HC Deb 03 March 1955 vol 537 cc2318-438

7.16 p.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: this House urges the Admiralty to improve the living conditions of men on the lower deck, with special reference to shore accommodation, and to increase the provision of married quarters. I am sorry to ask the House to leave the broad issues and to turn its attention to the specific proposals on the Order Paper in my name. The hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) asked the House to consider the human issues of the Royal Navy. In the City of Cardiff we leave these matters to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). He looks after the Navy, whether he is in office or is out of office, and he will for ever hold office, so far as Cardiff is concerned.

I was sorry to miss a little of my hon. Friend's speech this afternoon, particularly as I understand he made reference to me. Cardiff is one of the greatest ports in the West Country. Her sons have gone down to the sea in ships for generations, and the men of Cardiff have played a not undistinguished part both in peace and in war. The burgesses of the city are never happier than when a ship of the Royal Navy puts in at our port and the city is able to entertain the officers and men.

On Tuesday night this week, the First Sea Lord-designate was the guest of honour of a Welsh organisation. In the course of his address he went out of his way to pay a high tribute to the fighting qualities of the Welsh men in the Royal Navy. I do not claim to come under the heading of those about whom the future First Sea Lord was talking, but there is no reason why I am not able to propose this Amendment with regard to the men on the lower deck.

Last autumn, because of the kindness of the First Lord of the Admiralty, I was the guest of the Royal Navy at Portland Bill. I went to sea in a submarine and I spent some time—I stayed all night— on the depot ship called the "Maidstone." I met with such kindness, and I learned so many things in the short time that I was there, that I welcome very much indeed this opportunity to pay my tribute to all those who are connected with the Royal Navy, those who have the privilege of being on the administrative side, and those who man the ships.

The First Lord, in his speech today, to which I listened with great interest, said that nobody expected to make life in the Royal Navy a bed of roses. I think that that was the term he used. We realise that to be in any of the Services is not to stay in a luxury hotel, but that is no reason why unnecessary hardships should be endured. The question of accommodation in the Navy is one about which the ratings themselves are not ignorant. They know the difficulties, and they do not expect the same sort of accommodation at sea as they have a right to expect when they are ashore.

I found in the submarine in which I went to sea that almost all the space is taken up by equipment. There is very little space for human beings to move around. Even for sleeping they are pushed to either end—if that is the right expression. [HON. MEMBERS: "Fore and aft."] May I be forgiven? In 1946, the Admiralty issued a circular in which it took note of the fact that during the war equipment encroached on the space of these vessels, and the Admiralty hoped that in the future the equipment would take less and less space and that more would be available for the men. It has not worked out that way. I am sure that those at the Admiralty will agree that they made a mistake at that time.

Shore accommodation is of varied quality. People at the Admiralty were very kind in helping me to obtain what- ever information I sought, and I am very grateful to the Civil Lord in particular for the help which he has given me. I understand that many of the buildings which are serving as shore barracks were put up in the 19th century, and that they were regarded then as of reasonable standard, but some of them are appalling by present-day standards. The dormitories should be much nearer the washing places. They are old and, from our point of view, antiquated ideas.

These buildings, like old schools, have a habit of lingering on, and it is very hard to get them replaced. I know that the Admiralty is not unaware of this problem. It is specially concerned over the problem of the air stations which it took over after the war. The present conditions of the hutments at some of these stations in which the men are required to live is unworthy of any Service, but particularly unworthy of the Royal Navy.

I want to say a few words about married quarters. I understand—I was very surprised to learn it—that the Navy, far from leading, has followed the lead of the other Services with regard to them, and that it is only since the war that it has considered providing them. The First Lord told us today that the average length of service in the Royal Navy is over 10 years. Bearing that in mind, I should have thought that married quarters were more important for the Royal Navy than for the other Services, because Navy men are ashore in considerable numbers for considerable periods of time.

There seems to be no reason why, if one serves in the Royal Navy, one cannot have married quarters, whereas if one serves in the other Services, and is stationed at home, one finds married quarters available. It appears that the proportion of married men in the Navy who are able to get married quarters is roughly 20 per cent. The Civil Lord will correct me if I am wrong. That is a much lower figure than pertains in the other Services. I think the Admiralty has a responsibility to establish married quarters on at least the same scale as the other Services.

I have had some correspondence from those who know a little more about conditions in the Navy than I do myself. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) would have liked to raise a question taken up with her in a letter. She handed me the letter this afternoon, and I promised to raise the matter. She apologises for being unable to raise the matter herself. This letter, after paying tribute to the fine reputation of my hon. Friend, gives a list of grievances. I quote grievance No. 8. I pass over the others.

In this letter these words are to be found: Sick patient had to sleep in draughty passage in a hammock while bed space in the sick bay was occupied by two officers although only travelling as passengers. This is a letter from H.M.S. "Laertes," a minesweeper based on Harwich. That is as far as I shall go with identification.

This letter tells me that recently, just prior to the review of the Fleet, this notice was to be found on the ship's notice board: Officers and their ladies, Chiefs and Petty Officers and their wives, ratings and their women…. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange takes strong exception to that, as, needless to say, do I. Clearly, so did the seamen who sent this letter.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas

So do I.

Mr. Thomas

So does the right hon. Gentleman.

I was sure that everyone here would take the same exception to that sort of thing. It is the sort of thing which, in my opinion, creates unrest, although I think there is very little of it in the Navy. I do not know. However, I think that that is the sort of thing which can make for trouble.

There is another letter which was sent to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell),the former Minister of Defence. I shall not read it, but just mention it to show that it has safely reached its destination. It contains similar complaints by men who serve in the Royal Navy.

When the Admiralty issued the recent Press release about H.M.S. "Ark Royal," when she was being commissioned, it gave evidence of a new approach to the conditions of service of the men in the Royal Navy. I find that concern is registered about the entertainment of men off duty. It must be a very serious problem where there are large numbers of men on these great carriers, but it is equally a problem for those who are in the smaller vessels. Of course, I understand that there are other interested people as well as those who help to provide the entertainment; and I want to read now from the Admiralty Press release regarding the "Ark Royal." It says: In conformity with the best modern practice ashore, the galley, the bakery and the laundry are all electric and contain many labour-saving devices. In the bakery, there are machines for pie-making and dough-kneading, in the galley for dish washing, potato peeling and chipping, mincing and slicing, and in the laundry for washing, starching and both flat work and collar ironing. There does not seem to be much left for anyone to do in the new "Ark Royal," and some who served the Royal Navy earlier will hardly recognise the Navy of today as it is described in the circular which the Admiralty issued to the Press when that ship was recently commissioned.

I do not want to address the House for long, because I feel that there are others better qualified than I to speak about these conditions, but I do know that these men who serve on the lower deck must be treated, both at sea and on shore, as people with dignity, as people who have rights as well as duties to fulfil. While discipline must clearly be made the overriding factor in any military Service, within the bounds of discipline and within the necessities of the Service, these men must be treated more like human beings than they have been in other days. Their complaints about food, pay and mess accommodation are not, I suppose, topics that would make news, but they remain real grievances on the part of the people concerned. The quarters of all who live on the ship ought to be refurnished along more human lines.

The last point to which I want to draw attention is this. There has been a lot of discussion about the problem of hammocks or bunks, and I understand that bunks are being installed in many ships now. I believe that there is a growing opinion that, on hygienic grounds, the use of bunks should be made compulsory. Hammocks are especially unhygienic when used in the tropics, when they are often just rolled up unaired until used again.

This point has been submitted to me by people who know because they have experience of it, and, whatever may be the decision of the Admiralty, I hope it will be borne in mind that, like the education service, it must not spend all its time on its show-pieces. In all services at home, and apparently in the military Services as well, efforts are made to have show-pieces which members of the public are invited to see in order to appreciate how well their men are catered for, but the smaller matters ought to receive equal attention. Injustices such as that which I raised one day with the Chancellor about "hard lying money" ought to be rectified. The boys of the submarine which I saw told me that they were putting to sea for 21 days in the following week, and would receive 21s.—Is. a day—"hard lying money." Rather, they should receive it, but, actually, they would get only 14s. because the Chancellor was taking the rest. I think the Admiralty ought to put up a fight with the Treasury in order to see that this "hard lying money," which is small enough in amount, really goes to the men who earn it.

I would end with a word of thanks to all those who put up with the hardships of the sea in their public service to this nation.

Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)

All hon. Members of this House will agree that, if it is true that the notice to which the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has drawn attention was ever put up, it is a disgrace. Speaking as one who had the honour to command three ships in the war and serve with these men, who knew them well and understood the relationship existing between officers and men in the Royal Navy, I should like to say that this is such an extraordinary story that it is only fair to the Service that it should either be proved or disproved as soon as possible.

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) may have noticed by the tone that I adopted that I was not seeking to fire any guns myself. I was reading a letter which came from somebody on the lower deck and was addressed to the hon. Lady who represents the Exchange Division of Liverpool. My hon. Friend read it, and specifically asked me if I would read it to the House. Instead of reading out the whole of the letter, I read the relevant and exciting parts, and I am quite sure that, since I gave the name of the ship, it will be pos- sible for the Admiralty to trace whether it is true, and to issue a statement denying it if that was found necessary.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas

I should like to assure the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), who has given me the details, that we on this Bench certainly deplore this notice, if that is what happened, just as much as does the hon. Member himself.

7.37 pm.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I beg to second the Amendment.

I am very glad to have the opportunity of supporting the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). I was rather surprised that my hon. Friend should apologise for intervening in this debate, because I am bound to say that up to the present the debate has seemed to me to be rather unreal. We have heard a very great deal about types of ships, weapons and aircraft and the future rôle of the Royal Navy, but none of these things really matter at all unless we have competent men to use them. Therefore, I was surprised that my hon. Friend apologised for raising this matter, because, not only in my view but also, I should imagine, in the view of the Admiralty itself, this matter is basic to any consideration of the state of the Royal Navy at present.

In the White Paper on Defence, attention is drawn to this point in paragraph 61, which says: In the Navy, which is particularly concerned that as many men as possible should extend their medium term seven-year engagements, the results so far are not encouraging. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in his Explanatory Statement, says: The need of the Navy to recruit and retain regular ratings on long engagements is of critical importance to the nation. Nothing could be more severe than that phrase—"critical importance to the nation"—but, when we go on to examine what is happening in the Navy, we find, of course, that the number of men signing on for engagement after the seven-year period is disappointing. The words of the White Paper are: So far however the response has been disappointing, and in consequence the core of long-service men, on whom the Navy depends to provide the majority of supervisory ratings, is much diminished. What percentage of men are signing on for the second five-year period?

