§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Williams (Wigan)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House welcomes the acceptance by Her Majesty's Government of certain criticisms concerning Her Majesty's Dockyards referred to in the Eighth Report of the Select Committee on Estimates (Session 1950–51), but regrets that certain recommendations set out in that Report relating to personnel management policy and the improvement and strengthening of the structure of management have not been adopted.At the outset, I think I should offer, as I expect the whole House would wish me to offer, my heartiest congratulations to those Members of all parties who devoted such a long period of their time and energy to the preparation of this Report. I think it would be quite wrong for me to award marks to particular members of the Select Committee, but I am sure that nobody would object to my drawing attention particularly to the first-class work which was performed by my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu).
In presenting an Amendment of this sort, it would, I believe, be most helpful if one could extend one's congratulations not only to those who participated in the preparation of so excellent a Report but also to the Department in the consideration which they have given to that Report and, in particular, to the replies which have been put forward by the Admiralty. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to do that. I must bring to the debate a somewhat discordant note, because I shall find it necessary to criticise very sharply the replies which have been made by the Department, and I shall be very surprised indeed if, in the course of the debate on this Amendment, there is anybody in any part of the House who will support what the Admiralty have to say in relation to these Recommendations.
My observations concern Recommendations 13 to 18, which relate to personnel, management and the structure of manage- 1902 ment in Her Majesty's Dockyards. These dockyards are great industrial units. Their work is of vital importance to the security of this country and it is of the greatest importance that the system of management in these dockyards should be of such a kind that the highest efficiency is attainable.
It is a most regrettable fact that that is not the case. In relation to Her Majesty's Dockyards it would, I think, be fair to say that the men who are working them as managers are so good that this system which should have collapsed on account of its own inefficiency manages to survive because the men are so much better than the system which I am criticising this evening.
If the structure of management is defective, quite obviously it is impossible for the dockyards to provide the service to the Fleet which the Fleet deserves. The mere fact that for so many years the dockyards have gone along without a public scandal developing is largely because of the calibre of the men and not because of the way in which the dockyards are run.
There is a preliminary question which must be settled, in my submission, before we can make an analysis of the arguments put forward by the Select Committee and of the replies submitted by the Department. Perhaps I had better apologise in advance to the House, because these arguments are set out at some length and it is necessary for one to give so important a subject as this some detailed attention; and, consequently, I shall be obliged on this occasion to detain the House a little longer than is my normal custom.
I will confine my arguments in as short a compass as possible. The preliminary question to be settled is: Which is the more important consideration in deciding this matter of managerial efficiency in the dockyards because there are two considerations which at once occur to one's mind? First, the knowledge of industrial and commercial management or, secondly, the knowledge of Service matters and the needs of the Fleet? These are not necessarily mutually exclusive propositions.
It seems to me that the Admiralty have been in danger of assuming that we have to make a choice between the two, and 1903 that we cannot organise the structure of management in the dockyards on the assumption that both these conditions can be satisfied. Instead of regarding these vitally important industrial undertakings as undustrial units, they have tended to regard them as being places where certain people may, I will not say retire to, but spend a little of their time carrying out what are said to be the functions of management but which, as I shall submit later, are not really functions of management at all.
The first thing one has to do in considering these preliminary questions is to see whether the Select Committee faced up to these points and came to a reasonable conclusion. We find that paragraph 40 of the Report of the Select Committee refers to the Committee which sat in 1927 under the chairmanship of Mr. R. S. Hilton. The paragraph reads:The majority of the members recommended far-reaching changes in organisation. They considered that the temporary nature of the appointments of Directors of Dockyards and Admirals Superintendent did not allow them enough time to acquire a real knowledge of the extensive activities of the dockyards and that the development and continuity of progressive policy were thereby jeopardised. They also considered that naval officers, however long and distinguished their sea service, could not be expected to possess the knowledge of industrial and commercial management essential for the effective control of the dockyards.Paragraph 41 refers to a minority Report of that Committee. It reads:They stated their opinion that a knowledge of Service matters and the needs of the Fleet were more important qualities in the Director of Dockyards than knowledge of industrial and commercial management, and that a civilian appointment would hinder close relations between the Fleet and the dockyards.At that time the Committee was directing its attention, among other things, to the appointment of general managers at the dockyards, and these considerations were taken into account when they were deliberating upon that very important matter. The Select Committee whose Report we are considering today came to this conclusion in paragraph 49:Your Committee entirely agree that an intimate knowledge of the Fleet, of naval practice and of ships at sea is an advantage to officers who serve in the four major professional departments in the dockyards. They consider that the Admiralty is right in giving due weight to these qualifications, but that the 1904 Admiralty do not attach enough importance to the qualities required for managing large industrial establishments.If those paragraphs correctly represent the attitude of the Hilton Committee and the attitude of the members of the Select Committee, we must then ask ourselves at this stage what is the attitude of the Admiralty in relation to these preliminary questions. It will be my submission that there is abundant evidence from the present system in operation at the dockyards and from the replies which are contained in the Departmental reply that the Admiralty attaches very little importance indeed to efficient management.
The first matter to which we have to direct our attention in deciding upon the merits of the submission which I propose to make is the present system in operation at the dockyards and the position, in particular, of the Admiral Superintendent. This is referred to in paragraphs 58 and 60 of the Select Committee's report. It makes almost incredible reading. Paragraph 58 reads:'"The senior post in a Royal dockyard is that of Admiral Superintendent.…For the sake of brevity, I will read only the parts of the paragraphs which are relevant to my argument. The paragraph goes on:He is generally within two or three years of the age at which he would normally retire from the active list. There is no definite limit to the time he can serve as Admiral Superintendent, but it has usually been from three to four years. In addition to being responsible for an industrial enterprise employing up to 14,000 men, he has duties in connection with the working of ports as Deputy to the Commander-in-Chief (at Rosyth he is the Commander-in-Chief as well) and these duties may take up to as much as a quarter of his time.Paragraph 60 says:Your Committee have received evidence to show that it takes some time after his appointment before the Admiral Superintendent is able to play his full part in the running of a dockyard. Estimates of the time taken to become adequately acquainted with local conditions and dockyard responsibility varied from six months to two years. As the average tenure of office has been only about four years, it appears that an unduly high proportion of his tenure of office is taken up by the process of 'settling in' … Your Committee consider that, on this account, there must be for too long a time a prejudicial effect upon the efficiency of the yard. Even after this period has elapsed, the fact that about a quarter of the time of the Admiral Superintendent has to be devoted to other duties can hardly be in the best interests of efficiency.1905 Later, the same paragraph says:Only the versatility of naval officers and the efficiency of the managers of the professional Departments can enable such a system to work at all.That is scathing criticism. After all, the Admiral Superintendent is the nearest thing to a general manager known in the dockyards. He suffers from a number of difficulties which make it utterly impossible for him to be, in effect, general manager. I am not suggesting that his post should be abolished; what I am saying is that if there are functions which can properly be performed by a general manager, as I submit there are, obviously the Admiral Superintendent would find it utterly impossible to perform them. It is right that there should be an Admiral Superintendent, but however distinguished and however experienced this great personage may be, the nature of his experience is such that it is impossible for him to be an efficient general manager of a large industrial unit.
There are four principal departments, and they are referred to in the Report. It may help if I assume that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are sufficiently interested to be present will know what those departments are, and there will thus be no need for me to make a detailed survey of them. Let it be sufficient for me to say that the Select Committee has made an observation in paragraph 48 to which I have as yet seen no adequate reply. The paragraph says:The policy of managing three out of the four Departments with naval officers makes short tenure of office more likely in those departments.I put it as an elementary point which would be accepted by any person who had had any experience of management at all in any industry that one of the great deficiencies inimical to good management must surely be short periods of office as a manager. Obviously, there must be a time before the manager can settle down and know his job when his authority in his job is affected by the fact that he is in that preliminary phase. Then, if his period of office as manager is short, there is bound to be a period towards the end of his tenure when his authority will suffer for the simple reason that everybody in the dockyard knows that not much time will elapse before he goes on his way. It is self-evident that if we are to have good management we must have management for a fairly 1906 lengthy period. It is extremely difficult to have good management where there is a succession of managers who are arriving or leaving and spending little of their time in the actual job of management.
It is not necessary for me to elaborate this point too much because, if it were contested, I would say that the Admiralty themselves have, although with great reluctance, conceded this point, but they have not conceded the implications and inferences which, I submit, are unavoidable if this point is conceded. Here, I must refer, in particular, to the first of the Recommendations in the Departmental reply. The essence of the point raised in the first Recommendation is that there shall be some continuity of management; that there shall be some preliminary experience prior to management; that the prospective manager shall be able to look forward to a period during which there shall be an uninterrupted course of management, and that he shall not be moved about from place to place, because if he were then there would be inefficiency in management.
Recommendation 13 proposed—and, in my submission, proposed most sensibly—thatElectrical and engineering officers should be given the opportunity at some stage in their careers, roughly, at the age of 35, to choose dockyard service and to remain in it. When this choice has been made the officers concerned and also constructive officers of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, should be given the opportunity of broadening their knowledge of management methods by a study of private shipyards, naval dockyards, in other countries and by attendance at special courses such as those of the Administrative Staff College at Henley.It is also suggested that managers and deputy-managers in the home dockyards should nominally hold the appointment for not fewer than five years or preferably seven years in a particular dockyard.
If the Admiralty, in answer to these most sensible and convincing proposals, had said, "You keep out of this. You are making a superficial judgment. You are mere amateurs in this matter. We have got along very well, and what may suit you in private enterprise may be continuity in management but in the dockyard what suits us is this intermittent type of management. We can use it and everybody knows about it, so there is no reason to interfere with it."—if the Admiralty had said something like 1907 that, it would be rather difficult for one to pretend that one had the necessary knowledge to defeat an argument so deployed. One would be obliged to say, "That may very well be since we have not the knowledge of what goes on in such circumstances, and from the witnesses who have been called upon before the Select Committee we cannot say whether the problem with which we are faced could be adequately and efficiently dealt with on the basis of the present arrangements."
But the Admiralty does nothing of the kind. The Admiralty, in their reply, in effect, concede the point. They say, for instance in answer to Recommendation 14, that they recognise the advantages of longer tenure of these appointments, and they base their reply and resistance to these recommendations upon the curious assertion that dockyard management is only one of several considerations which must enter into the problem. They give an indication of what these other points are. They say that the duties of naval officers, particularly the engineering and electrical officers, cover Fleet service and research development as well as dockyard management.
That is admitted, and is implicit in the recommendation which has been made by the Select Committee. Further than that, it follows naturally upon the observations of the Select Committee in saying that it is necessary to have industrial and commercial experience as well as Fleet experience. The whole point, as I understand it, of the Recommendations of the Select Committee is that that Committee recognises the importance of all these factors in the experience of people who arrive at some point where, with all the background involved in this type of experience, a man can make a good dockyard manager. In other words, the Committee acknowledges the fact that dockyard management is of sufficient importance to make it efficient and it says, in effect, "For heaven's sake get on and do the job."
The Admiralty on reflection, having looked carefully at their reply to Recommendation No. 13, obviously feel a little disturbed in their minds and they have second thoughts when they come to Recommendation 14, because there they 1908 make the most astonishing and most naive statement that I have read in an official document for many years. They say:The Admiralty are, however, investigating what can be done to increase the average length of the appointments of Managers and Deputy-Managers at Home Yards within the limitations imposed by the considerations mentioned in answer to Recommendation 13, and by the necessity to relieve officers overseas at intervals of three years or less for medical and climatic reasons.In all conscience, if, in fact, management in the dockyard is of such importance, as in fact it is, that our national security depends upon it, it is not a ward of a hospital nor is it a convalescent home. If these people are giving distinguished service to their country, which we recognise and revere them for, then they should be given adequate, generous leave with full pay during that leave, and if the climatic conditions and the medical conditions are such that, in fact, they are affected by them, then they should be in bed and not in a dockyard.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Wingfield Digby)
I am sure that the hon. Member does not wish to mislead the House. The climatic conditions are not those of the home dockyards, but dockyards abroad. I do not know whether the hon. Member has had any experience of the tropics, but continuous service in the tropics, say for three years or so, does mean that efficiency declines.
§ Mr. Williams
I am indebted to the Civil Lord for having conceded my point. I have had distressing experience of the tropics. I have had an experience when, as a consequence of a succession of unfortunate events, I was very badly poisoned, and it was a matter of doubt whether I would return alive to this country. But when I came back I did not come back as a dockyard manager. I came back and was put to bed.
The Civil Lord's point is that it is for medical and climatic reasons overseas and not in this country that these men have to be relieved or brought back. If that is so, then, for heaven's sake, do not use that argument to give the impression, as this official document certainly does, that it is for some other purpose that there is some relationship between these medical or climatic reasons and management. These words are certainly open to the interpretation which I have suggested, and if 1909 the Civil Lord will take this opportunity of withdrawing these words or say that they mean something else, showing that all that is meant is that there has to be a reshuffle of men, that people have to be relieved to come back to go into hospital, that somewhere down the line someone has to take somebody else's place until at last a thoroughly competent manager goes to the dockyard, then, although I would have grave doubts about such an interpretation, I would be prepared to withdraw my observations about this particular sentence.
If the Civil Lord will refer to these words, he will see that in this context the suggestion is made absolutely clearly that climatic and medical reasons affect the selection of dockyard managers and deputy-managers, and that these are two of the considerations which enter into the mind of the Admiralty. If people are affected by climatic conditions and are disabled for medical reasons, those things are irrelevant to the managing of dockyards and should never have been brought into the matter at all.
It is possibly open to another interpretation: that the Admiralty were thinking of the necessity for relieving in foreign dockyards, where people can work only for a certain period and have to be relieved by other people. We can accept that argument, but it is not used in this Report as a reply to the position in relation to foreign dockyards, and only in relation to home dockyards. That being so, I hope that we shall have an explanation of this astonishing point.
This is by no means the most ludicrous point. It is the most naive, but there are parts of this Departmental reply which are so very bad, so very inept, that I might be forgiven for saying that one of the witnesses who might have been called by the Select Committee was the Editor of "Punch" to see whether there were precedents for quite as ridiculous a situation as that which obtained in relation to the personnel manager on the staff of the Director of Dockyards.
That brings me to the next Recommendation, the reply to which is almost unbelievable. Apparently, some time in 1945 it was suggested that a personnel officer should be brought on to the staff of the Director of Dockyards. It seemed as though the Admiralty took the view that personnel management was a serious 1910 matter. The work had long been done in the Ministry of Labour and in private and nationalised industry. Let us see how serious the Admiralty were in dealing with this matter. I ask the House to pay particular attention to this point, because what I have to say will throw doubt on an experiment suggested at the end of the Departmental reply.
What did they do? Recommendation 15 of the Select Committee proposes that the post be abolished and that the Labour Branch should take over the co-ordination of personnel management policy. The Select Committee gave close attention to this very important matter and, quite properly, they had some very scathing things to say in paragraph 53 of their Report. They said:The post of Personnel Officer on the staff of the Director of Dockyards is at present held by an engineer captain of the Royal Navy. Such an officer can have little experience of the problems of industrial management, and receives no training for his duties as personnel officer. Your Committee consider that it is an unjustified waste of the professional skill of such an officer to appoint him to a job where he cannot use that skill. Moreover, as he holds the post only for three or four years he cannot be expected to do more than act as liaison between the personnel officers in dockyards and the Director.Very revealing questions and answers are to be found on page 182 of the Report, where the Chairman is asking questions of a witness, Captain Gallimore. I wish to make it very clear that I realise that in the course of my observations I am making sharp criticisms of the structure of management, the personnel management policy, and the replies of the Admiralty, but I am making no criticism whatever of the great qualities of the people to whom I am obliged to refer when quoting from the evidence. There is no question that this officer was a man of great experience and great ability. What I have to say is in criticism of the attitude of the Admiralty in relation to personnel management in putting so distinguished an officer in such a frustrating and impossible position.
I shall start with Question No. 2080:What do you understand your functions to be?—I am responsible for industrial personnel matters to my Director, the Director of Dockyards, in Vote 8, professional Departments in the Royal dockyards.What do you understand by that? What industrial personnel matters do you consider to be your province?—To try to put it briefly is difficult, but to try to see that there is 1911 uniformity of policy between the personnel officers in each of the four departments in each of the yards, to attend their meetings, to try to answer their queries on questions of pay, welfare, promotion and all other matters connected with personnel management in the yards.What staff have you?—Three clerical officers at Bath; no technical staff.Your headquarters are in London?—No, in Bath, with the Director.When we look at the reply of the Department we find that, apart from denying this, they say:While, however, the Admiralty disagree with the Committee concerning the most suitable headquarters organisation they recognise that, however able may have been the naval engineering officers so far appointed to the post of personnel officer in the dockyards Department, the experience of such officers will not normally have given them much training in, or understanding of, the latest developments in the technique of personnel management.In all seriousness, can there be a more complete confirmation of the most scathing criticisms than that statement from the Admiralty?
Yes, there can. A more scathing implication can be taken from the proposals which the Admiralty make in the face of the utterly untenable position in which they find themselves. The Admiralty say:The Admiralty are, therefore, considering"—I have underlined the word "considering" because, it will be noted, this Departmental reply has come before the House nearly two years after the Report of the Select Committee, and in the light of such a completely indefensible and scandalous position—the appointment to this post of a civilian with appropriate experience, recruited from private industry.What do they propose to do? If they have as personnel officer on the staff of the Director of Dockyards a civilian who really knows his job, what is the first thing he will ask for? An adequate line of communication between himself and the yards. He will ask that there shall be efficient personnel organisation in the yards. There is no indication in the Departmental reply that there will be any alteration in the present position. The personnel position in the dockyards is referred to in paragraph 50 of the Report 1912 of the Select Committee, where they say, concerning deputy managers:These officers are appointed for their administrative ability and professional skill, and not for their knowledge of personnel management. They have no special training in personnel management, nor have they the time to do the work. In particular, they have little knowledge of or training in the working of joint consultative machinery. Because the joint production committee is constituted for each dockyard as a whole, the present personnel officers can have little interest in it; as deputy managers, their responsibilities are confined to their departments.That statement is presumably accepted. If that is so, it means that when the Admiralty appointed this personnel officer to the staff of the Director of Dockyards they had no intention that there was to be real personnel management in the dockyards or at headquarters. I say that this is a most objectionable state of affairs and I find the attitude of the Admiralty very unsatisfactory indeed.
In facing this problem, finding, as they did, on the utterly convincing evidence before them, that there was no reality about the job which was being done by this ill-equipped and untrained personnel officer, the Members of the Select Committee recommended unanimously that the post be abolished, and they suggested that the personnel management policy should be dealt with by the Labour Branch. I ask the Civil Lord to give further attention to this point and make the Labour Branch a real one in the sense that, with its connections with the Ministry of Labour—which it ought to have if it has not already got them—it will have a better opportunity of assessing personnel management policy than any other part of the Admiralty.
The proposals contained in Recommendations 16 and 17 relate to the appointment of a senior personnel officer in each dockyard who—should be directly responsible to the Superintendent or to the General Managers.I pause there because there is no point in reading all the recommendations, though I will certainly do so if the Civil Lord or any hon. Member feels I am leaving out any point favourable to the Admiralty. I am not consciously doing that. They are in a difficult enough position in relation to these lamentable replies without my doing anything of the kind, and they put themselves in that 1913 position by the document they have put forward.
What is important is not the details of this proposal regarding the appointment of a senior personnel officer in the dockyard but the argument put in reply. As I understand that, it falls into two parts. The Admiralty say, first, that the proposalpresupposes a degree of centralisation in the organisation of the Yard"—and, secondly, that unless a large central direct agency was substituted—for the existing Departmental structure … the institution of a senior personnel officer on the lines envisaged … would either be ineffective or tend to undermine the responsibilities of the Departmental managers.One would have thought that it would be rather difficult to undermine the responsibilities of those managers more than the undermining which now takes place by reason of the shortness of the tenure of their office. I will return to that argument in a moment in relation to a subsequent Recommendation which, like the other Recommendations, the Admiralty have rejected.
What does the reply of the Admiralty really amount to in relation to Recommendations 16 and 17? It amounts to a complete rejection. It amounts to an assertion that the present methods of personnel management—if, in fact, it can be said there are any personnel management policies being followed at all in the dockyards—shall continue; that the only change which is to be made is that a civilian should be appointed instead of this most unhappy gentleman, who, I understand, is not now on the staff of the Director of Dockyards.
That is no change at all. If a civilian were appointed to the staff of the Director of Dockyards, and he were given no more liaison with the dockyards themselves than this officer had when he was personnel officer, there would be practically no change at all except that we should have a frustrated trained personnel officer in the place where formerly we had an untrained person.
I go rapidly from that recommendation to Recommendation 18, the appointment of a general manager. Here, the Admiralty have done a very strange thing. They have, of course, rejected the Recommendation because they have re- 1914 jected every Recommendation put forward. As far as I can see from their attitude of mind as disclosed in this document, they will continue to reject every Recommendation put forward which is of any substance, because they are perfectly satisfied with the state of affairs now obtaining and, so far as they have made any concessions at all, they are paper concessions. They are not concessions of substance nor were they ever intended to be.
I would respect the Admiralty a lot more if they said, "Stop your meddling, do not interfere with matters that you know nothing about. Let us get on with the job, because we know how to do it." But if they make paper concessions, they must accept the fair inferences which can be drawn from the admissions which they make. I hope I have pointed out already that there are some admissions which they have made that should make them feel rather uncomfortable when they have an opportunity of considering the course of this debate.
But they really put themselves in a difficulty when they reject the idea of the appointment of a general manager. There they say that they have considered the Recommendations with special care. They have certainly had plenty of time to do it. They have carefully analysed the problem and, because of the difficulty—as they put it—of resolving the doubt which is in their minds, they must leave things as they are, but they will make an experiment although they are doubtful about it. A lot depends upon whether this experiment is a genuine one or not.
If I were convinced that the Admiralty were straining at the leash to make changes to produce an efficient management in the dockyards, I would look at this experiment most sympathetically. However, I am very suspicious about it, not only because of the unfortunate experience we have had in relation to personnel management policy, but also because of the arguments which were used, and to which I have referred, in rejection of Recommendations 16 and 17.
This experiment, to be carried out in one of the dockyards as I understand, consists of the appointment of what is described, not as a general manager, but as a deputy-superintendent (industrial) who will have certain functions to perform as listed under paragraphs (a) to 1915 (g) on page 9 of the Report. Let us see what some of those functions are:
Those are enormous responsibilities. What do the Admiralty say in the part of their reply where they reject the Recommendations? They say:
- "(a) Preparation, in consultation with the Departmental Managers, of the annual sketch estimates of the yard. …
- (b) Allocation to Vote 8 professional Departments of funds provided in the Estimates for the yard programme. …
- (c) Co-ordination of requirements for yard development. …
- (d) Co-ordination of requirements for non-industrial staff and industrial labour, and study of the balance of the labour force. …
- (e) Development and improvement of incentive schemes;
- (f) Study of industrial relations with the object of ensuring the fullest practicable development of effective consultation and the co-ordination of Departmental practices in matters of labour control."The main yards, even in their productive aspects are so large, their ramifications so complex, and many of their problems so highly technical that it must remain doubtful whether a single general manager could successfully impose his direction in all these manifold activities, more especially since they are constantly influenced by operational considerations relatively unknown to private industrial management.Those words leave one in no doubt as to the size of the job which this deputy superintendent (industrial) would have to perform if he were to deal with all the matters to which I have referred.
