loose equipment….On the left hand side of the page I find that everybody is paid, although that is not supposed to be according to the Explanatory Note. There are catering managers, manageresses, a vast staff and national insurance schemes. I have no doubt that that is necessary, and that it is found that industrial concerns provide the greater part of the staff and equipment of the canteens. I see an item "Provisions, stores and other running expenses, £533,000." The total Estimate for canteens next year is £781,000, as against £618,400 for 1948–49. Considering that the general purpose of a canteen, apart from certain things which are provided, is to buy and sell provisions. I think that needs some explanation.
I refer now to the swollen size of the Admiralty—the number of people in the Admiralty and the money necessary for its provision. I have noticed that establishments of one man and a secretary have been set up, and that the following year and years after there has been an increased growth. There is no stopping it. Page 188 refers to the "Office of the senior psychologist." I suppose he started in a small room by himself. Now he has gone ahead a little, and the Estimate has risen from £9,295 to £11,496 for 1949–50. I do not believe that anybody—at least, I do not—knows why a psychologist is necessary in the Navy. I believe that the best psychologist for stokers is the chief stoker and, for marines, the sergeant-major. I wonder if a psychologist is employed 81 before the Government make their appointments to the Front Bench, and elsewhere. I am sure that the psychologist referred to on page 188 has not so much to do that he could not spare a little time. Last year there were 12 clerical staff and four psychologists. This year there will be only nine clerical staff, but six psychologists. I presume that some of the clerical staff have been promoted to be psychologists. There is an Estimate of over £4,000 for six psychologists in this office. That is an example of an office which starts in a small way and grows.
Next, there is the Department of the Director of Naval Training which everybody wants to see strengthened. The Vote in this case is £2,000 less for next year than this year. It is all very strange, and I hope we shall have some explanation. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to drive it home to the Board of Admiralty. We are very much concerned about the training arrangements for Reserves who come in from all parts of the country, and we ask that adequate facilities should be afforded for that training.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. John Dugdale)
I am relieved that the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) did not do as he said he was tempted to do—comment upon the Estimates page by page. As it is, it will take me rather longer than I expected to answer some of the interesting points which have been raised. The hon. and gallant Member should be glad to know that the amounts of money for training has been reduced. One of the criticisms of the Opposition last year was that so many men were employed at shore training establishments and so few at sea. We have managed to train a large number of men, and some of our shore training commitments have been reduced. That. I think, is an improvement. With regard to psychologists, one of the jobs they do in all the three Services is to see that as far as possible the right people are put in the right jobs.
§ Mr. Dugdale
If the implication is, does it include the Government, the answer is that the Government are not being ap- 82 pointed as the result of the advice of psychologists, but I have no doubt that if they were on the job the psychologists would bear out the excellence of the appointments made to the Government.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey) talked about warrant officers, and I am glad that he is pleased about two out of the three things we have done. To satisfy my hon. Friend is something of which the Admiralty may well be proud. He asked whether these officers were going to have thick or thin stripes. The position is roughly that there will be no change. One will have thick stripes as now, and the others will have thin stripes. He asked about their pension rates. They will remain unchanged. There is one very important point in that connection however. At present all officers up to and including Vice Admiral serve two years before qualifying for the pension of that rank. The new branch officer will do the same. The Admiralty will adjust the promotion dates so that any branch officer promoted to lieutenant will have two years' service before he retires. Therefore, he will be eligible for the pension of that rank. We attach some importance to that.
I turn next to the point raised by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross). He asked about the Admiralty Office costs, and wanted to know why they were higher. There are various reasons for that, but two will be enough to go on with. The first is that among those costs are those of naval officers, and their marriage allowances were raised this year. We also find that those who have been discharged included a number of temporary employees who were on relatively low grades of pay, so though a number of lower grades have been discharged and there are fewer people, they are employed at higher rates owing to the increase granted to the particular people who are serving.
The hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) referred to the Marines. It is all very well to talk about the Marines not being mentioned in these Debates. He would be the first to agree that it would be quite ridiculous if I made a speech entirely composed of references to section after section of the Navy. Obviously that cannot be done. There are people throughout the Navy 83 who should be praised and I praised one or two last year and others in other years. The Marines were mentioned not only in my noble Friend's explanatory statement, but in the White Paper issued by the Minister of Defence. On both occasions they were praised, and I am glad that I can take this opportunity of repeating what was said then, that we attach a very high value to the Marines and we have great admiration for their work. We realise the extremely important part they play in naval affairs.
The hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) and the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey referred to anti-submarine work and the question of co-operation with the Merchant Navy. We are co-operating as far as we can. I shall not go into great details, but I am glad that this point has been mentioned and we will see that co-operation will continue as far as possible on all levels. The hon. Member for Montrose Burghs also asked about helicopters. He may have seen that we have a small number in the Navy. Recently there was a rather spectacular landing by a helicopter on the flag-ship of the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet. It took mails to the Commander-in-Chief and landed on board ship. We attach importance to helicopters and we are developing them surely if slowly. They will play their part in our work in the future.
Remarks dealing with conditions in the Service were made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) who mentioned the question of re-engagements. They said they were not happy about the re-engagement rates, and that very little was being done to encourage re-engagements. One of the things that has been done is that we have increased the pay of just those ratings who are most affected by re-engagements. The pay of petty officers and higher grades has been increased. Last autumn they received those increases and we hope that there will be some improvement in the re-engagement rates as a result. I should like to take up here a statement he made which is not in accordance with the facts. He said that when I was aboard H.M.S. "Vanguard" 90 per cent. 84 of the petty officers said that they would not go on the Royal tour if they got a chance to get out. That is not so, but if they had said it, it would, in fact, be a very remarkable tribute to conditions outside the Navy which are conditions of full employment. They would not have said anything like that before the war.