We also find that the number signing on after 12 years is still below 40 per cent. These facts mean that there is an enormous wastage of manpower in the Navy—manpower which it has cost us an immense amount of money to train. Here we have men who have acquired Service habits, traditions and skills of various kinds—and all this is being wasted; and the reasons it is being wasted ought to be probed. There is no doubt, as my hon. Friend said, that the conditions on the lower deck are partly responsible.

I have had no opportunity to take part in debates on the Navy Estimates, because of my absence from the House, since 1949,but on that occasion I raised the question of the conditions on the lower deck of the show-piece of the Fleet, H.M.S. "Vanguard," where there was insufficient locker accommodation, where the bathing accommodation was poor and inconvenient and where the general messing and sleeping accommodation was very bad. There were 51 men sleeping in a comparatively small area. This was on a large ship where there are not the problems associated with the small ships. Nobody on the lower deck expects to be comfortable, perhaps, on a small ship, where the discipline is sometimes not as strict; he does not expect the same spacing and convenience on a small ship. But this was on a large ship.

One of the things which strikes the lower deck rating is not so much the nature of his conditions in themselves as the nature of his conditions when compared with those of officers. I think that is a point which frequently calls for comparison, and he cannot help thinking that, whereas half the accommodation on the ship goes to a small number of officers, the other half is occupied by a very large number of men. That seems to be quite wrong.

I believe there are other reasons, too, and I want to mention them. To do so I want to take the case of the artificer and technical branches. I make no apology for doing so, because these men represent a quarter of the naval personnel today — engineers, electrical officers, ordnance artificers and engine room officers, for instance. The percentage is increasing because the Service is becom- ing more highly technical and these men are becoming increasingly necessary to an efficient fighting Service.

I can speak from my own experience and knowledge here. We may have a boy who enters the Service at the age of 15 to become an artificer, with great hopes of achieving promotion and looking forward to officer rank. I myself joined at the age of 15½. But 1 find that the status of the artificer apprentices today is lower than it was 30 years ago. The status of the fifth and fourth class artificer is lower than it was 30 years ago when the need for these ratings was less than it is today. We must bear in mind that today one of our clamant needs is to get this type of rating.

Let us consider the pay. Anybody can work it out from the first appendix if he takes the trouble to do so. I find that the pay in these branches is much the same as that of a person of similar qualifications outside the Navy. If anything, the pay is slightly lower. In the 'twenties or' thirties it was higher. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) knows something about this. The point I want to make is this: how can the Navy expect to retain these men if, when they finish their seven or 12-year period of service, they can leave the Navy and get the same pay—in fact, if they were paid overtime and double time on Sundays they would get much higher pay—without having to undergo the discomforts of long separation from their families and the other discomforts which naturally follow from living aboard a ship?

I cannot understand what policy the Admiralty has pursued in this matter. At a time when we have full employment and when, to be cynical about it, there is no drive of unemployment urging or compelling men to join the Navy, how can we expect men to stay in the Service if we do not offer an incentive? This is part of the conditions into which we must look most closely. I was surprised that the First Lord did not deal with this in greater detail when opening the debate.

Another question is what is to happen to these men after their service—because this is part of their general living conditions and one of the subjects which exercises their minds. What is to happen to them when they leave the Service? Why should not a great deal more be done to ensure that when these men leave the Service they get jobs more in accordance with their skills and ability? I know dozens of ex-chief engine-room artificers who are museum attendants in Edinburgh. I see them sweeping the snow outside the museum. Not that there is anything wrong with sweeping snow, but the point is that the nation is losing all this skill simply because the Admiralty will do nothing to give these men certificates or some mark of qualifications which would be recognised by outside employers.

I said something about the lowering of the status of apprentices in the Service, and I have been astonished by the number of apprentices whom I have met in recent years whose aim has been to get out of the Navy at the first opportunity. It is a condemnation of the Admiralty that it is unable to instil into these boys a love and fondness for the Navy and the old spirit of pride in the Service. I have met other men who are equally occupied with the same thought and I have seen them, after they have left the Service, working as attendants in museums.

This is not good enough, and the right hon. Gentleman must face this fact—that he will never get the long-service men he wants, whom we all admit he must have, if he treats the problem in this way. We must do something about it.

I have gone rather broader than the Amendment, but I thought it was as well to bring out all these points at once. It gives me very much pleasure to second the Amendment.

7.50 p.m.

Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, East)

The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has done a great service in raising this matter. The subjects which he dealt with are ones on which the lower deck naturally feels very keenly and takes a keen interest. It will cause great satisfaction throughout the lower deck to think that Parliament has turned aside for an hour or two from the great issues of thermo-nuclear bombs and issues of that kind to discuss the conditions under which those men live and serve.

I also welcome the opportunity at the same time to make it clear that very few subjects have in recent years received more attention from inside the Navy and from the Admiralty than have living conditions, both ashore and afloat, particularly since the war. Incidentally, the chief safeguard for the men to get a reasonable deal under the conditions in which they live is the interest and supervision of matters of this sort which is taken by the ships' officers and by the establishment officers. The hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards), whom I see on the Front Bench opposite, can claim seniority over me in the date at which he joined the Navy, but I hope he will agree that, whatever other faults naval officers have had, they have not been at fault in that respect, and that the ship's officer has always taken a good deal of trouble to see that the best use is made of available space and accommodation.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, West gave priority in his Motion to shore establishments. I was rather surprised at that, but I will follow the hon. Member and say a word first about accommodation ashore. The problem is simple from one point of view inasmuch as it is, I should say, entirely a question of how much money is available. The scale of money which has been spent in this direction since the war is considerable.

So far as I can understand the Estimates—they are confusingly presented and I stand to be corrected—we intend this year to spend about £945,000 on improvements to accommodation in shore establishments. The figure may well be higher than that. On married quarters, it is proposed to spend a further £1,892,000 plus; one has always to add the little things which come from other Votes, such as lighting, heating, and so on. Those are substantial sums.

If I were to criticise what has been done since the war, I would say that on the whole the curious thing is that we have spent perhaps rather too much money on the shore establishments in comparison with what we have done to improve accommodation afloat. The reason is that perhaps we have tended to spread the jam rather too thinly.

The hon. Member for Stepney, whose great work will always be remembered in the Service for the improvements which he effected in the immediate postwar years, was confronted immediately after the war with a large number of people who opened their mouths very wide. He may remember that I was one of them. By an extraordinarily fortunate coincidence, the hon. Member visited the establishment which I was commanding on the day that we gave our first postwar cocktail party. Everybody agreed that within a few months the place had been remarkably well fitted out.

I can give a further example of what I should regard as extravagance without offending one party as against another. I refer to something which was planned by the Coalition Government. The establishment which I commanded immediately after the war had an approved rebuilding and expansion programme costing, I believe, over £1,500,000 at 1944 prices. Very fortunately, it was impossible to proceed with it at that time owing to shortage of materials and labour, and, quite naturally, the housing programme had priority. Accordingly, some semi-permanent steps were taken to get the place working. By hook or by crook —to some extent by crook I admit—we got the place working again for certainly less than one-tenth of the proposed figure —I speak from memory—and it is running very happily and contentedly to this moment.

In considering the question of shore accommodation for the Royal Navy, which is, after all, supposed to be a seagoing Service, the first question to ask oneself is whether an establishment is really necessary. It was always believed in the Navy—with what truth I do not know—that the hon. Member for Stepney had declared that he would like to see the naval barracks blown up. Whether the hon. Gentleman really said it I do not know, but those views gave great pleasure to the sailors at the time. I think that the naval barracks might well have been blown up, but where I differ from the hon. Member is that I am not sure that I should have rebuilt them.

If we want to improve the accommodation where it is needed, we should first ask ourselves whether we are not maintaining it where it is not necessary. Naval depots came into being 100 or so years ago because they were the only practical way of keeping seamen available to man another ship after their previous ship had been paid off. Since then, however, there have been great developments. The railway and telegraph systems have been introduced, the men can all read and write— they could not in those days—and there are few of them now who have no fixed address, which was not the case 100 years ago.

If the seaman of today is not required for a job at any given moment, I would suggest that the place to let him go is home on leave until he is required. If a telegram or letter is sent to him to join a certain establishment or ship at a given time or place, he is quite capable of doing so without being rounded up by masters-at-arms or regulating petty officers. A great deal of money and effort is wasted by the drafting of men through great depots, which will never be entirely suitable no matter how much money is spent on them, because it is never comfortable to live in something which is rather like a railway station where people are constantly coming and going.

On the other hand, another great development peculiar to the Navy since those depots were built is the enormous expansion of technical knowledge and the like, which has necessitated the building of a large number of elaborately equipped technical schools to which the men at various times in their careers—and officers too, for that matter—are sent for quite long courses.

When that procedure began, an effort was made to incorporate the schools within the various depots, but that has long since failed. Today, in most branches of the Navy, if a man wants to learn, say, electrics he has to go to Fareham, if he wants to learn torpedo and anti-submarine work he goes to "Vernon," at Portsmouth, to learn signals he has to go to somewhere in the Meon Valley, and so on. That being so, it is worth considering whether a man's depot should not be his technical school and whether in this way, and by concentrating our efforts on these schools, which we must have, we cannot produce a much higher standard of accommodation than heretofore, and, possibly, for less money.

Furthermore, we could at the same time greatly increase the possibility of ensuring that when a man is serving ashore— which, as we unfortunately know, nowadays occupies a considerable part of his total service—he is much more likely to be serving at the same place. That is an extremely important factor. The idea that a man should go back to his home port depot, which was originally conceived in the interests of welfare, nowadays often works against a man. When he is a youngster and not very highly skilled, he goes to the depot, and when he becomes more highly skilled, he finds that he must go to a technical school, which may be somewhere totally different.

We should take the plunge and make these great technical schools the men's depots. That has a very important bearing on the question of married quarters, because what a man really wants is not so much a married quarter as such but a home within easy reach of the place where he is to work when he is ashore. It is not possible for him to have it when he is in a sea-going ship going round the world, but if he knows when he comes to England that he is going to the same station or the same school he is probably better served if, by some negotiation with the local council, he can be given a house of his own for good, rather than that we should have the more expensive process of giving him a married quarter which is only a temporary home.

At the same time, I recognise that the married quarters programme up to date is still filling a need, because only about 20 per cent. of the men are served by it and, of course, there will always have to be a number of men employed where married quarters must be the normal provision.

The thing is to see whether we cannot provide men with homes, just as they would be provided in an ordinary shore appointment, to which they can come back and be close to the place where they will be engaged when they are ashore. If that can be done, it opens a further possibility. We are always talking about the advantages of having people own their houses. We pay a substantial gratuity to a man at the end of his service and it is worth considering whether that gratuity could not be advanced as an interest-free loan early in his service, secured against the title deeds of his house.

