HC Deb 06 March 1952 vol 497 cc777-870

9.14 p.m.

Mr. M. Follick (Loughborough)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House is of the opinion that a great advantage would accrue, in the sending of despatches, signals, orders and messages, if some simplification of the English spelling were introduced. It is not my wish to divide the House on this Amendment, but unless the Minister can give a satisfactory assurance that not only will this matter be given serious consideration but that he will call in his experts and consult other Departments, we shall take the matter to a Division.

Commander Pursey

The hon. Gentleman is the only one who says so.

Mr. Follick

Which side is the hon. and gallant Gentleman on?

Commander Pursey

Not the hon. Gentleman's.

Mr. Follick

Thank goodness the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not on our side. I am afraid that if he were, we should not get any votes at all.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The hon. Gentleman will not in any case

Mr. Follick

As there are no Whips on for this Division, Members in all parts of the House can support us in this—

Mr. Callaghan


Mr. Follick

Yes, in this crusade.

Commander Pursey

The hon. Gentleman will be the only teller.

Mr. Follick

We have now got away from controversial matters and we are discussing a question on which most of us agree to a certain extent. This Amendment is not the same as the Bill I brought before the House on 11th March, 1948. That was a Bill for spelling reform. This is not a question of spelling reform: it is only a question of some simplification of spelling. Sir Alan Herbert, who opposed that Bill, afterwards told me that if I would agree to a moderate step towards the simplification of spelling, he would support me. Not only that, but when I was fortunate in the Ballot some days ago and was reading out the Amendment which I proposed to move, I heard the Prime Minister whisper, "It is a very sensible proposal." The Prime Minister knows something about the English language and about the Navy. At the start of both world wars he was First Lord of the Admiralty.

I should have preferred to move a similar Motion to this on the Civil Estimates, but as I drew the second lucky chance, had to take the second opportunity. Instead of moving an Amendment on the Civil Estimates, I move this one now.

Mr. Percy Daines (East Ham, North)

Tell us what it is about.

Mr. Follick

I will take my time. I have waited and I will take my time now.

Mr. Ellis Smith

My hon. Friend has got another supporter coming in.

Mr. Follick

We are in process of building up a naval organisation composed of 11 nations, and I believe that there are eight different languages spoken in those 11 nations, but the over-ruling language is to be English. In signalling, it may be possible, and probably will be, that people of different nationalities will have to signal messages in English. To take an extreme case, we may have a Greek signalling to a Dutchman a message in English. [Laughter.] It is no laughing matter; it is true. It is just as well that we should envisage this fact, and try to simplify the difficulties of English spelling in that respect, so as to make it easier for them and make it less likely for mistakes to occur.

Naval people in the Service have been most progressive in the question of language reform and spelling. They have, in this respect, done much that is far from their usual duties and responsibilities. I will give a few examples. The old-fashioned spelling of "boatswain" has now been transformed into "bosun," and that is the spelling given in the dictionary. The old form "bolework" has been transformed into its ordinary spelling according to the pronunciation, and has become "bulwark." The old form of the word indicated that it was a bole work, as opposed to earthwork, because the boles were trunks of trees. The Navy changed the spelling to accord with the pronunciation.

The Navy also changed words for other reasons. They formerly had the words "starboard" and "larboard," but, as there was confusion between the two, they changed the word "larboard" to "port." The Navy has shown much progress in this matter, and it is for that very reason that I am trying to see if it will not be possible to extend this way of acting in the Royal Navy to a great number of other words.

Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to interrupt? Why does he not set an example by dropping an "I" and a "c," and, possibly, a "k" from his own name?—[Laughter.]

Mr. Follick

There is nothing to laugh at in this matter; absolutely nothing. Although I have not belonged to the Royal Navy, I am raising this question on the Navy Estimates. There are other words the spelling of which the Navy have changed. There is "gunwale." That appears in the dictionary as "gunnel."

Commander Pursey

Not in the Navy.

Mr. Follick

In the dictionary and referring to the Navy. There is no reason why "coxswain" should not be similarly written "coxon." There is no reason why "rowlocks" should not be spelt according to the pronunciation.

Commander Pursey


Mr. Follick

There is a man who comes from the Navy ! I am using this opportunity as a means towards my spelling reform. It might be called the thin end of the wedge. [Interruption.] My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hull, East (Commander Pursey), is as tiresome to me as to hon. Members on the other side of the House—and no advertisement to this party or to this Parliament.

I am going to suggest that, taking the overall view of the position, we should seriously think of simplifying the words that to foreigners cause difficulties, because we are going to have a tremendous number of other than English-speaking people in this great naval set-up that we are now organising.

We should consider as a start accepting all those American innovations of Professor Matthews. There are 300 of them altogether, and they have become part and parcel of the American side of the English language. They were introduced by Theodore Roosevelt into Congress, and Theodore Roosevelt actually ordered the Government printer to use those 300 innovations in all public documents. I should like to read from Theodore Roosevelt's view of these. He said: It is not an attempt to do anything far-reaching or sudden or violent or, indeed, anything very great at all. It is merely an attempt to cast all the slight weight that can properly be cast on the side of the popular forces which are endeavouring to make our spelling a little less foolish and fantastic. That was the view of Theodore Roosevelt, and that is the view of any person who has had dealings with foreigners either in teaching them the English language or examining them on the subject of the English language. So I am going to deal more or less with the foreign aspect of the question. I hope that my seconder will take the English side and deal with that.

One of the most important of these 300 American innovations was the dropping of the "u" from all words ending in "our," like "labour," "rumour" and "colour." Actually the Americans are much more correct and nearer the true etymology of the word in their acceptance of the spelling than we are, because they go right back to the Latin origin of the word. They write "color," which is exactly the true etymology of the word—coloris; labor, laboris, and so on, right through that long list of words ending "our." Even over here on the British side of the English language, in the extension of the word we drop the "u." "Labour" we spell with a "u," but we drop the "u" in "laboratory" and "laborious." We spell "honour" with the "u" but in "honorific" and honorary "the" "u" is dropped.

That is one instance in which it would be of great benefit in signalling to simplify the whole thing. Where there is a dropping of the "u" in the extension of the word, the original root-word ought to be spelt without the "u" as well. It will be very difficult indeed for, say, a Dutchman who is signalling to an American or a British ship to know whether he shall use the American form or the British form of spelling. It would be much better to accept these innovations as they are, as the Americans have accepted them, into the Navy for signalling purposes, and then they will come slowly into the English language as part and parcel of our English.

We could drop all mute letters, because the majority of them not only are not pronounced but ought not to be there at all. Let me give the House an example. Take the word "receipt" spelt r-e-c-e-i-p-t. We do not spell "deceit" d-e-c-e-i-p-t, or "conceit" c-o-n-c-e-i-p-t, yet they are the same root. In "reception," "deception" and "conception" the "p" is retained right through. "Receive," "conceive" and "deceive" all take the same form. But in this one exception, "receipt," for some reason or other the letter "p" is shoved in. Now that provides a terrific difficulty for a foreigner who has to learn it. The first thing he asks is "Why have you this letter 'p' in 'receipt' and not in 'deceit' or 'conceit'? "If it is dropped from all the other derivations, why retain it in this one word?

Take the word "double." Why have an "o" there when we do not pronounce it? In the original etymology of the word there was no o." It comes from the Latin duplus. There was no "o" there at all; yet it has crept into the language. It would make it much easier for the foreigner who has to be in this naval set-up, and who has to signal in English, if all these small things were attended to, because they are very small really, and they do not greatly affect the language. All that they do is to make it easier for those who have to learn the language.

All the words ending in "ough" could be put into their proper spelling. There is no reason why "plough" should not be written "plow"; "cough" as "coll." As a matter of fact, the Shakespearean use of "cough" was "coll." This form of "ough" is only in the language because of Dr. Johnson's dictionary. These are all simplifications that could take place very easily. Take the word "biscuit." There is no reason why it should not be written "biskit." [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but in other words we do use that form of spelling.

In the word "kitchen," which is exactly the same derivation, we do not write it "cuitchen," but "kitchen." In the word "navvy" a different spelling has been accepted. "Navvy" was a naval word, and to distinguish it from "navy" a second "v" was introduced.

There is nothing static about the English language. It is a very mobile language. The English language is always being changed. To introduce these small changes would not alter the language drastically. It would only make it easier for a foreigner to learn. In English, "ce," "ci," "ti," "te," "si," and "se," are all pronounced "sh," like "malicious," "contentious." Where there is "ci," "ce," and "ti" there would be no difficulty at all in writing "sh" and having done with it. The foreigner could learn "sh" for all "sh" sounds and it would not make any great difference to the language.

To show how the English language has changed, take the word "thumb." When we talk about "fumbling" something, it is the same as saying, "He is all thumbs." There we have actually changed the spelling to accord with the pronunciation. The word "thumbling" has become "fumbling." We can do this with the majority of these irregularities in pronunciation. We do not only change spelling but we change words, and get different meanings. The word "intrigue" does not mean the same thing as it used to mean. In my lifetime, the word "alibi" has taken on a different meaning. In my lifetime "alibi" used to mean that one was somewhere else at the time that something happened. Today in 99 cases out of a hundred "alibi" means an excuse

Mr. Speaker

I do not like to interrupt the hon. Gentleman but these are the Navy Estimates. The hon. Member must try, if he can, to remain afloat.

Mr. Follick

With the greatest respect Mr. Speaker, I said that the Navy Estimates are acting as a sort of vehicle for explaining all these changes. The word "alibi" can be used in the Navy. A sailor explaining something can give an alibi or an excuse. With great deference to your learned opinion, all the words that I have used can be used in the Navy. I admit that they can be used elsewhere, but they can certainly be used in the Navy.

Even the Leader of the House gave a different meaning to a word recently. In his first speech from the Dispatch Box as Leader of the House, he made a big song about "the skeletons in the cupboard" and said that they were hanging like candelabra. I have never known a candelabra that hangs. A candelabra sticks up. It is a chandelier that hangs down and not a candelabra.

Captain Ryder

On a point of order. May I point out that we have ceased using candelabra or chandeliers in the Navy for some time?

Mr. Follick

I was referring to Nelson's day when candelabra and chandeliers were used in the Navy.

You have been very tolerant, Mr. Speaker, and I have only a few more examples that I should like to give. A messenger in the Navy may have to send a telegram and he may not know whether "telegram" has to be spelt with "mme" at the end like "programme" or whether be should leave off the final "me". Would it not be better if all words ending in "gram" or "gramme" were spelt the same way? Even people of our standard of education have to look at a dictionary to find out whether "programme" is spelt "program" or "programme".

If the Minister will promise to give this matter careful and sympathetic consideration, we shall be greatly indebted to him. If he refuses to do that, we shall have to carry this Amendment to a Division. Although many hon. Members are sneering and jeering and interrupting very stupidly, I would remind the House of two hon. Members who sat in the House for years trying to convince hon. Members of certain necessities. It took a Great War to bring in daylight saving. Plimsoll drew the attention of hon. Members to the value of the Plimsoll Line for 20 years before a great disaster caused Parliament to adopt his recommendations. I beg the House not to treat this matter of spelling reform as these two geniuses were treated.

There are Members in this House who believe that some simplification of spelling would be of great service to our language; it would spread our language throughout the world, and would make peace come nearer through the use of a language that, because of its simplicity, would spread everywhere. I commend this Amendment to the House.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)

I beg to second the Amendment.

I think the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) and all of us who take seriously this question of spelling in the interests of the Navy are greatly complimented that the First Lord of the Admiralty as well as the Civil Lord should be here during this debate, together with the Secretary of State for War, the Under-Secretary of State for Air and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, because, although this matter is of very grave and great importance to the Navy, it is perfectly clear, mutatis mutandis, it refers to all three Services because the whole issue is one of coordinated defence. I want, in speaking particularly in terms of the Navy, to bring home how terribly important are rapid and accurate communications. Modern fire power, particularly since the rocket, is of such weight that almost a split second counts, and if the enemy get in that devastating weight substantially ahead the issue is over and finished.

I would say that in a big European war effort the efficacy of communications within the armed forces is exactly comparable to the reacting speed in a boxer's ability. The ability to react quickly and communicate between one part of the body and the other is the real science of a supreme self-defence in the boxing ring, and I would say in terms of our war effort and of the Navy that it is also the very -essence of communications that they should be rapid and accurate. Therefore, the subject is worthy of the attention of this House.

As the hon. Member for Loughborough—and here I might add that he would spell "Loughborough" with far greater economy—has raised this matter in the context of many national languages being spoken by those engaged in the common defence effort of N.A.T.O. It is by intercommunications that the body will become effective. As we know, English has been accepted as the conventional common vehicle of inter-communications, and that in itself is a very successful first-step in providing for more effective communications. The Navy is the Senior Service. Moreover it has its own air force—the Fleet Air Arm. The Royal Navy, as such, ought to set a lead amongst the other Services in co-ordinating communicating efficiency.

Moreover, Britain is the senior country because it is the parent of the English language, and I think that as between Britain and America the Royal Navy is clearly the right unit to initiate any consideration of this kind.

I want the House to get clear in their minds that there are two kinds of communications. There is signalling which is international and signalling which is national. An example of international signalling is a flag at half mast. It is independent of language altogether. When we see the "Blue Peter" at the masthead, we understand it everywhere because it is an international sign. Again, when we are on the road and see a torch-sign by the side, we know that we are approaching a school. We do not have to speak the language of the country in which we are motoring in order to know that.

I want to make it clear that we who support this Amendment recognise that, in the majority of instances, signalling from ship to ship is of this "international" and not of a national character. I look back to the R.A.F. where I was trained in a Link trainer at one stage. I know that such signs as "O.D.M. and" Q.D.F." are definitely international. They have meaning; but not through any language, because they are not linguistic. Most ship-to-ship signalling in war and in peace admittedly takes place in this way without the necessity of a common language at all.

I hope that the Civil Lord, when he replies, will therefore leave out altogether the international aspect of this problem, because it is not about international signalling that we are talking at all, only about national language signalling. Any of us on a railway platform in a foreign country, having got out to stretch his legs, if he saw a man blow a whistle and wave a green flag would know that he had to get back into the carriage, notwithstanding the fact that he did not speak the language at all. Do not let us, then, have anything from the Civil Lord in his reply about the international field, because that is irrelevant.

National languages each have three kinds. One is the spoken language, and that is ephemeral. It is in the medium of time. Even when it is on a tape record, in the groove of a gramophone record, or a sound track, it is nevertheless operating in time. The visible language, the second, is however operating in space. We can operate in space and can control space, whereas we cannot control time. The essence of this debate is the system of relationship between the ephemeral spoken word and the recorded visible word. There is, I must mention, a third national language, a tactile version of any language. All of us in this House have the greatest admiration for our hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), and great admiration and sympathy for all those whom he so well stands up for, but let us face the fact that that form of signalling, Braille, is out of it, so far as speed is concerned. We are considering tonight only two forms of one national language, the visible in relation to the audible, versions of English.

We put forward this Amendment in a context in which we have already agreed to make certain very considerable reforms in what is the real English language. I understand that we have definitely decided that in communications and signals we will not use the word "lorry" but will use the word "truck," and not use the word "petrol" but use the word "gas." We will not use "sleepers," but we will use "ties." We will not use "post"; we are going to use "mail." We will not use "valves," but going to call them "tubes" in our signalling.

I have here a list of 45 such pairs of English words, and I note that already a considerable standardisation in the form and essence of English has been accepted without anybody raising an objection. The English language as spoken is the primary form, and it is extraordinary that whereas we should accept willingly fundamental alterations in what is really the primary English language, we should kick at what is the secondary of it, and that is the form in which it is recorded.

We would none of us object if Western Union changed their form of recording of the English language by a new system on the sound track of films. Why should we object at all if, for the purpose of better communication and reproduction, we had a better and more sensible form of communicating in terms of another visible representation of our spoken language? We have that need, and a similar and greater need to cause a similar disturbance of spelling in the same cause.

But to establish this view I need to show why the visible recording should be, efficient. The context is that many people who will be using these visible signs will know no English at all. The Greek whom the hon. Member for Loughborough contemplates will often be a Greek who knows no English. He may find himself handling a list of stores which for standardisation purposes is printed in English, and he has to use the telephone, it may be the radio-telephone, to deal with it, and possibly speak to a Dutchman who equally may or may not know English.

It is very important that there should be this complete two-way traffic so that people can understand clearly. What the Greek thinks the letters say must be as nearly as possible what the English word sounds. We naturally cannot change the form of the English language, nor do we want to, so we have to fall back on changing the form in which it is represented visibly on paper so that sound and sight may be in relation so that there can be the two-way traffic of reading sound from sight correctly and recording sounds correctly, which is the very essence of all alphabetical writing.

It will be necessary to show to what extent the present spelling interferes with that double signalling efficiency, the two-way traffic from paper and to paper. It not only fails the Greek but it misleads the Greek.

It so fails in two ways. The best way to demonstrate that is first to deal with practice and then with why it fails in theory. If I said to you, Mr. Speaker, "Abblay bakker" you would think I was out of order and not speaking English. In point of fact, "able, baker" is the very alphabetic essence of the conventional signs with which theoretically, when not being understood, we make our English language more comprehensible over the telephone. I should say that anybody picking up a printed document, who does not know any English and who has to use the telephone would, seeing "able, baker," be fully justified in speaking into the mouthpiece "abblay bakker."

Again I have here as examples only two vowel sounds, "I" as we have it in the word "I" and "i" as we have it in "is." There are 14 spellings of that sound—in "I," "i-e" in "die," "i-n" in "wind," "i-g" in "sign," "i-g-h" in "high," "i" plus consonant plus "e" in "like," "y" in "cry," "y" plus consonant plus "e" in "type," "a-i-s" in "aisle," "a-y-e" in the "aye" which we use when we vote here, "e-i" in "seismic," "o-i" in "choir," "u-i" in "guide," "u-y" in "buy," and "e-y-e" in "eye."

In the case of "i" in "is," I will read them quickly: "wind," "sieve," "abyss," "forfeit," "meteor" and "lettuce," and "o" in "women." So that we get this extraordinary spelling. Then there is w-i-n-d which represents both "wiend" and "wind." Then there is "ui" in "guide" and "ui" in "build" and "of" in "choir" and "o" in "women."