If he is to deal with those matters, I put it to the Civil Lord that either he will be ineffective or he will undermine the responsibilities of the department managers. The very arguments which have been used by the Admiralty in their reply in rejecting the proposal that a senior personnel officer should be appointed in each of the dockyards, must apply with even greater force to the man who will in fact be, if not in name, the general manager of dockyards. He will take over his job as general manager in the worst possible conditions, in a dockyard where the Admiralty have indicated that it is virtually impossible for these functions to be carried out without having the terrible consequences which the Admiralty foresee.
Further than that, no indication is given as to the staff that the general manager will have or the powers which he 1916 will exercise. Perhaps the best comment comes at the end of the Departmental reply. One can almost imagine the agony with which this was written. The last sentence says:The experimental post will be filled by a naval or civilian officer with dockyard experience.That could mean a man who is on the point of retiring, so that he and the job retire together. Then the Admiralty can say, "We have made an experiment and it has failed. That proves that all this criticism about dockyard management was absolutely nonsensical."
The Departmental reply goes on to say:The experimental post will be filled by a naval or civilian officer with dockyard experience. How long the experiment will have to be continued before judgment can be passed upon it, is at present unpredictable; though the Admiralty would regard three years as a minimum. Similarly, they cannot foresee how the experiment is likely to turn out or what developments might flow from it if it showed signs of success.In all seriousness, such a comment as "if it showed signs of success" could not have been written by any person other than one who, when he wrote the proposal in relation to the experiment, believed in his heart that it did not stand the slightest chance of success and that the experiment was intended by those who put it forward to discredit the proposal which was made with such seriousness and with such a weight of evidence by the members of the Select Committee.
I conclude my observations by repeating my apology that, because of the importance of this matter, I found that I should have to depart from my usual standards of brevity and detain the House for rather a longer period than I intended. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will do me the honour of appreciating that I did not intend to delay the proceedings and that this vitally important matter demanded attention which called for a rather longer speech than usual.
I hope that during the debate hon Members on both sides will make such a row in relation to these proposals in support of the unanimous decision of Members on both sides who were members of the Select Committee, that the row will be heard in the Admiralty and, if it does not result in the Admiralty being inspired to action, will at least disturb them in 1917 their slumbers and lead them to a point where they will make some real recommendations in reply to the Select Committee.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams), who has so admirably moved the Amendment, on giving the House an opportunity for the first time to discuss at some length the affairs of the Royal naval dockyards. Although these matters have been referred to from time to time in the debates on the Navy Estimates and occasionally at other times, there has been no previous occasion for a number of years on which we have been able to make a sustained examination of the management of the dockyards.
Perhaps the number of Members at present in the House indicates how little understanding there has been of the importance of this matter and the very large sums of money involved. It is almost contemptuous on the part of the Admiralty that they only laid the Dockyard and Production Accounts for the previous year on Friday and that they are not yet available in the Vote Office. This seems to me to be treating the question of the management of the dockyards frivolously, and I hope that before the debate has finished we shall have persuaded the Admiralty that it is a matter with which the House is very much concerned and about which something really will have to be done.
Apart from the Report of the Select Committee, to which my hon. Friend has referred, and which he examined in admirable detail, together with the replies, nobody who has ever met a senior naval officer could be in doubt about the need for the changes. I have never met a senior naval officer who did not think that the management of the dockyards was bad, to say the least of it. I do not go as far as the flag officer quoted by Lord Winster in the debate in the Lords last year who said that the dockyards were "past praying for."
Perhaps I may remind the House again of the history of the discussions that have taken place in recent years. There was, as my hon. Friend said, the Hilton Committee of 1927. It appears that that Committee was set up at the time when 1918 Lord Chatfield was the Comptroller of the Navy, because the Admiralty did not like the views of another Committee—the Biles Committee—which, apparently, recommended a considerable civilianisation of the dockyards. The Hilton Committee was set up, and everybody now knows that the Hilton Committee also recommended a considerable civilianisation of dockyards, or, at any rate, the appointment of civilian general managers. Apparently, even though the Admiralty themselves had set up another committee because they did not like the report of the first committee, they still got the same answer.
During the war, the Select Committee on National Expenditure made an examination of dockyards but did not make a report, and in the circumstances of the time it could not, of course, have published the evidence. I have had some discussions with hon. Members who were Members of that Committee, and particularly with the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke). There is no doubt that that Committee was coming to very much the same conclusions as those arrived at by the Hilton Committee and by the Select Committee of 1950–51.
Since the war, there has been no lack of criticism of the affairs of the dockyards. We have had speech after speech from dockyard representatives, led, of course, by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), and ably supported, when she was in the House, by Mrs. Middleton, who was Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth. She played a very distinguished part on the Select Committee which made these investigations. In May, 1949, my colleague, Mr. Medland, raised the matter on an Adjournment debate, but, of course, an Adjournment debate is not really a suitable occasion for such a vast subject. It was only in July, 1951, that the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates was finally submitted to the House, although there was some discussion of the matter in the Navy Estimates debate last year.
There was a fierce onslaught by Lord Winster, who ought to know something from the point of view of the customer about what the dockyards are really like. In spite of this continual pressure—the number of reports, the pressure, the date 1919 of the reports and the discussion on last year's Navy Estimates—it was not until October of last year, however, that discussions were started with the administrative Whitley Council, although the Civil Lord told me in July, 1952, that one of the reasons why he was unable to make any reply to the recommendations on the structure of management was that he had not consulted the administrative Whitley Council. I remind the House that he consulted them on the day after my Parliamentary Question was due for answer.
Finally, we come to the reply that the Admiralty have been able to make to the main Recommendations. This reply was made last month. Although I do not intend to mix my metaphors or to quote Latin, it seems to me that the mountain by the side of Horse Guards Parade has produced a mouse, and a mouse hidden by a smokescreen of verbiage, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan has very well pointed out. We must ask ourselves, why is it that the Admiralty are unable to make a more intelligent or more serious reply to recommendations which have now gone on for something like 25 years? Is it because they are so self-satisfied, so satisfied with the methods of management in the yards and with the work which the yards have done?
I give them some credit here; I do not think that this is the real answer, or the only answer. I believe that a reason is the complexity of the Admiralty organisation. The Admiralty is such an extraordinarily complex Department that I do not think anyone in it can really grasp the problem. The political chiefs are never there long enough to surface through the delights of naval tradition and naval hospitality.
Flag officers have absolutely no experience of this work and are not long enough in the job to acquire a new loyalty. It is a new loyalty that has to be acquired because it is a loyalty to the industrial organisation they are managing which has to balance the loyalty that they already have to their customer, the Navy. It is quite natural that they should arrive at the dockyards with some of the feelings held by senior officers, and the view that the customer is always right. Then they have to take a somewhat longer and different view that dockyard efficiency must be maintained, that there must be 1920 economy, and so on. But they are never there long enough to acquire the knowledge or a new loyalty.
As to the secretariat, on the wing of the Board as it were, it seems to me that they are both unqualified and a bottleneck. To confirm what I am trying to bring home about the difficulty of the Admiralty in dealing with the matter I would remind the House of the debate last year when we were dealing with the overlapping of the duties of the labour branch and the possible personnel officer we recommended for appointment, who is at present the personnel officer to the Director of Dockyards. When I said that it was difficult for anyone outside the Admiralty to understand what was going on, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who ought to know something about it, interjected "or inside."
I wonder whether the Civil Lord really knows what goes on or, indeed, whether the First Lord really knows what goes on inside the Admiralty organisation. There are far too many autonomous departments and too much delay in getting any decisions made. I say that not only from what I have heard but from the experience I had during the war.
When dealing with the industrial organisation there is the serious matter of the domination of the whole organisation by naval officers and nonprofessional staff. It is not as if the Admiralty have not had an opportunity to study these matters and make some investigation. When the Labour Government were in office we, very rightly, appointed a number of committees in the Government Departments to study their organisation, to see if improvements could be made and whether there could be economies made in the Civil Service.
In 1949 a committee was appointed to review the Admiralty organisation. It is typical of the Admiralty and their continual emission of smokescreens. The chairman of that committee is the Permanent Secretary. I understand that the rest of the committee consists of two senior naval officers, three Admiralty civil servants and two distinguished knights from both sides of industry, one of whom is very busy and the other retired. I should like to know how often that committee has met and when it is expected to report. I should like to know 1921 whether it includes in its terms of reference dockyard structure and organisation and also the investigation of the rest of the professional departments which today make up such an important part of the work of the Admiralty.
I mention these matters because I believe that in them to some extent lies the failure to deal adequately with the Recommendations of the Select Committee. The Recommendations were, I hope and believe, all of a piece. They were directed towards improving the general structure of top management in the dockyards and were particularly directed to breaking down the autonomy of the professional departments and ensuring that the senior posts were held by men who had spent a good part of their lives in the dockyard service. That was not an unreasonable Recommendation.
The main Recommendation, and the most controversial, was the suggestion that a general manager should be appointed. The committee did not recommend, as others have done, that that manager should be brought in from outside. We had a high opinion of many of the professional officers and did not see why the person should not be a professional officer. If he were not suitable that was a case for improving the qualifications of professional officers who were to be senior managers of dockyards.
Towards strengthening the management skill and experience of the officers, we made the recommendation that officers—naval and members of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors—should at some time of their lives choose the dockyard service and remain in it. That was part of the proposal, to choose those with experience of dockyards and make it more easy for them to hold such a post as general manager. The Admiralty replied in evidence that such a proposal to choose the general manager from among professional departments would cause jealousy. That is really girlish, it is extraordinarily silly. In industry there is no other way of getting on the board of directors—unless one is the son of a wealthy man—than by rising through one of the specialist departments.
I see no reason why an engineer or a constructor should not prove himself so broad-minded as to be able to manage 1922 the undertaking or why he should not be appointed general manager. I have some personal experience of this matter. It is not as if the branches—which are all branches of engineering—are so different. I think that after one has worked for a number of years in the management of repair and refitting work which goes on in the yards one should have enough capacity to manage the yard as a whole.
It was said that such an appointment would encroach on the autonomy or special technical and administrative responsibilities of the separate departments. But that is what it was intended to do. One of the things which struck the Committee, I am sure, was this insistence on complete autonomy, or as great autonomy as possible, between the professional departments running through the Department but not to the top of the yard. It was said that no single general manager could direct the operations of a whole yard because these were so technical.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen some of the charts which people have tried to draw showing the proportion of technical work done by technicians as they go higher up the scale of management. If one starts as a technician one's responsibilities are almost entirely technical, but, as one goes up, the duties become more and more administrative. Everyone knows that that is so in industry; why should the Admiralty not also know it? Surely someone who has risen on the administrative side should have had his original technical training by the time he gets to the top and be quite capable of under- taking a big managerial job. The Admiralty's arguments are nonsense.
It may be absolutely horrifying to hon. and gallant Members opposite if I suggest that we might look at other countries, even at the methods used in the United States. I am making absolutely no comparison between the United States Navy and the British Navy. We have sent a number of productivity teams to look at American industry. Is there any reason why we should not send a team to look at their shipyards? Perhaps the Civil Lord will answer that we have done so and, having examined them, have found their methods inferior to ours. I have not been able to discover whether we have done that. 1923 I know that, in 1945, the American Department of the Navy set up an industrial engineering department, a kind of production engineering service, and they had an inquiry made into the management of naval shipyards. They have not got these very specialised functional departmental organisations. Their shipyards are under a shipyard commander, with two operational departments—a planning officer and a production officer with their specialist branches. Those branches are responsible respectively to the two departments which are responsible for planning work and managing the actual production in the yards. So apparently it is not necessary to have a highly functionalised system of dockyard administration. I suggest that if we have not already done so, we might have a look at this system and find out whether there is anything in it to be recommended.
I understand that all the Recommendations of the Select Committee received the support of the Staff Side of the Whitley Council, which includes representatives of the professional departments, although the Recommendations were undoubtedly against the established traditions of the Service, and, therefore, it might have been thought that they would have been strongly resisted. It may be that they were, but apparently eventually the staff came down on the side of the Committee's Recommendations. It seems to me, as has been said, that the proposal made by the Admiralty for a deputy-superintendent (industrial) is intended to fail. He will neither be a general manager nor a personnel officer.
He will be in fact a super co-ordinator. Anybody who has been in a large undertaking knows that that is a certain job for getting somebody kicked out of the undertaking. The co-ordinator's job was given to somebody whom one never thought would do much good, and who was not expected to do much good. The deputy-superintendent will have no responsibility and will have no staff for specialist personnel work. Who will do this work if he himself is not going to do it?
Who will attend to development schemes, study industrial relations and analyse absenteeism. One cannot do that unless one has a centralised statistical labour service in the yard, and the Admiralty have refused to provide that. 1924 I believe that that was one recommendation which was made by the Admiralty's own personnel management committee at the end of the war. This deputy-superintendent will have a very difficult position indeed. He is bound to be accorded a very low status by his colleagues, including the managers and deputy-managers. I am not surprised that the Admiralty themselves, in reply to the Select Committee, really looked upon this matter with great pessimism, for there are grave doubts whether the proposal will possibly succeed. This is not the way to treat the House or the Select Committee. The descriptions of the duties are such that I cannot imagine the sort of man who could do them successfully, especially as long as the Admiralty insist that nothing must be done to interfere with the autonomy of the department.
It may be that the Civil Lord may be able to satisfy the House that my complaints about this appointment are groundless, that the Admiralty intend to make it a serious job and to appoint a first-class man and give him every encouragement to succeed. But, I ask, who will be appointed? The Admiralty suggest that the appointment may be a naval or a civilian appointment. It cannot be naval for the reason which my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan has pointed out—that no naval officer will have had the experience to be able to do the job. He will not have been long enough in the dockyard or have had management experience, and so there will be another officer on the way out.
How is he to be recruited? I ask the Admiralty not just to pick the man who happens to be on the top of the promotion list, or is about to be retired or happens to have been long enough in the Service. If the Admiralty are to make this a very serious appointment they should, having drawn up a very detailed specification of the type of man required, set up a first-class recruitment board, consisting of people who know what they are looking for. Having done that, we might possibly secure a man sufficiently strong willed to ensure that the job will succeed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wigan has dealt at length with the personnel officer, and I will leave that subject, except for saying that the job is completely misunderstood by the Admiralty. 1925 It was never intended to be an executive post but always, as in industry, an advisory and service post. He would deal with such matters as the failure of the joint consultative committees, difficulties over merit award schemes and problems of recruitment. I welcome the appointment of an experienced personnel officer to the Admiralty, but I believe that there is bound to be great confusion still between him and the labour branch.
But perhaps more serious than this failure to understand the duties of a personnel officer is the refusal to consider Recommendation 13—that at some stage, constructors, electrical engineers and so on should choose the dockyard service. It is clear that the Admiralty have here put the need to find shore postings for naval officers above the need for efficient management of the dockyards. The problem will become worse as the electrical department is navalised.
If this question of finding shore postings for naval officers is a difficulty, then that is the biggest argument for civilian managers and deputy-managers in professional departments. So long as we continue a system under which one never has anyone in the job for more than two or three years at a time, we shall never have a properly co-ordinated system of management. In fact, one is forced to the conclusion that efficient management is incompatible with senior posts in the dockyard service being held by flag officers in the last few years of their service.
The posts of Director of Dockyards, Deputy Director, Superintendent and Manager are posts for which men with qualifications and experience and energy and ambition should be able to hope to aspire by continuous service in the dockyards even if they are naval officers. At present that is not the case. As for the Deputy-Director, which is a civilian post, I do not know how a dockyard would be run at all without him. The whole system depends upon having an efficient man in that post.
§ Mr. Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
I share a great many of the views which the hon. Member has expressed, but I am sure that he is not going to vary the opinion recorded by the Committee to 1926 which he referred—that the Superintendent should remain a naval officer.
§ Mr. Albu
I am expressing a personal opinion and I agree that the Committee—and I accept the view of the Committee—did not say that the Admiral Superintendent should be superseded by a general manager. I am not recommending that now. It is a matter of great difficulty, but there must be under him or with him, as the Committee recommended, a civilian general manager trained in and remaining in the service. As long as naval officers are appointed to some of these positions it will be very difficult for there to be long-term service in these posts.
The present system kills ambition and stifles initiative. It prevents the continual improvement of management and supervisory methods by men with careers and an interest in making it a worthwhile service. It encourages bureaucracy and professional jealousy instead of simplicity of administration and co-operation under strong central direction in each yard. Those are the opinions which I strongly hold, and which I believe are held by the members of the Committee, though perhaps not in every detail.
I suggest to the Civil Lord and to the Admiralty that what they have done is not sufficient. They ought to have another look at this matter, and I hope that they will do so. If they do not, sooner or later there will be a real row about this. I say to hon. Members who are waiting to speak and who have had long experience of the Navy that it is no good demanding that this House should vote greater and greater sums to support the Navy if they are not prepared to ensure that an adequate part of those sums is spent in the maintenance of the yards. The longer we put off this job the more inefficient the yards become and the more money has to be voted to the Navy.
I appreciate that it is difficult for naval officers to understand this, but if we could improve the general administration of the yards, it would make a greater contribution to our real defence in war-time than anything else at the present time. In the end there is a limit to the amount of resources which any country can devote to its Armed Forces, even in war-time, and a saving of several million pounds 1927 or the increase of efficiency would make a great contribution to the Navy.
I hope that the Admiralty will reconsider this matter. I hope that this is not their last word. We are very dissatisfied with the situation, and we shall not be satisfied unless the Civil Lord tells us that he has taken seriously into consideration the arguments used by my hon. Friend and myself and those which will, no doubt, be put to him from the benches opposite.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm McCorquodale (Epsom)
I should like, as the first speaker not closely associated with the Amendment, to congratulate, on behalf of the House, and pay tribute to, the labours of the Select Committee. I doubt whether a Select Committee of this House ever went with more care or more voluminously into a subject than did the Select Committee on the Estimates of Her Majesty's Dockyards. Indeed, this very formidable document which, I hope, all hon. Members have read—I have been studying it for some time—is proof of the very minute care and great attention with which they went into this matter. My only fear is that through this meticulous exactness they sometimes lost sight of the wood because of the trees.
I think that the House is also indebted to the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) for using his luck in the Ballot to bring forward this vitally important matter and enable us on this occasion to debate, I hope fully, Her Majesty's Dockyards, which are of prime importance to the safety of this country, being one of the foundations of Her Majesty's Navy.
I was rather sorry—I am sure the hon. Gentleman will not mind me saying this—that he somewhat marred his full exposition of his views by some sneers at the Admiralty which I am perfectly certain he did not really mean. He talked about the Admiralty slumbering, and things of that sort. That is all very well, but I feel that in the House of Commons we should take a serious view of these matters and not a superficial one which would be more suitable to a platform outside.
Although the hon. Gentleman was ably arguing from his brief, he fell into major 1928 errors early on which, to me, vitiated much of his argument. He talked of a dockyard as being a great industrial unit, and that, of course, is just what it is not. It is a vast agglomeration of different branches and trades, quite unique in its structure and not the least like anything in civilian industry. He discussed the question of the Admiral Superintendent, styling him as a general manager. So far as I can see, from visiting dockyards, reading evidence and studying this matter over some considerable time, that is exactly what he is not and what he should not be. He should be the chairman of the concern and not the general manager; that is a very different thing, as anyone closely associated with large-scale business will know.
I should like to discuss some of these points from a slightly different view from that adopted by the last two speakers and by the Members of the Select Committee. In disagreeing with them in certain particulars, I would not like this to detract from my sincere appreciation of the work they have done in this matter. I am quite sure that that work will have been of enormous use, because the more closely any machine is looked at by people outside the more the people running it think about their job, and that is always a good thing.
I have for some time been closely interested in industrial organisation in general, and one thing that I have learned above all others is that no two industrial establishments or industries are alike, and that it is not possible to lay down rules which are suitable and applicable to one set of circumstances and suggest that they should fit in to another set of circumstances. In civilian life that is one of the quickest ways of going bankrupt. Furthermore, we may divide industry roughly into two wider, different sections. There is industry which manufactures articles and then sells them. The great bulk of industry, I suppose, is of that kind. It normally manufactures a series of the same or similar types of articles, having judged what the market will stand, and then uses its best endeavours to sell them to the customers.
But there is another large section of industry with which I am more closely acquainted personally, and that, if I may use a homely phrase, I would describe as a bespoke industry—an industry which 1929 never does two jobs alike, but which is more of a service to the customer, which waits for the order to come in and which concentrates on efficiently carrying out that order as one single job. The next order may be something quite different.
If one analyses a dockyard one sees that it is essentially a bespoke industry. Its jobs are varied, one after another. It has to be prepared for all sorts of eventualities and it cannot plan a long time ahead. For that purpose decentralisation of management is much more important than it is in a firm which is manufacturing a line of articles such as motor cars or household ware.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
Yes. That will be the main subject of the few remarks I am addressing to the House, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will be a little wiser in a moment.
I was privileged to pay a visit to Portsmouth Dockyard in the very recent past. It was a most interesting experience, as I had never been to that particular dockyard before. I have been to one or two of the others, but I do not pretend to be anything like so well up in dockyard affairs as the members of the Select Committee which spent some time in several of the dockyards, or to know anything about the smaller dockyards, and my remarks should, therefore, be taken in association with the four great dockyards and not the smaller ones, such as Portland or Sheerness, or any dockyards overseas, about which I know very little.
The two main proposals of the Select Committee—the appointment in each dockyard of a general manager and a personnel officer responsible immediately to him—are retrograde steps in a bespoke business. A general manager is not required in this kind of set-up; indeed, he will only be in the way. Portsmouth Harbour employs no fewer than 23,000 people, and each department is the size of a very large firm, if we look at parallel examples in civilian industry.
I am told that the constructive department at Portsmouth has nearly 6,500 men in it. If the manager has to report not only to the chairman of the board but to 1930 a general manager, and tell that general manager all that he is doing, he will hardly have time to run his department. He must be the boss of his show and he and his other managers joining together under a chairman should form the board. In a bespoke business it is more important than ever that the manager should be the boss.
Some of the Admiralty controls which are put over him rather militate against his efficiency, but I would not suggest that the organisation in the dockyard is perfect or that any organisation in any walk of line can claim to be so. The manager in the dockyard has not nearly enough senior supervisory staff under him. This is where I differ from the Select Committee. They think he needs a superman over him, but I think he needs more senior supervisory staff under him, because in a business of this sort, where every job is different, efficiency depends more than anything else on supervision on the spot.
The manager of the department and his senior supervisory staff should have enough assistants to enable them to spend a great deal of their time not in their offices, but in the dockyard on jobs that are going on under their supervision. The more the manager and his chief assistant can get out into the dockyard the better. I am told that at present the managers of these departments are so short of senior assistants that if one falls sick there is nobody to replace him and that it is almost impossible for the manager to send one of his senior staff to courses or to inquiries or to see how other dockyards work, because the managers are so limited in their senior staff of their departments by the very strict establishment rule.
I therefore recommend not that more work should be pushed into the top hierarchy, with general managers placed over the managers of these great departments, with another staff all collecting information, but that the Admiralty should concentrate on introducing more senior supervisory staff under the general manager so as to give him more time to spend in the yard and more time to sit back and think instead of being too closely associated with day-to-day and hour-to-hour emergencies, as he is at present.
Supervision brings production. I am quite sure that that is the case in what 1931 I call the bespoke business. More supervision will lead to higher production. It will inspire men and the lower managers. It will improve the planning of the day-to-day work and I venture to suggest—and I say this after consultation with senior people who know what they are talking about—that if the manager of the constructive department, for instance, or the engineering department were materially strengthened in senior assistants, there might well be a saving of 5 per cent. in labour costs, which would far outweigh any extra expenditure on senior staff.
I want to say a few words about personnel officers in the yards. I believe that the great bulk of what have come to be known as the duties of personnel officers are really part of the job of a manager, and that administrative personnel work is done as efficiently, if not more efficiently, by proper administrative officers under the manager rather than by some outside advisory body.
I do not think there should be an alteration in the present system by which the manager is the boss in his own department, nor do I believe that the personnel side of his work should be taken away and pooled in the dockyard generally, but I suggest that the welfare department in the docks should be very considerably strengthened and placed under the direct attention of the Admiral Superintendent. Welfare work and personnel work are two quite different things. Many people not closely acquainted with industry get them muddled, but, in fact, they are quite separate.
As far as I am aware—and I have made only a superficial examination—the welfare work in some of Her Majesty's dockyards is primitive. The welfare officers do their best but, as is shown by the Admiralty rating of their departments, they are officers of low status with practically no staff. I should like to see the welfare officer considerably upgraded and allotted adequate staff.
I believe that there is a woeful lack of what normal private industry would regard as necessary amenities in the dockyards at the present time, except so far as the medical side is concerned. I should like to see much more done in the way of sports grounds and sport associations. To come down to minor matters, but 1932 matters of great importance, the toilet and lavatory arrangements in some of these dockyards are not what we would regard as up to Factories Act standard at the present time, putting it mildly; and messing accommodation—canteens—might well be much improved if a welfare officer of higher status had these as some of his responsibilities. If one may suggest it even in these hard times, a little more money placed at the disposal of welfare activities would be money well spent in improved production in the yards. I think that some of these yards have been woefully starved in this respect.
It is unfortunate that some of these yards, owing to their site and the time in which they have been expanding, and so on, have no sports grounds of their own, but the men have to beg and borrow as well as they can. Therefore, while, to a certain extent, I disagree with the personnel arguments of the Select Committee, I think there is wide scope for improvement in the welfare arrangements, and I should like to see that the personal responsibility of the chairman or the Admiral Superintendent, whichever we like to call him.
Then the Select Committee make Recommendations about the personnel officer at the Admiralty. I think they would like to see him abolished in favour of the labour branch. I should prefer to see the labour branch termed the personnel branch, and to see it upgraded and come more closely under the care of the Civil Lord and of his staff, rather than part of it somewhat neglected in Bath. I think that that should take over the control of the labour branch, and that the chief of this should be a trained and skilled executive, and not just—and I do not mean this at all in the way of disparagement—the senior administrator in the civilian branch of the Admiralty next on the list of promotion. I believe that there is a section that should be strengthened at the Admiralty.
Above all, I should like whoever it may be, the personnel branch, or the personnel officer upgraded, or the labour branch, whatever we may call it, to concentrate now and quickly upon one thing which I think is most serious, and that is the apprenticeship position in the yards. I had hoped that we should have heard something about this, because the Select Committee made very pertinent inquiries 1933 into this matter, and I had hoped that we should have heard something from the mover or seconder of the Amendment about apprentices. I believe that the life-blood of the docks is the flow of apprentices, and that the docks will be efficient or inefficient in so far as they are able or not to train, hold and keep throughout their working lives skilled apprentices, becoming skilled craftsmen working right to the top.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I am not disagreeing with that at all. I want to see apprentices coming in, with plans made so that there are ample opportunities for them to make their life's work within the naval and the dockyard service. The Admiralty have become very perturbed about the wastage of apprentices, and in the minutes of evidence taken at the end of 1950 the word "appalling" is used by the Admiralty themselves to describe the present apprentice position. I also see in that evidence that a committee was being set up, or was then actively working on the subject of apprentices. I do not know whether that committee ever reported, but from such inquiries as I have been able to make I find that the apprentice wastage today is just as bad as, if not worse than, it was two years ago when the Select Committee made their inquiries.
Now, why is this? It is different, of course, in different grades. A greater number of draughtsmen stay in than electrical engineers, and so on. When the Admiralty obtain apprentices they take considerable care to teach them, and so far as I have heard there is little or no criticism against the quality of teaching given in the schools run by the dockyards for their apprentices. But there is nothing like the same concentration upon the other activities of the apprentices living in hostels, as to who is supervising them, who is giving them opportunities for games, and so on, not within their schooling or dockyard activities.
I am not criticising the Admiralty in any way for the teaching given to the 1934 apprentices, but I think that one of the jobs of the welfare officer, upgraded and with adequate staff, should be to see to the whole life of these young boys coming into the dockyards, many of them living in hostels provided and managed by the dockyards. That should be a major care of the dockyard authorities.
If we look closely into the wastage of apprentices we see that the great bulk of it occurs after the boys have done National Service. They do not come back to the dockyards; or they come back to the dockyards for a very few months while they are passing on to another job. It seems an extraordinary thing that the Admiralty, who through the dockyards spend a great deal of money on each one of these apprentices—I have seen the figure of £1,000 suggested, although I do not know whether it is right or not—during the course of four or five years at the school run by the dockyard, being taught jobs in the different departments of that dockyard, should let such an apprentice go to the Army or the Air Force for his National Service and so be lost to the Navy.
One would have thought that anybody considering the likelihood of the wastage of apprentices would have thought it would be very much better to plan out the life they hope the apprentices will be able to carry on after they have obtained their skill by tying them, so far as is convenient, or at any rate offering them facilities for staying either in the dockyards or in Her Majesty's Navy. I believe that if these skilled young men were, on reaching the time for their National Service, immediately offered the opportunity to practise their trades in Her Majesty's Navy they would accept with alacrity.
After all, why have they come to the dockyards if it is not the attraction of the work? They would accept with alacrity; they would get into the ways of the sea, and, at the end of their National Service, if they could not stay on in the Navy they would be anxious to come back to the dockyards and continue their work with the ships they know. I have discussed this matter with those who know more about it than I do. They tell me that it would be perfectly possible to do this, but would mean reorganisation of some of the activities of the Navy. What would be 1935 required, I think, would be an extension of the use of repair ships so that these young men—shipwrights, electrical engineers, and so on—would be at sea on the repair ships or in harbours overseas doing the work which is now done in the dockyards.
That is exactly what would be required in war-time. Repairs done to ships from repair ships instead of their being sent back to the dockyards would be valuable training for the Fleet, as well as providing admirable work for these young apprentices, and would be an encouragement to them to go back to the dockyards afterwards. I urge the Admiralty to consider this matter, because I believe that the adjective "appalling," used by the Admiralty spokesman in connection with this matter, should not be allowed to apply for a moment longer than is necessary.
I have spoken for far too long and there are others who wish to take part in the debate. I hope that they will urge the Government to give the men in the dockyards better welfare facilities, to give the management more up-to-date machinery and more senior supervisors in the managers' departments. I would also urge them to pay more attention to the apprentices and their Service career. I believe that by doing so we shall save the taxpayers' money, and we shall improve still further the great organisation of Her Majesty's dockyards.
Finally, I would say that, whether we agree or disagree about the precise methods of top management, the dockyards have done and are doing a very wonderful job. I believe that the majority of the men employed in them—many of whom could get into outside industry jobs carrying higher remuneration—are heart and soul anxious to do their best not only in honour of their own dockyards but for the honour of the Navy and of the country. Let us, whatever our criticisms, wish all employed in the dockyards, from the ground floor to the top, the very best of luck and Godspeed in their work.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devon-port)
I would begin by making a few comments on the general form of the debate which has taken place tonight. I think that the speech of the right hon. 1936 Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) provides a good text on which I can do so. The right hon. Gentleman, in some of his remarks, has defended the Admiralty from the criticism made in the Select Committee's Report, and, in other parts of his speech, has joined in the criticism made by the Select Committee. I am sure he will agree that it is a very good thing that the Select Committee made the Report, as indeed he said, and also that we should have had this debate in the House of Commons.
I think it is only fair of those from dockyards constituencies, who have sought to have debates of this nature in the past, to point out that if this question had been left with the Admiralty there would not have been any inquiry by the Select Committee, and there would not have been any debate of this nature taking place in the House.
Anyone looking back on the discussions which we have had on previous occasions, would, I think, see the truth of that statement. I hope that the Admiralty will take note of what is happening in the House of Commons tonight, because the change is most significant. After 1945, we had in the Navy Estimates debates, almost for the first time, some extensive references to the dockyards, and that was something new. It was due to the fact that many Labour Members were returned by dockyard constituencies.
I have looked up the records and I have found that before 1945 the House of Commons never had extensive debates on dockyard problems. After 1945, many of us sought to raise many of the issues which have been debated tonight, and we made proposals for inquiry and action, as will be recalled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. J. Edwards), who was formerly the Civil Lord of the Admiralty. Some things were achieved, not merely by those debates, but partly as a result of action by the trade unions and as a result of the activity and guidance of my hon. Friend when he was the Civil Lord. Certainly, many reforms were carried out, particularly in regard to conditions of employment, reforms which the dockyard workers had been awaiting 30 cm 40 years. My hon. Friend the Member for Stepney deserves credit for having put through those reforms. 1937 But when we turn to questions of efficiency in the dockyards, my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney will agree with me that we had some shades of difference in our opinions. Indeed, whenever we made proposals for a working party to inquire into the affairs of the dockyards and into the many subjects which have been examined by the Select Committee, we were turned down flat by my hon. Friend who gave his famous imitation of Mr. Molotov. The situation was that five or six hon. Members from the dockyards rose and made their protest, and then we had a few sentences from the representative of the Admiralty, and that was supposed to be the end of the matter. It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Epsom to rebuke my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) for having accused the Admiralty of slumbering.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
It was the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) to whom I referred, not the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu).
§ Mr. Foot
I am sorry. I believe that both my hon. Friends would be willing to accuse the Admiralty of slumbering, so it was a natural mistake for me to make. The Admiralty have slumbered. Whenever we have raised this question and said there was something wrong and that it should be looked into, the Admiralty have said "No," and then, in rather more elaborate language, they have said "No" again. Anyone who examines the replies made by the Admiralty to the Select Committee's Report must come to that conclusion.
It is gratifying to find that we now have a different kind of debate. Last year, thanks to the Report of the Select Committee and thanks to the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton, who was Chairman of that valuable Committee, we were able to have a Report with the evidence of the Select Committee before us, and this year we have a further advance in that we have an Amendment on dockyard management. This is progress, even though nearly all the Recommendations of the Committee have been turned down by the Admiralty.
I hope that the Admiralty will take note of the fact that the House of Commons is strongly critical of the way it has 1938 been conducting its affairs and that, so far from agreeing with all the answers which have previously been given by the Admiralty suggesting that no working party or inquiry was needed, the whole of the House of Commons, perhaps with the exception of the Treasury Bench, agrees that it was absolutely right to have the inquiry by the Select Committee, that we have had a very valuable discussion as result of it and that those who previously proposed an inquiry were justified and, by the same token, the Admiralty was unjustified in its refusal to hold an inquiry in years gone by.
I now wish to turn to a matter which has been raised in all these debates by hon. Members representing dockyard constituencies. It is a matter which is also referred to in the Select Committee's Report, and it is a subject of one of the replies by the Admiralty to the Select Committee's Report. It is the hoary question—all the questions about the dockyards that we discuss are hoary, because we have had them time and time again—of maintenance and repairs in the dockyards, covered by Vote 10. We have discussed the subject on many occasions. It has long been the opinion of the workers in the dockyards that far too little money is spent on repairs and maintenance work there. That is what we have reported to the House on a number of occasions, and the evidence in the Select Committee's Report bears this out. The Select Committee's Report says that the situation and the condition of plant, machinery and workshops in the dockyards is disgraceful.
It is no use the present First Lord or any other First Lord arguing about it. All they have to do is to look at the evidence and they will see that the evidence states that it is disgraceful. In that they are supported not only by the workers in the dockyard and by Members of Parliament from the dockyard areas, but also by the management in the dockyards and, indeed, by the First Lord of the Admiralty himself who, in his opening speech today, said that the amount voted in Vote 10 would only be sufficient to nibble at the problem.
That is a great advance on previous statements. That is not seen in any of the statements from the Admiralty, and I am very glad that the First Lord has gone that far. I am going to suggest to 1939 him—it may well be a brazen thing to do—that instead of nibbling at the problem he should take a few large bites at it, and if he does that, perhaps he will be willing to accept the suggestion made by the Admiral Superintendent in Devon-port Dockyard.
I have quoted what that gentleman has said and I shall continue to quote it until the Admiralty does something about it. This was what the Admiral Superintendent of Devonport Dockyard said to the Select Committee:Give us the money to build some decent shops for the men to work in. … The position is frightful. … It is amazing how the people turn out the work they do. … The shops are too congested.Later, he said:The dockyard is in a very bad state.This is the opinion not only of the Admiral Superintendent, of the workmen in the dockyard, but on page 276 of the Select Committee's Report it will be seen that Mr. Gribbell, the trade union representative from Devonport Dockyard, said:You must appreciate that many of the workshops in the yard are obsolete. Many of them are unheated, and in the winter the temperature drops below freezing point.Quotation after quotation from the Select Committee's Report could be given to substantiate what we have been saying for four or five years. There are obsolete workshops, obsolete road works, shocking canteen facilities and no indication that the Admiralty really appreciates the problem. [Interruption.] I do not know whether that was a statement to the effect that the canteens were all right.
§ Mr. Foot
There have been some improvements in view of the speeches made in the House over the last three or four years, but I think that a good deal more can be done and the evidence given by the trade union representative before the Select Committee bears out what I am saying.
What is it that can be done to deal with this situation? How can we get a situation where the Admiral Superintendent and the workers in these different areas are able to join together both on production committees and elsewhere to 1940 try to remedy some of these matters? That is one of the matters which is the subject of a recommendation by the Select Committee.
Recommendation No. 20 says:The Superintendent of each of the major home dockyards should have allocated to him at the beginning of the financial year a proportion of the total sum to be spent on machinery and plant in all dockyards during the year. He should be authorised to requisition from the central purchasing authority up to the value of the sum allocated, without the necessity of detailed discussion at headquarters of each item of machinery required.I am sure that that will have the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epsom, because he was claiming that there should be more decentralisation in the different areas and in the different departments, and that they should have greater power to authorise work to be done in this respect. Here was a proposal by the Select Committee to help to deal with this problem, and the amount voted in Vote 10 has been a long standing source of grievance.
What do the Admiralty say? They turn it down almost flat and they give two reasons, which appear on page 11 of their reply to the Select Committee's Recommendation. The first reason is:It would almost certainly be wasteful to allocate resources to individual superintendents for expenditure entirely at their own discretion and without any knowledge or control on the part of the Admiralty of the objects to which each superintendent would devote those resources.That is a tautological reply, saying, "The reason why it is wrong to allocate resources to individual superintendents to spend in individual yards at their own discretion is because we think it is wrong." That is what the reply amounts to.
The Admiralty go on to give a second reason why they are not prepared to carry out the recommendation of the Select Committee. They say that if they allocated to superintendents in different yards an amount which they could spend in their own discretion that it would interfere with the acounts. They say:… an important feature in the framing of the Navy Estimates consists of estimating the total value of such commitments and the spread of expenditure from past and over future years. This can only be done at the Admiralty. The greater the amount of the proposed grants to superintendents, the greater would be the cumulative marginal error in this respect in the Navy Estimates.1941 It may be true that some of the figures will be overlapped from year to year a bit more, and that we might not be able to work out the figures from year to year of what is to be spent. It is surely much more important to overhaul the plant and machinery in the dockyards than it is to have precise accounts available to present to the House of Commons every year. That is not a very good reason. It is a pure accountant's reason for turning down a major proposal of the Select Committee for dealing with a major problem in the dockyards. Therefore, when the Admiralty so lightly turn down this proposal, we ought to go back to what was said to the Select Committee by the Admiral Superintendent of Devon-port Dockyard, and I have no doubt that the same applies to other dockyards.
When the question was put to the Admiral Superintendent of Devonport Dockyard how much money he had the right to spend on these things at his own discretion, the figure given was the ridiculous sum of £1,000 a year. The Admiralty has turned down pretty well every proposal for re-modelling the amount that might be spent by Admiral Superintendents although they do go on to say that they are going to make a slight increase in the amount of money which can be spent within the discretion of Admiral Superintendents. That appears in the last paragraph but one on page 11. I should like the Civil Lord of the Admiralty to tell us how much money is to be allowed to be spent in the discretion of the different Admiral Superintendents, so that we may test whether there is to be any change in this respect and any reform.
It is clear from the main answer that the whole proposal—which was supported by the hon. Member who spoke before me, which was unanimously supported by the members of the Select Committee, which was supported by hon. and gallant Gentlemen on the Government benches during the debate, dealing with a matter which has been the subject of debate for four or five years in this House and the subject of strong complaint not only by the workers in the dockyards but by Admiral Superintendents of Dockyards—has been turned down by the Admiralty. This is the Admiralty, sticking up for an old system which is not supported by those who work in dockyards from 1942 Admiral Superintendents downwards. The workers' committees are opposed to this attitude of the Admiralty, and I hope this is one of the matters which the Admiralty will take back. Their answer is inadequate, and does not even show an awareness how strong the feeling is about the obsolete nature of the plants, etc., in the dockyards.
I will now turn to two other hoary questions which have been debated in this House before and on which we have not had adequate replies from the Admiralty. The first deals with production committees and I am not going to say very much about it, except that I hope we shall have more information on the subject from the Civil Lord. The Select Committee said quite clearly that the joint production committees had not been working as they were intended to do. If the Civil Lord has read carefully, as I am sure he must have done, the evidence given by the trade union representative from Devonport Dockyard, as from other dockyards, he will see some of the reasons given why these committees had not been working properly.
In my view, this again relates to sums voted under Vote 10, because as long as the Admiral Superintendent and the managements in the different dockyards have not the power themselves to settle some of these problems, it is not much good their arguing out this question in the joint production committees. They all have to be referred back to the Admiralty. Therefore, it is only when that reform is carried out that we can give the joint production committees the authority they require.
However, on page 5 of the Admiralty reply they say that the question of the work of the joint production committees has been referred to the Admiralty Industrial Council which will be making a report. I hope we shall have information as to how that work is proceeding because many months have elapsed since the Select Committee said clearly and unanimously that the joint production committees were not working well. Therefore, we should give them the possibility of working better than they have done in the past.
The same kind of criticism refers to another hoary subject, the merit award scheme on which I had many arguments 1943 in the past with my right hon. Friend when he was Civil Lord. The Select Committee said that the Admiralty did not seem to understand that the merit award scheme which they had introduced was in direct conflict with long-established trade union ideas. Therefore, the Select Committee made certain proposals, in my view not sufficiently radical, for amending and reviewing the scheme. The Admiralty turned them down flat for the same kind of tautologous reasons used in the other case. All the evidence is available, in page after page of the Select Committee's Report, that the merit award scheme was strongly criticised from the workers' side in the industry, but the Admiralty comes along at the end and say, "If we change the merit award scheme at all, it will do away with the purpose we had in mind in introducing it, and therefore we will not change it."
§ Mr. Summers
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to correct what appears to be a completely false impression of the Report? There was a distinction made between the merit award scheme and the tradition of the trade union movement, but the scheme was not criticised on that account. It was thought necessary to educate people in the advantages of the scheme on that account.
§ Mr. Foot
I am not saying that they condemned the whole scheme, but it is correct to say that before they came to the Recommendation about the merit award scheme the Committee said that the principles of it were in direct conflict with long-established trade union ideas, and they went on to propose amendments which, in my view, did not go far enough, but which the Admiralty turned down flat. I agree with the views expressed by the representatives from almost all the trade unions in Devonport Dockyard who gave their evidence to the Select Committee.
On the general question of the management in the dockyards and of civilianisation, attention has been drawn in this debate to the appalling wastage of apprentices as described by the Admiralty and as agreed by the Select Committee. It is a serious problem, but in the evidence provided in the Report of that Committee, there can be seen what are stated by many of the workers in the dockyards to be the 1944 reasons for this appalling wastage. Anyone who cares to look at page 271 of the Select Committee's Report will see the evidence which was given by Alderman Mason, the Welfare Officer in Devonport Dockyard, in reply to a question put to him by Mrs. Middleton, in which he gives his plain view that one of the reasons for the wastage of apprentices is:Largely because the chances of promotion are very limited, particularly in some departments.This was in answer to Question No. 3372. Alderman Mason goes on to say:In the engineering department a man cannot rise above senior foreman. In the constructive department he can become a chief constructor at the Admiralty, but in the engineering department the highest point is senior foreman; at that stage the Service takes over. You get four or five naval officers before you reach the engineering manager. That is peculiar to the engineering department at the moment, but there is some evidence that the same tendency will enter into the electrical department, and they will get more representation on that side of the electrical department with all this new equipment.That is the answer given by a man who knows Devonport Dockyard probably better than almost anybody else. The same kind of answer is given by most of the trade union representatives and the same kind of answer also is confirmed by the management representative from Devonport Dockyard. What is the use, therefore, of saying that something will be done to deal with the wastage of apprentices when the Admiralty reject almost out of hand one of the main reasons which have been put forward for trying to introduce a much stronger civilian element into the management of the dockyards?
One of the main reasons for the wastage is that the present system denies proper promotion to people who want to make their careers in the dockyards. I agree with Alderman Mason that this is one of the many reasons why we believe that there should be a much greater attempt to introduce more civilian control into the dockyards. The Admiralty ought to have paid much more attention to it than they have done.
I come, in conclusion, to what they said on the subject under Recommendation 18. This has already been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) and it deals with the question of appointing a general manager. In the wording of this 1945 document the Admiralty have excelled themselves. I congratulate the author of the document for the words he has used, even if I cannot congratulate the Admiralty for any of the attitudes that they have taken up. In page eight of the reply to the Recommendations, we have the answer:The Admiralty have considered this recommendation with special care. They appreciate the train of thought which led to it and they recognise the strong appeal which this must have.When I read that, it almost brings tears to my eyes. I picture the gentlemen at the Admiralty, wrestling with this awkward problem, trying to see their way into the minds of the Members of the Select Committee as if they were seeing "through a glass darkly," as if the Members of the Select Committee had not given their views with the utmost directness. They stated them absolutely plainly, but apparently all that the Admiralty could do, with the best will in the world, was to recognise the train of thought along which the Select Committee's minds were working.
Then, as the result of this remarkable discovery that there was a train of thought in the Select Committee's minds, the Admiralty say what they are going to do about it. This is the only concession, one might call it, which the Admiralty have made in reply to the whole of this elaborate work which has been done. The right hon. Member for Epsom spoke of the diligence and thoroughness with which this inquiry was made—and, of course, it was carried out with the greatest diligence; but as for any constructive proposal which is actually to be put into operation, this is really the only one we have got. It is framed in wonderful words and it refers to appointing a deputy manager in one of the dockyards for a limited period, with all the qualifications that were mentioned by my hon. Friends in moving and seconding the Amendment. The Admiralty say:Faced with these uncertainties and conflicting considerations, the Admiralty have concluded that the appropriate course is to make an experiment.This is the Nelson touch. This is the spirit of Sir Francis Drake. This is the spirit of British naval glory, "We are going to make an experiment."
1946 I give this warning to the Admiralty. People may laugh at it now. This concession, half-witted, half-baked, ham-handed and ill-considered as it is, they may think of no importance, but I believe it is of great importance. After years of battery, after years of protests, after years of saying in Navy Estimates debates all the same things which the Select Committee said after months and months of inquiry, the Admiralty have at last made a concession. We have breached one small chink in the wall. Therefore, do not let anyone minimise this concession.
Twenty, 25, 30 years hence when some of the changes this Select Committee have proposed have actually been carried into effect, people will look back to this day. People in the Admiralty will be saying, "This is where we went wrong. We actually made a concession on one point of a Select Committee Recommendation. If we had not done that we would never have got into the trouble of having civilian businessmen in the dockyards and production committees working properly and having to examine obnoxious ideas like merit awards. If only we had stood firm and held our ground! It was appeasement on this issue which got us into this trouble."
So far from regarding this as a small, miserable concession, as something not worth having, I say it is the thin end of the wedge and, if we are here 20 or 25 years hence, I look forward to the day when we shall get at least half of the Recommendations of this Committee carried into full effect by the Admiralty.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
We have just heard this concession from the Admiralty described as the thin end of the wedge. I am bound to say that I do not like the look of the wedge, and I propose to give one or two reasons why.
My right hon. Friend pointed out that the Superintendent of Dockyards is not a manager. It is just as well that he should not be regarded as a manager because it is self-evident that, however distinguished he may be, he is not qualified to be a manager. Where I differ from my right hon. Friend is that he was quite satisfied with what he called the Board, comprising the three departmental managers, with a chairman over them. He referred to the Superintendent as holding a rôle in the dockyards comparable to 1947 that which a chairman would fulfil in industrial life. Valuable as they are, I always look, not with suspicion, but with caution, at experts. I should not be satisfied to leave the dockyards in the sole charge of a distinguished naval officer, with three experts under him, without there being any instrument between them with industrial experience, capable of exerting a unifying policy on those three partners.
The Admiralty themselves, in dealing with the Recommendations of the Committee, seem to have put themselves in the very difficult position of having admitted that they are not entirely satisfied with the present set-up, by suggesting an experiment, as we heard from the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). But their difficulties are increased by the fact that they want the functional departmental policies now prevailing to continue.
They evidently think much of the departmental managers, as indeed we did when we went into the matter, but they go on to say that the self-same departmental managers are not, in their opinion, qualified ever to become general managers of a dockyard for lack of adequate administrative experience. If a dockyard departmental manager, having 6,000 people under him, is not regarded as having had administrative experience, I do not know how a manager is ever to be found for a dockyard.
One of the reasons why I think that this experiment will not succeed is that the deputy-superintendent (industrial) will have an impossible job to carry out. He will have responsibility without authority. That is a situation which is never satisfactory. An attempt has been made to meet the criticisms of the Committee on the personnel management side and the criticism of the Committee on the structure of management by the creation of one individual to undertake the two roles.
This deputy-superintendent is to derive his authority from the Admiral Superintendent. He is to exercise a series of coordinating ideas which are listed in the Admiralty reply and also to fulfil certain of the unified personnel functions to which the Committee drew attention as being at present lacking. It is a fundamental mistake to believe that these two weaknesses in the present situation can be put right by one person in one position.
1948 I would not dissent from what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) that in the very art of management there must necessarily be a considerable degree of personnel management in industry. If there were not, no factory could run satisfactorily. But where we have three separate, somewhat self-contained departments, each with a deputy-manager at present charged with personnel management responsibility, we cannot expect satisfactory results to accrue without some more recognisably unifying agency such as was recommended by the Select Committee.
It may perhaps be argued that there is little wonder that the Admiralty, in these two spheres to which I have alluded, should have turned that proposal down, inasmuch as in 1945 they had a Departmental committee considering the subject which made recommendations, the outcome of which is the situation with which we are familiar at the present time. But a Departmental committee of that kind would be bound to take notice of the apparent wish, as mentioned in the report, of the departmental managers to leave things as they were. I am not at all surprised to learn that in face of suggestions that changes in a situation were desirable one should be told by departmental managers that they were quite content with the situation as it was.
It would be really rather surprising if such objective views were held by an individual as to lead him to say to an investigating committee, "I would do my job much better if you put a boss over me." It is not the sort of recommendation which people usually make. So I was not surprised at that part of the evidence which we received; and I do not think that too much attention should be paid to the apparent satisfaction of the departmental managers with the present situation.
I am glad that tributes have been paid to the work that goes on in the dockyards, because whatever we have said in this Report about the structure of management and other things, I think that I should be echoing the views of every member of the Committee and every hon. Member of this House if I said that we came away with a very high regard indeed for the conscientious discharge of duties that was manifest on all sides in the dockyards themselves. 1949 But there is very great responsibility here, and I am glad that reference has been made to the need for better tools to get the job done in the dockyards. There has been a tremendous increase in the relative importance of electricity in the development of defence weapons in naval and other spheres, and I think it is unfortunate that that obvious trend—the influence of electricity on scientific development in this field—was not recognised much sooner and that a greater proportion of the capital expenditure was not devoted to it.
I hope that as a result of this debate the hands of those who want decentralisation will be strengthened, and I hope that, in spite of the views so far expressed by the Admiralty, we may yet see some coordinating instrument more effective than the one we are able to find at present.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. G. P. Stevens (Portsmouth, Lang-stone)
I listened with great interest and care to the speeches of the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams), who moved this Amendment, the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) and the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). I do not think I have ever in my life heard such an indictment of a nationalised industry. Never have I heard such an indictment coming from any source, whether from hon. Members opposite or from the Monopolies Commission in respect of private enterprise. I could not help thinking as I listened to those speeches that the background of the Report of the Select Committee which we are debating included visits which the members of the Select Committee paid to private enterprise shipyards as well as to the Royal Dockyards, and I am left with a clear impression in my mind.
The hon. Member for Wigan hoped that the row would be heard by the Admiralty. I do not know whether he has under-estimated the moment of inertia to which their Lordships are liable. I heard the First Lord of the Admiralty say that the Lords of Admiralty were selected for their efficiency rather than for their beauty, but I wonder sometimes whether it is not the moment of inertia rather than efficiency which is the watchword. I confess that to listen to this debate one would think that the Admir- 1950 alty had read the Report with closed eyes and sealed ears. But that is not true. I do not think it is right that that impression should be created. They have accepted a number of Recommendations—minor ones it is true, but very useful ones.
I want to speak of the two principal Recommendations which the Admiralty have not accepted in full—first, with respect to the senior personnel officer, and, secondly, the general manager. During the war I served in the Royal Air Force equivalent of these Royal Dockyards, where the set-up had not grown since Nelson's day. When the Royal Air Force equipment branch and maintenance service were started, we tried to take the best of the ideas from the Royal Navy and from the Army.
So far as the top stratum is concerned, the set-up that we evolved is like the setup which is envisaged in this Report of the Select Committee—a commanding officer whose sole duty is was to command the depot underneath him a chief equipment officer who was also the second in command, who was the liaison officer between the maintenance depot and squadrons that we were serving, who commanded the various officers who themselves were in charge of the different parts of the depot; and, equal in rank but civilian in status, a civil assistant and accountant very much like the senior personnel officer whom we have in mind in these Recommendations.
It is true that the Royal Air Force depots were very much smaller than the Royal Dockyards, but they were none the less very considerable undertakings. It is perfectly true that there were these separate departments, just as there are in the Royal Navy. It is perfectly true that there were civilian personnel commanded by Service officers with, to some extent, divided loyalty to the senior personnel officer. The spirit was there, however, and the system was there, and it worked extraordinarily well. I cannot see why the same sort of co-operation should not exist in the event of the appointment of a senior personnel officer in the Royal Dockyards.
There must be co-operation. One cannot talk of the four departments of the Royal Dockyards as four separate establishments. They are not four separate 1951 establishments; they are four separate departments of the same establishment. The appointment of this civilian assistant or senior personnel officer would assist co-operation between those four departments and eliminate a good deal of overlapping.
I listened with the greatest of interest to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) said with regard to the proposed general manager. He said that this undertaking was so vast—with 23,000 men in Portsmouth Dockyard—that one general manager could not possibly absorb every detail of the four departments. But I do not think a general manager or managing director is meant to absorb all those details. He is meant to co-ordinate the activities of the four departments, and I believe he could do it. It is a step which should be taken.
Now I turn to the Admiralty's answer to our Recommendations. They are prepared to try an experiment. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) waxed very "Tribune" about these Recommendations. It was good fun while it lasted; but I believe that the Report of the Select Committee has started something in the moment of inertia of my Lords of Admiralty. If they are prepared to go sufficiently far with us as to try an experiment and are prepared to make it a genuine experiment—and if we are prepared to watch them and keep behind the appropriate portions of their Lordships to see that they get on with it, that is as much as a Select Committee can hope for.
I do not believe that their Lordships or any Government Department can be expected to make such a drastic change without conducting an experiment on a reasonably limited scale. Their Lordships have agreed to do so, and provided that they are prepared to progress with that experiment with the best features of the Nelson touch, we shall have accomplished something in moving them that short way. I shall watch with great interest—as I am sure the hon. Member for Edmonton will—just how far we have been able to push them along.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
I wish to intervene for only a few moments, and I speak with some diffidence because I have not the experience of those hon. 1952 Members who sat on the Select Committee. Many of my constituents find employment in Devonport Dockyard.
The main conflict existing with regard to the Recommendations of the Select Committee seems to centre round two main points. The first, with which I do not wish to deal, is whether those in authority should be civilian or naval personnel, and the second is whether the existing vertical organisation, in which the departments have a great degree of autonomy, should continue, or whether a horizontal organisation, in which each dockyard should have a greater degree of autonomy, should replace the present organisation.
I have not been convinced that the present structure is wrong. I look with some doubt at the experiment that is to be put into operation. If the Civil Lord really believes that the organisation which allows for greater autonomy in departments is correct, it does not seem logical to appoint a deputy superintendent with the present organisation.
I should have thought that an experiment in personnel management could have been carried out by which each departmental manager, instead of allowing the assistant departmental manager to do the personnel relationship, would be given another high officer under his command—a civilian—who would work in the department and would come under the senior personnel manager. If we are to have an experiment, I cannot support one which concedes very little to the Recommendations of the Select Committee and which seems to cut across the existing organisation. I am informed that the managers of the departments and their assistant managers have their work cut out in supervising the technical jobs for which they are responsible. Will the Civil Lord consider, the next time he has an experiment, reinforcing the vertical organisation rather than cutting across it?
There is another point I should like him to consider. There has been much criticism of the working conditions in the dockyards, much of which is no doubt justified. There is a plan for an extension of the Devonport Dockyard, and I ask my hon. Friend to see that the welfare conditions, the canteens and the working conditions in this new extension compare favourably with the best conditions of private industry. The 1953 Admiralty have been criticised in the past, but here they have an opportunity to show imagination and vision and to set an example to private industry in this extension of Devonport Dockyard.
A casual observer, listening to the debate, must be somewhat critical of the work which goes on in the dockyard, but it is worth remembering that the British Fleet is the most respected in the world, and that cannot be dissociated from the craftsmanship and skill which exists in the dockyards which fit and repair those ships. I ask the Admiralty to give some thought to giving publicity in explaining to the country the extremely high level of skill which exists in the dockyards, whatever we may think of the present managerial structure.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Wingfield Digby)
First, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) on the way in which he introduced his Amendment. Considering the complicated nature of the issue and the fact that, so far as I know, he has not had very much connection with the Navy, I think he did it very well. We are grateful to him for raising the question of the Royal Dockyards for, contrary to what some hon. Members have suggested, we are only too glad to have these subjects raised and discussed. I can assure the House that we will examine with interest and care at the Admiralty the various points which have been made in the debate.
I must confess that, in such a complicated subject as this, I myself have somewhat limited qualifications, but I certainly have the qualification of having come to it with an entirely open mind, and I have had the chance to pay visits to all the home dockyards and nearly all the foreign dockyards, with the exception of Simonstown and Malta. I have also had the opportunity of going round the merchant shipbuilding and ship repairing yards—under my other hat, as it were; and I can assure the House that this does give me a very good basis of comparison when considering this difficult question of the management of the Royal Dockyards.
I thought that at times the hon. Member for Wigan was, perhaps, a little less than generous to the Royal Dockyards 1954 and those who work in them. In fact, he seemed to think that there was only one thing worse than rejecting one of the Recommendations of the Committee, and that was accepting it. He castigated us rather more where we had accepted than where we had rejected the Recommendations.
I think it was a pity, perhaps, that he expanded the original Amendment in the way that he did, so as to make this subject such a technical one, instead of, perhaps, allowing a wider debate on the general issues of the dockyards—rather than this narrow issue of management—as to whether we should have general managers or deputy superintendents, and as to where we should have personnel officers. I think that this is, perhaps, a rather narrow issue.
The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) made a number of points. He asked me about the Committee on the Review of Admiralty Organisation, and how many times it had met. Over 100 times is the answer; and it was set up only to look into the organisation of headquarters at the Admiralty; it will, therefore, not deal with dockyard organisation. He gave us, as we should expect, a very interesting speech. When I was reading one of my evening papers last Friday I read with great interest and some apprehension that they regarded him as the embodiment of the managerial revolution.He embodies the managerial revolution in action; he is the planner, the middle class intellectual. Men of his type are, I think, the loneliest men usually in the House of Commons; when they are right nobody loves them for it; when they are wrong"—as today—every traditionalist, from the Tory squire to the ex-miner trade unionist, turns and rends them.Then it goes on to say that all this does not matter in his case because he has such a charming smile. I can only wish we had seen more of it today, and I can only hope that by the time I have finished my remarks we shall see it.
§ Mr. Digby
Last Friday's "Evening News." In the circumstances, as the hon. Gentleman is the embodiment of the managerial revolution, I am not altogether surprised that the hon. Gentleman is in favour of more general managers. 1955 I must ask for some indulgence in replying to this complicated debate. I cannot hope to answer all the very many interesting points that have been raised, ranging over a wide field, but I would commend to the House the words of a First Lord of the Admiralty in Gilbert and Sullivan, Sir Joseph Porter. who is recorded as having said:It is one of the happiest characteristics of this glorious country that official utterances are invariably regarded as unanswerable.There is no doubt at all—and I am glad that no one has questioned the fact—about the importance of the Royal Dockyards. They lack the glamour of the Fleet. On the other hand, in periods when they have been neglected, as they were at the time of the War of American Independence, which resulted in one disaster which we all recall from Cowper's poem, the "Loss of the Royal George," the Navy has suffered. It was upon the reorganisation which took place after that period that the great victories of the Napoleonic Wars were founded.
I think there is a certain amount of misconception about the Royal Dockyards. I have even had people ask me if they were the places where the dockers worked. The truth of the matter is that they are a very complicated organisation. They have grown in the same way that the English Constitution has grown. They have grown from the days of sail to the days of the gas turbine. They have always had their critics. The other day I came across one of several hundred years ago, when the Surveyor of Victuals was castigated as "a man not much beforehand." Nevertheless, by and large, they have adapted themselves to circumstances and rendered excellent service to the Fleet, from the days of grappling irons to the days of radar.
I want to make absolutely clear what the Royal Dockyards are not, because I think that a number of hon. Members have assumed them to be something they are not. They are not engaged in mass production. Nor are they engaged in shipbuilding to any extent. They have to provide anchorage; they have to provide naval stores and fuelling. Even the naval barracks are connected with them. In addition, of course, they have their dry docks. In fact, they are totally unlike anything else in outside industry. I cannot make 1956 that point too strongly, because I thought, quite honestly, that the hon. Member for Edmonton and several others were all the time arguing from the analogy of industry and of line production. I thought my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) was absolutely right in drawing attention to the fact that they are not engaged in mass production.
§ Mr. Albu
I must deal with this quite extraordinary misunderstanding. I do not think that any Member of the Select Committee on Estimates was under any illusion that the dockyards are engaged in mass production. I can assure the Civil Lord that in the heavy engineering industry there are frequently engineering managers, and very often personnel managers as well.
§ Mr. Digby
I am very glad to hear that I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. I should like to go on to point out that the analogy with outside industry is certainly not a good one, because very little shipbuilding is carried out in the Royal Dockyards now. The nearest analogy would be ship repairs. I have looked into the numbers of those employed in the ship repair yards of the country, and the largest I have been able to find in a single depot is only 2,350, and in the largest shipbuilding yard of this country the number is 19,000, with only 1,400 for repairs—a very small figure.
When I remind the House that at Portsmouth Dockyard alone one department employs no fewer than 5,500 personnel it will be seen that, not only are the dockyards very different from outside industry, but they are very much larger, and each of the departments is an extremely large unit. Furthermore, the work they perform, quite apart from the responsibilities which I have described, is extremely varied. It varies from dealing with telephone wires to converting railway locomotives for British Railways, to give but two examples.
This evening a number of criticisms have been made of the work of the Royal dockyards. Those criticisms have been very exaggerated. I should like to remind the House, in words that will perhaps be more readily accepted by hon. Members opposite than any words of mine, of what was said by a former 1957 First Lord, Lord Hall, one year ago, after he had left office:The work which the dockyards have done during the last three years is the best proof of the efficiency of the yards.There is no doubt at all that the yards have been doing an extremely good job, whatever else may be said.
Let me say a word about the Admiral Superintendent. I must point out straight away that he has a dual job. It is only when we come to consider the Admiral Superintendent that we can understand the conception of a general manager. At all times there are numbers of vessels lying in the dockyards in various forms of commission, with large numbers of sailors manning them, all of whom come under the jurisdiction of the Admiral Superintendent in charge of the dockyard.
He acts in a dual capacity. He is the representative of the Commander-in-Chief in dealing with Fleet matters within the precincts of the dockyard. He is also the head of the dockyard itself and of all the other civil establishments in the port, such as the victualling yards, fuelling installations, stores and armament supply depots. It is his responsibility to co-ordinate the efforts of all these establishments, and of the various dockyard departments, to ensure that the best service is available to his only steady customer—the Fleet.
The entire work of the Admiral Superintendent has a naval bias. It is of the utmost importance that the dockyards should be in the closest possible touch with the Fleet. Only a naval officer of high standing and administrative ability can be expected to achieve this form of liaison. He is not, nor is he meant to be, a general manager in the sense in which this term is used in industry. Indeed, it is extremely doubtful whether a single civilian manager could ever exercise any real measure of direction over the manifold activities, many of them highly technical, of all the diverse and complex departments of the modern naval dockyard.
I want to say a word or two in answer to hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), who raised the question of capital expenditure. There is no doubt at all that more money could be spent in the Royal Dockyards, but we find that what tends to 1958 happen is that when there is money available for defence it tends to go into the teeth of the Fleet, and at other times when armament is cut down it is difficult to devote as much money as we should like to the Royal Dockyards.
With regard to Vote 10 work in the Royal dockyards, I absolutely agree with the hon. Member for Devonport that we should like to spend more. We have plans for dockyard extensions both at Devonport and at Portsmouth, as he well knows. Under these extension schemes we shall get a better lay-out, and as new buildings are put up in the dockyard areas they are planned so that they will fit in with the new schemes—but all these things cost a lot of money.
For example, in the case of the three southern yards, to provide sanitary arrangements up to a reasonable standard will cost over the next few years no less than £500,000. To replace one jetty at Portsmouth, which is in bad condition, will cost no less than £150,000. This makes perfectly plain how much money is involved. If we take the case of electronics, which have developed so much in recent years, we have at Chatham and Portsmouth two new shops going up, which should be completed in 18 months, and in the other two main yards we also have plans which are provided for in the Estimates for the coming year.
There are a great many other Recommendations of the Committee for me to deal with before I come to the main suggestions——
§ Mr. Foot
On the question of the amount to be allocated, the point which was raised was not only about the total amount to be spent but about the amount to be spent within the discretion of the Admiral Superintendents of the different yards. I asked the hon. Gentleman a specific question on that. The Admiralty's reply referred to a slight increase in the amount which could be spent. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what the figure is?
§ Mr. Digby
I am sorry that I am not in a position to do so, but I will write to the hon. Gentleman about it.
I will now deal briefly with a few of the other points made by the Select Committee. In regard to Recommendations 2, 3 and 4, I was asked by the hon. Member 1959 for Devonport whether the sub-committee of the Admiralty Industrial Council had reported on the question of joint production committees. It has reported, and an Admiralty Fleet Order has been issued carrying its recommendations into effect. The recommendations were, broadly, to stick to the present lines and to try to improve on them.
The subject of apprentices arises under Recommendation 9. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom was concerned about the wastage of apprentices. We share this problem in common with a number of outside firms who run apprentice schemes. There is a wastage, and we are doing our best to keep it as low as we can. My right hon. Friend suggested that the apprentices should be called up into the Navy. We will look into that matter, but it is obvious that that would have some fairly far-reaching consequences.
One of the main issues is that of personnel officers, which comes under Recommendation 16. The deputy managers are the people who deal with personnel questions in the dockyards. There is also at headquarters, under the Director of Dockyards another personnel officer; at the present moment he is an Engineer Captain, but he is to be replaced by someone else—if possible from outside—who will have special training in these matters. The deputy managers are really qualified in a special way to deal with personnel questions because they are sufficiently close to the technical jobs which are being done in these extremely large departments.
I do not believe that very much would be achieved by having a personnel manager for the whole yard. He could not know enough of the technical task in each individual department to fulfil all the duties which are at present fulfilled by the deputy managers and their subordinate staffs, who deal with such matters as the interviewing of those who are entering and also merit pay—a scheme which requires a considerable knowledge of individual workers if it is to be properly carried out. Obviously, merit pay could be dealt with only in a very general way by a personnel manager with responsibilities for the whole yard.
1960 The Select Committee suggest that those who leave the dockyards should be interviewed, but I do not believe that this would achieve very much as our evidence goes to show that most of those who leave the dockyards do so for personal reasons. As Lord Hall has also pointed out, it is very relevant that amongst the outside firms who were interviewed by the Select Committee two of them had welfare officers instead of personnel officers, and in the third case the personnel officer admitted that a great deal of his time was actually spent in welfare work.
The Admiralty will endeavour to carry out improvements on the personnel side in the dockyards. In particular, specialised training will be given not only to deputy managers themselves who are personnel officers, but, in addition, to their staffs. Furthermore, the duties of personnel officer already carried out by the secretary to the Admiral Superintendent will be more clearly defined, and, as hon. Members will have read from the Admiralty answers to the Select Committee, where a deputy superintendent (industrial) is appointed he will have coordinating functions for personnel.
That brings me to Recommendation 18, the most important of the Recommendations of the Select Committee. As we have said, special thought has gone into this problem but we do not see how a general manager in the sense intended by the Select Committee can be appointed without cutting across the autonomy of the departments. Let us get this quite clear. As we read it, the Select Committee did not intend to do away with the autonomy of the departments and if they did they did not say how it was to be done. It would be a far-reaching change in the whole of the Admiralty set-up, and it would mean going very much further than this proposal. That is why the Admiralty believe that the correct solution is to appoint a deputy superintendent (industrial). It is a slightly different name and the functions are probably a little different, but we believe that this is a very important suggestion.
Hon. Members have in various degrees welcomed this suggestion. The hon. Member for Wigan was suspicious, the hon. Member for Devonport said it was an improvement and the hon. Member for Edmonton wanted to know 1961 who was to be appointed. The Committee themselves said that managers of the three main departments, namely constructive, engineering or electrical engineering, should qualify, so I do not quite understand why he was objecting to a naval engineering officer holding the appointment. An engineering officer is, of course, in charge of the engineering department at the main dockyards. However, it is clear that these officers will have to be appointed from one or other of those sources.
We believe it is best to appoint a man in one yard as an experiment. There is nothing wrong in experimenting. After all, if we had had an experiment at Kongwa we might very well have saved the public a great deal of money! This is a serious experiment. There has been a tendency in one or two quarters of the House tonight to suggest that we were not in earnest about this experiment. We are in earnest about it. It will be given a fair trial. I am not in a position tonight to say at which dockyard we will begin. I had hoped that I should be able to do so, but I am not.
This new deputy-superintendent will have a high status. It is not correct to say that his status will not be high. He will be deputy to the Admiral Superintendent, and therefore the second man in the yard. After we have experience of the experiment we shall judge how best to proceed in the other yards.
We have had an interesting debate. After the remarks that were made from the Opposition benches, it is not right that the debate should close without our paying a tribute to those who work in the Royal Dockyards in these times of re-
§ armament. They have done an excellent job over the last few years, from the highest official to the ordinary skilled and unskilled man. It is only right that a message should go from this House that. whatever has been said in the debate, we believe they have done an excellent job
§ I hope that the hon. Member for Wigan will accept these remarks of mine, and will withdraw his Amendment which, of course, cannot be accepted. It would be a great pity if the party opposite were to do anything to bring the dockyards into a political issue in this House. It is now many years since there has been a Division on a Service Estimate and I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will do nothing to detract from this record. I appeal to the hon. Gentleman—
§ Mr. R. Williams
Is there not another way of looking at that point? Is it not a fact that the Select Committee were unanimous in their decision and that the Select Committee consisted of Members of all parties? Therefore, to withdraw the Amendment would involve a reflection upon the Committee and support for the almost indefensible replies put forward by the Admiralty.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes. 189: Noes, 157.1965
|Division No. 121.]||AYES||[10.13 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Braine, B. R.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Crouch, R. F.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J||Brooman-White, R. C.||Cuthbert, W. N.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Deedes, W. F.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Digby, S. Wingfield|
|Assheton, Rt Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Bullard, D. G.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Baldwin, A. E||Burden, F. F. A.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm|
|Banks, Col. C.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Drewe, C.|
|Barber, Anthony||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Eden, Rt. Hon. A|
|Barlow, Sir John||Campbell, Sir David||Fell, A.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Cary, Sir Robert||Finlay, Graeme|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Channon, H.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Fletcher-Cooke, C|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fort, R.|
|Birch, Nigel||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Foster, John|
|Bishop, F. P.||Cole, Norman||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Boothby, R. J. G||Colegate, W. A.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)|
|Bowen, E. R.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Godber, J. B.||Maclean, Fitzroy||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Gower, H. R.||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Speir, R. M.|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||Markham, Major S. F.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Marples, A. E.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Maude, Angus||Storey, S.|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Molson, A. H. E.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Heath, Edward||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Oakshott, H. D.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J||Odey, G. W.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W)|
|Hope, Lord John||O'Neill, Phelim (Co, Antrim, N.)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N|
|Horobin, I. M.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Osborne, C.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Peyton, J. W. W.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Pitman, I. J.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Powell, J. Enoch||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Kaberry, D.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Kerr, H. W.||Profumo, J. D.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Raikes, Sir Victor||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Rayner, Brig. R.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Redmayne, M.||Wellwood, W.|
|Legge-Bourme, Maj. E. A. H.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Linstead, H. N.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Robertson, Sir David||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Roper, Sir Harold||Wills, G.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Russell, R. S.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mckibbin, A. J.||Scott, R. Donald||Mr. Studholme and Mr. Conant.|
|Albu, A. H.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Keenan, W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Kenyon, C.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Follick, M.||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Foot, M. M.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Bartley, P.||Gibson, C. W.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Bence, C. R.||Glanville, James||Lewis, Arthur|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Logan, D. G.|
|Benson, G.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||MacColl, J. E.|
|Beswick, F.||Granfell, Rt. Hon. D. R||McGhee, H. G.|
|Bing, G. H. C||Grey, C. F.||McGovern, J.|
|Blackburn, F||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McLeavy, F.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hale, Leslie||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Boardman, H.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Manuel, A. C.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G||Hamilton, W. W.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Hannan, W.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hargreaves, A.||Messer, F.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hayman, F. H.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Herbison, Miss M.||Morley, R.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hobson, C. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Carmichael, J.||Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Moyle, A.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Houghton, Douglas||Murray, J. D.|
|Champion, A. J||Hoy, J. H.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Oswald, T.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Paget, R. T.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Collick, P. H.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Pannell, Charles|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Jeger, George (Goole)||Paton, J.|
|Deer, G.||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)||Pearson, A.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Peart, T. F.|
|Driberg, T. E. N||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Poole, C. C|
|Popplewell, E.||Sorensen, R. W.||Wigg, George|
|Porter, G.||Sparks, J. A.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Willey, F. T.|
|Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Sylvester, G. O.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Pursey, Cmdr, H.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Rankin, John||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Thomas, David (Aberdare)||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Reid, William (Camlachie)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Thornton, E.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Yates, V. F.|
|Ross, William||Wallace, H. W.||Younger, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Weitzman, D.|
|Short, E. W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Wheeldon, W. E.||Mr. Royle and|
|Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Mr. Kenneth Robinson.|
|Slater, J.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Test)
In resuming the general debate, I feel some trepidation, as a landsman, in joining in a seamen's discussion. This is the annual opportunity for naval men to indulge in friendly criticism of the Service which they hold in affection. I would only say that, first, from a constituency point of view, my own town is intimately connected with the Royal Navy's sister service, the Merchant Navy. Then I say that we owe to the Admiralty from time to time in ship repairs some of the work which prevents the recurring of unemployment in Southampton. I would add that my own town of Southampton in the very early days of the Second World War provided in Jack Mantle, V.C., one of the great heroes of the Navy at the beginning of that war, and that the Navy is held in affection by civilians as well as by ex-naval Service men.
I want tonight to call the attention of the House to a problem which I have already raised at Question Time, namely, the recruitment of young men as officers for the Royal Navy. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hull, East (Commander Pursey) has already spoken about the question of Dartmouth, and it was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), who opened the debate from this side of the House. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hull, East was one of those pioneers of the democratisation of the Royal Navy and has for many years advocated the policy of promotion from the lower deck and the opening of cadetships to boys from all schools.
We began to do that in the post-war years. The Labour Government opened Dartmouth to all boys of ability, independent of their social status, and made 1966 education at Dartmouth Royal Naval College entirely free. Previously, entry had taken place as a result of an examination at the age of 13 and that examination was timed to suit the break between preparatory school and public school. It was an examination devised in time for the upper and middle-class boys of this country who could be trained expensively either at preparatory schools or by private tutors and who, as a result, had practically a monopoly of places at Dartmouth.
Since the war we have changed that. Cadets now enter at the age of 16 or thereabouts, apart from a group of special entry cadets who enter at 18. This change of the age for examination and this freeing of Dartmouth Royal Naval College has proved a widening of the social range from which we draw the future officers of the Royal Navy. That is as it should be. On this side of the House and, I imagine, in most quarters on the opposite side of the House, we refuse to believe any more that the potential officers of the Royal Navy are to be found in one particular social class.
Ranker officers played a vital part in winning the First World War after the cream of the young Regular officers had been sacrificed in the early days of that war. Ex-public school officers and ex-elementary schools officers, side by side, worked together with great sacrifice and great glory in the First World War. Yet, in the cynical years that followed, there were sneers at the ranker-officer and a London theatre put on a play which disparaged "The Temporary Gentleman," the temporary gentleman being a boy of the working class who had secured a ranker's commission during the war. The Regular officer class of this country drew in again and we recruited between the wars in all three Services, as we had done before, largely from one social class for the officers of the country. 1967 After the Second World War we have not gone back to that and I do not believe we ever shall. But there are hints and talk of moves which would reverse the process of democratising the officers of our Army, Navy and Air Force which has taken place in the past six years. When I put my first Question down about the examination results at Dartmouth, "The Times Educational Supplement," in a front page paragraph, "lifted its eyebrows" and was distressed. It did not see why the sons of officers should not have preference over other candidates in selecting for Dartmouth.
It thought that a good reason for admitting a candidate to Dartmouth was that his father had been there before him. One might agree with this if one were discussing whether one should accept one or another of two candidates entirely equal in other ways in merit, but we do not want a sentimental nepotism in selecting the candidates who will go to Dartmouth. The First Lord has agreed with me across the Floor of the House—and if I interpret aright what he said today he would agree again—that we want the best lads in the country as cadets at Dartmouth, no matter what is their social origin.
On this side of the House we do not believe that social status should have anything to do with the selection of future officers. We have sufficient faith in Dartmouth Royal Naval College to believe that whatever is the social origin of the candidates who are taken into the College the pattern of education and the traditions of a great public school will produce from all the candidates the kind of officer the Navy want, provided the boys who are sent there have not only the intellectual ability but also the character and the personality.
I am one of those who are anxiously waiting to know what the report of the working party has to say about this tremendously important question of the selection of boys for Dartmouth. Boys first sit for a written examination, which is a stiff hurdle in itself, and rightly so. It eliminates 80 per cent. or 90 per cent. of the candidates, weeding out a tremendous number of those who want to go in. Despite the more favourable conditions under which public school boys are educated—smaller classes and better amenities—grammar school boys are sur- 1968 mounting the hurdle of this written examination in increasing numbers year by year.
I would remind the House of the figures which the First Lord gave me last March. In the written examination 55 grammar school boys passed the written examination, as opposed to 44 public or direct grant school boys. The written examination is followed by an interview, and it is this interview that hundreds of thousands of people like myself are troubled and anxious about. Personally, I would acquit the interviewers of any deliberate unfairness. I should think that the views held by "The Times Educational Supplement"—a preference for officers' sons—are, on the whole, to the right of the most intelligent opinions in the country, and I should not imagine that the interviewers would allow that kind of factor to weigh in selecting the boys.
I would not charge the interviewers with deliberately giving extra marks on interview to old public school boys in preference to say, London grammar school boys, although not everybody would share that opinion. I would also agree that a test of intellectual ability is not enough to warrant entry into a cadetship or to entitle one to a place at Dartmouth. A naval officer friend of mine—a political opponent who does not share my views on entry into Dartmouth—once said. "We do not want intellectual spivs to get into Dartmouth." I thought that was a horrible expression. I suppose he meant that an officer must have more than an academic knowledge of mathematics, English, science and the rest; but I imagine that even my friend would not say that the Royal Navy did not need brains as well as other qualifications.
What I would emphasise is that it is a fallacy to imagine that the bright boys of the grammar schools are all weedy scholars, are crammed for examination success and are only able to write down the correct answers, and that personality, leadership, courage, loyalty and virtue are rarely to be found in the great mass of the nation's children who do not go to public schools. Rather, the claim I would make is that among the grammar school boys, as among the public school boys, there are to be found youngsters of character, initiative. virtue, and personality.
If the interviewers are doing their job scientifically, and if the interviews are 1969 objective, I believe it would be impossible for there to be such a staggering result as that which I was given last March; 44 public school boys passed, and 22 accepted at the interview, while 55 grammar school boys passed, and only seven were accepted at the interview. The interpretation of such a result, as put by the First Lord, when he seemed to claim that the examiners had chosen on the grounds of personality and initiative and the like, is a slander on our grammar schools.
One knows that the interviewing boards have a very difficult job. They need the wisdom of Solomon. They need to be able to get beneath the social veneer—and I use the expression in no offensive sense whatever. But social graces are a veneer, compared with the rich qualities of human nature, and the boards will have to recognise that objection to less well cultivated accents, and a lesser back ground of general culture and less ability to display all of one's virtues and abilities at the age of 16 years—which may handicap a child of poorer family and a child who has not had a most expensive education—may rob the Royal Navy of a potential officer.
By denying such a boy the opportunity to go to Dartmouth, the Royal Navy may lose an officer of great distinction. I am always concerned about the class gulf which exists between our children. I do not worry about it among adults—indeed, some of us find it rather amusing, but anything which hinders a child of ability from securing his rightful place in the community must cause concern among all right-minded people.
Efficiency in the Royal Navy, as elsewhere, will be highest if the best lads are recruited. If there is difference of opinion as to who are the best children—and indeed we find it difficult to measure who are the best—we should at least be able to lay our hands upon our hearts and say that no social distinction has entered into deciding who are the best. I sincerely hope that there is not going to be any reverting, in the working party's report, and the entry age taken back to 13 years in order to benefit the preparatory and public schools. It might, perhaps, be wise to have a double system of entry; that is, to earmark some places at Dartmouth for children from the public schools, and some for those from the 1970 grammar schools. This system would at least remove all question of snobbery in the matter of selection.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
Would the hon. Member not agree that the job of the Admiralty examiners, and the job of the nation, is to find the best possible candidates who will make the best possible officers for the Royal Navy? Why make any division between one lot and another?
§ Dr. King
The hon. Gentleman has not understood what I was talking about. I agree with him that what we need to do is to choose the best children. The opinion of many of us is that the best children are not being chosen at present and that social distinction enters into the selection. I suggest that, at any rate as an intermediate measure, we should divide the entry into two groups so that in the case of one group we prevent social distinction from counting.
I hope that we shall not take the interview before the written examination. That would only conceal the problem. At present, we know that six out of seven grammar school boys with enough brains for the Navy are not allowed to become cadets, for a variety of reasons about which we are not yet certain. We ought to make sure that the social structure of the board selecting candidates conforms in some way to the social structure of the country. If the board is top-weighted with naval officers or representatives of one social class, its judgment, with the best will and all the sincerity in the world. will be subjective and will be over-weighted in favour of the way of life to which its members have been used and which they appreciate most.
My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. A. Roberts) recently raised in the House a parallel case to the one at Dartmouth to which I have referred. He spoke of a boy who was sent, during his period of National Service, to a joint Services language school by the Royal Navy. From that, had he been successful, the boy might have been chosen by the Admiralty board as a candidate to proceed to London University where, as a midshipman, he would have taken a course in 1971 Russian because he wanted to be an interpreter officer. He was examined by the Admiralty board, and was awarded 70 per cent. A boy with 65 per cent. secured a midshipman's place. A Leeds boy with 85 per cent. did not secure a place, nor did the boy with 70 per cent.
So, in its wisdom, the Admiralty board decided that this young man was not fit to proceed to London University under the auspices of the British Navy as a midshipman to learn Russian. The extraordinary thing is that at the age of 17 the boy has won a State scholarship to Cambridge and when he has completed his National Service he will proceed there and take a degree in modern languages. Thus we have a boy of undoubted intellectual attainment, of university scholarship standard, rejected by the Admiralty board on grounds which are unknown or vague. This parallels the selection of less intellectually able boys over intellectually able boys for Dartmouth.
These are only part of a much bigger problem, but I believe that we have done rather wonderful things in the Royal Navy. The Navy is building a tradition of promotion from the lower ranks. We have begun to transform two schools. One was originally almost a charity school—the Greenwich Hospital School—and we are making it a "public" public school with boys of all social classes receiving everything that we call a "public school education." In the Royal Navy College at Dartmouth, also, we have moved towards that goal in the six years following the war.
Nobody has yet said that the intrusion from the ordinary schools of Britain into Dartmouth has done Dartmouth any harm at all, and I am sure that if we want the best officers in the Royal Navy, and if we want Dartmouth to be the best kind of public school, it must be by making perfectly sure that the boy of ability, if he is born in a humble village or if he is born in the busman's cottage, has exactly the same opportunity of rising through Dartmouth to the highest possible development of his talents as has the boy who is fortunate to be born into a better home and to go via the public school to his place there.
§ 10.46 p.m.
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
I know that the House will forgive me if I do not follow the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) in his arguments, because I have my own arguments that I wish to develop and I do not wish to keep the House too late.
I want to return to the problem of the dockyards. I think the Admiralty are lacking in courage in allowing themselves to be forced into producing an answer to the Select Committee. On a previous occasion when a Select Committee sat on the dockyards, the Admiralty laughed it off and never produced anything by way of a reply, or, if they did, it was done in secret, because it was never published.
I have a certain amount of sympathy with the Admiralty. Surely, if a Select Committee went to investigate the activities of the Jockey Club, no one would expect that club to alter their complete rules of racing because a Select Committee said they should. For that reason I am glad that the Admiralty have held their ground. I think in certain matters they are moving, and I want to deal with different questions from those that some hon. Members opposite dealt with earlier in the debate.
I congratulate hon. Members opposite on having forced the Admiralty into the open, and made them give an answer to the Select Committee's findings. On this Select Committee £279 has been spent for the shorthand notes, £1,142 in having the Report printed, and then there was the valuable time of many Members of Parliament and admirals and superintendents of dockyards and others. I do not know what good the investigation does, but I am glad that we have had an answer out of it.
The main thing that the Opposition has been seeking is to get someone to supplant the Admiralty Superintendent in the dockyards. They seem to think that a civilian could do the job.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is going back to the Amendment we have now finished with.
§ Brigadier Clarke
I am sorry. I thought I was in order in mentioning the dockyards, because they come into the Estimates. I am anxious to get on to them and to 1973 develop my arguments when you will see, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I shall be in order.
§ Brigadier Clarke
I want to talk about the Admiral Superintendent. Possibly, they could be drawn from either civilians or from the Navy, and my own view is that we will not get anyone who will do the job well unless he has had previous naval experience and experience at sea.
The fault I find with the set-up of the dockyards is that there are not enough supervisory grades below the Admiral Superintendent. I think most of the Admiral Superintendents who have been at Portsmouth recently have been kind enough to admit that they could well do with far more supervisory staff under them. I think there is an enormous scope for improvement in this respect. This was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale), when he said that much money would be saved by spending a little more money on supervision.
I think that at the same time this scheme would give an outlet for the apprentices. There is something like a 40 per cent. wastage of apprentices at the dockyards. They are given a good technical education and it is shocking that they should be allowed to go away into civil life and be wasted. If there were more supervisory grades there would be more places for them to go on to later. Giving them only one job at the top as manager of a dockyard under the Admiral Superintendent will not encourage them at all. Some I would like to see become technical officers in the Navy with the electrical knowledge they acquire when they do their apprenticeship.
Admiralty Superintendents should have previous dockyard experience, and I personally would like to see, when the Navy has more officers, officers of junior rank going into the dockyards pari passu and alongside the civilian supervisory grades, all competing for the top job. In the Army we have soldiers and civilians working together and the net result is a more harmonious organisation. The dockyards are almost the equivalent of Chilwell in the Army, where there are many thousands of men employed, with 1974 officer grades and civilians working alongside each other. As a result of that combination there are not half the problems that come to hon. Members who have dockyards to look after. In Portsmouth, I have the dockyard workers coming to me every week-end with their grievances. If there were more supervisory grades and more qualified officers they would be able to take their problems to them.
Next, I should like to talk about the merit awards. They were remarked on in the Select Committee, and we have not really heard the answer tonight. In Portsmouth Dockyard there are many men who should get the merit award, but do not get it because there is a limit on percentage only who are allowed to get it in the dockyard. No comparable civilian organisation would have such an arrangement where only a percentage of men could get a merit award. Every man who is capable of doing the job should get the money for it and not be held up by an arbitrary figure of 20 or 15 per cent. of those in the dockyard who could have the money. That was one of the Recommendations of the Select Committee and I have not seen an answer to it and when the Parliamentary Secretary replies to the debate he might be able to mention it.
I would now mention personnel officers; if the rest of my suggestions were implemented, there would be——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I stopped the hon. and gallant Gentleman before on this dockyard problem. I would refer him to Erskine May, page 706, where it is laid down quite clearly that a subject discussed on an Amendment cannot be raised again on the main Question. I hope he will try to confine himself to other matters.
§ Brigadier Clarke
I have practically come to the end of my remarks on the dockyards, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I will endeavour not to go beyond the point you have suggested.
To change the subject, I want to refer to a remark made the other day by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who referred to the Navy as a museum piece, and said we could not afford an Army, an Air Force and a Navy. Most hon. Members would have been very sorry if we 1975 had not had a Navy at the beginning of the last war. It certainly was not a museum piece then and I do not think anyone would say it is a museum piece now.
If we decided to do away with any of the three Services, I would prefer to do without the Army, because I think we could carry on with the Home Guard, with some assistance from the other side of the House in its recruitment. But I should be out of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I dealt with the recruiting of the Home Guard. I will only ask hon. Members opposite not to refer to the Navy as being a museum piece or to suggest it should be disbanded because we cannot afford three Services.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is smiling. If we abolished the Navy, as, no doubt, he would like us to do, he would he one of the first people to starve when the next war started. We all hope it will not start, but we think that the Navy is a good thing to have to safeguard this country.
I want to draw the attention of the First Lord to a case which was put to me last week. The wife of a petty officer stationed at Malta was to join him by sea. The passage was unduly delayed and eventually the husband was told that his wife could be flown out to Malta, but that he would have to pay her passage and could claim her passage money afterwards. Eventually, he put in a claim and found that a deduction had been made for the seven days' food ration she would have eaten if she had gone by sea. That is the height of Treasury folly, and is one of the pinpricks which should be raised in this House. Anything that the First Lord can do to stop that sort of thing will be all the benefit of the Navy.
I had much more I wanted to say about the dockyards, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but if you will let me skate round the perimeter of the subject, I want to ask the Civil Lord whether he will consider the pensions of dockyard workers. From 1949 onwards they are allowed to count the whole of their service for pension, but only half of their time is allowed previous to 1949. These men stood by during the war, they were bombed and generally had a thin time. The least we can do is to see that they 1976 are pensioned for the whole of their service instead of from an arbitrary date like 1949.
There is nothing else I have to say which would not be ruled out of order. I had arranged this speech for the previous part of the discussion.
§ 11 p.m.
§ Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)
I should probably be out of order if I followed the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) in his speech, except that, without being out of order, I might make a brief reference to supervisory staff, and suggest that the appointment of a few good plannng engineers in place of some of the admiral superintendents might be beneficial to the supply and production departments. There is one other point I should like to mention here. It is indeed a change when one gets a brigadier suggesting that as an alternative to doing away with the Navy he would sooner do away with the Army. I wonder what he would say to that question if he represented Alder-shot instead of Portsmouth, West.
What I rose to speak upon briefly is a matter about which we heard a good deal last week in other Estimates, namely, married quarters for naval personnel. Little attention has been devoted to this problem, and it deserves as much attention as has rightly been suggested should be given to this provision for the Army. One of the biggest problems which has to be faced is the provision of married quarters for naval personnel. With regard to what might be called ancillary branches, the Signal Service and the Royal Naval Air Service, something is being done; but I am not sure that much is being done for the poor old matelot. Out of the amount to be provided for this purpose in the Estimates for the Navy in general I am not sure how much is for naval personnel proper. and how much is for ancillary services.
In Portsmouth, there is practically no married quarters accommodation. The position is the same at Chatham and at Devonport. Have a look at those barracks and see what grim, dismal places they are. The wives do not have to live there, but it is equally true that the men are not able to live with their wives. That is one of the principal causes of discontent among married men. One thinks of naval men as being people who serve in 1977 ships, but the whole gamut of organisation means increasingly large shore establishments for naval personnel. It is high time something was done to improve the conditions for married men by the provision of quarters for them. If that were done I feel that there would be a better flow of long-service men into the Navy, and that there would not be so much antipathy to re-signing for second, and longer periods.
Another aspect is the amount of money spent on providing outside accommodation for naval personnel in the form of furnished flats, and so on. I am satisfied that much more has been spent in London alone than would be necessary if married quarters were provided. Large sums have also been spent in most of the other large naval dockyard areas, where there are naval establishments, in the provision of outside accommodation, and I am convinced that it is more costly and far less satisfactory than would be the provision of proper quarters. No one will complain about the new accommodation which is being provided, particularly for ancillary services. It is first-class and properly equipped. Personnel and their wives will be happy to live in it; but what we need is much more.
I therefore make this plea on a subject about which little has been said. I feel that some attention should be given to this matter, and I hope that either the First Lord or the Civil Lord will tell us that after all these years of neglect something is really being done to provide proper and sufficient quarters for married personnel in the Navy.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Captain Robert Ryder (Merton and Morden)
I welcome the point of view put forward by the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) in advocating greater consideration for married quarters for the Royal Navy, but the hour is late and I think that we ought to try to keep our remarks brief.
I should like to refer to the speech of my right hon. Friend the First Lord, which contained some very interesting and significant remarks. I was very glad to hear him outline some of the achievements in the field of research and development, notably regarding the angled deck and steam catapult, the new gas turbine and the new muzzle-loading anti- 1978 submarine gun. This shows that, within its limits, the Navy is keeping well to the fore in the matter of scientific development, and is a matter in which we can feel considerable pride.
The most significant remarks by my right hon. Friend were in his outline of the present strength of the Soviet fleet, when he told us that the Soviet now have a larger fleet in commission than we have. It is a very significant landmark in our history when we are informed that we have dropped to third place, and significant enough, I should have thought, to merit some passing reference in the recent debate on the defence White Paper.
It is very surprising indeed that in the last two defence debates only a derisory reference was made to any of our maritime problems, and I was glad that the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) reinforced this point in opening the debate today from the Opposition side of the House. Surely there is something wrong in the lack of interest which is displayed, either in the House or by the Government, in facing up to our naval problems. I should have thought that if remarks of that kind were to be put before the House, it would not have been a bad plan to ask the First Lord to speak in the defence debate. As it is, his remarks have passed almost without comment. It seems to me that, faced with a formidable fleet of some 20 cruisers and 100 destroyers, it is about time that our Navy Vote received more consideration.
It is true, of course, that unless we are prepared to suggest a greater expenditure on our Armed Forces, what we spend on one Service has to come out of the total allocation for defence. When viewing the progress of our defence expenditure over the years since the war, it is evident that more and more is being spent on our ground forces at the expense of our Air Force and, particularly of our naval forces.
It is at the expense of our naval and sea forces that we are building up what might well be called a continental strategy and in the past that has been disastrous for this country. This is showing itself up, principally as far as the Navy is concerned, in the field of naval aviation, and it has been giving some of us a great deal of concern. The 1979 First Lord made a frank statement on the deficiencies facing the Navy in this respect. Without going into past history there are many sad tales. There is the Gannet. It is too late and too heavy. It can only operate from carriers and, can, therefore, be used only in small numbers. There is the Attacker, which has proved unsatisfactory apparently, and now is only a transitional aircraft. The Sea Hawk, upon which we are now pinning so much hope, is coming on really too late.
§ Mr. J. P. L. Thomas
I did not say that the Attacker was unsatisfactory. The reports are extremely good.
§ Captain Ryder
I do not wish to start a dispute on this matter. If it is so good it should have gone into full-scale production, but apparently it is an interim aircraft to be superseded by the Sea Hawk, which is coming along too late in the day. Now we are told that there is to be a new twin jet fighter which has been granted super-priority. This is certainly welcome news. In the past we have endeavoured to press on the Admiralty our misgivings about the development of aircraft for the Navy.
The fault lies somewhere between the Ministry of Supply and the Admiralty, but the information reaching me now is that my right hon. Friend really has made considerable efforts to try to get things moving in the right direction, but I am wondering whether it is within the ability of the Admiralty alone to solve this very difficult problem of providing the Navy with the aircraft it wants. They are very difficult aircraft in many respects because they have all the difficulties of the shore-based aircraft in addition to the problems of deck landings, and there are many inherent difficulties in the production of naval aircraft.
They are virtually a small order. The aircraft are complicated and they do not appeal very strongly to the aircraft industry in any country. Either the Admiralty gets a second-rate firm or, if it goes to one of the main firms, it is extremely lucky if it gets the best aircraft designers put on the job. There are far more attractions in producing large numbers of aircraft such as Comets, which are required all over the world. With naval aircraft they are executing a very 1980 small order. There are very few countries which want obsolete naval aircraft.
In facing this problem the Admiralty is in a very difficult position. I am sure that my right hon. Friend is doing his level best to tackle it, but it goes outside the Admiralty and requires a little more interest from the Ministry of Defence if it is to be solved. If it is not solved the naval air arm will become completely obsolete, which would be a most serious matter for the protection of trade in the unhappy event of hostilities.
In going through these Estimates it seems to me that the Admiralty has managed to make most commendable progress in the field of research and development, but at the cost of running down stocks, of fuel and ammunition. That is an expedient which can be followed only for one year. After that period it becomes dangerous indeed. I do hope that that point of view will be studied by the Ministry of Defence.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
We have heard a great deal, particularly from the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) about the wastage of apprentices. I suggest there is a wastage of boys from the Sea Cadet Corps, too. I know of a group of boys in a school who were called upon to form a Sea Cadet unit. They were about 12 or 13 years of age and they were told that they would do their National Service in the Navy. They got deferments until they were 19 and then they went into the Army because there was not room for them in the Navy.
To me, that is a great waste of hard training. Some of them had been to Chatham to learn navigation and were looking forward to doing their National Service in the Navy. This experience had a serious effect on recruiting for the Sea Cadet unit. That is a waste of a boy's energies and time and it is a waste of money. The sum of £114,500 has been spent on Sea Cadet units, yet not one of these eight boys was permitted to do his National Service in the Navy.
That is one wastage and another wastage is in marine engineering apprentices. Having completed their apprenticeship, they have to do their National Service. I know of a number 1981 apprenticed in shipyards who cannot get into the Navy, but are called up into the Army. That, too, is a frightful waste, because in war they would not be in the Army but would go to sea as sea-going engineers. If they were conscripted at all they would be conscripted into the Navy, because the Navy is our first line of defence to bring us food and protect our shores. Yet these boys are invariably called into the Army. I have had several individual cases of marine engineering apprentices who opt for the Navy, but cannot get into it to do their National Service. That is a waste of manpower and the Admiralty or the Ministry of Labour and National Service should see to it that marine engineering apprentices do their National Service in the field in which their services would be required in case of war.
I also want to raise the question of the Royal yacht and small hospital ship which, I understand, is to cost £1 million. I know something about this ship. Ship builders in Clydebank are proud of the fact that they have this ship to build. They realise that out of John Brown's yard have come some of the finest ships ever built and no doubt this will be a very fine ship. But citizens in Clydebank have had a very hard job in getting even 60 tons of steel for a destructor plant. It comes as a great shock to them to know that all this steel can be used to build a yacht with watertight compartments, watertight bulkheads right down her length from 12 to 30 feet apart. It is to have a gangway to take two limousines, a helicopter landing deck, a swimming pool and a church. Thousands of tons of steel are going into the making of this yacht.
If the order books were not full and if the economic situation were not such as it is, if we had adequate supplies of steel for various constructional purposes needed in the burgh of Clydebank—which was heavily blitzed—I doubt if there would be any complaint. But it seems strange that with all these shortages and all the efforts which my predecessor and I have made to get steel for essential work in this blitzed area, all this steel can go into the building of a yacht.
I am given to understand that this yacht would not be used to convey the 1982 Royal party from this country to the Dominions but would be sent, under a crew of about 150, to Australia, New Zealand, Canada or wherever it may be; that the Royal party would go by air and the ship would meet them out there. In our present economic situation this seems to be a great waste of manpower and materials.
Furthermore, this ship of 4,000 tons is of such a construction that she might be rather difficult in rough water. The suggestion made to me when I asked about it was that in the North Atlantic or Pacific gales she might be very uncomfortable. Yet she is to be a hospital ship. It is suggested that in time of war some of the state-rooms can be converted to an operating theatre. If she is going to be uncomfortable for people in normal health I am certain she will be very uncomfortable as an operating theatre in certain sea conditions in the Pacific.
The people who are building the ship in John Brown's yard say that when this yacht leaves she will be able to sail through anything. Nevertheless, I should like the First Lord to tell us whether it is a fact that this ship will not be used for the conveyance of the Royal party from this country to the Dominions, but will merely go out light, with a crew of 150. That is a most amazing fact, if it is true.
I want to return to this question of calling up apprentices for National Service. We all hope that war will never come; but our experiences in the past—and they are not likely to be any different in the future—are such as would lead us to believe that if war does come the most important element in the defence of this country will be our capacity to bring in food and raw materials. There is no doubt about that. Therefore, it is imperative that we keep all the manpower we possibly can in our shipyards and do nothing to withdraw skilled labour or to encourage it to leave. We should see to it that our shipyards are kept in full employment.
We are getting extremely short of dry cargo vessels and our tanker fleet is now getting quite disproportionate in comparison. There may be many reasons for that—I do not know—but it is imperative, not only for manning ships as engineers but because if war came certain yards and areas would be ship's 1983 hospital yards, that we should keep all the men we possibly can, because a tremendous amount of manpower will be required for the repair of ships damaged by bombing.
Any sea-going engineer of master mariner will affirm that there are no better engineers for the salvage and repair of ships than British engineers. Many who have put into ports all over the world have told me that they have never had a job so efficiently done, especially under war conditions, as in British yards. I hope, therefore, that in the future apprentices completing their apprenticeships in British shipyards will not be drafted into the Army to do something which they do not want to do, but will be sent into the Navy to do their National Service as artificers, so that they can maintain contact with their profession and can obtain the sea-going experience which is vital if we are ever drawn into another war.
§ 11.25 p.m.
§ Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)
Mine is a very short point, and a very narrow one. It concerns the Directorate of Electrical Engineering, in Bath. There are in that city a very small number of staff who have had their pay situation open and undecided since 31st December, 1945. The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) and I regularly make a plea on the Navy Estimates for another sympathetic look at the lot of these poor men; because I am sure that it is not the wish of the nation, nor of this House, that people should go for eight years in an indeterminate situation as regards their rates of pay.
I therefore make this plea again this year for sympathetic and favourable consideration of the plight of these few people.
§ 11.26 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I, too, want to make only a brief comment on the First Lord's statement; and that is that I was surprised that there was no reference to one sphere of naval activity in the period under review, namely, the visit of H.M.S. "Kenya" to Mombasa.
The facts are that last October, the Kikuyu troubles first came to public attention and there was a hurried move of a battalion of infantry from the Suez 1984 area. There was also the posting of this ship to Mombasa, and on many occasions I endeavoured to obtain from the Secretary of State for the Colonies some information as to what had decided the Government in sending this cruiser to Mombasa. This town is some 300 miles away from the Kikuyu reserve, and there had been no trouble in the area. The fact that the cruiser went there did not seem to be calculated to help what was already a difficult political situation, although the only information I have is from a careful reading of what has appeared in the Press.
However, the cruiser got there, in the good old Churchillian style; the crew disembarked, and marched through the town, with everybody apparently happy, except one fellow who became involved in an affray and was stabbed. There must have been some strategic reasons for having gone to the expense of sending this cruiser to Mombasa, and I should be glad if we could be told the considerations upon which the action was taken.
I have previously questioned the worthwhileness of all the money spent on the Navy. Admittedly, I must confess that such information as I have is secondhand and based mostly on an intensive reading of the writings of the late Lord Haldane—[Interruption.] I recommend them to hon. Members opposite. Lord Haldane tells how, before the First World War, at the time of the Agadir incident, the Government of the day were concerned about the worsening of the European situation and so decided, as a manoeuvre, to undertake test mobilisation. Then it was discovered, to the horror of the Government and the Prime Minister. Mr. Asquith, that the Navy had prepared its own plans.
It had been decided that troops should be landed, to the extent of six divisions, in northern France. But the Admiralty had not worried about any decisions of the Cabinet, or the Committee of Imperial Defence. The Admiralty had decided that, as the divisions were mobilised, they were to be taken, ad seriatim, and dumped on the Baltic coast. Later, when the anxious Prime Minister and his by this time very nervous Cabinet got to work on what had happened, they discovered that the Admiralty had consulted nobody but had decided on their own 1985 that the divisions should be landed on the Baltic north coast.
Then the C.I.G.S., a soldier, pointed out to them that there was something a little "phoney" about this and that no matter where the divisions were landed on the Baltic coast the Germans could always concentrate 20 divisions against a single division within 24 hours. He inquired politely—the Prime Minister backed him up—whether the Admiralty had consulted a strategic railway map of Germany. "No," said the First Lord, "it is not the job of the Admiralty to have strategic maps of Germany." Lord Haldane tells us that it was decided to set up a naval staff, and it was Lord Haldane who was intended to have the job, but he did not get it because the present Prime Minister beat him to it: but that is another story.
We ought to be given a satisfactory explanation of why the "Kenya" was sent to Mombasa, what she was supposed to do and why she was taken away so hurriedly. Unless the House can be given a satisfactory explanation, it looks as if some 40 years later the story of Agadir is to be repeated, and it looks as if there is something defective in the principles upon which the Navy is working. It may well be that the First Lord was not consulted. It may well be that this was a decision taken by the Minister of Defence, or perhaps even by the Prime Minister himself.
If it comes about that the Minister of Defence has taken decisions of this kind, if it was decided to send the "Kenya" to Mombasa without the First Lord or his naval advisers being consulted, it points clearly to a defective piece of administrative machinery. Clearly, the opinions of those who are responsible to this House for the deployment of naval forces ought to be taken into account.
I should very much like to hear from the First Lord why there is this omission from the Vote. The Vote is packed full of information, but it ends on page 12 with events of naval interest during the war. Surely it is a matter of very great naval interest that we sent this important ship to Mombasa to suppress the Kikuyu, who were 300 miles away. Its visit to Mombasa was hurried, it certainly was not defended very adequately by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and although it was defended vociferously by 1986 a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite, we were never told why that ship went there and why it was taken away.
In my anxiety for information, I must not fail to say what I think about it. I think it was a piece of bygone by-play, a piece of the gun-boat diplomacy of which the Prime Minister is so fond. There was trouble in the Kikuyu area, and we had to show our strength, and the way to do it was to send a cruiser to Mombasa. The fact that it did not do any good beyond getting a man stabbed is neither here nor there. Then the vessel was taken away again. That kind of thing is completely out-of-date.
If I may draw on personal experience, it reminds me of the difficulties we ran into in Constantinople in 1923 when the trouble with Mustapha Kemal cropped up. What there was of the British Army was taken to Constantinople and the whole of the British Fleet was concentrated off the Golden Horn. But the Turks were not a bit intimidated. I am told that they had slogans across the streets saying, "Remove the capital to Angora; the British Navy cannot steam across the desert." It showed a healthy and very justified respect for the Navy, but it also clearly showed that the Turks were not intimidated by what amounted to bluff. Furthermore, it does not add very much to respect for British military and naval thinking if our instinctive reaction is to send a cruiser somewhere irrespective of whether or not it will do any good.
I do not for a moment criticise the Government for protecting British interests or for sending a cruiser if it were a well considered, well thought out operation which demanded deployment of strength at the right time. But here, of course, it was a case of political and naval nonsense to send a battleship to Mombasa, and the proof of it rests in the fact that no sooner had the vessel arrived off Mombasa than it was taken away.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies to the debate, will tell us why this information was not given in the First Lord's statement, and whether, in fact, the decision to send it there was taken over his head by the Minister of Defence. This is another penalty the country has to pay for having a Minister of Defence without any political power. We should also like to 1987 know whether the First Lord agrees that this was rather an expensive piece of nonsense, the bill for which the country has yet to pay. I hope that we have seen the end of gunboat diplomacy, and that no more episodes like this will happen this year or as long as this Government remains in office.
§ 11.37 p.m.
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horn-castle)
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) does not think much of the Navy and he does not want to spend any money on it. He is not entirely in agreement with some of the members of his own Service, certainly not in the last war, for many soldiers were then very glad to see the British Navy.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. and gallant Gentleman must be fair. I do not criticise, and I have not criticised, what the Navy did in the last war. My criticism is that at present there is only a certain amount of money available, and we must, therefore, be sure that that money is spent to the best possible effect.
§ Commander Maitland
I do not think that that was the impression that the hon. Member got across to this side of the House. He wishes to deprecate the Navy, and I think he is doing it largely out of mere maliciousness. I do not know why. I do not know what the Navy has ever done to hurt him. That is the impression that I had. I may be wrong, of course.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), when opening the debate for the Opposition, said that the Royal Navy was not mentioned during the course of the recent defence debate. Many of us noticed that with considerable anxiety, an anxiety which was shared not only in this House but throughout the country. We have to be more careful of having too fixed ideas of what may happen in the next war. We have to remember, I think, that it must be just as unpleasant to be starved as it would be to be killed by an atomic bomb. I hope that the comparison is purely academic, but we must remember that in two world wars we were nearly starved by the use of sea weapons. It was largely done by the use of the submarine.
I want to draw the attention of the House to another weapon which was used 1988 very effectively in the last war, the surface raider. We lost in the last war 1,190,000 tons of shipping by surface raiders, and anybody who has studied the naval history of the two world wars will realise the great fear the Admiralty had about surface raiders. A tremendous naval and air effort was required to bring raiders to book. The reason why there were not more surface raiders in the last war and in the First World War was because of our superiority at sea. I would draw the attention of the First Lord to that very real argument for the need of full protection by surface vessels.
I would like to make some remarks about something which has been mentioned quite a lot in this debate—the selection of officers. I entirely agree with those hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who have said there can only be one criterion in the selection of officers—we have to get the best. But to listen to some of them, one would think some of the officers who have come from Dartmouth were a rather poor lot.
§ Commander Maitland
No one said it, but that is the impression these things give, and I wish to correct that impression. I was one of them myself, not a very distinguished one, but there have been some very fine officers who have come from Dartmouth.
§ Mr. J. Dugdale
I wish it to be quite clear that, on this side of the House, there is no question whatever of saying that officers from Dartmouth have not been exceedingly fine men.
§ Commander Maitland
I think we can go further than that and say that perhaps they have been the finest type of officer the Navy has produced. I am biased; most of us are biased, one way or another, but I think the First Lord, who gave an assurance to the right hon. Gentleman that he would do all in his power to make the Dartmouth scheme work—and I agree with that—should face the facts and honestly tell the House that if it does not work, we have got to find a way of ensuring that from all sources we draw the best officers into the Service.
I have a further point about promotion in the Navy. This is something I have 1989 always thought seriously about. I think that there are too many places in the Navy where promotion is, as it were, jammed—where you come to the end. I will give one example. Hon. Members who served in the Navy during the war will remember that when the war came along, a great many chief petty officers were made into acting warrant officers. Few people would not admit that these men did absolutely magnificent work. They proved themselves to be perfectly capable in every way of carrying out these duties. Why should there be a stop at chief petty officer, as there is at the moment? Why should he not still be able to attain promotion to commissioned warrant officer rank?
I think that if one wants a career in the Navy assured, one should be in a position in which one can at least hope for promotion. War has shown time and time again that people who would normally have been passed over, have proved to be magnificent officers. I think I am correct in saying that the officer who held the record for sinking submarines had been passed over for promotion. When we have a highly competitive service like the Navy, it is quite wrong, for convenience or anything else, to say to an officer or a man at any stage in his career, "You can get no further." A great effort should be made to see whether a method where opportunity and hope are always present can be introduced.
I was disturbed to see in the First Lord's Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates that such small progress has been made in standardisation. I came across this aspect on one or two occasions in the last war. The Navy lends itself to standardisation and now is the time we need it. It is ridiculous to say that, because so many technicians are required on other duties, we cannot standardise more than we are doing at present. I hope that the First Lord will look into that point again.
My last point is important and a difficult one to make. Have the Government considered sufficiently the loss to us of the Southern Irish ports? I have always been bitter about that and I know that the Irish have many reasons for being bitter with us. I want to talk about this without bitterness if I can. We are arming to fight Communism—if we have to 1990 fight at all—and Communism surely is an anti-Christian spirit. I cannot believe that the people of Eire would restrict their ports to us in a war of that nature.
I therefore ask the Government whether they are still in careful touch with Eire to see if we cannot get those ports reopened to us. It would dissolve much of the bitterness between the two countries. Sometimes we think that the bitterness is all on the Irish side, but it is not. Deep down in the hearts of many of us, especially those who have been in the Navy, there is great bitterness still. I wish it could be dissolved. If it could, it would be a tremendous asset for naval rearmament.
If it is true, as we all believe, with few exceptions, that through strength is our greatest opportunity for peace, surely no country could benefit more from peace or lose more than Ireland if Communism swept through the world.
§ 11.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I quite agree with the appeal of the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland). We should all like to see the end of bitterness between Northern and Southern Ireland, but I am afraid that there will be little response in Southern Ireland to the demand that the ports in the South should be opened to our Fleet. Although the Irish do not believe in Communism, they do believe in national unity and the Government of Southern Ireland have laid it down clearly, as they did in the last war, that before they can consent to the harbours of Southern Ireland being opened to the fleets of Great Britain and America, there should be an end of the partition. I am afraid, therefore, that there is not likely to be any response from Ireland unless there is a really united Ireland, recognised by this country.
Indeed, if Ireland looks at the huge Navy Estimates we are passing tonight, she will want to know whether her own policy is not one which is more likely to lead to peace and to a lesser burden on her economy than the policy that has been adopted by this country. However, I join with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in hoping that the time will come when the split between Northern and Southern Ireland will end in mutual agreement in the interests of peace.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
I think that that subject is only in order so far as it is an appeal to the Government to get in touch with Ireland.
§ Mr. Hughes
It is a tempting subject, but I only raised it to follow some of the arguments of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The speech with which the First Lord introduced these Estimates was based upon the Russian menace.
§ Sir David Campbell (Belfast South)
I should like to intervene merely to point out that the hon. Member has made certain remarks regarding what he calls the partition of Ireland.
§ Mr. Hughes
I want to refer to the speech of the First Lord in introducing the Estimates. I want to deal with what I think could be justly described as the Russian menace. The First Lord painted an alarming, rather fantastic, picture of Russian naval strength. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East (Commander Pursey), who put some pertinent points about Russia's position as a naval power and as a land power. In the last debate on the Estimates, and in the debates on rearmament, we have heard about Russian naval power. Every year 1992 it seems to grow. The first year, an increase in the Navy Estimates was justified by the picture, presented by the Minister of Defence in the Labour Government, of 300 submarines. In those Estimates we heard nothing about these cruisers, or about the other Russian vessels. Now it is asserted by the First Lord of the Admiralty that Russia's naval strength is superior to ours.
§ Mr. J. P. L. Thomas
I said the second largest fleet in commission. I was not referring to our Reserve Fleet.
§ Mr. Hughes
As Russia seems to have developed a fleet superior in some respects to that of Britain, which has been traditionally a naval power, this seems to be an extraordinary tribute to Communism. If Russia, in eight years, has been able to develop such an extraordinary fleet, with all the weapons and complications of modern sea-going vessels, then the picture of inefficient Communism must go. Instead of that, we have a picture of a Russia which, despite the devastation of war, has, in eight years, been able to build a very formidable fleet which the First Lord looks upon as a menace; and the right hon. Gentleman did not say anything about aircraft carriers. Russia does not, apparently, possess any aircraft carriers, but I expect that by the time we get the next Navy Estimates our Secret Service will have discovered some Russian aircraft carriers.
It was interesting to note that the Minister completely forgot about our potential allies. If we are to think of a war in terms of a war with Russia, a war with Communism, surely that will not be a war in which Britain alone will be fighting Russia. On the side of the anti-Communist powers, presumably, will be the United States Navy, which is enormous and is greater than all the rest of the navies put together. The French Navy will be on our side, the navies of the other powers in Europe—the Dutch, the Italian, the Norwegian—and all the other navies of the world, presumably, will be ranged against the Soviet Navy. Yet the Estimates have been based very much on the assumption that we have to take over this burden, and the strength of the other fleets is out of the picture.
The picture, therefore, is completely out of perspective, and this country is being asked to take on a huge burden of 1993 naval expenditure at a time when this is likely to be extremely damaging to our economy. How does this fit in with the picture which the Prime Minister drew in 1948 and the quotation which was given by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), who opened today's debate for the Opposition?
I remember well that speech in 1948, when the Prime Minister argued for a retention of all those battleships—the "Glorious," the "Indomitable," the "Queen Elizabeth" and the others—with the high-sounding names. He was greatly perturbed because they were going to what he called "the knacker's yard." As far as the Navy is concerned, I am in favour of the knacker's yard.
§ Mr. Hughes
Well, for a first instalment. I believe that the steel that is being used for the Navy could be easily divided out among other national purposes in a way which would strengthen the economy. But it was not so very long ago that the Prime Minister was urging the Labour Government to retain about half a dozen battleships. That was the kernel of his speech.
There was another argument to which my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich referred. In 1948, the Prime Minister attacked the Admiralty because of the number of civilians. He went on to argue very powerfully, very dramatically and very rhetorically, as the Prime Minister alone can do, that the Admiralty was the centre of a big, powerful vested interest, where people were looking out for every opportunity to preserve jobs for themselves, for their relatives and for their descendants.
Those are the words which the Prime Minister used, and I submit that that argument should be applied to the Navy of today. We still have the vested interests. Whereas the old enemies were Germany and Japan, the new enemy is now the Soviet Union, and this elaborate idea of a formidable Soviet Navy can be brought up in order to justify the continuation of the old traditions and to justify the expenditure of over £329 million of national money.
You will never get any real attempt to economise in the Navy, or the other Services, until you get an independent com- 1994 mission of businessmen, above the rival claims of the Services, who will look upon them purely from the point of view of national interest. When you do that you will get the friction disappearing, and a real attempt will be made to assess the real value of the different Services.
The amount for the Secret Service has grown to the huge sum of £4¼ million. Of course, when we discuss the spy cases which come up from time to time we are all indignant because we say that there are no British spies, but where is this money going? Some of it is undoubtedly going to that part of the Secret Service examining the position in Russia, and, of course, they have to justify to the Admiralty this conception of a huge Russian navy. I prophesy confidently that if the cold war goes on for another year, the Secret Service will have discovered some aircraft carriers in the Russian Navy.
This growth of the Russian Navy rather interests me. I saw what was the Russian Navy between the wars when it consisted of an old cruiser at the naval station at Kronstadt, the ship which put a shell through the windows of the Winter Palace, and so fired the first shot of the revolution. It is incredible that the Russians have been able to build up the submarines, frigates, destroyers and cruisers on this large scale, because they need not only the sailors but the technological staff. They need radar and all the complications of modern naval warfare To me, it is something of a miracle if this industrially backward country, torn by revolution and war, has succeeded in developing this wonderful navy. I am incredulous and sceptical about the phenomenal growth of the Russian navy, and although I am a theorist and student in these matters, I should have thought that the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East was nearer the truth than the First Lord.
How has Monte Bello affected naval strategy? Many Members have ignored this explosion altogether. There has been far less realism in this debate than there was in the debate on the Air Estimates, last Thursday. The real damage to the naval gentlemen has not been done by me, but by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey), who argued that the Navy would no longer come into the picture in another war. He disposed of the Navy 1995 as the Navy men dispose of the Army. He envisaged that there would be no declaration of war, and that the first thing we should know would be the Russian bombers coming over the North of Scotland and proceeding to flatten the country.
I noted his words carefully, because I had not expected a recruit in that quarter. He argued that in another war the Russian bombers would fly over the North of England, Manchester, and London, and flatten the country in six hours. That was the argument of the hon. and gallant Member speaking in the Air Estimates debate. Where does the Navy come in here?
The hon. and gallant Member also argued that half a dozen atom bombs might be dropped on this country. Half a dozen atom bombs is not an impossible number. The Prime Minister argued in that sense about three years ago, when he pointed out that if we had another war the very fact that the American Air Force is in this country made a target and we could expect to be bombarded with atom bombs. What has been the result of the Monte Bello exercise in regard to this? We have been told by the First Lord about the effect on water. Ships had to pass through contaminated water, with the result that they were to some extent suffering from radio activity.
Suppose half a dozen atom bombs of the Monte Bello type were dropped into the waters of this country, one in the Thames Estuary, another in the Tyne, another in the Bristol Channel, two round about Southampton and Portsmouth and one at Scapa Flow. What would become of the Navy then? We were told that the water would be radio active. It is a scientific fact that if all the waters round about naval bases had atom bombs dropped in them they would become radio active. What would become of those naval bases? If the country is flattened, how are we to operate from any of the traditional bases? How are we to use Southampton Water, Rosyth, or the Clyde? To these questions I do not think the debate has supplied any answer.
The Minister, speaking about Korea, used a phrase which was used in the Army Estimates. He talked about the 1996 beastliness of modern war. That is a new phrase to appear in the different Service memoranda introductory to the Estimates. We have often heard about the glory and glamour of war and the romantic side of war, but now the beastliness of war is stressed. When we look at the memorandum in regard to Korea we have to bear in mind that there the British Navy has been doing something of which I, for one, do not think we are entitled to be very proud.
Korea has been bombed, blasted and flattened so that the economy of North and South Korea has been almost completely destroyed. Now and again in the communiques we hear about British bombardments of these towns and cities in an attempt to destroy what are called enemy communications. We hear of British aircraft having gone from British aircraft carriers to take part in the universal destruction of Korea. I very much regret that the British Navy should have done that and that British personnel have taken part, in co-operation with the Americans, in what is one of the most terrible examples of the ruthlessness, futility and destruction of modern war that we are ever likely to have in history.
I do not agree that it is fighting Communism. The British Navy is not helping to destroy Communism in Korea; it is destroying the country, its economy, and the lives of the ordinary people in such a way that as soon as the pressure on Korea ceases and the cold war disappears to another part of the world Communism will be triumphant in spite of the destruction. Patrick O'Donovan recently wrote several interesting articles in the "Observer" and our newspaper, the "Scotsman," in which he pointed out that, instead of killing Communism in Korea, we have created conditions which, when Syngman Rhee goes, will result in a Communist Government and economy taking the place of that which exists today. When I read of British naval vessels taking part in what some hon. Members call collective security, I say that we have to revise our ideas. This is the way not to collective security, but to collective suicide.
I want to say a word in reference to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence). There has been a considerable 1997 amount of Press comment about the Royal yacht which is being built on the Clyde, in John Brown's yard. That yard is situated in one of the slummiest parts of Scotland. Hon. Members should reflect upon the fact that when people return home from building this luxurious yacht, with all its comforts, they have to go back to some of the slummiest, over-crowded one-room and two-room hovels in the whole of civilisation.
I do not know the facts, but when one sees in a well-known Sunday newspaper an article headed, "Is This Floating Palace Really Necessary?" and when one reads about the swimming pools and the other luxuries of this ship, one is entitled to ask whether this is not a waste of expenditure at the present time, when there is a demand from all quarters for economy.
I know that the argument in favour of this vessel is that it is to be a hospital ship, but if one looks at the Estimate which deals with hospitals, one finds that the estimated cost of this ship is more than the combined cost of all the naval hospital services this year. This is not in the spirit of economy and it is something which could very well be dispensed with.
My argument against these Estimates goes even further. I come back to the fundamental moral argument that war is wrong and that what is morally wrong cannot be economically and strategically right in the long run. So, although I may not have anybody else agreeing with me, when I apply this argument and the broad general argument of strategy and economy to these Navy Estimates, I claim that I am justified in making my usual protest.
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)
I will not detain the House for more than a few moments, but I should like to refer to three points, two of which have been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, South (Mr. R. Allan). He spoke of the necessity for precautions to deal with the mine-laying menace, and I should like to reinforce his remarks by asking whether it is possible for the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us something about the success of the mine-watching service. Could he also say whether there is any branch of this mine- 1998 watching service afloat, because in the last war, I remember how, very often after having been at sea for a good many days and nights, ships were detached for mine-watching duties, which was rather hard luck and which the ship's company would rather have seen done by somebody else? Could there be some kind of mine-watching vessels as there was up and down the Thames in the last war, manned by the mine-watching service?
The second point I wish to emphasise is the air protection of convoys. This appears to fall into two separate categories; close protection, and distant protection. In the last war, as I know from my own experience, it was often found that aircraft catapulted from ships were not a really practical proposition because, once they had got off, they could not get back and the wastage of pilots and machines did not make this a sound plan. There was the development of the merchant aircraft carrier, and the small carrier for convoy protection, and if there are any developments in that direction it would be of interest if the House could be told.
Another development which would be of interest, if it can be disclosed, is whether research has taken place into guided missiles for the anti-aircraft protection of convoys; that is, not only the possibility of installing these missiles in the escort ships, but also in the vessels of the convoy. My last point, already made by some of my hon. Friends, is concerned with standardisation. I should like to refer to interchangeability. Whatever people may say, in another war convoy duties would be of the most vital importance in bringing our raw materials and food here and, therefore, wherever the ships of convoys, and their escorts. may go for necessary victualling, stores, and repairs, it would be a great advantage if there could be, say, interchangeable guns, so that, one could be taken out, and another quickly fitted. If the N.A.T.O. countries could agree on the use of the same ammunition, all the better.
Such ideas would seem to cut down a great deal of unnecessary work and duplication, and I should be grateful for an answer on that matter as well as the other points I have sought to put to the House.
§ 12.20 a.m.
§ Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)
I must say at the beginning that, although I listened to the First Lord's speech with great interest, I was not impressed by the statement he made. There are two particular points from the speech of which I took particular note; one was where the right hon. Gentleman said that in a few years' time the First Lord would have to ask for considerable sums for new construction. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the nation cannot expect the Navy Estimates to be reduced for a number of years.
Before I come to the question of the cost of the Navy this year, I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give us a little more information than is contained in the First Lord's Explanatory Statement about Vote A, maximum strength, and what it might be at the end of the year. The Statement reads:Vote A provides for a maximum strength of 151,000 at the beginning of the year.We find from the Estimates that that is a reduction of 2,000 compared with the current financial year. The Statement goes on-the First Lord did not illustrate it in any way:There will be a substantial decline during the year"—I emphasise "substantial decline during the year"—as retained and recalled personnel leave the Navy. The effects of this decline on numbers of ships at sea will be kept to the minimum by reductions in complements ashore and afloat.I am sure that all hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite who served in the Navy will agree that that is a very serious part of the First Lord's Statement. When we had a very quick rundown for demobilisation after the Second World War, it was found that we had to reduce the complements of ships and also had to reduce the number of ships in commission. But that was in the days of the rundown; now we are in a period of rearmament. It is the first time since rearmament began that the First Lord has had to tell the House that there is to be a substantial decline during the year and that the effects of the decline on the numbers of ships at sea will be kept to a minimum by reductions in complements ashore and afloat. I ask the House to realise what would have been said if the 2000 Labour Government had issued a statement in the way in which this one has been issued.
I also ask the Parliamentary Secretary to let the House and the country know exactly what the paragraph in the First Lord's Statement means. It appears to be obvious that for some time the Navy is more likely to be reduced than increased, and, as hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have said, it is rather strange that in relation to the total Defence Estimates for 1953–54 the Admiralty has to admit that its fighting services will not be so good in that year as in 1952–53. Most of those who take a deep and sincere interest in the wellbeing of the Navy will be a little concerned about that situation.
I should like something cleared up in the Abstract of Navy Estimates for 1953–54. I am still on the point that I do not believe that the Admiralty has received sufficient consideration in the allocation of funds under the Defence Estimates for the year with which we are dealing. On the gross Estimate the abstract for 1953–54 is £4,500 million after allowing for the Supplementaries for 1952–53. On the Appropriations in Aid, out of which we got £10 million from America and where we are still selling some Admiralty goods in some form or another, I make it £1,450,000 more. Then we go down to a net decrease of £2¾ million, while on the Vote the general decrease is £10 million. That there should be an actual decrease in a year when the Defence Estimates have gone up is, to my mind, incomprehensible. I cannot agree with it.
The First Lord referred to the very important part which the Navy must play in the event of a conflict arising, in the same way as it played a very important role before. I suggest that he must put up a much bigger fight in future years for the allocations for the Navy out of the defence funds available than appears to have been the case this year.
It is perfectly clear to those of us who understand the situation that if the Estimates go down, then they will go down more than can actually be seen because of rising costs. I am wondering what will happen. The Admiralty is getting less money, as can be seen in some of the Votes. Stores have gone down. On one 2001 Vote the estimate is for £10,280,000 in 1952–53, but the estimate for 1953–54 is £6,670,000, a reduction in stores of over £3½ million. Personnel has not gone down so the stores must.
I should like also to refer to the Reserve situation. I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House, but these are points which do not appear to have been referred to during the debate and they are of considerable importance. After the war we were rather in a difficulty about Reserves, particularly the R.N.V.R. and the R.N.R. That certainly was the case with the R.N.R. because it was not reconstituted until some years after the war. I wonder what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport said when he read these Estimates and found that in 1953–54 there was to be less money for the R.N.R. than there was in 1952–53.
This is a time when we are building new ships, when we are trying to persuade everyone that this is a crucial moment for an interest to be taken in these things. When we look at the various items on the Vote for Reserves, we find hardly any change at all from three years ago. I wonder whether the Admiralty have really gone as fully as they ought to into the question of how they can make more Reserves. Coming to my old regiment, if 1 may describe it as such—the Royal Fleet Reserve—we find that it is still down to 20,000. Would not a little more propaganda within the Navy among the reservists and within the Merchant Navy, so far as the Royal Naval Reserve is concerned, help to provide a better Reserve than seems to be the case in these Estimates?
I come to what appears to be some alteration or confusion of figures in Vote 8. If we take Subhead K, stores, this means that we are not spending the money we really should be spending to keep the Navy as efficient as we think it should be. There is no mention of the reduction of £4,500,000 from the £29 million on fleet fuel and services. Is it because we cannot afford to buy, or is it because we cannot get what is required? Surely if it was necessary for £29 million to be spent on stores and distribution of fuel, lubricants, etc. for this financial year, in a time of rearmament it is just as necessary for us to have the same 2002 expenditure next year. I rather suspect again that the Board of Admiralty have had to reduce this figure because the Cabinet has decided they could only have a certain amount of money. If that is the case, they would obviously have to bring about a reduction somewhere.
There are other matters with regard to reductions; I think the question of guns, torpedoes, mines and ammunition was referred to by my right hon. Friend for West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale). They have dropped by nearly £8,500,000 in expenditure in the next financial year. It does seem that there has been some pressure put on the Admiralty this year in regard to fuel and stores which, as the First Lord said in his speech, will make the position very difficult for those First Lords who may have to follow him, because of the reduction in stores and the fact that new construction on some of the larger vessels is well behind time.
Now, if I may turn to my pet subject, having been Civil Lord of the Admiralty for so many years, I must express my concern at the situation revealed by Vote 10. The question of married quarters has been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) and by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Looking at page 138 of the Estimates I remembered all that was said from this side of the House between the years 1945 and 1951. Hon. Members will see that £137,000 is to be spent in 1953–54 on married quarters for works started in previous years. I think that the First Lord will agree that most of those works were started before he had the honour to hold office, so that this sum more or less represents a continuation of the schemes put into operation during the life of the Labour Government.
What do we find the future holds under Vote 10 for married quarters at home for 1953–54? After the completion of the work started by my Government, all that can be provided by the Admiralty for new works is a total Estimate of £22,000, of which £15,000 will be spent this year. What will £22,000 provide in the way of married quarters? It must be remembered that Vote 10 takes into account Northern Ireland and all our stations abroad. We are told in the Estimate that 180 will be completed in 1952–53 and 80 next year. Surely that is not progress. Indeed, it seems to me, as I am sure it appears to 2003 many other hon. Members, that this part of the Estimate is being starved.
Again, we are all concerned with the question of accommodation for personnel, particularly at home. I regret to see the trend, which I tried to point out last year, showing that we are not paying sufficient attention to the conditions of the lower deck in regard to accommodation. The problem of married quarters is not the concern of ratings only; officers come into it as well. I have seen some fine accommodation abroad provided by the Navy for its officers, but if we are to do the job properly we must have money. For some years there has been a programme in the three home ports for the modernisation of barracks. I had the pleasure of opening the first block which was modernised at Chatham. It was a wonderful improvement, but I want to impress upon the First Lord that we are not giving sufficient money for this important work which deals with the welfare of those in the Service.
It is true that £18 million is being provided in Vote 10 this year, which is more than last year, but it will only be paying for work put in hand two years ago. We shall have to decide whether it is to stop there or whether we are to have a drive such as we had in the years 1945–1950. I do not want to make party capital out of this, because the Navy Estimates are not a matter for party politics, but for trying to do our best in the interest of those who serve. But I know that there are hutments on air stations which have outlived their lives; they ought to have been scrapped some time ago.
I do not say that everything can be done at once. There is so much to do. However, I beg the First Lord and the Civil Lord to see that those who at present have to live in hutted accommodation are given permanent structures as soon as possible. We know how long such things continue in use, not only in Service life but in civilian life, year after year, with consequent deterioration which causes misery to those who have to live in them.
In the latter part of my period at the Admiralty, I considered that that was one of the first objectives which should confront the Civil Lord, provided he could get the money from the Board of Admiralty. I am sure that the Civil Lord 2004 is as sympathetic as I am to this matter; but I know that it is always a fight in which everyone cannot get what he wants. I think the Admiralty has been given a meagre allowance this year.
Dockyards have been mentioned. I think the House knows that there is a redevelopment plan for the Portsmouth and Devonport yards. It will be a long job, but until we get these yards brought up to a decent state of building and working efficiency we shall lose a tremendous amount of money. Even six years after the war this could not be cured, and I do not expect hon. Gentlemen opposite to be able to cure it in a short time. However, there ought to be careful consideration to ensure that the redevelopment plan can come into being at the earliest opportunity. Although our dockyards have done well in the past, there is not the slightest doubt that they are out of date. It would be good for the Admiralty, and for the people who have to work in the yards, if something could be done about them quickly.
Before I leave the subject of Vote A and married quarters at home, I should like to say that before I left the Admiralty a working party was set up to deal with the question of married quarters in the home ports. That, I am afraid, comes under Vote 15. I do not know whether any decision has been reached. The hon. Member for Southall felt that the fact that there are no married quarters in Portsmouth, Chatham or Devonport was having a bad effect on recruiting. I have an open mind on the provision of married quarters in the home ports, as the Parliamentary Secretary will remember, through Questions which he put to me. I should, however, like to know something about the Report and whether any conclusions have been reached. If the Admiralty have not accepted the Report, no expense is involved. If they do accept the recommendation that married quarters should be built in the home ports, expense will be incurred at some later date.
I say that because I am a little worried about Vote 15. It wll be noted from pages 216 and 217 of the Estimates that the total amount voted for new married quarters in 1952–53 was £2,150,100, whereas the figure for 1953–54 is £1,473,100. It appears that we are to spend something like £600,000 less on 2005 married quarters at home this year than we spent last year, which does not look very promising for the people who want married quarters.
Under the heading "Z.—Appropriations in Aid," on page 217, we read thatThe amount provided represents the maximum sum which may be appropriated in aid of this Vote out of issues to be made from the Consolidated Fund under the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Act, 1949, during the financial year 1953–54.Under that Act, maximum sums were allocated for loan purposes to each of the three Services. This note on page 217 gives me the impression that the amount which can be borrowed under the Act for Vote 15 has been exhausted. If so, it means that nothing more can be done out of Vote 15 after the coming year. In that event, we must rely on Vote 10, which means provision through the Estimates rather than getting money by loan.
If we have used the amount of money which can be borrowed under the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Act, whatever recommendation may be made on the erection of married quarters in the home ports will have been put back for years. I assure the House that it is extremely difficult to get money out of red tape. If the Parliamentary Secretary can give any information about this, those of us who are interested in the welfare of the men in the Service will be very pleased.
The hour is late, and I have taken up enough of the time of the House. The debate has been fairly reasonable. I am sure that the House does not accept the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), and, in wishing the Admiralty well in their labours for the ensuing year, I hope that we may have a better picture before us in 12 months' time than we have today.
§ 12.50 a.m.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary whether he would affirm the statement made by my right hon. Friend that something will be done soon about re-occupying the barracks at Chatham, which used to be occupied by the Royal Marines. This is a really pressing problem. I know that my right hon. Friend has done a good deal to see that a unit is transferred there, and the 2006 barracks put to use, but I hope that this will not become a hardy annual, for I raised the question last year.
I am rather surprised that no reference whatever has been made in the debate so far to the wonderful work done by men in the Royal Navy and the dockyards during the recent floods. I mention as an example the work accomplished by personnel of the Nore, in Sheerness Dockyard. It will be recalled that the submarine "Sirdar" and the frigate "Berkeley Castle" were overturned, and that it was estimated that the submarine would take at least a month to refloat. In fact, it was refloated in 15 days, and the frigate, which it was thought would have to be cut up in the dockyard, was refloated in 16 days. That serves as an example of the fine work not only done by men of Nore Command, but the men of the Navy and dockyard personnel wherever docks were inundated as a result of that disaster.
I want to reinforce this plea to my hon. Friend to look into the question of accommodation. This Government accepts in principle the fact that every married man has a right to a home of his own. We have certainly set out as a Government to ensure that civilians should have their homes as quickly as possible. The Army and Air Force have also accepted that task in principle.
The Under-Secretary of State for Air made perfectly clear how much importance the R.A.F. attaches to accommodation when he said, last Thursday:Our aim is still to provide a married quarter for every entitled officer and airman who wants one, and in the past year we have completed 3,000 quarters at home, and 500 overseas. We still have many more to build and we shall need some more loan money to do it. We have also carried out a thorough review of married quarters designs and standards and have made big savings. For example, we have considerably reduced the size of officers' married quarters and more of them are being built semi-detached. Airmen's quarters are smaller, too, and we have a new two-bedroom design. We have used some terrace building and some nontraditional construction."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 12th March, 1953, Vol. 512, c. 1522]That indicates the importance that the R.A.F. attaches to this question, and I think that something should be done to show those married men serving in the Royal Navy that they are not to be forgotten. 2007 What percentage of married officers and ratings now have married quarters? Is it 5, 10, 20, or 50 per cent? I do not think it is nearly as big as in the case of the other two Services. I believe that 3,000 men in the Navy had no married quarters supplied last year. How many quarters were built for naval personnel last year, and how do the figures compare with those for the Army and Air Force?
Accommodation already existing for naval personnel is, I believe, in such areas as royal naval air stations, and in the more remote areas where, in fact, there was no other accommodation, and where the Navy were forced to build to get accommodation at all. Overseas, of course, there is fairly good accommodation in Malta. We appreciate the difficulty; it is perfectly clear to everyone. Very largely it is the cost of new married quarters. One of the additional difficulties is caused by the fact that it is not so many years ago that the Navy first accepted responsibility of building married quarters, long after the Army and the Air Force did so. There is a very considerable backlog to make up.
I know we shall be told that it is a question of expense, but we are providing homes for civilians and are to provide them for men in the Army and the Air Force, presumably by subsidising the houses. The Government have accepted responsibility for civilians and it is obvious that they are accepting responsibility for the Army and the Air Force in this matter. I suggest that they have equal responsibility for building houses for men in the Navy.
I ask my right hon. Friend to give consideration to the question of endeavouring to get a block allocation of married quarters built. An adequate building programme must be embarked upon with the utmost speed if we are to maintain recruiting for the Navy. Some alleviation of the present shortage might be obtained by extending the hiring system, which is fairly widespread in the Army and the Air Force. I thought the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) was quite wrong when he suggested that it was already in operation in the great naval home ports. That is not the case. I believe that it applies only to Bath and London and in those remote areas where 2008 the Navy can do nothing else to get accommodation and have actual building in process for the Admiralty.
Why not extend the hiring system of the Navy to the home ports and take a share of the hired quarters in Chatham which are let out to Army personnel? I have no doubt that an arrangement could be come to between the Services to ensure that where there are Army and Navy establishments alongside each other the Navy should have a reasonable amount of that accommodation.
May I say how much we appreciate the statement of my right hon. Friend that the scheme—the bonus—to married men parted from their families is to be extended to the Navy? That was certainly not clear until today. I hope that the rates will be approximately the same as for the other Services, that a lieutenant will get £100 and a petty officer £55. I also hope that the Admiralty will look again at the question to see whether it is possible to extend some form of local overseas allowance to men actually serving in ships. Their hardship is no less than that of men serving ashore and away from their families. Often these men are cooped up in small ships. It would ease their lot considerably if they were placed on the same basis as men serving ashore away from their families. In many cases, they need a little brightening of their lives in port much more than those serving ashore and stationed abroad.
I hope my right hon. Friend will look very seriously at this question to see whether it is possible, even at this late hour—in both senses—to ensure that men who are ship-borne and overseas shall have some measure of local overseas allowance.
§ 1.0 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Commander Allan Noble)
First of all, I want to say how glad we are to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale) back in our Navy debates. It is something like four years since he took part. If he will allow me to say so, he made a most helpful speech.
Until this moment this has been one of the best Navy debates we have had in recent years, because it has concentrated around several major topics. The intervening Amendment drew off and 2009 canalised many of the dockyard subjects. If I tried to deal with all the different points which have been raised tonight I should make this into an all-night Sitting, and I shall, therefore, deal only with the main points. If there are others which I am not able to cover I shall write to any hon. Members who require answers. Those who took part in this debate last year will realise that that is no empty promise on the part of the Admiralty and that we do go into these matters very fully.
I want to deal first with naval aviation. My right hon. Friend dealt with this subject very fully in his opening speech and there are only one or two things I want to say about it. In the last few months there has been a considerable amount of publicity on this subject, and considerable discussion from hon. Members on both sides of the House and in the Press. There has also been a debate in another place, and it has been good to see the Navy League playing their traditional role, whatever Government is in power, of keeping these things before the public.
Much reference has been made to delays in production. I want to emphasise what my right hon. Friend said as to the position after the war. At that time it was expected that we could go on with pistonengined fighters and other aircraft of that day, pending the production of really first-class aircraft for the Royal Navy—both jet and other aircraft—but the war in Korea made the Admiralty of that day realise that their plans needed to be hurried. The right hon. Member for West Bromwich will remember that in the days when I was on that side of the House I sometimes drew attention to this problem, saying that at a certain period it was necessary to draw a line which the technicians call the "line of periodic finality." When we reach that line we have to decide to go into production and then start working on whatever weapon is to replace the one we are going into production on. We have to decide that moment, and in those days it was thought that more time could be spent on getting really first-class aircraft for the Royal Navy.
I have studied the comparisons between the production of naval and other aircraft, and I find that the periods of production through most of their stages compares very favourably; but one point 2010 at which the Navy have special difficulty is during the period between the construction of the prototype and going into production. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister drew attention to this point when he was speaking in the recent defence debate. He said it was becoming almost a normal procedure to go into production from the drawing board. although, he added, it still involved some risks.
That, of course, is our policy, but I know that the House will realise, as several hon. Members have said today, that there are special problems for naval aircraft. It has to perform more than one role, because there cannot be too many different types of aircraft in a carrier. It is subject to particular stresses when landing, as I know from landing the other day on H.M.S. "Eagle." It has also to be subject to severe stresses on being catapulted off, and there are other characteristics of naval aircraft which will come to the minds of hon. Members.
I would not deny that there are delays; and the First Lord made no attempt to deny that. However, we are determined to reduce them as much as possible in the future. On 25th February last. I said:By agreement between my right hon. Friends the Minister of Supply and the First Lord of the Admiralty, a committee was established a few months ago to look into the organisation for ensuring the timely supply of aircraft to the Royal Navy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February. 1953; Vol. 511. c. 2097.]Inadvertently, and this caused the House some amusement, I said it was a high level committee, but perhaps I should have said that it has both feet on the ground, and has already made substantial progress.
I do not think there is any need to deal with individual aircraft, except to say something about helicopters, to which several hon. Members have referred. Of course, we attach full importance to the potentialities of helicopters in antisubmarine warfare, and there is considerable research going on both here and in the United States. But if one gives some thought to this subject I think it will be found that it is not an easy problem, because modern anti-submarine equipment is very heavy and there have to be considerable periods of hovering, by day and night with its use. 2011 Before I leave naval aviation, I should like to say a word about the young men who are going to fly these fine aircraft when they come along, and the even finer machines of the future. During the summer recess, I went up in a Vampire jet trainer and we first went as fast as the aircraft was allowed to go; and that was something between 0.7 and 0.8 mach. That was a most amazing experience, but my young pilot then asked if I would like to do some aerobatics, which I gratefully declined. However, my experience has, if possible, increased my admiration for those young men of the R.A.F. and the Royal Navy who fly these planes at such speeds in battle. We still want more of these fine young pilots in the Royal Navy. The year's recruiting has been better, but we still need more, and we are determined for our part to give them the best aircraft because we know they will give of their best.
Some hon. Members have asked about what is being done to encourage young officers to take up flying; that is, the Regular officer. I would say that there is a scheme at Dartmouth where voluntary flying takes place, and last year, 22 out of 30 who attended a flying camp flew solo; and sub-lieutenants have voluntary flying available to them.
Perhaps, in this connection, I might be allowed to say a word about guided missiles. In the sphere of defence against air attack we realise that the defence of warships and convoys against aircraft depends on a combination of three things: guided weapons, fighters and guns. With regard to guns, research is, of course, going on, but it will be realised that we shall arrive at a point where, short of some revolutionary development in either metallurgy or propellants, any progress in orthodox gunnery as we know it today will be very small compared with the progress and efficiency of the attacking aircraft. With regard to guided missiles, weapons to meet this requirement are being developed on behalf of the Navy by the guided weapons organisation of the Ministry of Supply and are making good progress.
The House will realise that even after such missiles have been satisfactorily controlled from static land installations a very great deal remains to be done before they can be used from a ship which 2012 may not only be moving through the water but may also be rolling and pitching. For the armament of our fighters the Ministry of Supply are similarly developing guided weapons to meet the joint requirements of the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, and we are confident that these weapons will produce a very great advance in air combat efficiency.
I should now like to say something about reductions in stocks. Perhaps I might for a moment draw the attention of the House to the background against which these Estimates were framed. In a rearmament programme such as ours, over a period of years, there are certain things which one might call short-term, and in that category come stores, ammunition and, indeed, oil fuel, while in the second category are the capital expenditure items such as works and new construction.
In the first years of this programme, as the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. J. Edwards) will realise, we built up our stocks. It will be noticed that in the Supplementary Estimate which my right hon. Friend also presented today we spent an additional £7 million on naval stores and equipment, while, at the same time, a start was being made with the new construction programme. It will now be seen that in the current financial year we shall have spent £19 million more on stores than we shall do next year. But next year we shall spend about £20 million more on construction items and we can afford to do that because in the past years we have built up our stocks and also because it is well known now that the rearmament programme is being extended over a longer period and will, therefore, be at a lower peak each year. It is very much better to veer and haul on the short-term items like stores than to disrupt the new construction programme and cancel contracts in the yards.
The hon. Member for Stepney also raised the subject of oil fuel. Last year we spent £29 million of oil fuel services. This year we are spending £25 million, but at the same time we are running down our stocks to about £4 million, and that is an overall decrease of about £8 million. It must be borne in mind—as I am sure hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench know—that over a period of years our stocks in oil fuel have been built up and our position now is relatively secure. 2013 The position about ammunition is not as bad as the former Civil Lord thought. He had probably forgotten to take into account the Supplementary Estimate, from which he will see that we did not spend that amount last year. Thus, it is only a reduction from £30 million to about £25.7 million. The reduction is nothing like the amount the hon. Gentleman stated it to be.
There is one other way of looking at this, and that is the question of expense and the price of individual items. I wonder whether the House realises how the price of stores and ammunition have gone up since before the war. For example, in aircraft before the war the normal round was.303, which has been replaced by 20 millimetre ammunition which costs 30 times as much. Flashless cordite costs four times as much as the older type, and 4.5 ammunition with proximity fuse is nearly five times a round dearer than the old type with ordinary fuse.
I could give many other examples like that, and, therefore, we have to keep to the horrible phrase which the right hon. Member for West Bromwich does not like, "adhere to the line" in deciding what we are to do. Is it really sensible at this moment to buy large quantities of item A only to find that in the next few years it has been superseded by item B and again perhaps by item C, which in the nature of their development are very much more expensive? Therefore, we have got to decide at one particular moment whether we are to go on with the present stores or wait until the new ones come along.
The House must remember that it is only about 100 years ago since our armament stores were gun powder, cannon balls and cutlasses, our naval stores hemp and canvas, and the victuals, rum, biscuits and casks of salt meat. The whole thing has now changed. Radar and radio spares of an aircraft carrier before the war cost £15,000; now they cost £330,000. There are 6,000 items of victualling stores and 110,000 pattern numbers of naval stores.
I would say the Admiralty is still mindful of the preamble to Queen Anne's Act of 1704, where it says:The Royal Navy and the navigation of England, wherein under God, the wealth, safety and strength of this Kingdom is so much concerned, depend upon the supply of stores necessary for the same.2014 I am sorry that I have not a very encouraging reply for my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison). We are still considering the future of the Royal Naval Ordnance Pool. I think that everyone accepts that this is a notoriously difficult subject, and it has always been known that it takes a long time to cover the various stages. I am sorry to have to tell the House that we have not yet come to a conclusion, but we will do so as quickly as we can. I have every sympathy about what was said about the inspection of armament stores. The Admiralty have no intention of lowering standards and that I quite agree is most important, but what will emerge from the recommendations of the Joint Committee which was set up as recommended by the Select Committee on Estimates I do not know.
The right hon. Member for West Bromwich asked about sabotage. Investigations are still continuing into the recent cases which were announced in the Press, but I would say that it has been found that since the war there has been no campaign of sabotage. The various cases that have occurred are probably more due to malicious damage because of someone not going on leave at the right moment. One cannot attribute it to any campaign of sabotage. I think that the former Civil Lord will remember that my right hon. Friend told him that as far as we can see the "Bedenham" and the Gibraltar explosions were both probably accidental.
The former Civil Lord asked me several questions about works. One of the outstanding things about the present figures is that for the first time for several years it has been possible in the current financial year to provide for all the work under Vote 10 in last year's Estimates. In previous years it was nearly always held up for one reason or another.
Several hon. Members asked about accommodation in barracks and naval airfields. We have it much in mind that much of the naval air station accommodation is war-time, and quite unsuitable for peace-time. Its gradual replacement is expensive, but it is being tackled. This year we are estimating for over twice the amount spent last year. A 2015 start will be made this year on new works costing over £1 million. I was also asked from the other side about runways and why less money was being spent on them this year. The answer is that the programme is gradually coming to an end.
On the subject of married quarters, I am not at all sure that the hon. Member for Stepney did not get a little muddled over Vote 15 and Vote 10. He gave a depressing picture of what was being done under Vote 10. but he knows that Vote 10 covers only remote areas in this country and Northern Ireland, where it would not be possible for quarters to be taken over by local authorities if the Navy were to give them up, and also quarters abroad. If he looks at the whole picture at home and abroad, including Vote 15, he will find that 593 quarters were built last year, 1,650 have been built so far and we expect to complete 845 this year with a continuing programme of £7½ million, nearly £2 million of which is to be spent next year. I do not think that is quite such a bad picture as the hon. Gentleman tried to make out.
I will say—and I think the Civil Lord will agree with me—that we are disappointed in the progress made last year. We have been trying, as the House knows, to economise in building. Some of the tenders were high, and required readjustment, but behind all that we are next year going to spend £3 million more than in the current year's Estimate. Whatever criticism might be made on the individual Votes, on the works as a whole a great deal more money has been spent.
§ Mr. Burden
May I ask my hon. and gallant Friend whether the Admiralty is in consultation with the other Service Departments, because the Air Force say that they have gone into the question of reducing sizes and have carried out economies that might well have been considered by the Admiralty?
§ Commander Noble
I can reassure my hon. Friend; all married quarter policy is a three-Service policy. With regard to recommendations that married quarters should be—
§ Mr. W. J. Edwards
Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves Vote 15, I have seen the figures mentioned in it, 2016 1,046 married quarters started but not expected to be completed, and 600 married quarters expected to be completed during the year. There is some-think here under Appropriations in Aid about the figure being under the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Act.
§ Commander Noble
I was coming to that point. We have decided in principle to build married quarters at the home ports under the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Act which, as he knows, comes to an end shortly, and this further programme depends, of course, on that being renewed. That will require legislation.
§ Commander Noble
That is a hypothetical question and we will deal with that when we come to it.
I would now like to turn to manpower. Several hon. Members asked about promotion from the lower deck. The hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East (Commander Pursey) and one other hon. Member asked about this. I would assure the House that our policy in that matter is exactly the same as that of the late Government. I have seen some of these upper yard men and they are first-class. We would like to have up to 25 per cent. of as many suitable men as come forward. That has always been the accepted figure for the executive engineering and secretariat branches.
§ Mr. J. Dugdale
But if more suitable ones should come forward, is there a definite limit of 25 per cent.?
§ Commander Noble
No, but it was the policy of the late Government and it has been our policy that it should be 25 per cent. If more came—unfortunately, it has not been the case—we should certainly be prepared to take them. I have mentioned the electrical branch. The House will know that these officers go to Cambridge for a course, and one of them this year is stroking the Cambridge boat.
I now come to the recent announcement of the sale of inshore minesweepers, which I have to refer to as an offshore purchase of inshore minesweepers. There is no need for any criticism here. We would like to sell more of them because they are not at the expense of reductions of the minesweepers in the Royal Navy since 2017 they would not have been in our programme this year. They are a direct addition to the countries of N.A.T.O. On the other side, and this is certainly not negligible, there is a gain of 11 million dollars.
Also, the shipbuilders certainly welcome this because it lengthens what they call their production run and gives greater experience of building these rather remarkable boats. I do not know whether hon. Members have seen them, but they are extremely fine—wood on metal frames—and are well worthy of the names of some of the yacht building firms where they are built. It is a very good deal, of benefit to ourselves, to N.A.T.O. and to this industry.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked about frigates. We have 13 building, but it must be remembered that before they are laid down considerable work is done. I saw the other day the all-welded frigate that is being built in Devonport Dockyard. Large portions of the structure are made and put into place. Therefore, the fact that a ship is not actually laid down does not mean that a great deal of work is not being done. Also, he must not forget conversions. There are a large number still going on, started by his Government, of fast destroyers to escort vessels; and he must not forget the destroyers themselves.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Paddington, South (Mr. R. Allan) and my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) asked about mine watching, and I am glad that they did so. The mine watching service is getting into its stride. There have been difficulties over equipment, but these have now been overcome and they are assured now of a steady flow of instruments. The personnel will wear distinctive uniforms, of which I have seen photographs, and I think they will suit both sexes. Above all, the mine watching service needs more volunteers. There have been about 4,000 applications, but we would like more. I hope that hon. Members from coastal areas will do everything they can to help us in this matter.
One word on the Arctic, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Kerr). He said that for a recent expedition it had not been possible to get a suitable ice-breaking ship in this country and that we had 2018 to get one from Norway. The ship in question was actually an ex-anti-submarine trawler from this country. So we have the capacity to produce those ships by conversion should we so desire, and I will certainly have consideration given to the point he raised. I think he will realise, however, that my right hon. Friend has already taken some notice of the Arctic since the Home Fleet, with a large number of ships, went there on a cruise last year.
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire East (Mr. Bence) asked about the Royal yacht. As he said, this vessel has to satisfy the needs of a hospital ship in war, and a Royal yacht in time of peace. The Admiralty is satisfied that this ship will be able to deal with these duties, and will be able to sail the ocean in rough weather. I do not know whether hon. Members know that she is fitted with stabilisers. Unfortunately, she will not be ready for the Royal visit to Australia and New Zealand.
§ Commander Noble
If the hon. Member will put that question down, my right hon. Friend will answer it.
I do not want, at this time of the night, to be led into a "bomb versus battleship" controversy. I can, however, say that it is not our intention to build more battleships. The four "King George V" class are in a low state of reserve. Little money is being spent on them, but we do not think that their useful life is at an end. We do not know what use they will be under the weapons of the future.
Several hon. Members have asked about the Merchant Navy. Though that does not really come within these Estimates, no one is more conscious than the Admiralty of the vital importance of merchant shipping. We must not forget that British shipping has made a remarkable recovery since the war, for which the British shipping and shipbuilding industries must be given full credit. Plans are well advanced for the pooling of merchant shipping under the Defence Shipping Authority, and we must not forget the great potential strength reported by this allied agreement. I know that this is a matter which the Minister of Transport has very much in mind, and indeed, the special heavy lifts, which were raised, or perhaps I should say referred 2019 to, by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon).
Regarding the stiffening of ships to take guns, my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, South can rest assured. That does not come under the administrative Vote 14, but under Vote 8.
The question of the naval proportion of the defence expenditure has been raised by several hon. Members in several ways. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) referred to ocean raiders, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder) also raised it. It has been pointed out that in these Estimates the Navy has gone down in its proportion of the total. That is true. Last year, the Navy had 24.8 per cent. of the money, and this year will get 22.1.
That might be described as another aspect of the re-phasing of our rearmament programme. No one would claim that there is any unalterable rule as to what percentage of the money should be allocated, but, as has been said, it may be that in future when what one might call the "cold peace Fleet" has been achieved, we shall have to consider rebuilding some of the ships of the last war, whose useful life is limited. It may be that First Lords in years to come will, as has been suggested, be asking for more money for the Navy to rebuild cruisers and ships of that type.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House tonight have supported the need for a Navy, except, perhaps, the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), and I think they have all shown the importance of having a Navy which is as efficient and up-to-date as possible. They have shown that they are keen that we should have the best possible officers and men and that we should give them the best weapons and the best conditions under which to serve.
During the past year I have visited the Fleet in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, shore establishments, research establishments and dockyards, and private yards where ships are building. From what I saw, the House can have the greatest confidence in what is being 2020 done in all the various fields, and I think that by the tone of this debate the men in the Service and in those establishments can have every confidence that we in the House of Commons are carrying on our traditional duty in seeing that right and proper provision is made.
§ 1.36 a.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
No Member who rises at this time of night can expect to court popularity, particularly after so broad a hint from his own Front Bench. However, I should not have risen at all had it not been that I have sat here throughout the day with the intention of putting one aspect to the Admiralty. As far as I know, this aspect of sea defence has not been covered by anybody during the debate, but if I have made a mistake and it has been covered I shall be only too glad to sit down very quickly.
I am not a naval man and I do not represent a naval constituency, but there is not a family in Yarmouth which has not given someone to the sea over the generations of sailoring which attach to the East Coast. But I do not speak in order to court popularity in my constituency. I speak in order to find out something from the Admiralty or, even if I can find out nothing from them, at least to put a point of view to them.
We have heard much about aircraft carriers, about naval aircraft, about even battleships, and about cruisers, destroyers, frigates, submarines and the like, but what about seaward defence? We see in the Estimates that 10 seaward defence boats are to be launched but not accepted by 31st March, 1953. I hope that they are launched, or will have been launched by the end of March, and I should be very glad if confirmation could be given, either now or at some other time.
It is not about only the boats that I wish to speak. People have said that the air age has come—and so it has; but it is not a feasible proposition that we shall be able to feed and to carry the raw materials into this country by air in the foreseeable future. It is quite certain that in any foreseeable war we shall have to keep our ports and harbours open in order to bring in materials and food. In view of that, I want to know what is being done about harbour protection. A tremendous job has, I believe, been done since the war. 2021 The lesson was learnt at Scapa Flow, and, indeed, in the Port of London with merchant ships, during the last war, and since the war a very good organisation has been built up, in co-operation with both the Royal Air Force and the Army. A small but enthusiastic number of naval officers have devoted their whole thought and mind to the job of forming what would be the nucleus of adequate protection for our harbours and coasts in any future war. I should like an assurance that these teams which have been built up for this essential work will not only train together, but, because of the need for improvisation, will largely stay together.
I was pleased to hear from my right hon. Friend that 45 per cent. of the extended service commissioned officers are to remain, on request by the Admiralty. I hope that will be enough to keep together these teams of highly skilled and enthusiastic men. This service deals largely with specialised equipment, and the First Lord knows quite well the results of the efforts of these men on exercises "Mainbrace" and "Castanets." I hope that we will not lose the ground we have made in this direction.
I have heard people in all parties and people in foreign countries say that Britain is a second-class Power. I have heard them say that we are a second-rate nation. I have heard it said in this debate that Russia has the second largest navy in the world. I suppose the inference is that the American Navy is the largest and that we come third. I have a son who wants to join the Royal Navy. He believes it is the greatest navy in the world. Perhaps he is dreaming. If so, I am dreaming too: I still think that Britain has the greatest navy in the world. If it is not as adequate in force as it might be at this moment, let us not forget the terrific vitality not only of this country but of the Colonies and British Empire of which we are the centre. Surely we can build up such a navy as we can all be proud of, and one with which we can play our proper part in leading the world to peace.
§ 1.39 a.m.
§ Commander R. Scott-Miller (King's Lynn)
I wish to endorse the point made by the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) about the compensating overseas allowance, and I think that my plea 2022 can also be related to the new allowance which the First Lord mentioned. It is very important that the men serving afloat overseas should be on an equal basis to, if not on a better basis than, those serving ashore. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider that point, as I think that every encouragement should be given to men to serve afloat rather than ashore. A small portion of the Defence Estimates is devoted to the Navy. I think that we must try to concentrate as much as possible on getting as much of our naval personnel serving afloat as we can, and this encouragement would be a step in that direction.
§ Commander Noble
If by leave of the House I may speak again, may I say that I hope that my hon. Friends will not think that there was any discourtesy in my rising when I did? I should have spoken immediately after the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. J. Edwards). I am afraid I cannot answer my hon. Friends now, but I can assure them that every consideration will be given to the points they have raised.
Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]