I turn now to the question of accommodation afloat, which is more important, because when afloat everyone has to use the accommodation whether he likes it or not, and whether he is married or single. Here again there are few problems to which more thought and attention has been given for a good many years now, and especially since the war. In fact, from 1945 to 1950 there was a complete standstill on all alterations to our ships, except those which improved living conditions. That is sufficient evidence in itself of the importance that was attached to the subject. I speak from certain knowledge that there has been no diminution of interest in and of the importance attached to the subject, regardless of what party has been in power.

We all agree that it is an important matter, but it is also an extremely difficult one, because the problem is not one of spending money. It is essentially a problem of the space that is available and the amount of weight that one can afford to put into that space. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West quoted an example, which is so often quoted, of people complaining and saying that equipment should be removed to make more room in the interest of the welfare of the men. To some extent that has to be done, but one must remember that equipment can be very important to the fighting efficiency of the ship. If, later on, one has a battle and one has not the equipment one may be sunk. That is very bad indeed for welfare.

I do not want to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) in his remarks about artificers. Comparisons are rather dangerous. It is quite true that artificers do not think that they have quite as much of the good things of this life as they deserve, but it is also true that large numbers of young chaps who are not artificers think that artificers have rather too much. The hon. Member referred to their re-engagement. In passing, although I speak subject to correction, I believe that I am right in saying that the re-engagement rate for artificers is better on the whole than for the other branches of the Navy and that in so far as they do go out it is because they firmly believe that they will obtain a very much better job outside the Navy. Therefore, if they read the hon. Member's remarks about sweeping snow and being attendants at cinemas, the re-engagement rate may go up.

Mr. Willis

Those were pensioners.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I thought that he was referring to young men.

One important matter in connection with accommodation afloat is its possible relationship to those numerous cases of malicious damage to which so much publicity has been given, and which are doing the Navy so much harm in the eyes of the public. When they first reached big dimensions, late in 1947 and early 1948,the Government quite rightly suspected that they might be connected with some organised Communist sabotage. We accordingly had all the paraphernalia, which I still regret, of M.I.5 and its detectives who, judging by the Press, move now with considerable publicity in investigating cases. But no case has yet been reported in which there has been any suspicion that sabotage, as generally understood, is to blame. One can fairly describe them as cases of hooliganism.

It has been suggested that these cases are a kind of protest against bad living conditions. I do not deny that if one makes men live under rough conditions they get rough in their habits and that if one provides luxuries one is apt to create a public opinion which would be antagonistic to the hooligans concerned, but I do not think that these cases can be said to be very directly related one with the other. I also believe that if we left these matters to the commanding officers to deal with on their own, by the more sensible method of charging for the damage done rather than the holding of courts-martial, we should hear no more about these things.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, West mentioned the question of bunks versus hammocks. The whole problem of accommodation in ships is whether we should go on with the traditional British method of mess decks and mess deck life, which is a sort of family life in which one allocates such space as one can to a given bunch of men and they use the space for eating, sleeping and recreation. On the other hand, one has the system like that of the Americans of providing an institutional life in which there are dormitories, fixed bunks, separate cafeterias and recreation rooms.

In our big ships we have a kind of compromise. We have cafeterias but we still combine recreation space and sleeping space in the same area. Personally I have always been pro-bunk, but I believe that we should give the American scheme a greater trial than it has been given so far. Mess deck life depends upon having fairly staid, experienced men in the junior ranks to look after the youngsters, and that is just what we shall not have very often nowadays. However, that is a matter of opinion and I merely mention it to point out that this is a complicated and difficult problem.

In reply to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, I do not think that there is much future in trying to improve the accommodation of the lower deck by invading that of the officers. I worked out as I was shaving this morning that if one took all the officers' accommodation away and everybody shared the accommodation in the ship equally, then in a big ship one would add on the average only four or five square feet to the space available for each man. Having done that it is usually found that something is lost, because the officer has a lot of desk work to do and—except for the few important officers—he does it in his cabin. That is the essential reason why officers must be given cabins.

Mr. Willis

I would not question what the hon. and gallant Member has said. The only point I made was that where the officer accommodation is very large—as it is in some of the large ships—as compared with that of the men, a comparison is always in the minds of the men. Even if only a small amount were used for the purposes of the men below the deck that comparison would not be so bad. I know that conditions today are not as bad as they used to be, but they could be better.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. It is quite true that there is a comparison in the minds of the men, but I would suggest that the comparison is on the whole mistaken when one looks into the whole question, for there is little that can be done in transferring from one category to another. What we used to do and what is being done again, I understand, is to accommodate officers in the part of the ship underneath the bridge, instead of aft, and that avoids duplicating the senior officers' cabins. A little is saved by doing that. But in the main, the attacks which so often are made by comparing officers with the ship's company do not carry as much weight as is supposed.

I must apologise to the House for detaining it so long with this rather complicated subject. I would say in conclusion that the greatest obstacle to improving the accommodation of the men at sea is resistance to change, which is not peculiar to the Admiralty or to sailors.

8.13 p.m.

Lieut-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Croydon, East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) has demonstrated that the Silent Service is not so silent as tradition says it is. Although I served in another branch of the Services which is not regarded as so silent, I shall not take up so much time of the House as did the hon. and gallant Member. He referred to cases of malicious damage. I do not know whether he has kept himself up to date in that respect, but perhaps he noticed one of the many Questions addressed in recent months to the First Lord of the Admiralty who stated that 1954 was a very bad year from the point of view of the number of cases of malicious damage. They were higher than for a long time past.

In answer to a question of mine, the First Lord said something which is of the utmost significance. He told us that whereas the number of cases of malicious damage in the early part of 1954 had been fairly high, there had been a considerable drop towards the end of the year. The reason for it was the improvement in pay and conditions.

It seems quite clear that while these cases of malicious damage are not tied up with deliberate sabotage or some ideological kink, they do suggest a link-up with pay and conditions in the Service. So if we improve pay and conditions it seems reasonable to assume that the number of cases of malicious damage will go down.

The fact that there are these cases indicates to me that morale is not good. I was reproved by the First Lord for suggesting that morale in the Navy was not good. It so happened that very shortly after I heard that statement Admiral Sir Louis Hamilton, Chairman of the Navy League, speaking at a luncheon in celebration of the League's Diamond Jubilee, said that the Royal Navy was run down to its lowest ebb and he thought that the Government were very largely responsible.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas

Sir Louis Hamilton also made it quite clear in public that he was not referring to morale.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I am quite prepared to accept what the First Lord has said. It is also of interest to note that in recent weeks, for example, the "Daily Mirror," made reference to the fact that there was an urgent need to improve the Navy's morale, which was low, partly due to the uncertainty of the future. I do not think that even the First Lord will be able to dispute the fact that uncertainty as to the future is not conducive to good morale.

Mr. Burden

The present Navy Estimates, in fact, remove all the fears that the men in the Navy feel about the future. It is the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) and others

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

This question of morale and the future does not arise on this Amendment. I take it that the hon. and gallant Member is going to connect the question of morale with conditions and housing accommodation.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

What I am trying to suggest is that bad conditions on the lower deck, poor shore accommodation and the inadequate provision of married quarters are not going to improve morale. I am prepared to leave it at that.

May I also quote an even more distinguished authority than any I have hitherto quoted, and that is "The Times" naval correspondent, who wrote an article on the Navy, in a recent issue of that paper. He referred to the need for improved shore accommodation, and to that extent my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) can invoke most distinguished support for the Amendment he has so ably moved this evening.

It is the opinion of greater experts on naval matters than ever I can hope to be that there is frustration and uncertainty about the future which itself adversely affects recruiting figures, as those in the White Paper on defence show. If the conditions on the lower deck and living conditions generally, including shore accommodation and married quarters, were improved, I do not think we should witness the continuance of the trend that has manifested itself during recent years. The White Paper on defence reveals that the number of male regular recruits for the Navy fell from 11,100 in 1951–52 to an estimated figure of 8,100 in 1955–56. That is a reduction of 3,000, a very great fall indeed. I am unwilling to believe that this fall in recruiting has nothing to do with the subjects which have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West.

Reference has been made to living conditions. I had the good fortune to be allowed to visit the aircraft carrier "Eagle" a few months ago and I was greatly impressed by what I saw. The magnitude of the operations conducted in that vessel was a revelation to me. Everything that could possibly happen in a large industrial town seemed to be happening on that aircraft carrier. There were fitters' shops and carpentry shops, and all kinds of industrial activities were going on necessary for the maintenance of the vessel.

What surprised me very much was that in the fitters' shop, where men were working on machines producing spare parts and so on, because the pressure on accommodation was so great, the men had to sleep in the same place where they had worked all day, slinging their hammocks from the ceiling with the work benches and machines underneath them. It may be inevitable but, as a civilian, I could not regard that as satisfactory. It means that even in these large vessels such as aircraft carriers the need for space for the technical requirements for which the vessel was built is so great that the living conditions of the men, unfortunately, have to be made a secondary consideration.

I throw out these points for the consideration of the First Lord and I hope that serious attention will be given to them. When I have raised matters connected with the Navy during the last month or two, I have been surprised not only at the letters I have received from men serving in the Navy, but at the letters from the parents and the wives of serving personnel, who seemed to be very bitter about the difficulties to which their men were being subjected.

If what the man serving in the Navy says has such a bad effect upon his relatives and friends, it is not surprising that recruiting drops, because the best recruiting sergeant in any branch of the Service is a contented soldier, sailor or air man. He can do far more than all the recruiting campaigns and posters if, when he goes home on leave, he is able to say, "I am doing a good job of work"——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. and gallant Member is getting a little far from the Amendment.

Lieut-Colonel Lipton

I propose to get back to it immediately and to ask the First Lord to accept without any quibble the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend.

8.24 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I rise only to ask a question about the accommodation of the sailors on the "Britannia." I was greatly disturbed by certain criticisms that I saw in the columns of "The Times." The criticism, in effect, was that while a large sum had been spent upon this vessel, the accommodation of the men in the lower deck was totally inadequate. Now that criticism did not come from people who object to the cost of the ship. It came from the naval correspondent of "The Times," and if he is of the opinion that on this Royal yacht not sufficient money had been spent and not sufficient planning had been thought of in connection with the quarters of the crew, it suggests that it will not be a good advertisement for the British Navy when this ship goes abroad.

I am not in any way an authority on naval construction, but when the naval correspondent of "The Times" points out a defect in a ship which goes all over the world, and says that the men have to eat and sleep in the same room, and have not enough room for the ordinary amenities of life, and when considerable expense has been incurred on luxury, that is a criticism which deserves answer.

I read carefully the evidence on this matter in the Report of the Committee of Public Accounts. I found that, on this question, Sir John Lang gave certain evidence and he was examined by Members of this honourable House who are members of that Committee. After reading that Report, I am far from under- standing the position yet. I do not think that the answers of Sir John Lang were, indeed, very candid. On page 448 of the Minutes of Evidence I found a question put by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele), who raised the same question as the naval correspondent of "The Times." The reference to this was: Now the last comment I have to make is with regard to an article which appeared in 'The Times.' The Navy Correspondent of 'The Times' said, 'It is a pity, perhaps, that in this ship, which embodies so many innovations, neither the new bunks nor the new system of cafeteria messing had been included.' That is why I asked you the questions earlier about the 'Eagle.' Can you tell us why you have not brought the accommodation up to date for the crew of this ship?' The answer was: I do not know what was the view that led to the non-provision of bunks, because undoubtedly we have been thinking about possibilities of that kind for the last two years or so. Almost certainly, the absence of cafeteria messing is that it is not by any means all that popular in the Navy. We have got a few ships completely fitted with cafeteria messing. I do not think that Sir John Lang's answers to the questions we requite candid. He rather evaded the point raised by the naval correspondent of "The Times."

Next, this question was put to Sir John: But they are still sleeping in hammocks? The answer was: Yes, except the chief petty officer and petty officers. Then this question was asked: Do the men like it? This was Sir John Lang's answer: Well, I have been on board 'Britannia' and I have talked to a fair number of the men, both juniors and seniors, and I have not heard a single grouse as to conditions of life on the ship. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) said: Did you ask them? The Chairman then asked: Do they grouse to you, Sir John? The answer was: I have been on board on a lot of ships. Surely there was something evasive about that. Then the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West continued: You are not a member of the consultative committee for the 'Britannia,' Sir John? Sir John said: No. I have been on board lots and lots of ships in my life. I make it a normal practice to talk to the odd rating here or two or three ratings there, and I have had quite a lot of grouses of one kind or another expressed to me on different occasions. I can only say that the 'Britannia' people did not grouse. It is rather a queer business if the only person grousing is the naval correspondent of "The Times." I can hardly believe that he is out to cause disaffection in the Royal Navy. Therefore, I suggest that we should have a candid statement from the Admiralty spokesman this evening. Is there sufficient accommodation on the "Britannia" to give the men the ordinary decencies and amenities of life? Do the men have to sleep in the place where they eat? Are they living in a restricted space? Why was the provision of decent, modern accommodation for the men neglected in a ship which has cost such an enormous amount of money and which has caused such a great deal of public controversy?

We ought now to have some attempt to answer the criticism of the naval correspondent of "The Times." There is not only him. There is also the editor of the "Sunday Express"; he has been pointing out the same thing. I hope we are not going to have another statement of the kind——

Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)

That is a not very high standard, is it?

Mr. G. Thomas

It started on a very high level.

Mr. Hughes

That may be.

In view of the public criticism of the accommodation afforded for the crew, we are entitled, on this Amendment, to have a candid attempt—not the Sir John Lang attempt—by the Minister responsible to assure us that the men have amenities which are necessary and worthy of the ship.

8.33 p.m.

Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)

It was a great relief when my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) rose to move his Amendment. After three hours of what we had previously listened to in the debate on the Navy Estimates, it was like a breath of fresh air for us to be able to deal with the human beings who are still with the Navy and who, we hope, will be with the Navy for some considerable time.

The Amendment deals with the Navy visualised in the ensuing year as it is this year; that is, it deals with a Navy with conventional weapons. As long as we have a Navy with conventional weapons we have a duty to ensure that the people who serve in the Navy live in the best possible conditions and have the best possible married quarters or whatever accommodation It may be.

I very much welcome my hon. Friend's Amendment, because I really believe there is need for it. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) said, the finest recruiting sergeant for the Navy is the satisfied man. The wost recruiting sergeant for the Navy is the man who comes out dissatisfied, whether he is a National Service man, or has served seven years, or 12 years, or even if he has served his 22 years to get a pension.

We can split the Amendment into three sections—the question of shore accommodation, the question of ship accommodation and the very important point about married quarters. Before I start dealing with those various points, I must say that I was greatly interested in the revolutionary ideas which the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) put forward. I am sure that it would make all our dear old friends, the admirals of the past, turn in their graves, if they were able to learn what has been said tonight—the sort of approach that proposes to have no more married quarters and no more naval establishments. Certainly if anything calls for a committee of inquiry—and the Admiralty has had a few of those as the hon. and gallant Member knows—it will certainly be revolutionary ideas of that description. I do not propose to answer him on that issue. That is the job of the Government.

The First Lord said today that he was quite satisfied that the men in the Navy were satisfied men, and that they were happy. The position of the Navy today is that we are getting fewer volunteers than ever before, we are getting fewer re-engagements than ever before, and we are getting more people leaving the Navy after serving a seven-year short-service engagement, or a long term. People do not leave unless there is some reason for their leaving. If the Navy were as it should be, and as we should like it to be, we should not find so many people leaving it. When I was Civil Lord and had to answer for the Government to the debate on the Navy Estimates, I gave as a reason for the larger number of men leaving the Navy the fact that in those years there was full employment. We have to encourage people to stay in the Navy.

I presume that despite what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, East, we shall continue with Devonport Barracks, Portsmouth Barracks, and Chatham Barracks, for a fair number of years, at least unless something happens which prevents their use. But in any case we are going to use them. When I first visited a naval barracks 36½ years ago, when I joined the Navy, I had a free ticket to go to Devonport Barracks. When I became Civil Lord in 1945, I obviously had to go round barracks, and on two occasions I went to Devonport Naval Barracks.

Commander Donaldson

Did the hon. Member get a free ticket?

Mr. Edwards

I had a free ticket, too. I had a third-class ticket the first time and a first-class ticket the second time.

After those 36½years, those barracks were in a worse condition than when I first went there. One reason was that part of the barracks had been bombed and a lot of the property demolished. But from the end of the First World War until 1945,the Government had never bothered about seeing that the sailor had decent accommodation. They never bothered simply and solely because from 1918 to 1939 they could get all the recruits they wanted, because there was so much unemployment in civilian life. That was the cause of it; and, of course, during the war the Coalition Government obviously could not make up for the loss which had occurred between the two world wars.

In 1945—and I am very proud of the opportunity which was given me to play my part in it—we set out to see what could be done to improve the accommodation in the naval establishments. I am sure the House will agree when I say that although we cannot always give the men the necessary accommodation in the ships, we should see to it that ashore they have the best possible accommodation in order to make up for what they have to endure while serving aboard ship.

I do not wish to bore the House with too many figures, but I will say that we made a very good beginning in 1945,and we kept it going until 1951. The later figures are a little alarming to me. I have taken the trouble to look at the figures for accommodation for personnel at home. If there is one kind of place where work is required to be done it is our home barracks, because of the damage done during the last war. While I was at the Admiralty we had some modernisation schemes for our barracks which we hoped would be completed in, I think, 10 years. I am not certain of that figure, and it maybe corrected if necessary. It is no use continuing with bad accommodation and allowing people to leave the Navy in a dissatisfied frame of mind.

In 1952–53,the figure voted for the Navy Estimates under Vote 10 for accommodation for personnel at home was £384,000. That was as a result of schemes initiated by the late Government. In fact, in 1952–53 the present Government provided nothing at all in the Estimates for continuing the work of improving our naval establishments. In 1953–54, £800,000 was voted and of that figure £742,000 was for work left over as a result of the schemes still in the Department when I left. Only £63,000 was for new work. It is true that the figure went up beyond £1 million in 1954–55, but here again that was for schemes initiated previously, because there were no new works in 1952–53 and only £63,000 worth of new works in 1953–54.

This year, despite the fact that we are not able to retain men in the Service, all we get is £49,000 for new works, which does not give much scope, and £895,000 being spent to complete the work of previous years. That is not good enough. I maintain that the work of making our home barracks more suitable for the men on the lower deck should be speeded up, but it appears to me that progress is likely to decline.

I now turn to accommodation for personnel abroad, which is very often far more important than accommodation at home, because a man cannot get overnight leave abroad. In 1952–53 and 1953–54, no new works were initiated by the Government, and in 1954–55 only £14,000 was spent upon new works. All the money spent up to then had been spent upon previous schemes started by the Labour Government. For this year there is a total of £24,000, of which only £1,000 is in respect of new works for the future. That sum of £1,000 has to cover accommodation in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malta, Gibraltar, and every other establishment abroad, with a total estimate of £24,000 for future work after having cleared up the schemes.

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

I am sure that the hon. Member does not want to mislead the House. He knows that work in the first year always progresses slowly. We have to get these schemes started, and when he hears the figures which I shall have to offer I think he will see that far from doing less than he did we are doing very much more.

Mr. Edwards

We can only go by the Estimates.

For new works to accommodate personnel abroad, there is a total estimate of £24,000, and the amount of money to be spent during this year is £1,000. It is true that another £23,000 remains to be spent, and it may be spent next year, but that is all that we are planning to spend in respect of accommodation at overseas bases.

Another very important question is that of temporary accommodation. It was my hope that by now we would either have got rid of the temporary accommodation erected during the war or would have put it into such a state as to be able to make it permanent. That obviously has not been done and is not being done. It is grossly unfair to expect naval personnel to linger in this temporary accommodation any longer than is absolutely necessary.

The question of married quarters is also a very important one for the Service man. It is good for him to know that there is at least the opportunity for his wife to be with him for some part of his service. The term "married quarters" in Vote 10 applies only to those of key workers in England, Scotland and Wales, to ordinary married quarters in Northern Ireland, and to all married quarters outside the United Kingdom. In 1952–53, £172,000 was voted, every penny of which was spent upon schemes which had been started before the Conservative Government came into power. Not one penny was allowed that year for new works for married quarters at home.

In 1953–54, £152,000 was voted, of which £137,000 came from earlier schemes. All that the present Administration provided was £15,000 for new works that year, involving a total cost of £22,000. What can we do with that sum to provide married quarters? How many can we put up? In 1954–55, £162,000 was voted, out of which £143,000 was for earlier schemes and only £19,000 was for new works.

What do we find in Vote 10 this year, which is to provide married quarters for naval and civilian officers, ratings and industrial grades in new construction and by conversion of existing buildings. About 15 quarters are expected to be completed during the year."? This year £90,000 is voted, of which £88,000 relates to earlier schemes, which probably accounts for the new works for the last two years. Only £1,950 is for new works, involving a total estimate of £17,400. What is that for? Eight houses, or fewer than that? In a year's programme, the Navy gets eight houses. I can talk about these figures for a long time, but I have given the House sufficient of them to make it realise that the Admiralty is losing sight of the interests of the men on the lower deck in proper accommodation.

Year after year I have had to draw the attention of the First Lord and the Civil Lord to the declining sums that are given. I cannot see any reason why these sums should go down year by year. It may be said, as was said when I was at the Admiralty, that there is a shortage of labour and materials, but if we are serious about keeping the men in the Navy we must give this matter priority.

Turning to the married quarters under Vote 15, I am given to understand that the Navy's quota out of what is allowed under the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Act, is 20 per cent. while the Army and Air Force have the remaining 80 per cent. If that is true, the Navy is once again being let down. Those who are in charge of it should put up a good fight to get a fair quota. I also understand that when the present loan under that Act comes to an end the other two Services, because of the large percentage which now goes to them as against the Navy, will have completed their married quarters pro- gramme, but the Navy will not have completed its programme.

It may therefore be that the Navy will be left with its programme uncompleted, while the other two Services will have completed theirs. If the people in the Navy know that they are to be treated in this way they will not be satisfied, and we shall not keep them in. I hope that the Civil Lord will be able to say that the Admiralty is going to get on quickly with the modernisation of barracks, that it is going to get on with the demolition of temporary buildings and their replacement by permanent property, and that it will do all it possibly can to see that there will be no reason at all for a man to leave the Navy, whether after seven years or 12 or 22 years, because he is dissatisfied with the accommodation provided.

If the Civil Lord can satisfy me on that score, I shall be as happy as anyone else. I am sure he will agree that those who, on this side of the House, have taken part in this debate have not done so with the intention of scoring debating points. We have been taking part because we have as much interest in the Navy as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have, and as anyone else in the country has. If there are faults, we shall be as happy as anyone if they can be remedied. I would, in conclusion, thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West for moving the Amendment and bringing up this subject.

8.56 p.m.

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

First I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) on the very able way in which he moved the Amendment. Although, as he said, he may not have intervened often in debates on Navy estimates before, I certainly hope he will again, because I think he acquitted himself extremely well. It is very appropriate that he and another Member for Cardiff, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) should have taken part in the debate today because, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, Cardiff is an important ship-repairing port with which the Admiralty has had much to do. During the last year no fewer than 10 naval vessels have been under refit and repair there, including H.M.S. "Teazer."

We have had a very interesting little debate on this extremely important sub- ject. The Admiralty in general sympathises with the terms of the Amendment. However, it must be understood that the Government cannot accept it, and I shall have to ask the hon. Member to withdraw it for reasons of procedure; but we are well aware of the importance of the matter, and, indeed, my right hon. Friend in his speech earlier today announced that he was going to start an inquiry into the whole question of manning and recruiting, which question covers a great deal of the subject we have been discussing on the Amendment. That announcement alone goes a long way towards answering the various questions and arguments hon. Members have put forward.

We realise that in the living conditions of the lower deck there is quite a lot that needs doing. There has been for some time. I can assure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) that we are just as conscious of this now as anyone has been in the past. Although I should be the last to belittle what the hon. Gentleman did when he was in my office at the Admiralty, I shall have to point out later on that as regards shore accommodation we are spending very much more today—I think nearly three times as much in the present Estimates—on accommodation of one kind and another for personnel as was being spent in the last complete year of the Labour Government.

Whether we talk about accommodation ashore or accommodation at sea, we return to the same difficulty of bringing up to date old accommodation. It is very difficult to improve accommodation in the older ships, and so it is in the older buildings on shore, of which we have many. It is difficult to bring them up to a satisfactory standard. However, in the new ships and new shore accommodation we are providing very much better conditions than before. These improvements must, in these circumstances, be of a gradual nature, but I believe that the progress at the moment is pretty rapid. We are spending more money under Vote 10 than we have since the war—at any rate, since the run-down after the war. On married quarters and accommodation for personnel taken together, roughly £1½ million was spent in the year 1950–51, and in 1954–55 £2½million; in the present year, in these Estimates, £3.3 million, taking the two headings together. It will be seen that we are doing a good deal, and I want to say a little in detail about that later on.

Meanwhile, it is only right that I should refer to one or two other subjects, apart from shore accommodation and accommodation at sea, which have a very great bearing on life on the lower deck. As my right hon. Friend announced in the Estimates last year, a general service commission has been introduced, which will mean that, whereas previously men served a maximum of two-and-a-half years abroad, very often with changing ships' company, it has now been cut down to 21 months abroad. It will mean that in future there will be a maximum of one-and-a-half years abroad for those not serving in ships on the general service commission, and, for those in general service commission ships, the maximum will be about a year. Carriers will be on a two years' commission, and others on one of about one-and-a-half years.

Mr. J. Dugdale

What does the hon. Gentleman mean by in future? Does he mean from now on?

Mr. Digby

It is taking a little time to get into the new system. The period is 21 months now, but a gradual improvement is being made.

When we come to pay, there again there has been progress in the last few years. There has been an increase in the local overseas allowance for married unaccompanied personnel which is equivalent to a daily rate of 7s. 6d. in Singapore, and, more recently, in November, 1954,all sea-going personnel were granted local overseas allowances. The equivalent here for a married rating based on Singapore would be 5s. a day, or 3s. 2d. for an unmarried one. It will be seen that here again something which has been a bitter grievance in the past has now been removed.

On the question of the re-engagement of artificers, which was raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), I understand that re-enagement is now no less than 50 per cent. If the men are fully qualified, they should not have difficulty in getting skilled jobs outside the Navy.

There is another thing which affects conditions, and that is discharge by purchase, which was reintroduced in March of last year. The number of applica- tions received to the end of last year was 835, and the number granted was 724, which is a high proportion. As examples of the reasons given for desiring discharge by purchase, which were accepted, I may quote dislike of naval life, a desire to earn more money or a desire to emigrate. It will be seen that a great deal of sympathy has been shown there.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

Can the hon. Gentleman say what was the average time between the application for discharge by purchase and actual discharge?

Mr. Digby

Not without notice.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It seems to me that that is going beyond the terms of the Amendment, which deals with living conditions and accommodation.

Mr. Digby

Perhaps I could say a word about recreational facilities as part of living conditions. There again, we are attempting to improve facilities as far as we can. In regard to the effect of living conditions on health, I am glad to say that our medical branch has been and is continuing to effect an improvement, in particular in cases of tuberculosis, which is obviously something to be guarded against when people are living in confined spaces, and detection is now much earlier than was possible previously, owing to compulsory fluorigraphy.

Let me say a word about food, which is a question which very much affects those on the lower deck when they are in difficult living conditions at sea. As refrigerators have improved, it has been possible to provide more fresh food. During the last year considerable thought has been given to the question of beer on board ships. This is a very difficult question indeed because of the problem of stowage. When calculations are made, even if the beer is kept not in cans or bottles but in large drums, it is extraordinary how much would be required.

Mr. W. Edwards

We could fill one of the fuel tanks.

Mr. Digby

It has been calculated that to provide one pint a man for 28 days for the "Indomitable," stored even in five gallon drums, the beer would weigh 43.6 tons. That gives some idea of the complexity of this problem. I am glad to say that, after careful consideration of this matter, the Board of Admiralty has decided that it will be possible slightly to relax the restrictions on the issue of beer. This does not mean, I am afraid, a regular issue. I do not want to raise any false hopes. But it means that in certain conditions——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I must remind the hon. Member that the terms of the Amendment are to improve living conditions on the lower deck, with special reference to accommodation.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

May I suggest, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that living conditions include drinking conditions, too?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not within the terms of the Amendment.

Mr. Digby

I accept your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I turn to the major question of accommodation afloat.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) pointed out very well the difficulties which we face there. I admit at once that if we make comparisons between conditions afloat in warships and those in merchant ships the comparison is unfavourable to the warships. Anyone who has been over a modern tanker knows how extremely good is the accommodation provided. The reason is that there is plenty of space. Very different considerations apply with warships—considerations of both weight and space; and the progress of modern science has meant that the many new weapons, radios and other equipment which must go into ships, increase the space needed very much more rapidly than the methods which science has found can improve living accommodation.

I am quite sure that this problem is fully understood by all naval ratings, and I am sure none would wish to see a ship filled with living accommodation to such an extent that its chance of survival in war was prejudiced in any way. A new scale of accommodation in ships has been decided upon very recently involving expenditure of about £1¼ million.

I am glad to be able to tell the House that our scale of accommodation in ships of the Royal Navy compares favourably with that of other navies, including the United States Navy. The average area per man works out higher than in the United States Navy. As we have already heard, bunks will be introduced in some cases in place of hammocks, although I believe this is not universally popular. Cafeteria messing will be introduced in larger ships, in carriers in particular, to an increased extent, and there will be laundries in all new ships. I am sure that that is an improvement.

A great deal of thought is being given to the interior lay-out of the mess decks, and outside advice has been called in by the Admiralty to deal with this question. A new design of furniture was approved in 1947, and that is being carried further and attempts are being made to fit the furniture better to the amount of space available. There are new designs for mess tables, kit lockers and stools. Unfortunately, the fire risk has to be a major consideration. For example, such things as the Dunlopillo type of mattress, which would add greatly to comfort, has had to be rejected because under conditions of conflagration it gives off a tremendous amount of smoke. Destroyers and frigates when modernised will be treated in the same way as the "Daring" Class with regard to this type of furniture, and I believe that there will be a real improvement.

One hon. Member referred to the galleys. They are being modernised and made electric where possible. As the hon. Member rightly said, some of the modern galleys are extremely good. It is not true that officers' accommodation encroaches in any way on that of the ratings.

Mr. Dugdale

At one time the officer accommodation occupied a certain percentage of the space. That percentage was reduced by the previous Government and the percentage accorded to ratings was increased. Has there been any alteration since then?

Mr. Digby

No; the position is exactly the same as it was then. There is some slight help in the case of the aircraft carriers with the angled deck, which provides a little more space which can be used for accommodation.

Another point of difficulty arises when men have to live on board ship during refit. There have been experiments in trying to connect up with the shore sewage system but considerable difficulties have been experienced. At Plymouth, an L.S.T. which is alongside is at present being used for living accommodation, but every attempt is made to keep to a minimum the number of people who have to live aboard during refit. In a programme which will be completed next year, £500,000 is being spent on modernising the lavatories, and so on in the dockyards. When it is completed, there will be a further programme which will be useful in connection with refits.

Now, let me turn to the large and important question of accommodation ashore.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the question of living accommodation aboard ship, will he deal with the comments of the naval correspondent of "The Times" on the "Britannia"?

Mr. Digby

I am delighted to hear that the hon. Member is now completely converted to anything which "The Times" says, and I hope that in future debates he will attach the same importance to what that newspaper says as he is doing in the present debate. As the hon. Member knows, the "Britannia" was laid out as a hospital ship, and the accommodation for the crew was designed accordingly. As far as I have been able to ascertain, it has been built to the same standard as is normal in modern naval construction.

I come now to shore accommodation. Unfortunately, however much we may wish to see the largest possible proportion of the Navy at sea, a great many men have to spend a good deal of time ashore. Since the last war, £5 million—or computed another way, £7 million—has been spent in improvements in personnel accommodation ashore. Of this, 90 per cent. has been spent on the accommodation of the lower deck. Another £1 million has been spent on new furnishings.

As to the actual expenditure on shore accommodation, in 1950–51, when the Government, of which the hon. Member for Stepney was a Member, were responsible, the expenditure was £460,000. In 1954–55 it was £1,020,000, which was rather over double that figure. This year we are planning to spend £1,410,000. Therefore, we have trebled the expenditure of the late Government on accommodation ashore. In view of that, it would seem that we certainly are not neglecting this work but rather that we have done and are doing considerably more, though I would not belittle what was done by the previous administration.

Mr. W. Edwards

Could the hon. Gentleman tell me where he finds this sum of £1,410,000?

Mr. Digby

No, Sir. It is a somewhat complicated calculation. One has to add what is seen in one part of the Estimates to other parts which have to be taken account of as well. The hon. Member knows as well as I do that in the way in which the figures are presented here they are somewhat misleading [Laughter]. I mean that they are somewhat misleading from the point of view of the division of the Votes as to accommodation of personnel and as to dockyards and so on.

Mr. Dugdale

On a point of order. The hon. Gentleman has just said that the Estimates which we are discussing are misleading. May we be informed whether other parts of the Estimates are misleading before we discuss them further?

Mr. Digby

If I had been allowed to finish my sentence my meaning would have been clear.

In 1952, after the present Government took office, a report was made by Admiral Adams on all shore accommodation. He went round all the accommodation and tried to assess the relative priorities between barracks and air stations and so on, and we are still trying to adhere as strictly as we can to the priorities which he laid down. That report has been very useful indeed. Admiral Adams was able to establish where the need was greatest, and I am quite persuaded that the money is being spent there. Occasionally, for one reason or another, one has to depart from those priorities, perhaps because of some sudden demand arising from an operational reason, but I think that the problem of accommodation for the lower deck is being extremely well tackled at the moment. Only the question of money or capacity lies in the way, because the extent to which we can carry out the necessary building and so on is limited.

We have special problems like those arising from the wartime construction of airfields, but here again we are making progress. Barracks have been mentioned. I can assure hon. Members that we are going ahead with the modernisation of barracks and the rebuilding of some of the blocks. There is a big block at Devon-port to be completed quite soon, and a couple of blocks have been completed at Deal. I will not worry the House with particulars of other blocks. There is a new chief petty officer and petty officer block going up at H.M.S. "Dolphin," and any hon. Member who knows that establishment will realise that it is one where the conditions have been among the least satisfactory.

As to new building at ah- stations, here again we have not been idle. In 1950–51, £27,000 was spent on the air stations. Last year we spent £223,000. We are attempting to modernise those which most deserve it. The air stations at Brawdy and at Hal Far are examples which spring to mind where new blocks have been built. We are pressing on with central heating and we hope that by mid-1961 we shall have central heating in three-quarters of all living accommodation, that is apart from married quarters. District heating is being installed at Devonport and Portsmouth barracks. We have new scales of accommodation now, under which chief petty officers will have single cabins wherever possible and the allowance for petty officers and leading rates below has also been increased, the leading rates to 60 square feet from 45. Overseas we have slightly higher scales dependent on the climate and whether establishments are in the tropics or not.

As to married quarters, as several hon. Members have rightly pointed out, we only started in 1946 under the late Government, and, therefore, the other Services have a considerable lead on us in this respect. Since the war we have built 2,500 at a cost of £7¼ million. We have 1,000 more buildings and we have made 1,700 hirings under the furnished hirings scheme. So we are pressing on fast. The programme for outlying stations, where we began, is more or less complete, and we have moved on with big schemes for the home ports. A total of 3,800 married quarters are planned to be built there, and another 500 at establishments outside the home ports which are not isolated establishments.

There has been some difficulty in acquiring sites because naturally in cities like Plymouth and Portsmouth we have come rather late on the scene to acquire housing sites. I had the chance of going round some of them myself, and I believe we should get some very reasonable married quarters.

Allocation of these quarters is gone into carefully as between one man and another. There is a preference to be given for cases of long separation—I am sure the House will agree that that is fair—and we are planning a three-year tenure so as to reduce disturbance. Let it not be thought that this is not going to cost money. Of course it is. We estimate even by 1960 that the annual cost of our married quarters will be no less than £900,000.

I think I have said enough to show that we have this problem very much at heart at the Admiralty and are taking all reasonable steps to put it right by spending more money than we were and devoting the resources of our civil engineering department to this end. I must ask the hon. Gentleman for Cardiff, West in a moment to withdraw his Amendment because he knows that that is necessary, but I should like to assure him that the terms of it are something which in principle we can accept.

The First Lord has announced, as I mentioned previously, that he is to have an inquiry of a wide range covering re-engagement and manning so that a number of these topics will probably be considered then. We are doing all we can to improve conditions at sea, but it is going to depend primarily on new ships. Better conditions will be available in them and in the new buildings. We shall press on, and I believe that although progress must be slow, before very long it will be seen that living conditions for the lower deck are considerably better than ever before.

Mr. G. Thomas

In view of the sympathetic reply, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.

9.24 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)

We were delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) was able to move this Amendment. He pressed his case for married quarters and improvement of conditions in the Navy so hard that those who did not know better thought he had a real self-interest at heart and would very soon be getting married and joining the Senior Service. However, I understand that that is not the case.

There is one feature of these debates which creates difficulties. It is that in the middle of a perfectly good debate we have to break off for 2½hours to consider an Amendment. We have had evidence today that the Leader of the House and others on both Front Benches have appreciated the need for some improvement in the procedure of our Estimates debate, and I suggest that as the years go by we should consider the method by which we break into a debate which I think everyone will agree was going very well. Now, after the 2½-hour break, it is hard to pick up the threads.

As I remember, however, my neighbour in Lincolnshire, the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) had been addressing the House and, among other points, had made one to which I shall refer in a moment, be cause it impressed me a great deal. Outside this House, especially in the Services where they have specialist know ledge, people tend to say that on these Service Estimates we talk "an awful lot of nonsense"—those were his words as I remember them. They tend to say that because we have to rely so much for our information on White Papers and the information which comes to us from the Government and from——

Mr. Emrys Hughes

"The Times."

Mr. de Freitas

—and papers and periodicals like that.

My first point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton), who referred to an inquiry into the possibility of a fusion between the three fighting Services.

Mr. Hughes

And the police.

Mr. de Freitas

Earlier the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder) had advocated the fusion of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force without specifying an inquiry. I support the idea of an inquiry into fusion because I am confident that the report would not find that it was wise but premature to fuse the three Services, but I am sure it would find that it was timely to fuse the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.

I am anxious that this inquiry should get under way with all speed. My reasons are as follows. I need hardly argue my first point because it has been mentioned by more than one hon. Member. It is because of the enormous tradition of the Royal Navy and the great amount of good will among the general public for this Service. That is an historical fact and the result of living on an island.

The second reason I want this inquiry to go ahead now is because I fear that within a few years the Government of the day will find that it is impossible to produce the financial and technical resources for maintaining a hydrogen bomb deterrent, the means of delivering that hydrogen bomb, and the three conventional Services. When that happens, the Government of the day will produce an axe. The Royal Air Force will be spared a great deal because it will be the most concerned with the delivery of the deterrent. The axe will also be used on the Army, though it will be spared a certain amount because of its necessary rôle as a policeman in the cold war. I fear that when that time comes the Navy will get the most severe cut of all, so I want the inquiry to take place when the Navy can talk to the Royal Air Force on equal terms.

I believe we have little time. Already—this is remarkable—the Royal Navy is finding difficulty about its Regular recruiting, as I see from the figures. I remember the discussions in 1946 and 1947, when I was at the Air Ministry, about the plans for National Service. It never entered anyone's head that the Royal Navy was doing anything else than just obliging the two other Services by taking a few National Service men.

The time will soon come when the Royal Navy will not be able to talk with the Royal Air Force on equal terms. I should regret that we should have squandered one of our greatest national assets, which is the tradition of the Navy and the good will towards, and respect for, what is at present the Senior Service. I want an inquiry, and I want it pressed forward.

I come to my second point. The hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle referred to the matter of the experts outside the House thinking, and often saying, that on their subject we talk nonsense. Let us face the fact. I can quote only from my experience of the Service that I know best. I believe that I am the only hon. Member who has listened to most of each of the Air Estimates debates during the 10 years, since the war.

Mr. Shackleton

So have I.

Mr. de Freitas

I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) will agree with me, but I have noticed year after year, in the Air Estimates debates, a decline in the standard of constructive criticism which hon. Members have been able to give to the Services.

Immediately after the war, when a large number of hon. and gallant Members could bring their experience to the debates, the criticism was direct and most constructive, but as the years have passed I have found a decline in the standard. From time to time I am told that it is the experience of hon. Members in other Service debates. Today it was very refreshing to hear the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett); one of the most important things that he had to contribute was his experience of only a few months ago, for he is fresh from the Service about which he was speaking.

We are today in the great difficulty that, in view of the complexities of the Service matters with which we deal, we are not well enough informed. It is not enough to go on occasional visits to ships or military installations, to talk to generals and even Ministers, and to read, as has already been said, "The Times" or the "Manchester Guardian." Something more is needed. We should consider the setting up of an all-party defence committee as a part of the organisation of the House, in regular session, which could have discussions on matters like the Estimates and consider reports—it would, of course, be in secret—from the Services and the Service Ministers.

An hon. Member opposite shakes his head. It is, of course, completely foreign to our whole system of Parliamentary Government to have such a body. However, so were Questions to Ministers for the first 550 years of our Parliamentary life. It was about 100 years ago that we started our system of Questions so that hon. Members could criticise the Government of the day. Now Question Time has become one of the great features of our Parliament, and I am sure that every hon. Member will agree that it is most important.

My point is that we are not fulfilling our function of criticising the Service Ministries, and I believe that we are not able to do so because we have insufficient technical knowledge so to do.

Mr. Shackleton

There are hon. Members on both sides of the House who keep in touch through their annual Reserve training.

Mr. de Freitas

That is perfectly true, but the level of that is low. The level at which most hon. Members serve is that of a field officer, or even lower. I want discussions with the Services at the highest level.

That is completely out of keeping with our whole Parliamentary system. When I suggested it in a similar matter a couple of years ago, the Leader of the House dismissed it in a sentence, and said that it was revolutionary. But after all, we are dealing with a revolutionary situation. Our whole Service strategy has been changed by the hydrogen bomb. We are in the position of being asked to vote millions of pounds, but the basis of our whole system is that hon. Members will have a certain amount of knowledge and will be able to criticise. That is difficult to do.

The citizens of my constituency of Lincoln have voted, through their representative in this House in the last three years approximately £7 million for the Defence Services. I estimate that each of our constituencies has contributed roughly £7 million. I cannot say whether they have had value for their money. I cannot put my hand on my heart and tell them that their money has been well spent, because I do not know.

That situation is wrong. I ask that, when we are considering, as we must in the next few years, various aspects of our procedure, we should not merely say "We have never done this," and that our procedure is completely different. Even Canada, which has a Parliament much like ours, they have comparatively recently set up a Foreign Affairs Committee where members of all parties hear the Minister of External Affairs, who can talk to them in confidence. They have actually got that system. We are certainly the only Parliament in the whole of the free world which votes such a large proportion of its national income to its national defence and votes it blindly, because that is what we are doing.

Every other Western Parliament has some form of standing committee in which members can find how the money is spent. I do not ask for a reply to this suggestion tonight. I offer the suggestion to the Government and to my own party, hoping that it will be considered. We must change our system if we are to justify to our constituents the enormous amount of money which we are spending on defence.

9.39 p.m.

Mr. John Baldock (Harborough)

I am glad to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas). There is a great deal in his point about the difficulty found by hon. Members who have not been able to follow active operations in the Forces for some years in informing themselves of the latest position and yet at the same time being called upon to supervise, on behalf of the electorate, Government expenditure of very large sums of money.

I think that my right hon. Friend the First Lord is to be commended this year in going a considerable way, in the Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates, in endeavouring to give the House as much information as he possibly can —without the cover of secrecy, or confidence—about the new position of the Navy in a world which might find itself involved in a thermo-nuclear conflagration.

I think that many hon. Members opposite must have been impressed with the fullness of the Explanatory Statement, which compares favourably with those issued by other Services and with those for past Navy Estimates. But it seems to me that the Royal Navy has been more affected by the advent of the hydrogen bomb than has either of the other two Services.

There has been considerable anxiety, particularly in the Navy, about the future rôle of that Service. I have been very concerned about this matter myself. It seemed that the Royal Navy was a declining force. Carriers were heavily criticised. It was hard to see that a declining force of smaller ships, escort vessels and minesweepers could maintain the great naval tradition, or justify an expenditure of the proportion of the defence Estimates which had been the Navy's share in the past. Now I believe that all this has been dramatically changed by what little we know, as ordinary hon. Members of this House, about the aspects and the effects of the use of the hydrogen bomb.

This has been reflected by the Navy receiving a slightly larger proportion of the total expenditure in this year's defence Estimates compared with last year. Like the Royal Air Force, the Navy now has two rôles. It has the conventional task, which it has always had, of patrolling the sea, showing the flag, and taking part in supporting restricted campaigns in a cold war. This is an important rôle in itself as was shown, for instance, in the Korean campaign, when the Royal Navy was the first of the Commonwealth Services on the spot. That rôle still requires conventional weapons, and here I disagree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-West (Mr. Callaghan) about the decision of the First Lord to go ahead with the completion of the cruisers.

In the long-term cold war, which most of us fear will be with us for many years to come, conventional weapons, even cruisers with guns, will still be required. No one will wish to start throwing hydrogen bombs or A-bombs about in the minor campaigns which are liable to break out anywhere, or in the course of those police actions which the Navy has so admirably carried out in the past. A good modern cruiser with guns is a very useful instrument in the ordinary minor operations of a cold war.

Now the Navy has a second rôle which has developed so dramatically with the arrival of the hydrogen bomb. It has the opportunity of launching these thermo-nuclear weapons, as they are developed, by aircraft from carriers, or by ballistic rockets, which may be fired either from surface ships or submarines. It means that the Navy becomes one of the two important Services able to project the deterrent against the enemy, only from the sea rather than from the land, or by aircraft which have taken off from a carrier at sea.

It seems to me that this could well be an absolutely decisive card for this country to hold. It might make the whole difference to a would-be aggressor if he knew that thermo-nuclear weapons could be delivered to him, or over him; not merely from prepared and charted positions—which he would know about—but from ships or submarines which, if intelligence was at all good, or perhaps as a routine matter, could well be at sea when the decision was taken to start a hydrogen press-button war.

Instant retaliation might be difficult from fixed positions, but the knowledge that there were still vessels at sea which had these weapons and could retaliate within a short time could be a decisive deterrent. That fact puts the Navy absolutely in the forefront of modern warfare, and is an argument which cannot be countered in considering the hydrogen bomb aspect of the situation.

In these completely altered circumstances the Royal Navy has a great opportunity of restoring confidence after the uncertainty and decline in morale which may have occurred during the transition period. For the Royal Navy now has a second rôle besides its conventional one.

The other vital point which has been affecting morale is the question of seagoing time. The Navy has always been a profession for sailors. Its attraction has been that it offers a seafaring life and not that it is a uniformed Civil Service. It should now be possible to send a much larger proportion of naval personnel to sea than has been possible in recent years. I cannot see that there is any longer very much purpose in maintaining a large reserve fleet.

Ships are required for their conventional duties of patrolling and taking part in a minor campaign which might break out anywhere at any time. The whole point of the Navy is its ability to be on the spot very quickly after the event, and a ship in a reserve fleet cannot do that. In this thermo-nuclear age ships must either be manned and ready to appear quickly at the place required or in the event of total war, be ready at a few minutes' notice. In either case I cannot see that a vast number of reserve ships, laid up, is of very much help.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East made a good suggestion when he said that some of these reserve ships should be dispersed among Commonwealth countries. That would put them to good use, but more valuable still would be the fact that a greater proportion of the sailors in the Navy could return to their proper duty of being at sea in manned ships rather than being engaged in the somewhat dull and monotonous duty of maintaining ships in reserve for what I cannot see as a possible eventuality.

Most of those ships were required for prolonged escort duties or minesweeping operations, and I do not think that such duties would be required in a thermonuclear war, because that would assume prolonged hostilities in a hot war, which does not seem to be a reasonable probability. If the reserve fleet could be reduced in that way, money and men could be saved and a greater proportion of the men's service could be done at sea. We could have a harder, more practised and revitalised Service, with less administrative top-hamper.

There have been many suggestions in this debate, and some in the defence debate, particularly in the remarkable speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), about some kind of co-ordination of the Services concerned with launching of thermo-nuclear weapons, either from the land or from the sea. I have been attracted by this idea, and have spoken about it in past debates.

There is a good deal to be said for the idea, and I hope that Ministers, the House, and the Services, will give further attention to it. It must be worthy of more thought. Now that this new aspect, this new rôle for the Navy, has emerged, there seems to be added argument for considering co-ordination or fusion of the Services, and I hope that an inquiry can be entered upon to that effect.

9.51 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)

I find that my affection for the British Navy is stronger than for either of the other Services. That will gladden the heart of the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland). I served in the British Navy in the First World War in a very modest way, but the source from which my affection springs is not quite the same as that of some other hon. Members who have served in the British Navy in times gone by.

I find it easy to recall one or two facts of history which I cherish very much in this connection. My history book tells me that the judgment of the British Navy was correct when it decided to support Cromwell and his Parliament in the 17th century. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) will share that view with me. I recall that the British Navy exercised sound judgment in the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, when it ranged itself solidly by William of Orange.

I may command your sympathy, Mr. Speaker, when I recall that the British Navy is the only arm of our Armed Forces that has never stood between the British people and its fight for liberty. That explains why I have a stronger affection for the British Navy than for either of the other two sections of our Armed Forces.

Having said that, I now wish to ask the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty some questions about the Pilcher Committee's Report. He will recall that in 1949 the Labour Government set up the Pilcher Committee to consider whether any changes are desirable in the administration of justice under the court-martial system in the British Navy, and to advise this House what changes might be made to modernise it and bring it up to date. The Committee sat in 1949,and its Reports were published in 1950. The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary knows that on this side of the House we have pressed for the implementation of those Reports.

The standing excuse for the delay that has been periodically used by the Parliatary and Financial Secretary, and indeed by the First Lord of the Admiralty, is that they were waiting for a report from the Select Committee dealing with similar matters in connection with the Army and the Air Force. It is true that there have been certain minor changes made by the Government that were recommended by the Pilcher Committee, but the main recommendations, as I regard them, still remain where they were—recommendations only from the Committee.

What has happened in the meantime is that the Select Committee appointed by this House has considered the existing codes of discipline of the Army and the Air Force and has reported to the House, and its recommendations have been incorporated in a Bill, which is in process of passage through Parliament, and which, if I correctly judge of the matter, will receive the Royal Assent. Yet although the First Lord has been in possession of the Select Committee's Report for some time, no legislative action has been taken on the 12 recommendations which are still outstanding.

I was astonished at the answer that the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary gave to a Question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) yesterday. I will not quote from Hansard, but I will give the gist of his reply. He said that it is not possible at present to introduce legislation to give effect to these recommendations. That means that the Pilcher Report will remain, so far as those major reforms it suggested are concerned, ineffective, with no action being taken upon them. I wonder whether the First Lord can advise the House tonight that legislation will be introduced in this Parliament to give effect to those recommendations, and to bring the existing naval code up to date, and to conform with the changes which are being effected in both the Royal Air Force and the Army.

The history of the reform from time to time of the Navy's disciplinary code is not very encouraging. What does one find if one looks the matter up? I find that the first major reform that took place in the disciplinary code of the Navy followed the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham in the early 17th century. The second major reform in the disciplinary code followed the execution of Admiral Byng.

Mr. Callaghan

Where is he now?

Mr. Moyle

The First Lord has been most attentive in listening to the debate, and we are glad to see him back in his place just in time for me to pose a question to him. I leave it to the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to relate to him the history upon which my question is based. The question is, are we to wait for the liquidation of the First Lord before we get reform in the naval code? To relieve the right hon. Gentleman of any anxiety I had better explain that I refer to his political, not his physical, liquidation.

I want to refer to the main principle which underlies the recommendations of the Pilcher Committee, and particularly to the Minority Report of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas),on the need to bring the whole system of justice now employed by the Navy more in accord with civil law. For example, there is the question of securing a unanimous decision from the court-martial before a verdict becomes operative, as against the existing majority decision. Secondly, the personnel from whom the courts-martial are recruited should be more broadly based than they are now. At present they are recruited from executive officers.

I should like to make the plea that if or when the Minister acts—when, for example, he in giving the consideration that is due to the future constitution of courts-martial—he should give sympathetic consideration to the appointment of ratings to the courts-martial, and I will tell the First Lord why. I think that the more experienced and the more broadly-based the courts-martial are, the more likely we are to get on them people of common sense than we do when they represent only a section of the Service.