All this arises from the theoretical point that we lack the necessary tools for a system and are trying to do a job which requires fundamentally 40 different sounds. We must have a system of 40 different visible signs either in combinations or new ones, where we have at present 26, of which three, "c," "q" and "x," are repetitive and are doubles and therefore are of no use.

I would say that English is clearly the ideal language for communication. It is easy to learn, it is fine to use and it is simple in its syntax and rich in meanings. And it is in spelling alone that it pierces the hand of those, particularly foreigners, who work from paper or who work to paper.

We have a tremendous failure here at home because of our lack of system in our use of the alphabet. I do not know if anybody has read the Ministry of Education publication, which I have in my hand, called "Reading Ability"? It shows that 30 per cent. of the 15-yearolds are backward readers, and backward readers are really defined as illiterate. After all, if we English have this difficulty and we are brought up from the cradle to hear our spoken language and to relate it later to this written version if we have this appalling failure, how much more is that so in the case of foreigners who are working solely from paper and have not been brought up to hear English as their mother tongue. What an awful mess they must inevitably make of it. Which proves the point that if we wish to have an efficient signalling system, we must have a new alphabetic system giving a really close relationship between the visible form and the spoken form.

Now, how does this Amendment we have on the Order Paper help communication by improving this two-way traffic? I would point out that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Loughborough leaves it absolutely open to the Admiralty to choose and introduce what for their purpose may be found to be the best system. It is up to them to find it.

They could, it seems to me, use the International Phonetic Alphabet. I personally think that there would be a grave disadvantage—

Professor Sir Douglas Savory (Antrim, South)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Pitman

In principle the hon. Member is absolutely right. The practical difficulty, however, consists in the need for special type which the I.P.A. necessarily involves in such signalling work, but it ought to be considered because, after all, it is largely in the printed literature that we want the new forms used. Then the hon. Member for Loughborough has a first-class system which ought to be considered. It is particularly suitable for foreigners.

Commander Pursey

Is it any good for backing horses?

Mr. Pitman

Then the Simplified Spelling Society in England and the Simplified Spelling Association have worked out and agreed between them such a system which has been shown to be practical, and the American Government have introduced their own simplification which the Admiralty might follow.

Man's greatest gifts are really these three: language, which then got to writing through picture writing, and then through the alphabet. We in English are midway between the Chinaman, with his writing which has not become alphabetic, and the true use of the alphabet. The extent to which any foreigner is misled in any signalling by our spelling may be measured by the degree of shock which an Englishman receives on reading any passage in simplified spelling. When he sees "woz" for "was" it brings it home to him with a bump. The foreigner sees "has" and then "was," and says "waz." In speech read from letters and in radiotelephony, the thing simply goes wrong and the war is lost "for the lack of a nail,"

The English language is a really fine language. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We have fine allies, all of whom want to learn English and to use it. Bismarck is said to have remarked at one time that the significant fact of the 19th Century was that America and Britain spoke the same language. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do they?"] It may well be that the significant fact of the 20th Century is that the whole of Europe and of the world wants to speak English, whereas not many want to speak Russian.

This combined naval effort which we have got is a wonderful opportunity for the nation and for the world. Let us face it: making a defensive system of signalling more efficient is a negative approach, but we may get it by the negative approach; but in peace and in the development throughout the world, the simplification of the English language would be of enormous benefit, not only to this country but to the whole world.

10.8 p.m.

Mr. Ralph Morley (Southampton, Itchen)

I am very glad of this opportunity to make a brief speech in support of the Amendment, which has been so characteristically moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) and seconded with such knowledge by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman).

The whole country has a very great admiration indeed for the British Navy. For many centuries it has been the wall which has prevented foreign invasion of this country and behind which we have been able to organise our resources in men and materials, which have enabled us to make successful excursions from time to time in campaigns upon the Continent of Europe.

I suppose that this nation has fought more wars during the past 900 years than any other European nation, and it has been successful in every one of the wars which it has fought except one which it fought against our own kith and kin in the American colonies. That long record of success is due very largely to the work of the British Navy.

As an ex-teacher, I have a special reason to be grateful to the British Navy. In 1931, the Government of the day decided to cut the salaries of all public servants, including teachers, by 20 per cent. Then the Navy, with its usual gallantry and dash, came to the rescue. There was a mutiny at Invergordon, and the Government decided to reduce the 20 per cent. cut to one of 10 per cent. The British Navy has often saved the British people, and upon that occasion it saved the British teachers.

We are under a very great debt of gratitude to the Navy in the past for its many great and meritorious services to the nation. Now, we are suggesting that it should give us another service by being the first to lead in the simplification of English spelling. I think it was Dr. Johnson who said once that the greatness of a nation depended upon its authors. I would not go as far as that, but I do think that the influence and prestige of a nation throughout the world depends to a very considerable extent on the number of people who can read, speak and understand its language. After all, it was the reasonable and august Latin which was largely responsible for the long endurance of Imperial Rome, and the past glories of France, I think, owe almost as much to French prose as to French arms.

The English language is widely spoken, widely read and widely known, but it would be more widely known were it not for one thing. In many respects the English language is a very easy language for the foreigner to learn. There is hardly any grammar at all and what grammar there is is taken little notice of by the English people. We are not meticulous in observing all the laws in English grammar even in this House.

Mr. Speaker

I have been waiting for the hon. Member to approach the question of the Navy Estimates.

Mr. Morley

Yes, I am just about to approach them. I was saying that the grammar of the English language is extremely simple and very easy for foreigners. The vocabulary is a combination of Romance and Teutonic words and is easily learned by the nationals of many countries. There are few compound or agglutinative words in the language and the vowel sounds are simple. I agree that the difficulty in learning the English language is its very strange spelling. It is difficult for the poor foreigner to see that d-o-u-g-h spells "dough" and c-o-u-g-h spells "cough" while t-h-r-o-u-g-h spells "through." If we want the English language spread and a greater use of the English language, we feel it is necessary in the first place to simplify the spelling, and we are asking the Navy, with its usual gallantry, with its usual forward-looking view, to take the initiative in adopting a simpler form of spelling for the purpose of naval signalling.

In the majority of cases the Navy has to be manned by men who have received their first education in our State schools. I know from my own experience what a tremendous waste of time there is in our State schools in efforts to teach scholars how to spell the English language. Day by day lists of spellings are put up and day by day dictation tests are given and many hours are spent on them and on correcting mistakes of the pupils. When they leave school at least 40 per cent. of them are not able to spell the English language correctly and the other 60 per cent. who have been able to spell the English language usually have forgotten it about ten years after leaving school and have to use a dictionary when they write a letter of any importance.

A reform in spelling would save a great deal of time in our schools and would enable the schools to give further and more advanced instruction in those subjects which are particularly useful to members of the Royal Navy, such as mathematics. It would, I think, have the effect of increasing the efficiency of our already efficient Navy.

I hope, therefore, that when the First Lord or the Civil Lord replies, he may be able to give some sympathetic consideration to this question of simpler spelling for naval signalling. I am sure that if that is done it will give a strong impetus to a general reform of English spelling. Such a general reform would be one of the best means of promoting the learning of the English language and increasing the spread and influence of the English language throughout the whole world. That would undoubtedly he a great factor in the promotion of peace and would redound to the security and glory of our own nation.

10.16 p.m.

Mr. John Hay (Henley)

I think we should express our appreciation to the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) on the ingenious method by which he has managed to ride his own particular hobby-horse right clean through the middle of the Navy Estimates. I can only express the hope that if next year the hon. Member is again successful in winning a place in the Ballot, he will move an Amendment drawing attention to the improvement in the health of the men in the Fleet which would accrue from the use of a revolving tooth brush, which I understand is another matter in which he is interested.

I wish to talk about the Amendment as strictly related to the Navy Estimates. Both the hon. Member for Loughborough and my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) have dealt with the subject more widely than I had expected. The Amendment calls attention to the advantages which would accrue if a simplified system of spelling were introduced into the manner of signalling and sending messages in the Navy. I think we should ask ourselves what are the advantages.

It is clear that it is only in respect of written messages that any advantage could be expected. The English language as spoken is understood by those who understand the language simply by listening to it. If any advantage is to be gained it must be in connection with the written language. Not all messages and signals in the Navy are written. Some are visual and some are oral. The visual form is first by a system of flags, and I suggest that a simplified form of spelling would not assist in that way.

Manœuvring and formation signals in the Navy are indicated by flag hoists which, when they are pulled down, are the signal which initiates action. There is, for example, a form of manœuvre in the Navy known as "a blue turn." That is a particular hoist of flags easily understood by every ship, and obviously no advantage from any simplified spelling would accrue.

Commander Pursey

What about "Splice the main-brace"?

Mr. Hay

That is a form of signal with which the hon. and gallant Member is no doubt very familiar. I am afraid I have not that advantage.

Commander Pursey

The hon. Gentleman has made a personal attack and have met that personal attack from the other side of the House once before. It was suggested at one time from the other side of the House, and it is within the recollection of a number of hon. Members, that if I was not sober I should leave the Chamber. When I interjected to say, "What about 'Splice the main-brace?' "I made a perfectly good and clear interjection which everybody understood. The hon. Member then makes the personal attack that I may know something more about it. I wish to put it on record for the second time that I am a life-long teetotaller and total abstainer—[Interruplion.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Hay.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I do not think that there is any cause to withdraw.

Mr. Hay

I made no personal attack upon the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He served for a great many years in the Navy. Obviously, he would have a great deal more knowledge of the splicing of the main brace than I whose service was only for three or four years. In all the circumstances, it was a pretty friendly remark. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not take it amiss. I did not mean it so.

The next point on signalling where this system might be of advantage is in connection with the system of sending signals by semaphore or light. The only saving would be in the time saved in writing down the message in the simplified form of spelling. I suggest that there would be very little saving of time. The only saving could be in the length of words, and neither the hon. Member for Loughborough nor my hon. Friend the Member for Bath gave any clear definition of precisely the system of spelling they want.

Until they can say that they would be able to save a certain number of letters or words and, therefore, that a general saving of time or labour would accrue, I do not think the House ought to entertain the idea very much. We have had a certain amount of information before in this House from the hon. Member for Loughborough, and the name of Sir Alan Herbert has been mentioned. Perhaps I might remind the House that on 11th March, 1949, he explained how the system which the hon. Member for Loughborough had in mind would save only one letter in some 400 or 500 when the whole thing was totted up.

Mr. Pitman

The words of the Amendment do not import the idea that there is actual saving. The purpose of the Amendment is that the signalling system should be understood and that the message should arrive. It is actually better to take more time in signalling and to have the signals understood. We made it perfectly clear that the international language signal was not relevant to this discussion at all.

Mr. Hay

I was not dealing with the the international language signal at this stage. I was dealing with the matter strictly on the basis of national signals between ships of one nation.

Mr. Pitman

What about the "blue turn?"

Mr. Hay

The "blue turn" is not necessarily international. In the Navy it has a particular meaning. There is a similar type of term which has a meaning in the International Code.

The system of signalling in the Navy is already extremely abbreviated. There is very little waste of time and very little misunderstanding. Hon. Members who have any knowledge of the Service will no doubt be acquainted with the initials "T.O.A." which stands for "time of arrival." They will also be acquainted with the initials "R.P.C." which means, "Request the pleasure of your company" and also with "M.R.U." which means, "Much regret unable" which is usually the reply that one receives.

Savings are not possible in that connection. The same applies to radio messages and to morse. As to the oral type of signal, I would suggest that simplified spelling would not help very much. We are now using a system which was developed extensively during the last war which the Americans call T.B.S. or "Talk between ships." It is a local form of radio telephony which is of great value among groups of vessels in company.

I should like to say to the Civil Lord that I hope that he will resist one "American innovation," as the hon. Member for Loughborough termed it, which is being put about now and which I have no doubt will shortly be pressed upon us by our American Allies. It is a new pronouncing alphabet put forward by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. My hon. Friend the Member for Bath said that anybody speaking over the telephone and using the words "Able Baker" would be understood at the other end. Heaven knows what would happen if someone said "Alpha Bravo" because that is the new form of pronouncing alphabet which the Americans will shortly be asking us to use.

I remember the fuss there was in the Navy when we changed the pronouncing alphabet during the war, and many chief yeomen of signals almost died of apoplexy when they had to learn the American system. Now, there is the subgestion that we must change again, which must mean constantly increasing the work and a great waste of time.

I will give only a few examples. Instead of "Charlie," we have "Coca," instead of "Fox" we have "Foxtrot," instead of "George," we have "Golf," instead of "How" we have "Hotel," instead of "Sugar" we have "Sierra," instead of "William"—and this may annoy the hon. and gallant Member—we have "Whisky."

In all the circumstances, if I may return to the Amendment, I would say that there is going to be no substantial saving in the simplified form of spelling. There would be a great deal of additional labour and time required and a great deal of trouble will have to be taken by many people in learning the new system, to say nothing of the international friction which would undoubtedly arise.

The hon. Member for Loughborough is not now with us, having gone off, perhaps, to dot the i's and cross the t's of his speech. I hope he will not divide the House on his Amendment but will decide to withdraw it.

10.27 p.m.

Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)

I should like to declare an interest in this matter, because, like you, Mr. Speaker, and everybody present, I have learned the existing system of spelling and therefore find myself reluctant to go to a great deal of trouble in learning another system. In any literate nation, most people are supposed to be able to read and write, and it is very difficult indeed to make any important innovation in spelling.

I suggest that, in any international organisation like N.A.T.O., where we have to have collaboration between different navies or other bodies of that kind, some common simple language and a simple spelling is desirable. We could use an international language like Esperanto, but I think it would be much better to use a living language for communications between navies or other international bodies. Possibly because I am British, I feel that the English language is best as an international vehicle. It is very widely spoken at present, and, as the British and American navies are two of the largest on the naval side of N.A.T.O., it would be much simpler to use English as a medium between the different organisations on the naval side of N.A.T.O.

That being so, it is up to our Navy, as being the most famous and the one having the longest record in N.A.T.O. to take the initiative in trying to simplify the English language and make it a more useful vehicle for communications between the nations.

In other countries, we have seen very radical changes in the spelling of the language. For example, Mustapha Kemal scrapped the whole of the existing spelling in the Turkish language and at the same time introduced the Latin script. In doing so he helped bring about a revolution in the nation. This very important change reduced by two years the time required in school to learn to read and write and made it much easier to make his people literate.

We do not need to do anything so drastic in reforming our spelling we should make gradual changes along the normal lines of development of our language. That is what I would suggest. I do not think anyone here wants a completely new system of spelling invented and imposed on the people, but I do think there is a case for making changes gradually and for this country taking the initiative along the normal lines of our language, simplifying the spelling and seeing that exceptional words are brought into line with that general rule. That is the line of development which I suggest should be followed.

In doing this, I suggest that the Navy, in taking the lead, should approach other Government Departments and others interested in order to try to get set up some advisory body to advise the Navy itself, other Government Departments, and people like publishers and editors in their work. If there were set up some kind of advisory committee under the initiative of the Navy, it could advise the Government, and its advice could be adopted in printing all Government publications. I would suggest that the editors of certain newspapers, such as "The Times," might be asked to sit on the advisory committee, with representatives from the Ministery of Education together with teachers and publishers, and then when agreement was reached on any change it would be found that most of the publishers, newspapers and Government Departments would be willing to follow the Navy's lead in adopting these various proposals.

I do not suggest that any attempt should be made to dictate to people how they should spell. If any author has a fancy sort of spelling of certain words, obviously he would go on using that spelling. But I do suggest that a great deal would be gained if we had a general understanding amongst publishers, Government Departments, and so on, so that as recommended changes came forward they could be adopted and taught in the schools.

It is up to us as a nation to take the lead in making these changes, and not to leave it to the Americans, Australians or others. As we are the centre of the English-speaking peoples, we should be the nation taking the lead. Let the Navy give the lead in this country, and let us give the lead to the English-speaking peoples; then we shall make the English language a far more suitable vehicle for communication than it is at the moment, and we shall find it being more widely spoken throughout the world than at present, which I am sure is what we all want.

10.32 p.m.

Professor Sir Douglas Savory (Antrim, South)

I am extremely glad to have this opportunity of supporting my hon. Friends the Members for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) and Bath (Mr. Pitman). I cannot help remembering that my hon. Friend the Member for Bath is the grandson of a very distinguished man, to whom we are all under a very great debt of gratitude for the invention of shorthand. If only his grandson could succeed in carrying through this great reform in spelling he would, I am certain, earn a reputation equal to that of his grandfather.

I am very glad indeed that it is proposed to begin this reform with the Senior Service, because I speak from personal experience. In the Navy during the First World War, I very often had to use the word "buttress." Now the word "buttress" in our barbarous spelling, which we have slavishly adopted from Dr. Johnson's dictionary of 1755, we spell with two t's and two s's. If only we had studied the real etymology of the language, of which Dr. Johnson was, completely ignorant—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] Yes, completely ignorant—we should know that this word "buttress" is simply derived from the French word bouterez, which had only one "t."

When a friend of mine asked me upstairs, "Are you going to support this Amendment?", I said, "Most certainly." He said, "You must be a Bolshevik." I replied, "No. I am a true Conservative. I wish to conserve the English language by removing from it its obvious defects in spelling."

When I was in the Navy we very often used the word "allow" in the sense of "approve." Now, why should we in the Navy write that word "allow" with two "l's" if only we knew the real etymology, it is derived from the French word alouer with one "l," and the Latin word ad-laudare? This superfluous letter gives an immense amount of trouble to those who are trying to signal correctly. Or again, let us imagine that a sailor is saying a sentence of this kind: "I am delighted to drink the health of my sovereign." Now there, if he uses our present English spelling, he is making two very serious mistakes. To write the word "delight" with a "g" is absolutely wrong, absolutely false—it has no connection with the word "light"; it is the French word déiter the Latin delectare. Why should we follow Dr. Johnson in inserting the superfluous "g"? I ant not a Bolshevik, I am a Conservative. Why not adopt the spelling of Milton and the spelling of Shakespeare and write "delite"—correctly, etymologically.

What does the word "etymology mean? It means a correct account—the Greek etumos meaning "true" and "logos" account. In order to give a true account of the language as it exists, we are proposing, therefore, to cut out these corruptions which have been wrongly inserted. In that sentence I gave just now—" I am delighted to drink the health of our sovereign"—I want to deal now with the word "sovereign." The word "sovereign" has nothing to do, as Johnson thought, with the word "reign." The word is derived from the French word souverain, the Low Latin word superanus. There is no "g." Why should we force our unfortunate sailors to learn to spell it with a "g"? Let us be true Conservatives. Let us adopt the spelling of Milton and Shakespeare, both of whom used the spelling "souveran." This is no Bolshevism. This is true conservation of the English language, making it simpler for our sailors in their signalling and enabling them to communicate with one another with infinitely greater ease.

What have other nations done in this respect? In my lifetime I have had to learn three different German spellings because the spelling has been reformed. The Minister of Education issued a decree saying that henceforth such and such a word would be spelt in such and such a way. As a boy I had to learn the verb "to do"; thun, that and gethan. Now the Minister of Education issued a decree that from 1st January in a certain year the "h" should be eliminated. Think what an advantage the sailors in the German navy had over ours in being able to communicate with one another in simplified spelling.

Take again the superbly practical Spanish language—it is absolutely phonetic.

Mr. Follick


Sir D. Savory

You have only to know what each letter signifies and a child can spell the words.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

This Amendment deals only with the English language.

Sir D. Savory

I was only saying, by way of comparison, that if we could make a similar reform we would render a great service not only to the Navy but to the public. I appeal to the Ministers who are on the Treasury Bench to bring this matter before the Prime Minister.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Another Bolshevik.

Sir D. Savory

He has recommended, as the House knows, and has actually published the Atlantic Charter in Basic English. I ask the Ministers on the Treasury Bench to ask him to adopt a simplified spelling. That would add to his glory more than almost any other reform.

In conclusion, may I remind hon. Members of the last words of Napoleon when he was exiled to the island of St. Helena. He said: My friends think that my glory consists in my victories of Jena and Austerlitz. On the contrary, my glory consists in the Napoleonic Civil Code when I ordered the lawyers who came before me to cut out their jargon and use clear and sensible language. I appeal to our Prime Minister to begin applying a corresponding reform in spelling to our Senior Service and to leave behind him what will be a blessing to succeeding generations.

10.43 p.m.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Wingfield Digby)

I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) on his good fortune in the Ballot and on the way he presented his case. We know well his interest in this matter and we can all admire his perseverence even if we cannot all share his enthusiasm. I must confess that I am in difficulty in replying to the debate. I feel that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education would be better qualified to answer all these arguments about spelling.

This is not, of course, primarily a naval question. The hon. Member has been frank and admitted that it is the thin end of the wedge. We have to look at it as it affects the Navy, and although the Navy has always been willing to show the way, I am not sure that it is reasonable to expect us to do so and follow some of the suggestions which have been made tonight. There appears to be something like an attempt to make a guinea pig of the Royal Navy with regard to spelling. We are somewhat loath to sail these uncharted seas of spelling reform.

This is primarily a national question It was fully discussed three years ago, when the Bill which the hon. Member for Loughborough introduced was brought before the House. The Minister of Education of that time gave the views of his Ministry on the matter fairly fully, and I would still commend that particular speech to the House. He went on to point out that spelling reform was one of those things where it is necessary to carry public opinion with you before you start to use compulsion. If that connection he quoted words of the late Mr. Bernard Shaw himself, who was not unsympathetic to spelling reform.

Perhaps one might go even further and point out that, if there is to be spelling reform, it is most desirable that there should not only be uniformity in this country but also in the English-speaking world generally. Therefore, it would be necessary to convince a body of opinion in the rest of the English-speaking world on this matter.

I quite realise that this is just the thin end of the wedge as far as the hon. Member is concerned. But I must say to him that, as he has been at pains to tell us how he would spell "cough," I am surprised he has not gone to his own constituents and persuaded them to spell the name of his constituency differently. And if he had been able to do that in the first place, I think that we should have been rather more impressed with the case that he has put up to us this evening.

The Amendment before the House refers to the great advantages—and I stress the word "great"—which it is said would come from the simplification of spelling. We had the authority of the hon. Member himself when he spoke in the debate three years ago for saying that there were some 50 or 60 different spelling systems. We have had no indication tonight as to which one he suggests for the Royal Navy.

Mr. Follick

I pointed out to the House in my opening remarks that this was not spelling reform; it was only recommending certain spelling simplifications. I gave a list of the different simplifications that would be advantageous even in the Navy.

Mr. Digby

It is a little difficult to know exactly what simplifications the hon. Member has in mind. As far as I recollect, he quoted only one system of 300 words. Apart from that, I think he left the matter fairly vague. As I understood him, his idea was to get shorter words, to get fewer letters in each word; that was the chief advantage which would flow—and as I understood my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman), the importance of this was with regard to N.A.T.O. communications in particular. But, of course, if a system were adopted for N.A.T.O. we should also have to consider the implications at home, because we could hardly have two different forms of spelling within the Royal Navy.

It is quite true that in peacetime about two-thirds of the messages passed to and fro are in plain language and that there might be some advantage in brevity if there were a system of spelling which had fewer letters to each word—

Mr. Follick

No, there was no mention of that. It was a question of dropping letters that were not pronounced, like "p" in "receipt" and "b" in "doubt."

Mr. Digby

If it would not make the signals any shorter it is difficult to see, when the signal passes between two English people who are used to the old spelling, how a new form which they would have to learn would make it any easier for them. In point of fact, a tremendous number of these messages do not go in word form at all. For example, when two flags are hoisted it means "Proceed to sea with all despatch." It is only in a comparatively small number of cases that verbal messages are sent out which are received by foreigners.

I should make it absolutely clear to the House that there seems to have been the greatest misunderstanding by all those who have advocated this change in spelling as to how communications are carried out between the various N.A.T.O. navies. What, in fact, happens is that a complicated system has already been adopted whereby a given group of numerals or numbers can be looked up by member countries of any nationality and there they find the answer in their own particular language. So the point about sending out letters in English, which are received by other foreign nations, arises on comparatively few occasions. I think that fact alone destroys most of the case which has been put this evening.

Mr. Pitman

These are the very instances which we gave of international signalling. There is no linguistic content, but the opportunites for such signalling are definitely limited. If one gives 5,000 or 50,000 different messages, to which one has to allot each a different code signal, one has reached the limit. After that, one has to use language. If one is operating 11 different languages, one needs signalling in language.

Mr. Digby

I think my hon. Friend misunderstands me. There has been a special code worked out by N.A.T.O. so as to arrange that all the ordinary tactical signals can go out in this form, and the question of language occurs at sea only in a very small number of cases. For instance, by a very simple combination one can send out a message like this, which may appeal to the hon. Member, "Make a smoke-screen by all possible means, in accordance with the plan indicated." That could be looked up in the book, and understood by any of the member countries.

There are obvious disadvantages, of course, to the proposals which have been put forward by the hon. Member. They would achieve very little, as I have shown. First, there is the obvious difficulty about manpower. The Royal Navy needs all the manpower it has at present, and to send people back to school to learn some new form of spelling would take up a great deal of time. Again, it would lead undoubtedly to considerable misunderstanding if messages sent out by the Royal Navy were in different spelling from those of the other Services, although I should point out to the hon. Member one matter which, perhaps, will give him some encouragement. The English version of the N.A.T.O. signal book, to which I have referred, is, in point of fact, printed in America and, therefore, in American spelling, as used in the American Navy.

Lastly, there would be the question of expense. If all naval publications were to be re-written in the new spelling, it would require a great deal of labour and a certain amount of expense. Apart from these considerations, whereas the Royal Navy would be very willing to follow—if public opinion demanded—simplifications of this kind, it would be very difficult for us to start. We have got our own traditions and there is a tradition of brevity, which means that already naval signals are extremely short and to the point. We also have naval expressions, to which considerable importance is attached. I can see that some things could be said more simply. It is true that, instead of using the time-honoured phrase, "Splice the main-brace," it could be spelt "Rum"

I do not think that that is the kind of reform which would be justified or which would appeal to many people in this country. I say to hon. Members that they must go out and convince public opinion that there is no real short-cut to that. So far as we are concerned in the sending of messages and signals in the Royal Navy, we are quite prepared to look into the question whether there can be any simplification on the lines the hon. Member suggested, but I cannot hold out any very great hope that we can take the initiative in new forms of spelling until they have been adopted by the country as a whole.

Mr. Follick

I quite understand, after listening to that reply, that the hon. Gentleman is not well acquainted with the difficulties I have put before the House. Will he refer this matter to the educational departments of the Navy and ask them to advise him? If he will do that, I will withdraw the Amendment. If he will not, I must divide the House.

Mr. Digby

I am quite prepared to give that assurance.

Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Gentleman desire to withdraw his Amendment?

Mr. Follick

Yes, Sir. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.

10.57 p.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

We now return to the main debate. I believe that these Estimates are far too high and that the Navy has obtained far too large a slice of the funds and effort available for defence. We are engaged, when we consider these Estimates, in providing a contribution to Atlantic defence. These Estimates are not designed to provide us with a private force that will act independently. They are part of a larger whole. Their purpose should be to make the best possible contribution to Atlantic defence, and that is done by providing those things which Atlantic defence is short of and needs most.

We are not, or at least we should not be, engaged in a contest for prestige with our allies. It may be nice for us to see the flags of our admirals worn in particular seas, but we cannot afford at the present juncture to maintain ships whose main purpose is to provide a flagstaff for our admirals. That is not defence; it is inter-allied jealousy. That is the first proposition, the first background fact, which we must consider in this defence problem.

The second proposition is that the rôle of this country in Atlantic defence has become primarily Continental. In the old days we were an oceanic power. The Continent bore the first shock and it was our function to supply the reserves and keep the supply lines open. Today we must bear the first shock. The Channel is somewhat wider than the Rhine, but not very much wider in modern strategic terms. Today we are a Continental Power and have to look at Atlantic defence as a Continental Power.

I think that the hon. and gallant Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder) put this question very well yesterday. He said: There are two alternatives before us. We can attempt to build up round these islands a barrier in such depth and thickness that we hope it will keep out any modern missile that may be thrown at this country. That seems to me to be the basic plan behind the Continental strategy. On the other hand, we can hope or attempt to sustain and maintain an organisation throughout the world, of which this country is the centre, which is so powerful and united that it must be clear to all that whoever might contemplate making a venture upon these islands must face the fact that a fearful retribution will follow from our friends all over the world, and that it will be sure and remorseless and will achieve the utter defeat in the long run of whoever may attempt ambitions in that direction. It is the power of the deterrent rather than the pinning of one's faith in a barricade."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 518.] I think that puts the dilemma before us extremely well. The hon. and gallant Member seemed to indicate that he preferred the latter alternative, the power of the deterrent. Of course, that is substantially what we have been relying on. It is the power of the atom bomb, and there is a perfectly good case for saying that we should only have token forces on the Elbe and should say to the Russians, quite clearly, "If you invade that territory it means the atomisation of your cities."

Mr. Emrys Hughes

May I ask—

Mr. Paget

No, I am sorry. That is substantially what the position has been during these last years.

Mr. Hughes

May I ask the hon. and learned Member—

Mr. Paget

No. The atomisation of cities—

Mr. Hughes

I am thinking of our cities.

Mr. Paget

What I am saying is that that is the policy which is put as the alternative to the Continental policy, and it is a policy that involves thinking of our cities, as the hon. Member observes. It is a policy of relying basically on the atomic threat, and it is a policy which certainly ought to be adopted by those who are opposed, for instance, to German re-armament. Because without German re-armament it is only a token force on the Elbe. Equally, without a British military contribution it is only a token force on the Elbe.

What hon. Members must realise is that the draw-back of this atomic policy is that it involves a total surrender of the control of our destiny. It involves us in the position of saying that if the Russians do invade then we can do nothing but commit suicide, because our country will be totally and utterly devastated.

The hon. and gallant Member referred to us being the heart of a great world Commonwealth or organisation, but unfortunately that is not where geography has placed us. It has placed us on the periphery of that organisation, in a position where in modern war we should be totally destroyed by a force which could reach the Channel and the rocket bases there. The Navy which we might have built up would have to leave these islands and go to other bases, because bases here would be untenable. It involves putting our destiny utterly beyond our control, and that is a responsibility which I am not prepared to face.

As the hon. and gallant Member pointed out, there are only two alternatives here. One is to adopt the alternative of leaving the Continent open, which, in substance, means leaving these islands open, too, because they are untenable if the enemy gets as close as that. That is one alternative, and the only other one is to adopt the responsibilities of a Continental Power and realise that our defence is on the Elbe.

The defence programme today is probably rather larger than our economy can support, and almost certainly rather smaller than our immediate needs for security requires. Therefore, we should, look at these Estimates very jealously to prune everything that is unnecessary in the general picture of Atlantic defence, not merely to relieve our economy of burdens which it can barely bear, if it can bear them at all, but in order to increase defences, air and land, which are more essential.

Therefore, I look at these Estimates in the light of what can be pruned, and the first things that I look at are capital ships. What are capital ships required for? First, to fight an enemy fleet. Well, there is no enemy fleet. Secondly, to clear raiders off the seas. Well, let us realise this. The day of the surface raider is over. The surface raider has no kind of chance today. Long-range aircraft can search all the oceans in the world. On a clear day, a single aircraft flying at 40,000 feet can search more sea than 1,500 ships disposed over the ocean. The aircraft today will inevitably find the raider, and the air strike will dispose of it. Surface raiding is a thing of the past, gone and over.

Finally, these capital ships can support assault landings, but there are not going to be assault landings in the early stages of a war. If these capital ships were put into reserve, they could easily be brought out again if required for these bombardments.

Of these capital ships, for which it is difficult to find a purpose, what is the supply? The supply available to the Atlantic Powers is as follows. The Americans have three battleships on the active list and 12 in reserve; 17 aircraft fleet carriers on the active list and 19 in reserve; 10 escort aircraft carriers and 56 in reserve. To these, we add one battleship and four in reserve; five fleet carriers and two in reserve; four light fleet carriers and two in reserve.

I would say at once that the maintenance of these capital ships by Britain is totally unnecessary for our defence. We do not require the Vanguard in commission, nor the four fleet carriers. These capital ships can make no contribution whatever in an anti-submarine or an anti-minelaying rôle. On the contrary, they are a heavy liability because they require protection. Put all these capital ships—the Vanguard and the carriers—into reserve.

At present we have in the Atlantic a vast superfluity of capital ships. If my suggestion is carried out, not only shall we save a great sum of money but release enough men to form a naval division. What a good professional division that would be; we have known how good naval divisions are. The Atlantic Powers are desperately short of divisions and they have a gross superfluity of capital ships. We have 12 cruisers and four light aircraft carriers in commission. That is ample for our colonial job and our commitments; but capital ships are a luxury we cannot afford.

Secondly, the building of these capital ships should stop. The Prime Minister pointed out yesterday that exports have become so important that they are to be given priority even over defence. Shipping is as good an export as we have got; we can sell every ship we can build. Building these superfluous capital ships is in direct competition with an export which we most urgently require. Switch that defence work on to export; it will give us better service.

Finally, there are the aircraft carriers. They were only a transition weapon until we got adequate range on shore-based aircraft, which we now have got. They will very soon be obsolete, if they are not obsolete already, and we should not concentrate on them.

Then there is the anti-submarine rôle of the Navy. We had in the past, particularly from the Prime Minister, the most alarmist accounts of the danger we ran from Russian submarines. In previous Navy debates, I suggested that these fears were exaggerated. The Prime Minister has now put the danger from submarines as second to the danger from mines, which would appear to indicate that he, too, has become convinced that this submarine threat was grossly exaggerated. The Prime Minister has also said—I do not know what his authority is—that the Russians have very few of the modern type. One must remember that in submarine warfare it is not merely the technical excellence of the weapon; it is overwhelmingly the courage, devotion, and professional skill of the crew. We have little reason to expect that high degree of professional skill from the Russians.

The Russians have had many excellent weapons. In the MIG 5 they possibly have the best aeroplane, but in fighting results it is worth about one to four of the American fighters because it is badly handled. They probably had the best tank in the last war, but they used to lose about three to one to the Germans because the German tanks were better handled. All one's experience with Russians was that, although they had excellent equipment, on many occasions they did not handle it very well. That would be a fatal defect in submarines.

Therefore, I feel that we need not give too high a priority to escort and antisubmarine vessels, and that where shipbuilding could be switched to export, then, in so far as any switch has to be made from armaments to export, the switch of shipbuilding capacity would do least damage to our total defence.

The most important measure of antisubmarine defence is stockpiling. When you fear that you are going to be besieged, surely to goodness it is commonsense to get as much across as possible while the oceans are open. It is not merely a question of raiding the stockpiles, but of a failure to build them up. We were building them up on this year's basis to £300 million. They ought to have gone up at a rate of £200 million a year until we were stocked with supplies for at least six months. To raid them while increasing the Navy Estimates seems to me a piece of frivolity.

If a war starts, it starts in Russia's time, when she chooses, and when her submarines are at action stations because they have been sent in anticipation. What we would desire to do would be to empty the seas by ordering the ships back to port so that we could bring the most against the submarines while the seas were emtpy. We deny ourselves that possibility if we have not adequate stockpiles.

I indicated in an interruption what I have worked out with regard to one raid on the stockpile—the timber raid. Timber has to come from the west coast of Canada, which is a four months round trip. It would involve 60 ships for four months to make good in war-time the rundown in timber we were expecting this year. Convoys would be necessary in both the Pacific and the Atlantic and would probably occupy eight or nine destroyers for eight or nine months. That is a single item, not of total requirements but of the run-down in the stockpile. I warned the First Lord on this question. Can he give us any indication of what it will cost in shipping to make good the £150 million run-down in stockpiles and what it will cost in naval vessels? That is something this House should know when holding these debates.

I have said that I believe it is quite frivolous to spend large sums of money to build up a force to keep the oceans open when we do not use them when they are open. This policy of stockpiling, so far from being in competition with our economic efficiency, can be the basis of our economic efficiency. By running heavy stockpiles we can guarantee the supplies that will keep our industry in production. Surely it is not beyond the wit of financiers to use those stockpiles as reserves behind the sterling area. Does it matter so much whether we have the value behind the currency here in gold or in all the things that are essential here? Why cannot we have our sterling balances in stockpiles and goods? Why cannot we persuade the Americans, who in the event of war will have to transport their goods here, to build up stockpiles here? That would relieve the Navy of a vast amount of their commitments.