§ Mr. J. P. L. Thomas (Hereford)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves this question of re-engagements, is he prepared to give the assurance which was asked for not only today but during the Debate on the Navy Estimates and also in another place, that the Government will reconsider the American system of granting re-engagement on from two years upwards? That might have some effect.
§ Mr. Dugdale
Certainly; we will consider it. I cannot say anything more at the moment. We are concerned to see that we get the greatest number of engagements that we can.
On the question of improvements to barracks, I should like to reply to the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch. He said that he was very disappointed in the amount of improvements carried out, particularly in barracks, and he complained that the only improvements done were at Chatham and that there were none at Devonport. He argued that these were the facts in spite of the assurance given by my hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty that the Marine Barracks at Portsmouth would be improved forthwith. I am assured by my hon. Friend the Civil Lord that he said nothing of the kind.
On the general question of improvement, my noble Friend is making plans for the improvement of these barracks, but he is faced with conditions that have been allowed to exist year upon year for 10, 20 and 30 years. They are conditions which are a disgrace for any previous Government to have permitted. I do not mind how many times that is repeated, because it is a fact. It is 85 all very well for hon. Members opposite to come here and ask why has not such and such a scheme been undertaken. They should look at the records and find out the kind of conditions they allowed in housing and in married quarters in barracks. The conditions today are no worse than the conditions which have been left to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to clear up, but that is saying a great deal.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
Does the hon. Gentleman remember the speech that he made three years ago, in which he promised that these conditions would be improved. Whilst he may like to make party capital out of his statement, what we want to know is how much has he done to fulfil that promise?
A very great deal has been done. It is being done in the barracks at Chatham, to mention just one point. It is the first time that the ratings there have ever been allowed to eat and sleep in separate quarters. It was always thought good enough by previous Governments that they should eat and sleep in the same quarters.
With regard to married quarters, what is the position? It is that we are building married quarters, not as quickly as we should like, certainly, but we are building them infinitely more quickly than they were ever built before. There were no ratings married quarters before. That point makes it very difficult for hon. Members opposite to press home with very great force any suggestion that the Government are doing very little today to help forward the welfare of our sailors.
§ Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)
In regard to the ratings married quarters, is it not the case that in the old days the ratings went to sea?
§ Mr. Dugdale
No doubt that may seem to the hon. and gallant Gentleman a very comical observation, but I would remind him that the figures for those at sea in proportion to those on shore are after subtracting new commitments roughly the same as they were when the Leader of the Opposition was in the Government shortly after the last war, at a comparable time to this. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had better think again.
86 Married quarters were mentioned, but one other improvement has been made and I cannot let this afternoon go without referring to it once again. It is important that it should be mentioned although I mentioned it in my Estimates speech. Many sailors, in spite of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman implied, go to sea. They want the best conditions in the ships in which they serve. In the past they did not have those conditions, but today the conditions are being very rapidly improved in one way and another. I will not go into details because I described them in my Estimates speech. There are very considerable improvements.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor rose—
§ Mr. Dugdale
I am afraid I cannot give way to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Time is short. I should be perfectly willing to give way otherwise, but there are other subjects to be discussed today.
Finally, we come to the question of pay. The hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch tried to make us believe that the real wages received by sailors are now lower. Is that not what he said? If he did not say so, I am glad to hear it because it means that the hon. and gallant Gentleman believes that real wages are higher today than they were before. The Government have taken great pains to see that the wages of sailors have increased.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I know that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to misquote me. What I said was that although increases had been made, those increases were not so great as had taken place in other directions, and that the real wages of the sailor were lower than they were before.
§ Mr. Dugdale
That is what I thought the hon. and gallant Gentleman said, that the real wages of sailors were less than they were before the war. I dispute that statement. Not only do I do so, but I say that the statement with which he followed it is also inaccurate. He said that not only were the sailors getting less in wages but that we were getting fewer recruits. I can only say that although we should like more recruits—certainly all the Services would like more recruits —we are today getting a higher rate of recruitment than we got in the comparable time after the last war. That is a 87 very remarkable fact, considering that the conditions of the men who might be joining the Navy are vastly improved above what they were between the wars. They have improved conditions outside, and yet there is a good rate of recruitment into the Navy. I think we need say nothing more than that.
§ Commander Maitland (Horncastle)
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, can he let us know whether he considers the pay of the senior ratings on the lower deck is satisfactory?
§ Mr. Dugdale
It is better than it was. I am satisfied that it is a considerable improvement upon what the men got before the war.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
Would the hon. Gentleman do me the courtesy, as I opened the Debate upon this Estimate, to say something more about the point which I raised regarding the duties of the Royal Marines and their numbers?
§ Mr. Dugdale
I cannot go into more detail now. I referred in some detail to the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I think I referred about as much to his remarks as I did to all the other remarks put together, which shows the importance which I attach to them. I will certainly answer in due course any points on which he wants information about the Royal Marines. In spite of the fact that the hon. and gallant Gentleman thought that somehow or other we had omitted to mention them, we attach the very greatest importance to their work.
Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions reported: