§ 52. Mr. McLeavy
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty why, on his recent visit to H.M.S. "Birmingham," the invitation, extended to representatives of the junior ratings to meet him, was cancelled; and if he is aware of the disappointment felt by the ratings concerned at their exclusion from the conference which he held aboard the ship with other ranks.
§ The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Commander Allan Noble)
I think that the hon. Member must be referring to my own recent trip to the Far East. It was my custom, when visiting ships and establishments, to have a short informal talk with some Chief Petty Officers and Petty Officers and to speak to as many junior ratings as possible when walking round. I was at no time aware of any arrangements of the sort referred to by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. McLeavy
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the master-at-arms informed the junior ratings that they would be allowed to meet him on the occasion of his visit, and that the invitation was withdrawn on the morning of his visit? In view of the considerable regret felt by the junior ratings, and the feeling that they were excluded from the conference or discussions with him, will he make sure that a full explanation is given to them in the official way?
§ Commander Noble
As I said in my original answer, I was not aware of this, and I am sure the hon. Member would agree that no discourtesy was intended on my part. It may be that on this occasion there was some misunderstanding. If there was, I am extremely sorry that there should have been any disappointment felt.
§ Mr. Mellish
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell my hon. Friend that, 1974 in view of the present constitution of the Admiralty on that side of the House, those junior ratings did not miss very much?