I say this generally with regard to these Estimates. I believe they could be cut by at least £100 million without endangering any empire—except the one over Admiralty Arch. The difficulty one has is that the political power, the power of persuasion, the power of bringing Ministers into their organisation, at which the Navy has been so incredibly skilled, injects everybody who has been into the Admiralty with the mystique of the Navy.

So this force of capital ships, this expansion of that which is superfluous, whilst we are desperately short in the air and on the land, is maintained year after year. We could cut these Estimates by £100 million, and we could release enough men to provide us with a further first-class division, which we desperately need—that ought to be done. We must remember that these times are too serious to allow our defence needs and our defence production to be distorted by inter-Service or inter-allied jealousies.

11.24 p.m.

Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)

I do not suppose that I am alone in detecting in the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) more than a slight trace of that doctrine of a certain aberrant group with which I observed him to associate himself last night.

Mr. Paget

Is the hon. Member objecting to the fact that I declined to vote last night in favour of the proposition that his Government were too incompetent to carry out a defence programme?

Dr. Bennett

I should be more than alarmed if I felt that we were earning that particular hon. and learned Gentleman's praise, because I feel that his judgment has been amply demonstrated in this evening's speech. I must confess that we may have—if I may use an Irishism—certain common ground when we are on the water, but I do not feel that we have very much in this House.

I should like to make a few short comments on some of the points the hon. and learned Member has raised. I entirely agree with him that the capital ship, that is, the battleship, is a fantastic piece of anachronism. It is entirely obsolete. If we wish to do heavy bombardment we can do it with a lesser outlay of capital than that, and I feel that the battleship really is, as I have certain personal reasons to have learnt, more of a liability than an asset to naval forces.

I can remember a number of these vast mammoths lying sheltering in Mombasa for a lengthy period during the last war because no one could possibly afford to escort them to sea. I can see little justification for our continuing to run battleships; but as to aircraft carriers, I feel the hon. and learned Gentleman is possibly running a bit ahead of time. The carrier he declares to be obsolete. I would not go quite as far as that. I would suggest that its days are certainly numbered, and no doubt it will soon be rendered unnecessary—and not very long from now.

I shall be interested to discover whether, in fact, it is ever necessary for us to lay down any new aircraft carriers. I would say the carriers we have built, or are building, should be kept up at present while the very long-range aircraft steadily becomes more truly worthy of its name and while aircraft are developed which will keep the seas by patrolling from the air as well as surface craft did in the past.

It is significant that one of the newest aircraft to be taken on by the Navy—the G.R.17 or Gannet—is equipped to fly on cruising power rather than on the majority of its complete horse-power all the time. We are now beginning to get aircraft with a wide speed-range, having a slow cruising speed on one engine; then the pilot can bring in more engines to make it faster for combat if called far away from its base. I am quite convinced that there is no justification whatever for de-commissioning the aircraft carriers we now have.

If the need for a naval division is what the hon. and learned Gentleman says it is, I suggest that that could be met by expanding the Royal Corps of Marines. If the suggestion to decommission the battleships is adopted, I feel the best use that could be made of these men would be to employ them elsewhere in our naval service and to allow the release of some of the old chaps who have been kept on beyond their time and look like being so kept for a further time. That is a piece of hardship about which I feel very strongly. They are men whom the Admiralty has no right to keep beyond their time. Per-hats the de-commissioning of one or two battleships would allow a certain easing in that respect.

I have noticed the hon. and learned Member tends to cry down the possible potency of the Russian U-boats. It was a suggestion he made in common with the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton). Even in my short time as a Member of this House, I have noticed the consistency of that attitude, and whatever preparations for war are being made the same attitude seems to be taken towards the threat. The arguments the hon. and learned Member used to justify his group's policy do not seem to me to be entirely sustained.

If the Russian U-boat is not a menace, then why should he need to advocate stock-piling so much? Surely if the Russians have even as many U-boats in commission as we have escorts—and that is precious few—the danger is simply colossal. Furthermore, if the hon. and learned Member says that we ought to go ahead with stockpiling as a first line of defence—and I hope that we shall be in a position to do so again soon—it seems odd that he should be at the same time advocating smaller anti-submarine forces. What I suggest is a better long-term investment even than stockpiling is the creation of adequate anti-submarine forces.

I have one or two brief observations that I hope will be acceptable to the House. One or two of them deal with the manning of Her Majesty's ships. I feel it is a good thing that we have a further extension of permanent commissions for the officers who have been held on after their extended service commissions have nominally expired. That is a welcome step. But I must match with that my great concern at the hardship and domestic dislocation which will continue to be inflicted upon the senior ratings who ought to be coming out of the Service.

There is one point I should like to make about the branch of the Service which is now known as the branch officers. These are men promoted from the lower deck who must, I imagine, be pretty promising chaps or they would not be promoted and made commissioned branch officers. But my contention is that after promotion they are finding themselves in the doldrums, and if they are promoted to senior commissioned branch officers and have hopes of retiring with a lieutenant's rank, if not with the pension of that rank, they may have to wait anything up to 20 years. In modern jargon, that is the most absurd disincentive which could be invented.

I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to investigate the possibility of employing more of these expert men—and they are valuable men—in the rank of lieutenant and giving them some prospect of reaching the rank of lieutenant-commander, rather than that that should be the rarest of events. I say this with feeling, and with personal knowledge, because I know that the officers of this branch are not happy in their work. I should like to see them happy.

Another point is closely allied to manning. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) referred to the desirability of providing beer for the men in Her Majesty's ships. I am not, as many hon. Members know, much of a mathematician, and although I should be the warmest supporter of the suggestion with regard to beer, I was alarmed when I tried to work out what would the result of providing, or trying to provide, beer.

If each man is to have a bottle of beer a day, 1,500 men on board a carrier or a large ship will need 125 crates a day, which, at two cubic feet a crate, amounts to 250 cubic feet. That, on the nautical reckoning of tonnage, means two-and-a-half tons a day. If a ship is to be away from its home port for 30 days it will have to carry 75 tons stowage of beer. That would be a major operation and not one that could be guaranteed in such places as the Indian Ocean, where I seem to remember a drought of that commodity during the war.

I feel that if what corresponds to the contents of an average-sized barge or Brixham trawler had to be put on board every time a ship reached port, it would be an insuperable difficulty. Although I wish my hon. Friend the best of good fortune in his investigations, I submit that unless all the men can have beer it is not much use providing it for some, and therefore it appears to be impossible of solution.

Mr. Shackleton

Carry it in tanks.

Dr. Bennett

In H.M. ships before the war, when we nearly always tied up to the dockyard wall, we had draught beer, but the result of trying to carry beer, which is a live substance, in ships and yachts is disastrous. It becomes as turgid as pea soup. Therefore, I do not feel that draught beer has any hope of being carried at sea.

I want to mention a point about naval aviation. I have used the conventional phrase of the moment, although I am just as emphatic as my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford-Holt) in my support of the term "Fleet Air Arm," with which I was originally conversant. The First Lord said this afternoon that aircraft were the principal striking force. I endorse that emphatically, and I would say that during the late war, even as early as 1941, when we were on the Western Approaches, we had an aircraft with a catapult in a ship armed with guns. I used to annoy my shipmate and now fellow Member, the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson), by referring to the guns as our defensive armament. I feel that all the other weapons, apart from aircraft, are defensive and that the aircraft are the only offensive weapon the Navy has.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East referred to the importance of the R.N.V.R. squadrons and the necessity for re-equipping them. I heartily agree. The First Lord mentioned the advent of the helicopter to the Navy. I should like to make this sugestion: that the helicopter is a most peculiarly suitable weapon for the Navy, much more so than the conventional fixed-winged aircraft, and especially as an anti-submarine weapon. It is inevitable to my mind that there will be a fast expansion of the use of helicopters at sea in time of war, especially for antisubmarine work. There will also be a fast expansion of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, especially in the air. That is equally inevitably in the event of the warfare against which we have to guard.

I am not qualified as a pilot of a helicopter. I have not succeeded in persuading any of my friends at the Gosport Naval Air Station to teach me to fly those things, although I have every hope. But I have had the opinion from a number of people that the conventional flying training given to pilots of ordinary winged aircraft militates considerably against the techniques required of a helicopter pilot. Different senses need to be ingrained into the pilot.

Therefore, I suggest that there is an unequalled opportunity for the establishment of Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve helicopter squadrons, wherein people can be trained as helicopter pilots without any of the vast outlay and completely unnecessary and, in fact, contradictory outlay on training them as conventional pilots. I hope we shall see some of these established, because there is a definite future for them.

We have had a very long discursus into the realms of education today. I notice that Vote 5 is not down for discussion although there have been one or two points raised. The 'Press suggested that there was a misuse of the words "wearing the flag" in regard to the admiral wearing his flag in H.M.S. "Liverpool." But I think the Press was quite wrong to criticise that, because there can be found in dictionaries a reference to that very usage in the days of Elizabeth I.

There is one thing I hope: that the Navy educational services will have progressed sufficiently this time next year for us not to have to endure, as we have on page 13 of the Statement accompanying the Estimates, the spelling of H.M.S. "Apollo" in the form in which we find it there.

11.40 p.m.

Commander Harry Pursey (Hull, East)

It is one of the traditions of this House that one should take up the speech of the previous hon. Member and engage in the cut and thrust of debate. I assure the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) that I will do so later on in my own time on the question of Russian submarines. I might help him, as a teetotaller, about his beer problem. What he wants to ask the Admiralty is, are not they going to manufacture the beer on board, the same as was done on some ships? The hon. and gallant Gentleman dealt with other matters, including the branch officers, and I shall have a word to say about that, having passed through the grade myself. But, generally speaking, I do not want to engage in controversy with him at this time of the night.

However, the hon. Member with whom I do want to get into controversy—and I warned him—is the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson). There may be agreement with a lot of his speech. Obviously there is agreement in paying tribute to the Mercantile Marine, and we need not he worried about electronics, valves, and so on, particularly as the radio and television industry is going down, where it has not turned over to armaments. The hon. Gentleman, too, tried to inject some heat by complaining of the criticisms made on this side of the House about the Prime Minister when he was in opposition and was dealing with naval affairs.

Let me take one specific point that was dealt with by the hon. Member for Woking. He referred to hunting submarines. If I got it right, he was arguing that if a submarine had not got a schnorkel she could not be detected. That is absolute, arrant nonsense of the first order.

Mr. Burden

indicated dissent.

Commander Pursey

I see the hon. Member's colleague, the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) is waving his head as if I have it wrong.

Mr. Burden

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite wrong in suggesting that my hon. Friend said that if a submarine was not equipped with a schnorkel it could not be detected. He made no such statement. A submarine can be detected by asdics and other antisubmarine devices.

Commander Pursey

As the hon. Member has now come into the Chamber, I will repeat the question, although he has the advantage of reading it in HANSARD tomorrow. I repeat that while there are certain points in the hon. Gentleman's speech to which exception could not be taken, I never heard such arrant nonsense talked about the detection of submarines. He referred to the detection of submarines if they had a schnorkel, and then he made' the point, on which his hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham has attempted to correct me, about submarines without a schnorkel. The argument, as I understood it, was that if the submarine had not got a schnorkel and was using the new power, she could not be detected. Is that the point the hon. Gentleman made? If not, will he explain what his argument was about not being able to detect a submarine?

Mr. Watkinson

I will correct the hon. and gallant Gentleman by saying what my point was. It was that in designing a new class of vessel, especially a fast frigate, one had to look some years ahead and to envisage the possibility of a submarine which was completely submersible at high speed and one, therefore, had to consider whether the ships had, or had not, been designed to cope with that class of submarine.

Commander Pursey

As regards detection? Then, how does the hon. Gentleman account for the "Affray" being detected on the bottom of the sea when there were asdic echoes everywhere?

Mr. Watkinson

I referred to that in my speech when I mentioned Jules Verne.

Commander Pursey

The main point was the difficulty of finding submerged submarines at high speed. So far as speed is concerned, it does not matter. As long as the surface ship has speed she will find the submarine. In the First World War the problem was that one could not detect the submerged submarine. Once we had asdics the sub marine lost its main advantage in not being able to be detected when it was submerged.

If it is possible to find the "Affray" on the bottom among other wrecks and rubbish, what is the good of arguing that with the advance of anti-submarine measures there is any difficulty in finding one? There is no difficulty whatever. That is by way of the cut and thrust of debate prior to getting into my stride.

I would congratulate the right hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas), on becoming First Lord of the Admiralty and so providing another precious example of poacher turned gamekeeper. I would recommend him to take a few exercises in mental gymnastics by reading the speeches made on the Navy Estimates in the last six years and the fast and furious attacks he made on the naval policy of the Labour Government. He will then find, if he is honest with himself, that they were all largely shadow boxing and a case of putting up his own skittles to have the fun of knocking them down. How does he attempt to justify what he said in previous debates, when he attacked the policy of the Labour Government, after the speech he made at that Box today, which practically contradicted everything he has ever said before in criticism of that Government?

The attacks by the present Prime Minister and his Tory supporters on the strength of the Navy during the last six years were notorious and yet, as proved today, were largely without foundation. Take personnel as an example. These official figures were given to me yesterday in a Written Answer to a Question by the right hon. Gentleman in column 54 of the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas

I am glad I helped the hon. and gallant Member.

Commander Pursey

The right hon. Gentleman would not have helped me if I had not asked the Question. He then gave the same figures to the Prime Minister so that he could use them in his own speech for a different argument and for another purpose.

In July, 1914, the number on active service was 156,000, with 64,000 in the reserves. In July, 1939, it was 129,000 and 65,000, and at the end of 1951 the numbers were 147,000 and 73,000 respectively. That is 10,000 more than in 1914 and 26,000 more than in 1939.

So the wicked Labour Government, which has been falsely accused by the Tories, including a large number of hon. Members opposite tonight shouting in unison, of not providing adequate defences for this country, did, in fact, in peace-time provide a stronger Navy than did the Liberal Government of which the Prime Minister was the First Lord at the outbreak of the First World War when the Navy was the first line of defence. They also provided a stronger Navy than that provided by the Tories for the Second World War when they were not certain which was our first line of defence or what they ought to do with it.

Then, compare the cost. If any how Gentleman wishes to interrupt, I am prepared to give way, but if, on the other hand, they like to carry on a barrage of complimentary support, in the same way as drowning men sing in order to keep up their spirits, that is O.K. by me.

Then compare the cost. In general terms the last Labour Government provided for the Navy three times more money than in 1914 and about twice that of 1939. And this at a time when we also spent far more on the Army and the Air Force than in 1914 or 1939. So how does it lie in the mouths of hon. Members on the other side of the House, and particularly the Prime Minister, to criticise the Labour Government in an argument that we had provided only inadequate naval defence? It was a lie from beginning to—

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

The hon. and gallant Member ought to withdraw that expression.

Commander Pursey

Naturally, in deference to you, Sir, I will withdraw that expression and substitute the Prime Minister's own previous expression of "a terminological inexactitude."

In spite of these and similar facts, the Tory Party and the Tory Press consistently crabbed the policy of the Labour Government, thus giving comfort to our only possible enemy, Russia, and causing alarm and despondency among our allies, particularly in America, where we had been accused of dragging our feet. Yet Great Britain today is the only country in the world which, under a Labour Government, has fulfilled her obligations to her allies, an achievement not reached even by America with her financial and material resources.

What is the overall naval position as regards the United Nations and Russia? Actually and relatively, from whatever point of view, ships, aircraft, men, bases or supplies, we have overwhelming strength. Consequently, as the major effort of America and ourselves as maritime Powers must be by sea, then sea power is obviously the Achilles heel of Russia. Why then all this untrue and unnecessarily blood-curdling war hysteria—which question I should have thought would have had the support of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) instead of him continuing a barrage on my left. Why all this untrue and bloodcurdling war hysteria about Russia's superiority and strength without considering her naval weakness?

The Prime Minister said yesterday: There is, of course, no potentially hostile surface battle fleet afloat. Later he said: …it is not likely that this situation will be altered in, let us say, the next five years. So on that point, although I disagreed with practically all of his speech, I conform with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget).

The Prime Minister even told a totally different story this year from that told in previous years about the Russian submarines, and that again is where I support the argument of my hon. and learned Friend and take up the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham, who dealt with the Russian submarines. Previously the Prime Minister talked of the threat of 400, or it might have been 500, Russian U-boats. [Interruption.] I am corrected on the higher figure of 500. In other words, "You pay your money and take your choice." I only want my hon. Friend's interventions when they are helpful.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I was really meaning to be helpful to my hon. and gallant Friend, because I wish to point out that on the last occasion when we had an estimate of Russian submarines the right hon. Gentleman who wound up the debate for the then Opposition, who is now the Minister of Housing and Local Government, quoted an estimate of 1,000.

Commander Pursey

Previously, the Prime Minister had estimated that there were 500 Russian submarines. His only reference to numbers yesterday was that, in the new fast submarine types, which is what the Opposition have been trying to scare us about: …the Soviets have, happily, at present only a few."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 440–441.] Last year, the hon and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith), who wound up for the Tory Party in the debate on the Navy Estimates, said there were only a couple of dozen Russian submarines in the West. Why, then, all this previous Tory blood-curdling hysteria about the mythical masses of Russian submarines and the threat to our Atlantic convoys? This well help me to get the lead in. It is now taken up by certain amateur strategists on this side of the House.

Dr. Bennett

I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for giving way. If he recollects what I said, he will re- member that I did not myself give any estimate of the figures, although I said that if the number of Russian submarines were equal to our small number of escorts that was bad enough.

Commander Pursey

I am not arguing the strength of our anti-submarine measures; that is not the point I am making. I am dealing with the unnecessary blood-curdling war hysteria created by the Tory Party and Press about the Russian submarine menace, and last year I asked some half-dozen times where they were and the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok told us that there were only a couple of dozen in the West. So the answer is that they must be in the Far East and, therefore, the responsibility of the American Navy, and we need not be worried about the Russian submarine menace.

That is the answer to this argument about the Russian submarine menace; it is that as far as the numbers of modern craft are concerned they are mythical and a Jules Verne story. Well, let us get the thing in proper perspective. If by far the greater number are in the Far East, they are not a headache for us, but for the American Navy. Let them face up to it.

The naval position today, therefore, is one of woeful Russian weakness and overwhelming Allied naval strength, and the main Soviet naval threat is in the Far East. That is the naval story to tell our own country, the Americans and the whole world in other words, tell the truth and let us have none of this nonsense about Russian submarines from now onwards.

Why did not the Prime Minister give this picture in his address to the American Congress and show that the Labour Government had provided a stronger British Navy than we had ever had in peace-time in the whole of our long maritime history. Can anybody on the other side deny that?

Brigadier Clarke

When did we have conscription in peace-time before?

Commander Pursey

Conscription in peace-time has nothing to do with it.

Brigadier Clarke

That is why you have so many sailors.

Commander Pursey

That is not the reason. Everybody has said that recruiting for the Navy is better than for the other two Services. There has been no question, except in regard to technical branches, of a scarcity of recruits, and there are only 2,000 conscripts in the Navy today.

Brigadier Clarke

What about the reservists called up?

Commander Pursey

I spent five weeks in the United States last summer trying to put this story over to the Americans by television, radio, meetings, and public discussions. There was immense surprise because, since they are allergic to believing what they want to believe, they had been swallowing hook, line, and sinker the scare stories about Russian submarines circulated by the Tory Party and the British Press.

I now pass to a constituency point. The omission from the First Lord's speech that surprised me was that practically nothing was said about the private building and repair yards, which are both playing an important part in the development of the Navy. This is of particular interest to my constituency, because just after the First World War private enterprise closed down the only building yard in Hull. The rearmament programmes of the first war and the second war brought nothing to Hull. In fact, under a Tory Government in August, 1939, we had 12,000 unemployed.

Last year we brought the unemployment down to an almost negligible figure under a Labour Government. Now it is going up. Yesterday I put a Question to the First Lord on what contracts had been given last year and what were to be given this year, and he gave me no information at all. I warn him that I shall pursue him till I get some information. I did get some information from the last Government.

Now there is an increasing Admiralty programme of repairs, and the number of repair jobs that have come to Hull are pinches of salt in the ocean, simply chicken feed. At the same time we have other Departments lacking in coordination, and as a result merchant ship repairs which could be done in Hull are being sent to the Continent. I want to know what is to be done about sending more Admiralty repair jobs to Hull. It is the third port in the country, and one of the largest cities, and as far as I can see little or no consideration is being given to it.

One point in the First Lord's speech that alarmed me was his reference to the shortage of officer entries and the steps to be taken to deal with it. One of the reasons for the difficulty is the Labour Government's policy of full employment. Today, with the Tory policy of creating alarm and despondency in the City and on the Stock Exchange, it is doubtful whether the sons of individuals there will he as keen on going into offices, and therefore, we can hope for a switch into the Navy.

The possible remedies referred to by the First Lord are a matter of great concern in view of the Tory record in keeping the Navy a close preserve for preparatory school boys at the ludicrous age of 13 and their opposition to bona fide promotion from the ranks. The bush wireless or whispering campaign before the General Election was that the Tory Party had made promises to return to the good old days of the Dartmouth, policy of early entry. For over 50 years the main entry of officers has been by the early entry scheme of selecting young boys, before they knew their elbows from their thumbs, from the preparatory schools and then providing them with a secondary education which they ought to have got in the schools of the country. What is the result? They go into a monastic institution where they are isolated from their contemporaries, and later in life they find that instead of having been been at school with air marshals and generals and so on they have been brought up in a greenhouse and isolated from people whom they should have mixed with.

This early entry scheme applies to only one of the State services in this country, and to practically no other profession anywhere else in the world. In fact, the general argument about education is mainly the other way; that it is better for a man to have sailed round the Horn in a sailing ship, or to have done something in a lumber camp in Canada, before deciding what his career is to be.

The Admiralty argument is that unless these boys are caught young they will not enter the Navy. That is the most arrant nonsense. The Army, the Air Force and other professions have no such early entry scheme, so there must be something wrong with the Navy and with its appeal to boys from public schools, or under the Labour Government scheme of entry at 16 years of age.

Fifty years ago Sir John Fisher, who later became First Lord of the Admiralty and Lord Fisher, said in his book "Records': Officers will be trained exclusively from well-to-do classes. Democratic sentiment will wreck the present system in the long run if it is not given an outlet. But let us have the far higher ground of efficiency. Is it wise or expedient to have our Nelsons from so narrow a class? Then 40 years ago the present Prime Minister, then First Lord of the Admiralty but only because he was then a good democratic Liberal and not, as he is today, a good reactionary Tory—said when introducing the Navy Estimates for 1912: These are the days when the Navy…should be opened more broadly to the nation as a whole."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 18th March, 1912; Vol. 35, c. 1570.] Now, he was responsible for the introduction of the special entry scheme under which, as we heard this afternoon, the Parliamentary Secretary entered at a late age. Moreover, that scheme now, after 30 odd years, has gone right through to fruition, and for several years we have had admirals on the active list; and, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), one cannot tell one cadet from another.

One of the arguments about Dartmouth College and running it—not only at present but previously—has been the cost. But because the cost and the building of an institution are wrong, that does not make a bad principle good. Therefore, there can be no argument if the Admiralty attempt to come forward with a suggestion for reviving the 13 age entry, arguing that cost is a factor. If cost is a factor, then the buildings are wrong and the answer is to move the boys away from those buildings altogether. They were built in the sumptuous years at the beginning of the century when cost was not considered. [Interruption.] I am ready to give way if anyone wants to interrupt.

Now I wish to say a word about branch officers. Under the Labour Government certain reforms were carried out for branch officers. First of all, they were given other titles, which even yet are not satisfactory. Secondly, the warrant officer mess as such was abolished and these officers were put into the wardroom mess with the so-called pukka officers.

While these officers were warrant officers they had cabins; they were on the cabin list; they had selected cabins, whereby they were by themselves and, where possible, they were given cabins with open ventilation. As regards the abolition of their mess and having a separate part of the ship allocated to them, they are now far worse off for cabin accommodation than ever they were before. I am told that in the "Eagle" the branch officers are now in cabins under worse conditions than they have ever been in their history, and remember the warrant officer came before the commissioned officer, so that they go back a long time. I beg the Admiralty to go into this question of cabin accommodation for branch officers.

Now I pass on to deal quickly with the question of promotion from the lower deck to, the rank of sub-lieutenant. Yesterday, in the figures the right hon. Gentleman gave me, he gave a total of 425 executive officers commissioned last year, 130 from Dartmouth under the old entry scheme, 57 from special and direct entries, and only 18 under the upper yardmen scheme, with another 89 branch officers. One of the policy points decided upon by the Labour Government was that at least a quarter of the officers should come from the lower deck by one scheme or another. Where are the Admiralty falling down over the upper yardmen scheme? The First Lord said this afternoon they could not get enough officers, but surely they could increase the number of candidates to be selected from the lower deck for promotion under the upper yardmen or other schemes?

I will not go over a lot of other points I wish to controvert in statements made by the First Lord and other hon. Members, but I should like to deal with the question of married quarters. Until the Labour Government started the married quarters scheme for the ordinary rating as distinct from those previously or lodging and compensation allowance—they were a very small number—no one ever knew what it was. Through the long years of Tory Government nothing was ever done. This was one of the major points made by the other side when they were in opposition, but today we hear that very little is going to be done.

Another major point was the criticism of the strength of the Admiralty staff, and in the White Paper the First Lord states that the number of staff at Admiralty headquarters has gone up by 4.6 per cent. This afternoon he said he was going to go into the matter with the idea of making various reductions, but if hon. Members will compare their speeches with what has been said today, it will be rubbed into them—they knew all along—that they were building their case up on wistful imagination. The facts were not there to justify the arguments that went on to the detriment of the Navy, to the detriment of this country, of recruiting and of our standing with America.

This House, whatever the Government, will always support the Navy, be proud of it and vote the necessary Estimates for it. Never in the history of the Navy has a Government met such unmerited and irresponsible criticism as was made by the Prime Minister and other hon. Members opposite of the Labour Govern ment in the last six years. Never has a Government eaten its own words to such an extent as the present Government, and never has an Admiralty been composed of politicians who, in opposition, have have promised so much and in Government fulfilled so few largely worth while promises.

12.19 a.m.

Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)

I know I shall be excused if I do not follow the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East (Commander Pursey) in all the ramifications of his speech. Many of us heard this speech last year and the year before, but he left out his usual vituperations against the British Legion, and we are glad to have been spared them this year. After hearing many naval officers speak tonight, I was diffident about getting up, but I have some points that do not clash with what other hon. Members with more experience of the Navy have said. I propose to deal with the cold war rather than the hot war.

We have heard from the First Lord how our Navy will perform if we once more have the misfortune to suffer a hot war. But it is the cold war which worries me most. We have been losing the cold war. We have lost the initiative. The Communists have been winning it all round the world. I regard our naval personnel as our best ambassadors, and as probably our best bulwark against Communism. Therefore, it is essential that we keep our sailors contented. If they are not contented, they will not be the ambassadors which I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House would like them to be, and which they have always been in the past.

The Navy, in my opinion, has been treated rather badly during the last five years of Socialist Government. I have no wish to be controversial. The former Parliamentary Secretary complained that the present First Lord had no complaint to make. I thought he made a non-controversial speech, but I am prepared to believe that had he wanted to say some of the things which might well have been said, the late Parliamentary Secretary could not have made his complaint. After all, we had never before seen the Navy so run down in ships and personnel.

We finished the war with an excellent Navy, and the men were demobilised. Pay was bad, and they left the Navy. It was the same with the Army and the Air Force. It was only recently, after considerable pressure from the Conservative Party while it was in opposition, that the pay was raised. Again we began to build up our forces. If that is not a discredit to the Socialist Party, I do not know what is. Hon. Members sitting opposite asked for that. I had not got it in my speech, but I do not think that it ought to go unrecorded.

The Navy is again being built up, and it will become a force upon which we can rely for the defence of our shores. The enemy which I fear most is the enemy within our gates. That enemy is Communism and Communist propaganda. We have to see that this enemy is held at bay. Yesterday we saw a split among hon. Members on the benches opposite. We do not know which way that side is going, but I do not feel that the split means any movement to the Right. I am sure that even the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will agree that that split was rather an ominous sign, a nasty sign.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

No, not a nasty sign.

Brigadier Clarke

I thought he would disagree with me. I have actually foreseen him as the future Minister of Defence, for when there are no defences left in this country a pacifist would make an excellent Minister of Defence. But who is to succeed to the position of First Lord of the Admiralty, the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East, or the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), will have to be settled by the former Parliamentary Secretary, whom I would prefer to see in the job.

Mr. Callaghan

indicated dissent.

Brigadier Clarke

However, it is nasty to see hon. Members in these difficulties, and when they move to the third bench back and take the third seat I feel that there is a lot of competition for the job.

Men in the Navy cannot be happy if they are conscripted. I am anxious to see the end of the calling up of reservists in peace-time. I am told that these are times of peace, although I have always said that they are not. If the Navy had not been allowed to run down, these reservists would not have had to be called up.

There is quite a lot of discontent amongst the men now being called up. I know, because they come and see me regularly. We had a promise from the late Socialist Government that the maximum service would be 18 months. That is as long as one can expect a man who has entered civilian life to give up everything he has been doing to go back into the Navy. I hope, therefore, that the First Lord will do everything he can to improve the recruiting of the Navy so that reservists will not be called up for so long.

If we increase the pensions and look after the widows, we shall get more recruits. I know that recently pensions were raised. I am referring more to the pensions of those people who served in the first world war and who served in the second world war and went out afterwards. They and their widows are at the moment on the bread line. They have had no increases in any way comparable with the rise in the cost of living.

We have been told by our Prime Minister that these things are being looked into. I hope we shall see that these people are once more raised to a status which they enjoyed in earlier and better times. Sailors breed sailors, and we shall not get men to go into the Navy, Army or Air Force if the Services are not looked after. I do not mean only those serving today but those who served before. They are the fathers and grandfathers of the future Navy.

I have a number of points which I particularly want to stress tonight. They are points which I have been raising over the last two years. Over some of them I have achieved a certain amount of success; over others I have been partly successful; over others I have had no success at all. But because one does not achieve success the first time, that is no reason why one should give in, and I propose to go on with these as long as I am a Member of this House.

My first point concerns the extended service men. There are a certain number of men who were called upon to extend their service in 1950. These men were asked to stay on in the Service and they did so through patriotism. They could well have signed on after 1st September in 1950. If they had done so, they would have received a bounty of £100 but, being patriotic sailors, interested in serving their nation, they signed on in July and August and some of them have still not had their £100. I want to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to that fact. Others 'have had it. In certain cases naval officers made a mistake and told a man that, if he did not sign on, he could not go on a certain course. Because that information was given to a rating, it was considered that he should get his £100. Others who did not receive that information have still not had their £100. The total number of sailors to whom that applies is 300. Surely we shall not allow a handful of sailors to be discontented. We should see that all receive the bounty.

Then there was a batch of naval personnel who signed on for three years voluntarily. I reckon that they were particularly patriotic in doing so. Those men are held for a further 18 months, whereas less patriotic men who had gone out of the Service have been called back for 18 months but have only done 18 months altogether. If one signs on for three years, one makes a contract and expects it to be kept. The sailor has to keep his contract and the Admiralty should keep theirs. I do not think that those men who signed on for three years to help the Admiralty out should be called upon to continue in the Service for a further 18 months. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give an answer to that one.

I have had a certain number of complaints about destroyers in Korean waters where the men are on active service and get very little or no leave or recreation. The climate there is bad. In summer it is hot and in winter it is cold. Just the odd day of going into port is not what a man requires to keep himself fit. In war one has to put up with every inconvenience and discomfort. I know there is a war in Korea, but we ought to have enough destroyers there to give these men the relief they deserve.

These days in a destroyer—and hon. and gallant Members and hon. Members who served in the Royal Navy in the last war will know—can be very uncomfortable for the ratings. These destroyers are simply full of every sort of gadget and machinery and there is less and less room every time a new model is produced. I have seen complaints by sailors when they have written home to their wives of the discomfort they have to suffer. In bigger ships it is not so bad. These men should have more leave and more recreation ashore when they are bound up in these small ships under particularly bad conditions.

Then, there is the question of prize money. There are certain sailors who early in the war served in H.M.S. "Undine," H.M.S. "Swordfish," and one or two other ships, but who were not 180 days at sea, which is the requisite period to qualify for prize money. These men could not do more for their country than get sunk and be taken prisoner and kept behind barbed wire for four or five years. For some time they could not even get the Atlantic Star, although recently that has been granted to them, and now I appeal that they be granted their prize money.

I know cases of two men who were serving in these ships and who have had their prize money, but some of them have still not had it. One cannot give prize money to some men and not give it to others. The prize money these men are entitled to is £5 to £10, and it is not worth cheeseparing over that. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary would look into this matter as there is a surplus of undistributed prize money.

Finally, as far as Service personnel problems are concerned, there are questions of Service pensions to widows, war widows, and disabled sailors. I have a letter here written by one of my constituents regarding the pension payable to her mother. The lady herself is a war widow, having lost two husbands in the R.A.F. in the war. She writes: I am enclosing a copy of a letter from my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, in which, as you will see, they graciously grant my Mother £120 per annum to live on for life. I must say that that is a lot of money! This lady is the widow of a rear-admiral. The letter continues: I am writing to you in rage, indignation and utter frustration, hoping that in some way you will be able to help. The circumstances are these: my father, a Rear Admiral, died last December at the age of 72, after fighting two World Wars, and a lifetime of faithful service to my Lords of the Admiralty. Heaven knows his pension was little enough, but just sufficient for himself and my Mother to live in very moderate comfort. He himself had no private income and it was impossible on his pension to save. My mother has, quite literally, no income of her own at all. You will understand my feelings I know, as my grandfather and great-grandfather before him served in the so-called Senior Service. It bitterly brings to mind Kipling's words 'If blood be the price of Admiralty, Lord God we have paid in full.' I am a war widow myself twice over, as both husbands were killed on active service. The Air Ministry are generous and I am allowed £170 a year, and for the rest have to work hard to earn enough to live on and taxed to the hilt for doing so. That is neither here nor there, being still young and able to fight my own battles. The right thing for me to do is to help my mother financially, but how can I? As I said, I am just keepng my own head above water, but some day I must grow old too. The girl who typed my Lord Commissioners' letter earns more to spend on nylons than my mother will have for food. That is the way we have treated the widows of our senior officers in the past, and if that is what we can do for rear-admirals, one can understand the pension the wife of a petty officer or ordinary rating gets. I must ask the Parliamentary Secretary to do his utmost to see that something is done for these widows and war widows. There are many widows of the First World War who are only getting 10s. a week, and what will that do for anybody today? I hope he will give sympathetic consideration and all the energy he can to put this problem straight. There is also the problem of disabled sailors. They must have something done for them. If their pension was right in 1945 or 1946, it is not right today.

Finally, I wish to touch on the question of dockyards. I agree with a lot the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) said. He spoke about the merit award. That was an attempt to give the dockyard worker some incentive, but unfortunately he is dependent on his face fitting and on getting on well with the shop steward. That is not a good thing. I do not know a better way of giving him more money.

I believe the previous Civil Lord agreed to this award and the trade unions also agreed because they thought that by doing so they were getting a certain amount of money for the dockyard worker which he would not otherwise get. It was something to go on with as an interim measure and a palliative.

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to see if he cannot think of some better way of doing this and not leave a man who is a hard worker to prove that he is a trade unionist, or a non-Conservative, or whatever suits his particular boss. The man should get the award on merit and not have to join a closed shop, which is what it amounts to.

Mr. W. J. Edwards (Stepney)

The hon. and gallant Member is referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Devon-port and what he said about the merit award. My hon. Friend said something completely different. He said it was the union representatives who complained about the application of the award, so obviously I do not think the closed shop comes into it. The union representatives may be looking at it a different way from the hon. and gallant Member.

Brigadier Clarke

I am obliged to the hon. Member. I think we are both right and that the hon. Member for Devonport was agreeing with me to a great extent, as I think the hon. Member himself is.

That is the way in which they have to earn their living, and I am sure that the hon. Member would rather have some other system if he could think of a better one. I have had a Conservative trade unionist tell me, "Because I am a Conservative, that man I work under will not put me up for the merit award." Whether that is true or not, I cannot say. Some say it is true and some that it is not. The fact remains that that charge can be made, that it is a matter of whether one's face fits or not. I think the whole differential of pay in the dockyards requires examination. The lowest and highest paid workers are so close together that there is no incentive for a man to improve his status at all.

I think the dockyard worker could be given a better incentive to work. He is not as well paid as the agricultural worker and he has not half the amenities and facilities available to the agricultural worker. He lives in a town with expensive rents and no tied houses; in fact, he has great difficulty in getting a house at all. I am certain that if the dockyard worker were given more work and more pay and made to work harder he would be happier and the country would benefit as a result. At the moment he is underpaid, and there are many cases where two people are doing the work of one man, and sometimes three men doing the work of two. Given proper incentives and a little more supervision and pay, these men would work harder and show better results.

There is a lot more which I wanted to say, but most of it has already been said by other hon. Members. I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me before three o'clock, which is a thing that has never happened to me in a Navy Estimates debate before.

12.42 a.m.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) held the sympathy of hon. Members on this side of the House as well as on his own side when he referred to the position of the widows of naval officers and ratings. We all understand the difficulties which pensioners are facing under the present economic conditions, and we are expecting to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer next week the result of the Government review of the pensions of widows of Service men, and the pensions of retired Service officers and men and of civil servants and others.

But at the beginning of his speech the hon. and gallant Member rather trailed his coat by suggesting that it was to the discredit of the Labour Government that the Navy had been allowed to run down. He knows as well as every other hon. Member of this House that the convulsions through which the Labour Party are now going are due mainly to the courage of the Labour Government in deciding on needful but unpalatable measures to strengthen the defences of the country. I will tell the hon. and gallant Member that the political fortunes of his own party will hang in the balance of its re-armament programme. So it ill becomes him, or any other hon. Member on that side of the House, to suggest that there is any discredit attaching to the actions of the Labour Government in strengthening our defences.

We have shown as much courage as any political party could have done in the circumstances, and I think time will show that there has been nothing whatever to the discredit of the Labour Government in that matter.

Brigadier Clarke

The hon. Member will admit that the Labour Government had every assistance and encouragement from the Opposition to see that our armaments did not run down. Every speech I have heard from those benches during the last two years, and every speech I have read for the last four or five years, has encouraged the Government to try to keep the Services up to strength. They were strong at the end of the war and would be now if we had not disarmed dangerously. The late Government did disarm, and now they have to bear the brunt of it.

Mr. Houghton

I am sure that any Government ought to be grateful for the support which it gets from the Opposition, but that support sometimes makes it much harder, and not easier, for it discharge its duties.

I rise to refer to a matter affecting the civilian staff of the Admiralty. I think only two speeches in the whole debate have referred to the civilian staff, and the earlier one was from my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), who said that after five years of making much the same speech about conditions in naval dockyards he had this year got a new speech. It was new because it seemed to be supported by the evidence of the Select Committee that his charges made in previous years had been confirmed. For my part, I am making reference to matters which I dealt with in a short contribution to this debate last year and the year before, so perhaps I have several years to go before I can equal my hon. Friend's record.

I wish the Establishments Division of the Admiralty would stop dealing so shabbily with senior professional officers in Admiralty offices. I have referred to this matter on previous occasions, and both my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. J. Edwards) have had it drawn to their attention. The fact that there is still ground for complaint shows what a stubborn problem we have to deal with.

There is in the Admiralty, and covered by a Vote in the Supplementary Estimates, a department known as the Directorate of Electrical Engineering, and that department, in common with others in the Admiralty, and indeed the rest of the Civil Service, had to undertake a revision of pay scales with effect from 1st January, 1946. That was a general review date for pay scales throughout the whole Civil Service. Various reviews have taken place of the scales of pay of the junior staff in this department, but the pay of the senior professional officers in that directorate is still unsettled.

It is an astonishing story of shilly-shallying and delay. Why is it that pay scales which should have been adjusted with effect from 1st January, 1946, are still unsettled? Why is it that the Admiralty have had a bad name for administration ever since the late Sir Oswin Murray ceased to be its Secretary? In the public service we hear constant criticism of the delay and mishandling of establishment problems by the Admiralty, which is in strange contrast to the tributes paid to the Admiralty, deserved as I feel sure they are, in naval matters. The staff association, in which I have no personal interest, which cares for the welfare and conditions of service of the staffs, has asked the Admiralty repeatedly, but fruitlessly, to bring the matter to a conclusion.

In the Civil Engineer-in-Chief's Department there is another story of delay. After I had raised the matter on 22nd March, 1950—in columns 2082–6 of HANSARD—I had a letter from the private secretary to the First Lord on 22nd May, 1950, saying that there was reason to hope that discussions were now in their concluding stage. But they have not finished yet. The adjustments, when they are made, must date back to 1st January, 1946.

In another branch of the Civil Engineer-in-Chief's Department some officers have been retired for 18 months and two years, and their pay has still to be adjusted from 1st January, 1946, and pensions have to be adjusted in consequence. This is shameful delay, which is not repeated in any other branch of the public service. I appreciate that with professional staffs some relativity has to be taken into account, since comparable officers probably work in other Service Ministries, but the matter should be brought to a conclusion.

Are the Treasury standing in the way? If so, is it not time the Admiralty dropped a depth charge in the Treasury? In the past, we have been told by the Treasury that the Admiralty always claim to be a law unto themselves; let the Admiralty be a law unto themselves now and settle these matters that have been delayed.

I finish with a reference to what the First Lord said this afternoon about civilian staffs generally in the Admiralty. Some time ago the Admiralty appointed an organisation committee. It is headed by the Permanent Secretary and is composed of distinguished admirals; indeed, I see among the members a distinguished ex-member of the General Council of the T.U.C. and others who have studied organisational methods and can contribute something to the work. Its terms of reference are comprehensive and relate to securing the most efficient conduct of Admiralty business. The staff side of the Admiralty administrative Whitley Council was properly invited to submit suggestions and recommendations and, anxious to help, they submitted documents in autumn, 1950, and March, 1951.

I hope that the First Lord, in his review of the size and work of civilian staffs, will have regard to the fact that the staff side has been anxious to help and so far has received little encouragement. So far as I know, this committee has not reported and the staff side possesses no information about the intentions or recommendations of the committee.

I shall understand if the Parliamentary Secretary, among so many matters, is unable to reply in detail to the questions I have raised. I shall be happy if he reads them and takes speedy and energetic steps to bring this lamentable condition of things to an end. If he does, it will have the virtue that I shall not have to trouble the House on this matter next year.

12.55 a.m.

Sir Jocelyn Lucas (Portsmouth, South)

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) has already drawn attention to some of the welfare matters I was going to raise, and therefore I shall be able to cut my speech even shorter than it would have been. I want to raise the question of the 12-year men retained for another 18 months. They were entitled to gratuity of approximately £100, but then had to wait till the end of the 18 months before they got it. When I raised the matter with this Government they saw the position that many of these men had already promised the money as a down payment for a business they were taking over, or for a house, and so the Government agreed that they could claim the money at the end of their 12 years, or leave it another 18 months as they preferred and get an extra bonus if they did so.

I thought this was very good, but a petty officer in Korean waters wrote to me and asked what happened if he left the money in and was killed during the 18 months; would his wife be able to claim it? I found the wife would lose it. She cannot claim it. The only thing for these people to do is to claim the money at once, and not—as the Admiralty wish—leave it for the 18 months.

The risk of loss is so small that it could easily be covered by insurance. Even if the Government agreed to cover the risk themselves, it would not cost more than a few hundred pounds. I think the Government should see that the money goes to the widow if a man is killed during that 18 months, or insure him. The excuse was also given that it was all right because the widow would get a pension. That does not impress me a bit. If the man had been killed before the 12 years was up she would still have got a pension, and it was a definite contract that the man would be entitled to this lump sum at the end of his 12 years.

Up to two years ago the chargemen in the dockyards had their own association through which they could negotiate with the Admiralty, but then the right was taken away from them by the late Government. The chargemen have to discipline the men under them, keep order, and see that the work is properly done. If they have to apply through these men's unions to get a rise in pay it is very awkward for them if they are strict disciplinarians, because these men can get their own back. I should like to know if the chargemen's association has been killed, or if it is to be allowed to negotiate as before, direct with the Admiralty.

Finally I should like to draw attention to the injustice felt by all retired naval officers, particularly those retired before 1st September, 1950. Those retired after that date received an increase in retired pay and a terminal grant. Those who retired before get a lower rate of pension and of course got no terminal grant, That seems all wrong. Both have an equal need for and claim to the pension. In any event, the serving officer has very little chance of putting money by, and the pensions are now worth so little that I hope the Admiralty will do all they can to see whether they cannot help these people.

If the Admiralty want to attract a high standard of officer, they must remember that the pension is part of the pay; that is why these officers are not paid more, and most of them, if they are good, would earn a great deal more in civilian life. I do hope that the Admiralty will be able to help.

1.1 a.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I can hardly associate myself with the rather ferocious sentiments uttered by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who expressed a desire, rather alarming at this time in the morning, to drop a depth charge on the Treasury. Even at this hour of the morning he must not expect any Member holding the views I do to approve anything so violent as that. But I do say this to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Sir J. Lucas). If he wants to get the grievances of his constituents attended to, if he wishes to get any respect at all from the Admiralty, or anybody else, he will have to make a thundering nuisance of himself and persist until he gets some justice.

Sir J. Lucas

I have done that before.

Mr. Hughes

Well, if the hon. Gentleman has done it before it shows that he has not been so successful as he might have been.

I shall try tonight to represent the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I believe that we should keep a very close eye on national expenditure at the present time; that we should do our best to urge upon the Government and their Departments policies which will eliminate waste. I see in this very large sum of over £320 million a great waste of national expenditure in the expenditure of money, labour and materials which could be well used elsewhere.

I remember the first occasion upon which I sat through a debate on the Navy Estimates, in 1948, when the pre sent Prime Minister came down to the House in his most truculent and rampageous mood. There is one phrase of his that sticks in my mind in the attack he made on the naval policy of the Government, when he called the policy of the Labour Government in naval matters the "quintessence of asininity." I presume we believe that there is continuity of naval policy as well as of foreign policy, so that although the figureheads on the Government Front Bench change with a different alignment in the political situation, the policy of the "quintessence of asininity" will continue through the ages until we get some fundamental change.

I remember, too, that my right hon. Friend, the then Prime Minister, four years ago made a very eloquent speech in defence of the retention of the battleships—a view which I understand is completely contrary to modern naval thought. The late Lord Lloyd George once said of the present Prime Minister, "Winston is not an orator. He is a rhetorician." He uses words not for their meaning but for their sound."

I remember in the debate on the Navy Estimates four years ago the very great attack made upon Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who was then Minister of Defence. I confess I agreed, although perhaps I should not, with a good deal of the attack that was made upon the Labour Minister of Defence. After the change-over, I do not see a great deal of improvement, and I find in these Estimates and in this debate the same sort of casual acceptance of the traditions of the past just because they are traditions of the past without any real attempt to ask if the policy is in the interests of the nation.

Throughout this debate, except in one or two speeches, I failed to find- anybody attempting to deal with the broad aspects of naval policy and to justify the enormous sum of £320 million which we have been asked to provide for in these Estimates. I remember a speech of the present Prime Minister at that time, in which he made a very scathing attack on the Admiralty. He drew attention to the fact that the Admiralty was full of civilians who were finding jobs for themselves and for their relatives, and under the Labour administration the Admiralty was over-run by them. In fact, it was a sink of administrative iniquity.

When the Prime Minister came yesterday to outline his policy on the Navy, I thought he was going to translate into action some of the statements he made in that debate. But instead of that he came to the conclusion that, after all, owing to the complexity of the Navy at the present time, he regarded this staff as necessary and he accepted it in a mood of defeatism. But in that debate he threw out a suggestion which I believe was very pertinent, and I should like to repeat the very point he made in his criticism of Lord Alexander. He said: The whole presentation of the Admiralty staff is a scandal which any House of Commons worthy of its financial responsibilities should probe, scrape and cleanse. I want to see that process carried out, and I agree thoroughly with the statement of the Prime Minister when he said: I would like to see a committee of the House of Commons have a look at these matters themselves, as they would have done in almost any other Parliament than this."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 833–5.] I believe if we had a really independent committee of business men to examine the whole expenditure of the Admiralty on its merits, if we had some hard-headed Scottish business men, who did not have any superstitious reverence for the Admiralty, we should achieve the saving of a certain amount of money.

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) came to the conclusion that we could save a lot of money by adopting the strategy he suggests, but I should like to see this impartial committee set up, say under the chairmanship of Mr. Hardie, who appears now to be out of employment, and I should be prepared even to have Lord Waverley as a member of the committee. I should like to have hard-headed business men who would look at this Admiralty business, not through the blind eye of Nelson or the romatic spectacles of the Prime Minister, but see how we can tackle this matter and save the money of the taxpayer.

I want now to turn to the case of H.M.S. "Eagle." I first became interested in this aircraft carrier after studying the report of the Select Committee on Estimates. I hope that hon. Members will read the document dealing with naval dockyards, for questions were asked about the cost of these ships mounting steadily as they neared completion. When I asked the Prime Minister yesterday about the cost of the "Eagle" he said "Oh, that is the Socialist Government's," and he put responsibility for the expenditure of £15 million upon the Socialist Government. But this vessel was laid down during a time when the present Prime Minister was previously in office, namely, in 1942. So the Prime Minister did not know the date of the laying down of this expensive vessel.

I suggest that an item of £15,750,000 in an Estimate ought to be looked at carefully. The First Lord spoke with some pride of H.M.S. "Eagle" and gave us interesting details. When I asked him, at Question time some six weeks ago, about the cost of this naval monster, he said that I would have to wait for the Navy Estimates. A week later I find that the "Eagle" has been on her final trials on the Clyde. Information which was not given to him was given to 50 newspaper correspondents invited to spend a day on the ship so that they could tell us all about what we were getting for our money.

I have two accounts of the "Eagle" written by two correspondents of those very accurate papers, the "Scotsman" and the "Glasgow Herald," and I should like to supplement the information which has been given to the House. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is going to invite Members to visit the ship. I hope that they will go. I shall be pleased to accompany the hon. Gentleman, and perhaps I will change my opinion when I see what we have got for this £15 million.

I am told by the correspondent of the "Scotsman" that the "Eagle" is Britain's latest, greatest, fastest, most expensive aircraft carrier. I am told also that she continued her machinery and manœuvrability trials in the Clyde accompanied by 50 daily and technical journalists who were duly entertained. The First Lord did not put his wares fully in the window, because it was far more interesting than he made out. For example, to appeal to the ordinary man in Scotland, the reporter told us that the flight deck was twice the length of the football pitch at Hampden Park and that inside the vessel 263 double-deckers could be stowed. He told us that more than 1,000 miles of electric cable were stretched throughout the ship, and that the main generating machinery would supply a town of the size of Oxford. All this complicated machinery, and all this capital asset, is in a ship which might disappear in one bombing raid. The galleys are fitted with the most modern electric cookers and all the most beautiful labour-saving devices.

After reading that, I feel that once the people from the not-so-well-housed parts of Glasgow go to sea in this ship, they will never want to come home. Then there is a canteen and two ice cream and soda fountains, a barber's shop, a library and a cinema, while a small air-conditioned chapel provides a quiet place for meditation and prayer. I presume that on Sunday a chaplain delivers a sermon on the text "Thou shalt not kill." I have not quite finished the catalogue of this wonderful ship. It has an automatic telephone exchange with 500 subscribers and its laundry, with 31 workers, has a machine capable of washing 500 lb. of clothing in 17 minutes. Each man on board can have 10 lb. of clothes washed for 9d.

I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke), who has such a terrible fear of Communism, has left the Chamber. He does not realise that he has been in a Communist institution all his life—the worst kind of Communism, a military Communism—and here he is advancing the argument that we must support these colossal Estimates in order to keep out Communism. I presume his argument would be that if we doubled the Navy Estimates we should be sure to keep out Communism.

Well, here we have the Navy showing how useful it can be—turning out a magnificent bundle of washing for 9d. It shows what can be done by collective enterprise. Yet hon. Members opposite will all repudiate the suggestion that they are anywhere near believing in Communism or Socialism. I warn the First Lord not to bring that ship off the coast of Ayrshire. If the miners I represent, who live in far less salubrious dwellings than that, knew that the ship was anchored off the coast of Ayrshire, they would make a desperate attempt to capture it and use it for housing purposes.

What troubles me is that there has not been a sufficient realisation in the House of the enormous economic waste that is going on at the present time in the Navy. The Prime Minister, who does not usually wander into the realm of statistics, gave us some interesting figures yesterday when he talked about the increased cost of destroyers. He said that the destroyers in in 1914 cost £150 a ton, in 1939 £325 a ton and they are now costing £700 a ton—nearly five times as much as they did in 1914.

Now these figures, when one tries to interpret them in terms that we can understand, deserve a little further examination. They contain the real argument which the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has been presenting throughout this re-armament programme. I am not a Bevanite and I understand that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale would be embarrassed if he were associated with anyone like a pacifist. But I find that his argument is absolutely sound in regard to its economic consequences. It is that we are at the present time investing far too great a part of our national wealth in the production of armaments. We have a typical example in this aircraft carrier.

This aircraft carrier was built in Harland & Wolff's yard in Belfast. No business man would agree to give a contract in the way this ship has been built. I hope there will be a most searching inquiry into it and that the Select Committee on Estimates will pursue the inquiries, which were tentatively made at the first meeting. I would like to have the exact relationship between the Admiralty and Harland & Wolff, Ltd. These are not contract prices. It appears that these prices alter from week to week and month to month, and that, at the end of 10 years, the Admiralty is presented with a huge bill of £15 million.

I do not profess to know the costing system of this. All I know is that it is not a transaction which any businessman would consider, that the Admiralty has presumably a costing system of its own, and that the result is we have this enormous sum of public money being spent and demanded from this House at a time when we are practically bankrupt. I do suggest that the economic consequences of all this have not been fully realised by the House. Just imagine the large number of craftsmen of all kinds, all the joiners, electricians, technicians, and all kinds of skilled people, who are being engaged on this tremendous aircraft carrier, which is only now reaching completion, at a time when the whole strategy of naval warfare has been completely changed.

We had from the hon. and learned Member for Northampton a very lucid analysis of the strategic situation which confronts us today. He pointed out that the situation has completely changed during the last few years. When this ship was laid down in 1942, for example, the present Prime Minister was still a fellow-traveller with Joe Stalin. At that time we were all enthusiastic about the Russians, and the fishermen in my own constituency were sacrificing their lives, as naval reservists, taking convoys to Russia. Even in 1948, when the Prime Minister made the speech which I have quoted, the present Prime Minister did not think about Russia in terms of being enemy No. 1 at all. Now, we are finding that this aircraft carrier, which was presumably built for one kind of international position, is coming into service in another.

The hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East (Commander Pursey) has gone into the question of the number of Russian submarines. This question of the number of submarines Russia has was the subject of argument on the occasion of the last Navy Estimates. Then, we had the right hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Crookshank), who is now the Minister of Health—thank goodness, they have not brought him to the Admiralty vet—argued that there were 300 to 400 submarines and, when he was challenged by the then Minister of Defence to say what his authority was for saying Russia had so many hundreds, he refused to give any authority. He went on to say that some people said the Russians have a thousand submarines.

That was entirely different from the figure given yesterday by the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister had any evidence that Russia had a huge fleet of submarines I am sure he would have flourished it across the Floor of the House. In fact, he said that there were only comparatively few Russian submarines. He referred to the new fast U-boats of which, he said, the Soviets have happily at present only a few."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 441.] Yet, in opposition, hon. Members opposite were talking in terms of a thousand submarines. Today, when the Prime Minister has the advantage of the fullest possible information from his intelligence service, all he can say is that the Soviets have happily at present only a few submarines.

Against these submarines, which are in ports which some parts of the year are blocked by ice, we are asked to continue this huge Navy as it was in the days when we were prepared to fight alone against the naval forces of Germany, Japan, and Italy. Now there is no German Navy, although I do not know whether they are going to reconstruct one. If it is right to have a German Army I know of no argument against a German Navy. We have the huge naval might of America, which has more ships than any other nation in the world. The old menace has disappeared and there is no real evidence to show that we are not spending this huge sum of something like £325 million for what is perhaps a phantom navy.

If the Russians have one thousand submarines, or anything of that kind, it proves that in view of their technical backwardness there must be something very efficient in their organisation and industrial system which can produce one thousand submarines, highly technical vessels needing much skilled labour. I think it is quite probable that Russia has a certain number of submarines and that the right hon. Gentleman cannot disclose the full number to the House, but I do not believe that there are in existence at the present time, nor are likely to be, such huge fleets of submarines in Russia as to justify this enormous expenditure.

The case that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton argued—I mean his general conclusions, although he argued a different premise—is right, that we are incurring a huge burden of capital expenditure when we need all the labour and materials for the export industry. The First Lord told us about the shortage of skilled labour in the dockyards and about shortages of steel. There is a shortage of steel, and all kinds of material, technical skill, and experience needed in the dockyards are producing commercial ships. If he increases the personnel in the dockyards he will absorb from the commercial dockyards the skill, material, and labour which goes to manufacture commercial ships.

I, as one who lives near the Clyde, am very apprehensive indeed at the way in which labour in this country is being diverted from the kind of ship-building that is necessary if this nation is to continue as a manufacturing and industrial Power in order to produce ships to combat a menace which I believe is largely imaginary. I regret that at a time when we are faced with the possibility of competition from the ship-yards of Germany and Japan we are likely to lose that market for ship-building which has been one of the necessary assets to the economic life of this country.

We have heard about submarines holding up food supplies from America, but if we cannot pay for that food the source of supply will dry up. If this country turns its great ship-building industry to the manufacture of vessels which will be obsolete in another 10 years, we shall destroy the economic prosperity of this nation.

I would ask hon. Members who have served in the Navy to answer the question contained in the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton; how shall we be affected by the atom bomb? It is no use imagining that the atom bomb does not exist, or thinking in terms of 1914–18, or even last-war strategy, when this tremendous new weapon has been developed by our potential enemy. The Prime Minister has warned us that if Russia dropped only 50 atom bombs on this country the consequences would be fearful.

What will be the position if we have a wonderful Navy chasing submarines in the approaches to the American coast, or in the Channel, when our great cities are being obliterated by atom bombs? The atom bomb is the great final determining factor in modern war which must be taken into account when discussing questions of security and defence.

An hon. Member has talked about barracks being destroyed. There is a greater danger than that. Our wonderful Navy with its aircraft carriers and frigates cannot stop the atom bomb, and if we do not do that this country will be destroyed. America is disposed to regard this country as an aircraft carrier for the United States. As a result, there is dire peril awaiting this nation if we ever have to face war in modern terms. We have travelled a long way from the days of Queen Elizabeth, but a great deal of our naval strategy seems not to have moved at all. With that determining factor in our minds, instead of building up these armaments, adding ships upon ships and increasing our naval forces at a cost which must become more and more astronomic as prices continue to go up, we should look another way.

Before the war, we used to put in front of our disarmament programme the suggestion that we should ask the nations to agree to the abolition of the submarine. Why should we not do that today? Why should we not have a positive programme of 'disarmament as a counter-plan to the plan the Russians brought before us? In order to deal effectively with the submarine menace, our policy should be to go to the disarmament conference in Paris and say that this country stands for the abolition of the submarine. If we abolished the submarine, we would have no need for these tremendous annual sums of money that are asked for each year in these Estimates.

I submit that the alternative to bankruptcy—and that bankruptcy will bring all the consequences which one hon. Member dreads so much—is not piling up new naval forces or any other of these colossally expensive armaments, but to go to a disarmament conference realising that we have a great deal to gain by international agreement. We may be sceptical about this, but it would be better than taking risks which would result in the destruction of the economic life of the nation, and of the people who have worked so hard to build up this nation.

1.37 a.m.

Captain Robert Ryder (Merton and Morden)

At this late hour I hope to be brief, so I will refer straight away to the remarks made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who was kind enough to give me warning that he intended to criticise the speech I made last night.

I listened very attentively to what he said, and I feel that, without repeating what I said yesterday, I should emphasise that a great deal in one's approach to the strategical problem, in my view, depends on whether one regards war as something that is inevitable or whether one bends all one's efforts to building up a deterrent against it. I feel that the hon. and learned Gentleman must have clearly in his mind the attitude that he regards war as more or less inevitable or to such an extent that that should be the main theme of our strategy.

Anyhow, whatever priority is to be accorded to the building up of our Forces as a Continental Power, as against our maritime strength, the diminished influence which we may exert in the world at large, is something which we should regard with great misgiving. It was with that thought in mind that I addressed myself to the White Paper, and I must say that, when I first looked at the White Paper, I had a number of criticisms and misgivings in mind, criticisms and misgivings which have been largely set at rest by the speech of my right hon. Friend the First Lord, and principally his remarks about the Fleet Air Arm being the main striking power of the Fleet.

When I first looked at the White Paper, my first criticism was that today we have a very small active Fleet and a very large Reserve Fleet. To that extent our naval forces today are quite different from what they used to be before the war in peacetime. And I wonder whether we are right, within our limited resources, to spend so much money on our Reserve Fleet at the expense of the active Fleet. This is a matter which always deserves very careful consideration. The Reserve Fleet, which we are glad to learn is in good condition, has a somewhat destructive effect on the morale of those who look after it.

I think the First Lord's words were that it is not a very inspiring existence. What we need above all, apart from the effect it has on our influence throughout the world, is an increased active Fleet where the main training of all seamen must really be carried out. When it comes to war-time expansion, the lack of training and the reduced scope of command and of commanding officers will tell. We have to balance that against the Reserve Fleet we keep and hope to man in the event of mobilisation.

The Prime Minister has referred to the emphasis that has now been placed on harbour defence and in-shore minesweeping. There is no doubt that the Admiralty have got an eye on the ball there; it is a very practical consideration, but harbour defence and in-shore minesweeping will not extend or increase our influence throughout the world. However necessary they may be, we want to be careful that we do not become too harbour defence-minded. We have to balance the practical defence requirements against the much broader requirements of our maritime influence throughout the world.

I have looked also at the tables of naval strength to see where we can increase the striking force of our Fleet. There are the three light fleet carriers on which construction has been delayed for a long time—"Powerful," "Leviathan," and "Hercules." The "Majestic" is being completed for use on loan to Australia. But the other light fleet carriers seem to have come to a complete stop for some time. It is an important element in the strength of our Fleet awaiting completion, and I ask for a statement of Admiralty policy on that question.

In conclusion, my criticism of the White Paper is that it is a severely practical document. It concentrates on the main threat, but it does so at the expense of our maritime influence overseas at a time when this is very much needed. I hope, therefore, that before next year's Estimates my right hon. Friend will give thought to that point of view.

1.45 a.m.

Mr. W. J. Edwards (Stepney)

Like the First Lord, whom I should like to congratulate on his office, this happens to be the seventh time also on which I have spoken in the Navy Estimates debate from the Front Bench; unfortunately, on this occasion it happens to be from this side. I have looked at some of the speeches of those who have preceded me on the Opposition Front Bench, and have found that on many occasions they have repeated all that has been said by other speakers on their side, and taken up a considerable amount of time.

I shall try to avoid as far as possible any repetition of the speeches made on this side today, and confine myself to what is contained in the First Lord's statement and in the Estimates. There is on page 2 of the Statement a rather startling sentence: It is, however, my intention to effect such administrative and other economies, and reductions in overseas expenditure, as is consistent with maintaining the traditional efficiency of the Royal Navy. That seems rather dangerous wording. I do not know exactly what he means by effecting economies abroad. Is he going to close any dockyards, or reduce the numbers employed there? Neither of these things would bring about efficiency, and that statement will cause some of the people who have to administer dockyards abroad concern as to what is to happen to them in the forthcoming year.

On page 5 there is a paragraph about commissioning bases for small craft, the last sentence of which says: The maintenance in reserve of large numbers of wooden craft is a novel problem for the Royal Navy in peace time and these commissioning bases provide the most practicable and economical solution. I rather gather from that that the Admiralty are not certain what they are going to do to maintain these craft, and I should like to be assured that we have proper means of preservation before we order too many of them, so that they may not be allowed to rot.

On page 6, in the paragraph marked "General," it refers to trouble with raw materials and labour for the 1951–52 programme, and goes on: Taking all these factors into consideration, progress on the naval programme has not so far been unsatisfactory, but the stage is now being reached where a considerable increase of manpower on naval work in the shipbuilding bards will be necessary to maintain progress. Are any additional steps being taken to increase the labour force? I am sure the First Lord will agree that if all the labour necessary for the work which could he undertaken in the Royal Dockyards within the re-armament programme is not recruited, once again we must fall down on the programme and re-armament will not be carried out in the time proposed.

I was very interested in the paragraph on re-engagements, on page 11, and I was glad to hear the First Lord say today that there have been some improvements in re-engagement since the new pay code was introduced and the pensions increased. There seems, however, to be a little inconsistency between the First Lord's statement and the sub-head which deals with payments for re-engagements, in which there is rather a large reduction. It may be that fewer will be entitled to the £100 gratuity. I do not know whether that will be the answer, but I should be obliged if the Parliamentary Secretary could tell us something about that.

The First Lord also spoke about encouraging longer periods of service, by men being allowed to sign on for five years after having finished their 18 months and 12 months. I presume that that will mean five years from the end of the 12 years, making 17 years in all. He did not say whether the men would get a bounty or a pension at the end of the 17 years, and my view is that unless they are paid something similar to what is paid to men who serve 22 years—perhaps a gratuity or smaller pension in ratio—the five-year scheme will not benefit the Navy much in these days of full employment. Will these men who are taken on for the extra five years from the end of the 12 years period be paid anything?

I am glad to note that the Government have more or less agreed that we tried to cut down the numbers in the Admiralty Office as much as we possibly could. This statement says: The number of staff at Admiralty headquarters at 1st January, 1952, was 11,059, or 484 more than at 1st January, 1951. Then the next sentence pleases me most: This increase has been due to the continuing demands of the Government's re-armament programme, but it has been, and will continue to be, Admiralty policy to confine any increases to the lowest possible limits. That is some admission that we were trying to do what we could to limit the numbers engaged at the Admiralty Office under Vote 12; and that answers the criticism of the Parliamentary Secretary himself a year ago, and also of the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith), who now adorns the Government Front Bench.

There is one other item which perhaps many hon. Members have not realised, and that is that there is a £1 million increase in the Vote this year over last year. No doubt that is due to increased salaries, but that is a statement of fact, and I am sure that in his probing of the Admiralty Office the First Lord will find it extremely difficult to reduce the numbers without creating quite a lot of inefficiency there.

Now I should like to turn to the Estimates themselves, and refer to a few items. I should like to talk about Vote A first. It will be noted on page 9 that out of the total of 143,500 in 1951–52, there were 12,085 Royal Marines, but with Vote A at 153,000 for 1952–53, there are 11,700, which means a reduction in the numbers of the Royal Marines so far as Vote A is concerned. I feel sure the admirers of the Royal Marines will be very perturbed indeed to learn that, with a bigger Vote A, the number of Royal Marines is reduced. I notice there is a reduction of officers from 685 to 650. I do not know what will happen to these officers, and whether these 35 are going to be made up by wastage, or something of that sort. But it does seem odd, and I do not think that most people will be pleased about it.

On page 10, Vote A. there is shown a rather large increase in Flag officers. There are 60 Flag officers in 1951–52, and that figure has gone up to 68 for 1952–53; there were 26 officers of relative Flag rank for 1951–52, but this is increased to 28 for next year. I take particular note of the fact that the number of dental officers has been reduced from 138 to 120. I wonder if this is an economy of any sort, or is it because of some arrangement with the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Education in connection with schools?

It appears to me to be a retrogade step to reduce the number of dental officers in the Navy when Vote A is going up. I do not know if there is an answer, but it seems, knowing these dental officers are used to treat the wives and families in married quarters, whose numbers are increasing rapidly, that this is going to be a false economy, as a result of which someone will suffer.

On Vote 2 I would raise a point about mess traps. Expenditure is coming down from £566,500 to £370,000. There is only one other item showing a reduction—all the others are increasing. Therefore, can I be told whether this is an economy measure, whether it is to be taken out of stocks, or are we not to have so many mess traps in the Navy in the coming year?

On page 46, dealing with Fleet Services, I note that there is a rather large decrease in the numbers employed. I note that boom defence and salvage vessel personnel are reduced from 1,943 to 1,730. I should be interested to learn why it is that the crews of boom defence and salvage vessels are coming down. Is it because the jobs are being taken over by Service men or because the number of vessels is being reduced? I should also like to know something about the reserves. When we were in the Government we heard a lot from the then Opposition about the state of the Reserves. Yet the amount of money for this purpose next year shows a reduction on the amount for this year. The amount for the Royal Fleet Reserve is going down by almost half, and that for the Royal Marine Force Volunteer Reserve also shows a reduction.

For the last three or four years at least it has been said that every effort ought to be made to increase the Reserves, particularly the R.N.V.R., and the R.N.R., apart from the Royal Fleet Reserve. It is striking to read these sums and to find that no provision has been made by the Admiralty for increasing the size of the Reserves next year. So far as the Royal Fleet Reserve is concerned, it appears that the numbers are coming down to 20,000. This is no doubt due to the fact that numbers have been called up for some time. I should like to know if any effort is being made to build up the size of the Reserves, particularly the Royal Fleet Reserve. We cannot afford to allow this Reserve to go down.

There are other matters about which I wish to talk, but I do not want to use too much time. There is one alarming matter in the Estimates. Hon. Members will all remember the questions raised on the matter of security at the dockyards and armament establishments, and on the necessity for tightening up security measures for the prevention of sabotage. These questions came especially after the explosions of the last few years.

It is rather distressing to find that on almost every Vote which includes the Admiralty constabulary the numbers of the constabulary have been reduced. That seems to me to be cheeseparing economy, if it is economy. I cannot see any reason for a reduction of the Admiralty constabulary, and I think it is true that those in charge of the constabulary have for some time been asking for increased numbers.

With regard to the increased staff which will be required for Vote 8 and Vote 10 work this year, it appears to be obvious that if the plan is to be complied with a large addition of professional staff will be necessary. Is any step being taken to secure early increase of the present complements, or are we to live in hope that something will come along? It is a serious matter if we are to have these Estimates looking very high year after year, and, at the end of each year, we find that the additional professional staff and others have not come along—perhaps because we have not gone out of our way to get them—and that there is a large under-spending. It is not good for the Navy Estimates of the future to have large under-spendings carried on each year, making the task look the more formidable.

Now I want to deal with a question which is rather close to my heart, Vote 10. Here again, there was quite a lot of complaint from this side of the House when we were in office about the progress which we were making with married quarters and with work in the dockyards. I agree entirely with my hon. Friends the Members for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) and Devonport (Mr. Foot) about the great necessity for carrying out as quickly as possible large works programmes to bring the dockyards into a really efficient state.

The hon. Member for Devonport may not realise the considerable amount of money that has been spent since 1945 out of Vote 10 funds for that purpose in all the dockyards. I can assure him that it was as much as we could spend at that time within the capabilities of the area to provide the labour force. However, I am a little worried to find that in these Estimates there is only a very small allowance for works in the dockyards. I notice that for 1951–52 £20,000 was voted to the dockyards and factories for new works and that £496,000 was provided for continuation services, whereas in this financial year there will be nothing at all provided for the Royal dockyards, and only a sum of £472,000 for continuation services, which is obviously work put in hand by the previous Administration.

There may be some economy cut here, but in my view it is bad economy to cut out the work which is so necessary if the dockyards are to be able to carry out their job more efficiently. I shall not blame anybody for the condition of the yards. Most of it was due to the effects of the war because for six years everybody was concentrating on winning the war and there was very little opportunity of carrying out the necessary work there. I can assure the House that it will be very serious if these yards are not properly looked after.

I want to know what is happening with the dockyard reconstruction scheme? I hope that will not be shelved because the only future for the yards will be one of the grossest inefficiency unless that reconstruction scheme is put into operation as soon as time permits. It will obviously take a long time and much money, but it will be for the benefit of the nation and for the benefit of the people running the yards.

There are two other disturbing features in the Estimates. I do not want to play party politics on this, because we do not usually do so on Navy Estimates, and I hope we shall never have to do so, but I am very disturbed to find that there is no provision in Vote 10 this year for new works for married quarters. The House probably knows that so far as married quarters under Vote 10 are concerned, these relate only to those abroad and in Northern Ireland, whereas those in the United Kingdom come under Vote 15.

After all that has been said about married quarters for men in the Navy, and particularly for those serving abroad, there is not a penny in the Estimates next year for new works in this respect. We have been doing all we can since 1946 for this purpose. I see there is £172,000 to be voted in 1952–53 for works started previously. Unless we are to have something in the programme each year, however, we shall fall down on this matter. I have had some dealing with provision of accommodation for personnel and nobody knows better than I do how much is the need for the improvement of our barracks.

We have gone a long way towards it. We modernised blocks, we built new canteens, and I myself agreed to a scheme, before I left office, whereby the original plans for the modernisation of the barracks in the home ports would be expedited by 100 per cent., if the money was available at the Admiralty. But, instead of it being expedited, it looks as if we are going back.

It is disturbing to the man who has to serve in these barracks to be told after these last five or six years, when we have been trying to do all we could in this direction, that there is no provision in Vote 10 for this particular phase of Admiralty employment. Last year, we voted £88,000 for new works to be started in 1952–53 to accommodate personnel. When one does that for new works, it usually means a sum 10 times as large for the complete job, so that this figure for new works was not far less than £1 million. We voted £499,000 for continuation services, but now we come down to £384,000. That will put us back for a long time, and will put us back in places where we should not have allowed it to occur.

I realise the difficulties of new Ministers when taking over in a period when the Estimates are almost completed, but I am shocked at the fact that the provision, which we had made and for which we had prepared next year, for married quarters under Vote 10, for accommodation of personnel and for dockyards and factories, has been allowed to be interfered with.

Finally, on Vote 15, I note something else which is a little bit alarming. Vote 15 is the Vote out of which we obtain the expenditure for married quarters at home. It will be found again that we allowed £1,500,000 for 1951–52 while there is £2,150,000 for 1952–53. That shows an increase of £650,000, but, I think that on reading the explanatory notes it would be found that there is less work being started this year compared with last year. I imagine that the increase in the Vote is nothing less, but is a run-over from this year's actual work. I cannot be certain what is the exact position with regard to the married quarters' programme for this year under the Vote, but if there is a reduction, compared with last year, I should like to know and I should be very sorry about it.

Last, but not least, the First Lord will know that there was an agitation for some time that we should have married quarters for the home forces under Vote 15. We set up a working party which reported just before I came away. I should like to know whether its report has yet been considered and what is the decision reached by the Admiralty.

2.16 a.m.

The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Commander Allan Noble)

I have had some experience of the Silent Service, but I do not think that I have ever been so silent in this House as I have during the last few months at the Admiralty. Therefore, I must ask for the customary indulgence of the House for those who speak from this Box for the first time. May I say what a great honour it is for me—and I am sure the same was felt by both the ex-Parliamentary Secretary and the ex-Civil Lord who have also served in the Navy—to be undertaking this task on behalf of the Admiralty tonight.

This has been a very long debate, quite a Marathon, and I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the House will excuse me if I do not answer all their points even if they have let me know about them beforehand. It is difficult to answer in detail a long speech like that of the former Civil Lord at this time of night.

May I add my congratulations to those which have been given to the two maiden speakers, the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. R. Allan) and the hon. and gallant Member for King's Lynn (Commander Scott-Miller). All hon. Members will agree that their speeches showed great knowledge and we shall, look forward to hearing them in our naval debates in the future.

Such a vast field has been covered that it would be best if I tried to divide my reply into subjects instead of speeches. I will start by talking about officers and men, although perhaps the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) would rather I said "chaps" or even perhaps "often." One's thoughts come at once to the need for the Navy to continue to retain men beyond their normal time in the Navy and the recall of more men from the Royal Fleet Reserve.

My right hon. Friend referred to that in his speech, and he said that we had great sympathy with these men and that we would do everything in our power to cut down the period of retention and recall. Some hon. Members have said that retentions are unfair and some have said that recalls are unfair. This shows the need for a balanced policy in this matter, and that we really are trying to be fair about it.

My predecessor said that it was about time we had settled our manpower problems, but it is not quite as easy as all that. In 1949 Vote A was 154,000, which is roughly the same as today, but it must be realised that in the interval it went down to 143,000 and that it was planned to go down to 127,000 at the end of 1950. What happened while it was being planned to go down to 127,000? We had Korea, the re-armament programme, three programmes, in fact, one after the other, each getting larger, which could not have made it at all easy to plan the manpower needs of the Navy. Then there has been the question of National Service with the periods again altered from time to time. In these conditions it cannot have been easy for the manning department of the Navy to plan ahead.

There is also the question of re-engagement. We on this side of the House started asking Questions about that as early as 1948, when it was apparent that sufficient men were not signing on after 12 years to complete their time for pension. There were various reasons for that, and I am glad to say that the position has improved. But we are getting to the position this year when the big entries of just before the war, who have completed their 12 years and have been held for another 18 months, will be going out.

My predecessor asked why it is that Vote A will rise rather higher this year and fall towards the end of the year. He said he thought we were misusing the Royal Fleet Reserve. I would not say that at all. The Royal Fleet Reserve is being used for its proper purpose, and these men will continue to be available in that Reserve. We are also offering to men who have completed their 12 years and their 18 months' retention, that if they join the Royal Fleet Reserve the 18 months will count as their time for having been called up.

I think that from what I have said it will be seen that even if we were able to recruit more men at the moment it would not help our shortage of men; and as my right hon. Friend said, the Navy depends more than the other Services on senior and highly trained technical men. We have done everything possible to encourage re-entry and re-engagement and transfers to longer periods of service.

On the question of dilution, I am sure that the former Parliamentary Secretary would agree that one can carry that too far, both from the point of view of safety, and also because it would give the senior men far too much work, with perhaps the result that they themselves would not re-engage. The former Civil Lord asked about the extra gratuity being offered to men extending their service. The answer is that that gratuity is being paid at the rate of £25 a year for service after the tenth year.

My predecessor asked about the introduction of task forces. That matter, as he knows, has been under consideration for a long time. An example of what has been done is the present America and West Indies Squadron. There used to be a squadron based on Bermuda, but now ships of the Home Fleet do a year on the Station and then come back for leave at home.

It was suggested that re-fits for the Mediterranean Fleet might be carried out at home and re-fits for the Home Fleet in the Mediterranean. But that would open up tremendous problems. The hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. J. Edwards) referred to married quarters. What would happen if we were sending families out to the Mediterranean and, at the same time, bringing ships stationed there home for re-fit? I do not think that the matter is as simple as it sounds.

Perhaps, under the same heading, I might refer to the question of beer in the Navy. The answer which I might have given was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), who seemed to know a great deal about it. As he said, the chief problem is one of storage. What we really want is a reliable dehydrated beer which, I understand, is not at present available. People may quote the example of the French Navy, where, I understand, they have glass or plastic-lined tanks for the wine for their ships' companies. As my hon. and gallant Friend said, they would not be suitable for beer. I would say, however, that we have the greatest sympathy with this idea; investigations have gone a long way, and are still proceeding.

I should like to join in the tributes which have been paid to them from all sides of the House to the Royal Marines. First of all, may I say, in answer to the questions that have been put, that there is no intention to reduce their numbers and that the figures shown in the Estimates are merely a normal type of fluctuation in Vote A. It merely means that more men from the big entry before the war are coming out this year, and, therefore, there will be a drop in numbers.

A question was asked about 41 Commando, formerly in Korea, and why it has been disbanded. That Commando was specially formed for that particular job, and it has been disbanded now the job has come to an end. Some of the men have come home for normal Service duties and some of them have joined the Commando Brigade in Malaya. I was also asked whether the Commando Brigade in Malaya was to be relieved by Marines. It is not, but by military forces. One other small point about the Marines concerned the wardroom attendants. Their future is under consideration, and they will eventually be replaced by stewards.

Mr. Callaghan

Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman give a time-table for that?

Commander Noble

No, I afraid I cannot.

Many points were raised about the Royal Fleet Reserve, and perhaps I could answer first the question raised by the last speaker and say that many members of this Reserve have been called up are accounted for on another Vote.

One hon. Member asked about men of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve not being wanted when they go to sea for training, and he quoted his own case prewar when nobody wanted to speak to him. I would be horrified if that sort of thing went on today, and I can assure any would-be recruits for the R.N.V.R. that they will get a first-class welcome when they go to sea. I am quite certain that commanding officers take a great deal of trouble about the training for these officers and men. Somebody mentioned watch-keeping certificates in this connection. We are considering the introduction of intermediate watch-keeping certificates for these officers.

My right hon. Friend made an announcement about the cadet entry, and I would ask hon. Members to await the results of the Working Party which he said he would set up. I rather thought that some hon. Members were more inclined to attack a possibly lower age entry than to defend the 16-year-old entry, but I would say straight away, and emphasise what my right hon. Friend said, that there is no intention of abolishing the 16-year-old entry. Should it be that the decision of the Working Party is in favour of a lower-age entry, it will surely be for very broad entry and the greatest trouble will be taken to ensure that it is.

I notice that the ex-Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head, but I can give him an assurance on that point. It really would be tragic if the officer entry to the Navy and the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth were to become a kind of political shuttlecock and be one of the first things to suffer from a change of Government. We feel this very acutely. The greatest care will be taken with this matter and our endeavours will be centred entirely on getting the best possible officers for the Royal Navy.

Mr. Callaghan

We fear that there is considerable prejudice about this and that before the Working Party starts there are very substantial influences at work to ensure that there will be a return to the 13½-year entry to the Navy at all costs. We do not say this without knowledge. If the hon. and gallant Member is going to carry us with him, let him ensure that the Working Party is drawn from a wide and independent section of the nation and does not include only those who have a vested interest in the maintenance of the future of Dartmouth.

Commander Noble

I most certainly give that assurance. I am certain that those are exactly the lines on which my right hon. Friend would set up such a Working Party. He has already said that he is going to do it in conjunction with the Minister of Education.

Many questions were asked about both the Fleet in being and the Fleet of the future, and at this late hour I could not answer all of them. The "Tiger" class cruisers are awaiting the development of their gunnery and fire control equipment. Of the carriers, only the "Victorious," at the moment, is committed to modernisation. What the future policy will be, both for the carriers on which work is not going on at present and the carriers that would be suitable for modernisation is based on a comprehensive plan. We have to have balanced carrier forces; we have got to have both task forces of Fleet carriers and trade protection carriers. Whether we go on modernising, as with the "Victorious," or proceed quickly with the others depends on the balance of our carrier forces at the time.

I was glad that there was such considerable emphasis laid on naval aviation during the debate. I particularly use that expression in spite of the fact that hon. Members on both sides dislike it. It fits in with what my right hon. Friend said—that aviation is now an integral part of the Navy and we do not want people to think of it as a separate arm. The air crew position is better. Advertising has done a great deal of good and it was remarkable to see the graph of how applications went up after it started. But there is still a long way to go, and we want a 50 per cent. increase on what we are getting now.

The "Eagle" has not yet got her aircraft. The squadrons are now being formed ashore, however, and she will have them soon. Korea held up the supply of modern aircraft to the R.N.V.R. squadrons, but we are very conscious of their need. The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) asked about Coastal Command. After the war, following Departmental discussions, there was an agreement between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry on what should be done. Briefly, it is that the Navy is recognised as normally the predominant partner in combined sea-air operations. The total strength of the maritime arm of the R.A.F. is determined by the Chiefs of Staff or higher authority, and its allocation to the various theatres is a matter for Admiralty and Air Ministry agreement. Everything possible is done to achieve co-operation at all levels.

There is a joint sea-air warfare committee which was set up to go into questions concerning both the Services. There is also the joint anti-submarine school at Londonderry, where both services combine on anti-submarine work. I feel that, as the hon. Member said, the Admiralty should make their position clear, and it is this: Should either party to the agreement wish to revise it, it is open to them to start discussions. If the proposed change was a major one it would be for the Government to decide. The Admiralty have not so far asked, and are not at present asking, for any such change.

The hon. Member will appreciate that I cannot prejudge the outcome of any future consideration which may be given to this question. I am choosing my words carefully. In any such future consideration the Admiralty would need to take into account not only the arguments of principle, for and against a fundamental change in the administration of maritime aircraft, but also the large practical problems which would be involved if the decision should be in favour of such a change. At the moment we have a good many preoccupations in getting on with the re-armament programme as fast as we can with the resources available.

Many hon. Members have drawn attention to the elaborate equipment we have and the difficulties of maintaining it and keeping it up to date. Others have suggested that we should have even more complicated equipment, and they have set problems to the Admiralty which are being given every consideration. A little rhyme came to my notice the other day: My Lords, the new equipment that must now receive publicity Is fashioned with considerable care, And what appears to be a model of simplicity Is really an elaborate affair. That explains the position better than any words of mine. We are trying to avoid duplication of effort, and in this respect are working in close consultation with the United States and Canada.

The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson) referred to guided missiles. We attach the greatest importance to them. They fill the gap between the limits of the conventional gunners we have known in the past and the distance at which our fighters can intercept enemy aircraft. That is the role that the guided missile will play. The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) raised a question about electrical engineers. I think he was under a misapprehension that the officers were struggling along on salaries in force before 1946. All of these have been given new rates, the same as or comparable with officers having similar ranks in other Government service.

Mr. Houghton

I was not under any misapprehension, nor did I complain that no adjustment had been made in their pay. What I did say was that their final rates, to be effective from 1st January, 1946, are still unsettled, and that I criticise. There is some ground for regret that it takes so long to settle rates which have such a long retrospective effect.

Commander Noble

I quite agree, and I am sorry that there has been such a long delay; but I am sure he will appreciate the difficulty and that we are doing our best.

I fully realise the problems of work in the dockyards, but there are many difficulties. There is overcrowding in many places, and we are still suffering from the effects of bombing during the war. It was suggested that what was done about this sort of thing was decided by the admiral superintendent. That is not the case. That is, of course, very much a matter for the Admiralty. But I think that our works programme, both within and without the dockyards, have to be looked at in the perspective of the whole works programme of the country. I think that the Navy has borne the impact of that in a way that we should—

Mr. Foot

Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves the question of the dockyards, would he say whether the Admiralty propose to give to the House a summary of their views on the recommendations made by a Select Committee of this House?

Commander Noble

I have not yet reached that question.

While still on the subject of works, I would say that the Admiralty would like to have spent much more on this, but it has been necessary to limit the impact of the defence programme on our building programme as a whole. In those circumstances, I think the House will agree that the emphasis of the Admiralty works programme must be on those things directly required for the support of naval operations. These include the expansion and re-servicing of airfield runways, the provision of additional facilities at Royal Naval Air stations to meet the increasing demands of naval aviation, the improvement of naval communication facilities throughout the world, work on the seaward defences of the principal naval docks, and safer and more efficient storage facilities for naval equipment at strategical places throughout the world.

Mr. W. J. Edwards

We have had to undertake all those things under Vote 10 for at least the last three or four years, and particularly for the last year, but I notice that under Vote 10 almost all the new works, except stores, have been cut out. I should like to have an assurance that something will be put back next year for the dockyards, for married quarters and for the improvements of barracks for the benefit of personnel.

Commander Noble

I am sure that the former Civil Lord will agree that the continuing services are very heavy. Although I could not give him the categorical assurance for which he asks, I will say that we will always do everything we possibly can in these matters. But I must emphasise that the considerations I have just stated must come first. Work is being continued on married quarters at home and overseas, and we are building a substantial number this year under Vote 15, which the hon. Gentleman quoted, although they are starting perhaps a little later in the year than we would have liked.

The hon. Members for Devonport (Mr. Foot) and Edmonton (Mr. Albu) raised several points about the dockyards. I cannot go into them in any great detail now, as I am sure they will understand. Several of the matters with which they dealt, as they themselves said, were the subject of recommendations in a Report by the Select Committee on Estimates. A number of these recommendations are still under consideration by the Admiralty, and I must ask hon. Members to await the detailed reply which the Admiralty will shortly be sending to the Select Committee.

I feel that even after such a long debate as we have had I am, perhaps, going on too long, but there is one other point I would like to make and that is to say how glad I was for the support of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder). I think that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence said we would tonight refer to the speech which he made yesterday. I am glad he appreciates the need for our present policy in Europe. I feel that he probably has very vivid memories of his own efforts to get our forces back on to the Continent in the last war. What he said is very much in our minds, and I would refer him to the paragraph in the Defence White Paper where it says that the duty of the Navy is to support our policy throughout the world. It may well be that one day we shall be able to adopt the sort of policy he desires.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that we may say this has been a good debate, if a very long one—and I have done my best to answer some of the points that have been raised—and that it is a good example of the sort of debate we have in this House on the Navy Estimates. Most hon. Members speak for the good of the Navy and to help the Navy. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), attacked the Prime Minister in his speech today for having criticised his Government about the Navy in the past. But I would say—and I am sure that the whole House will realise this—that he was attacking in the spirit to which I have just referred.

Finally, I would say that two messages should go out from the House tonight. The first is that the Navy is in good heart, and the second is that the hon. and right hon. Members of this House are doing their traditional duty and seeing that the Navy is able to be in good heart.

Mr. Burden

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, would he mind giving an answer to the one specific question I asked about H.M.S. "Ceres"?

Commander Noble

I apologise to the hon. Member. I meant to refer to that earlier. I cannot give him now the exact date, but the Admiralty are very conscious of the disappointment caused by the fact that H.M.S. "Ceres" is not now going to the old Royal Marine barracks at Chatham. We will, in consultation with the other Services, see if something can not take the place of the "Ceres." I have myself been to see these barracks and take a personal interest in the matter.

Mr. Adams

Would the hon. Gentleman say a word about the views of his Department upon the strategic reserve?

Commander Noble

The hon. Member, and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), raised the question of the Navy Estimates with regard to the running down of some of our strategic stockpile, but that argument cannot be sustained in an isolated case like this. This must be looked at within the whole canvas of the economic picture. One isolated example like the Navy Estimates cannot be considered by itself. We shall soon be asked for some sort of graph such as one showing escort vessels as against food supplies. That sort of thing cannot be supplied without looking at the whole picture of the economic situation today.

Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Supply accordingly considered in Committee.

[Colonel Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]