I know the argument against that view. It is that the rating would suffer some embarrassment on his return to duty after discharging such an important responsibility as being a member of a court-martial, but I must say that I see no greater embarrassment accruing from such a change than now exists in the present constitution of courts-martial, when we have junior officers aged 21 years or more sitting side by side with very senior officers who play an important part in the prospects of promotion of the very junior officers who sit with them on courts-martial. If there is any disability arising from the appointment of ratings to courts-martial, the same kind of argument can be applied to the appointment of junior officers to courts-martial because of the fact that they may feel embarrassed in expressing their real judgment when sitting in concert with the very senior officers who play such a vital part in their future promotion in the Service.

The main point I want to stress is this. Having regard to the fact that Army or R.A.F. personnel, ratings and otherwise, ordinary privates as well as officers, have the right to opt, if they so wish, to be tried by court-martial, the First Lord should treat these rights as of major importance, and introduce similar changes in the Navy, so that in all cases of conviction involving imprisonment, dismissal from the Service, or demotion, the naval ratings and other personnel so affected should have the right to appeal to a court-martial.

Those are some of the points which I wanted to put to the First Lord because I think it would be a step towards the ideal, as I see it, of bringing the whole system of justice in the Navy more in accord with our concepts of civil law and procedure.

10.6 p.m

Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. May don (Wells)

The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) will, I know, forgive me if I do not follow his arguments.

My right hon. Friend the First Lord made a statement in his speech today which struck me as being important. He referred to it briefly and I am afraid that he spoke too rapidly, certainly for myself, and I think for many others, fully to absorb what he said. He referred to the new officer structure, of which I feel the House ought to have more detail. He gave us a rough idea of the timing of the division between the Post List and the General List, but he left us completely in the dark on the methods of that division.

My right hon. Friend referred to the amalgamation of certain branches. I do not know whether I misunderstood him, and perhaps these points will be cleared up when the Financial Secretary replies. From what the First Lord said, I understood that the various branches would no longer be distinguished by their different coloured stripes, and I felt that he implied that there would be an amalgamation of certain of their duties, although that is a point which needs clarification.

Let us take the Supply Branch. It is difficult to imagine officers, who will presumably be taken from the General List, as it to be, of the new officer structure, who can deal with matters of pay, victualling, clothing, and secretarial work, in addition to other general duties. Perhaps I am rather conventional in my ideas, but I feel that these are specialised duties which should still be left to a specialist branch.

The Supply Branch also deals with stores, a very complicated subject with ramifications extending into other branches of the Navy. Many stores are handled by engineers, and it requires a very careful redivision of store items to see that the store user in general has sufficient control over stores to ensure that he gets the right piece of equipment at the right time, and, what is more important, that it is in a ready and efficient condition to be fitted into existing equipment and used forthwith. I wondered whether this reorganisation of the officer structure envisaged some amalgamation of what I look upon as more specialised branches of the Navy— the Engineer Branch and the Electrical Branch.

We have, too, the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors which in the past, rightly or wrongly, has frequently been under the fire of criticism. There is scope there for considerable reorganisation and, if possible, for getting officers in the Royal Corps integrated more into the active seagoing Navy, so that not only do they get an opportunity of putting their great technical training and experience into practice in actual sea-going conditions, but are able to see the conditions under which material which is designed and fitted under their supervision is in actual use while at sea.

My right hon. Friend the First Lord referred also to a shortening of the base of the pyramid so that the promotion prospects at the head of the pyramid were not quite so remote as they have been in the past. There seem to be considerable difficulties in doing that, and one point which, it occurs to me, could be considered now that this far-reaching step is being worked out is whether we could achieve a closer link between the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy.

If, as I visualise, the entry of cadets for training will be restricted in order to reduce that number of junior officers, there must inevitably be space to spare in the training establishments—for example, the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. That additional space might well be used for taking in young officers who intend to make their career in the Merchant Navy but who could benefit by some part of their early training being spent in close conjunction with the Royal Navy.

I am convinced that both Services would benefit from that arrangement, not only among the executive branches but also among the more specialised branches such as engineers and electricians. There is at present, as most hon. Members will be aware, a very grave shortage in the Merchant Navy of officers of sufficient technical training, particularly among engineers. Some such scheme as I have briefly sketched might do something to increase the supply of such officers to the Merchant Navy.

After all, we have tonight been considering the tremendous scientific advances which have been made and which seriously affect the future of the Royal Navy. We must never forget that those advances equally affect the future of the Merchant Navy and the men who serve in it.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I was very interested in what the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut-Commander Maydon) said about the co-ordination of the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy, because I believe that if, unfortunately, we should be plunged into another war, if there is any chance of survival at all for us, it will be provided by a strong and fast Navy and merchant fleet to take out of the country what is left of the remnants of our population rather than leave us here to struggle on in broken-backed warfare.

I believe that the function of the Navy is certainly not ended. It has been said in the course of the debate that perhaps even the first two hours of war would be decisive. It has been said that if there were hydrogen bomb warfare we should be wiped out within 36 hours. It seems to me that the best chance for this little island would be to have a strong, fast fleet. We should need big ships to get something or someone away, because it would be our only chance to get someone or something back later. The function of the Navy has not yet been destroyed by the new conditions of nuclear warfare.

I enter the debate because I am rather concerned about the position on the Clyde. My latest information is that we have six empty berths there. I understand that they are capable of building hulls of up to 8,000 and 10,000 tons. The ship-repairing position on the Clyde has deteriorated considerably, and as the Clyde is probably the greatest shipbuilding area in the country, every measure should be taken to sustain it. In the Firth of Clyde, Gareloch, Loch Long and Roth say Bay, there are probably the finest anchorages, with the exception perhaps of Scapa Flow.

Mr. Wilkins

That is a better one.

Mr. Bence

On the Clyde, and taking into consideration also the engineering equipment available and the skill and craft of the shipbuilders, there is possibly the best strategic anchorage in this island. There are possibly the best facilities in Britain for ships to enter and for ship repair and maintenance work to be carried out.

Unfortunately, in Scotland there is very little alternative employment for men who are engaged in the shipbuilding industry. Those of us who remember the period between the wars, when there was a decrease in shipbuilding, will also remember that one did not find the shipwrights, platers and riveters moving out of the shipbuilding industry into other industries in our country, even if they were offered jobs. They immediately emigrated. Thousands went into the United States shipyards.

It may be quite a good idea on the part of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) that if war were certain we should disperse our shipbuilding facilities all over the Commonwealth because we, as he rightly said, are the target in the most danger in the world. But if I were a New Zealander or an Australian I would say, "If they are going to remove shipbuilding to New Zealand they are certain that there is going to be war and that they will be blotted out. If they shift the shipbuilding here we may be blotted out." Therefore, if I were a new Zealander I should disagree with my hon. Friend.

I do not think that it will be very useful to discuss the Navy Estimates from that point of view. If we do, it will be just an exercise in futility and all our plans will be smashed. In view of the fact that the six berths which I mentioned earlier are idle on the Clyde, I make the plea to the First Lord of the Admiralty that in any conversions, repairs and maintenance work that are planned, the Clyde should be given every consideration. Indeed, it should have priority, because at Gareloch there are fine facilities for ships to lie up as secure as anywhere on the British coast. It will be a serious matter if there is any decrease in shipping activity on the Clyde. I leave the subject there, hoping that we shall have these berths re-occupied very soon.

I never had anything to do with the Navy. I admit I do not understand much about naval affairs, but I read in the Explanatory Statement that we have 182 ships in active service in the British Navy. I have done a little research, and I find that there are 1,024 in active service in the United States. I also find that there were 1,048,000 men in the American Navy and the Marines while we have 139,000, including Marines, sailors and Wrens. I could not get the contemporary figures for admirals in the American Navy, but I got the number of admirals in 1949 when they had nearly 1,000 ships. The number was 28. Now they have got 1,024 ships.

We have only 182 ships, but we have 93 admirals, or one admiral for every two ships. As I say, I have never been in the Navy. I do not know anything about it. I have worked in industry all my life, but I have never known of a manager for every two workers or for every two departments. A manager generally covers a huge area, but here we have a smaller Navy than we have ever had and yet we have all these admirals.

I mentioned this matter in last year's Navy Estimates, but this was passed over because the other matter I raised was more attractive to the journalists. This question may not seem so important, but to me it is, because the First Lord has stated that officers in the Navy need have no fear. They can be absolutely confident that there will be no axing. I have been in the engineering industry all my life, but even though in that industry there were new techniques, new developments, and new lines of advance because of technological progress, I never asked my employer for a guarantee for my particular employment.

But here the head of the Navy, an organisation which is going through a transitional period with new functions and in a new age, gives a guarantee to these 93 admirals, "It is all right, boys, you are all right." I have heard some men say that shop stewards in the factory should never get the sack and many employers object to that.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

My hon. Friend is not comparing admirals with shop stewards?

Mr. Bence

Certainly not; shop stewards have a constructing function. I would not suggest victimisation for any admiral. I do not want to see them victimised. But it seems to me absurd that with a smaller Navy than we have ever had we have a larger number of admirals. I think something should be done, and we ought to have an inquiry in the Admiralty to see if all these admirals are really necessary. In the American Navy there were 28 in 1949 and, taking into consideration the increase in the number of ships, they should now have 50, so to balance it up a little we should offer them 20 of our superfluous admirals.

Mr. Wigg

Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, I have been trying to follow the argument and have looked up the Estimate. It is true that there are 93 officers of flag rank. Does it mean that they are all admirals?

Mr. Bence

I have been seeking information from some of the retired officers, and they assure me that flag officers are admirals. If I am wrong, the First Lord will point it out, and I hope that when he does so I shall be awake. If we consider these Navy Estimates and, after them, the Army and Air Estimates, accepting the fact, as we have been told, that we have three or four years before we might be engaged in a third world war when nuclear weapons will be used, I think we are indulging in a futile exercise. It has been said on all sides of the House today that with 10 hydrogen bombs dropped on this island all the Navy and Army and everything else would be almost annihilated. Several friends of mine, some in the Navy, some in the Army, have said to me that if they were at sea and a third world war should break out, they would probably be in the safest position of anyone. There is no doubt about that.

I hope we shall build as many carriers as we can, and as we can build ships for carrying passengers which are suitable for conversion to hospital ships, I hope that all the carriers being built will be suitable for conversion either to hospital ships or to passenger ships. I hope also that the scientists will produce some means of protecting them from radiation. I hope that such ships would be lying well off the coast in that event and that as many as possible would be sent to the Clyde—I live in Glasgow—so that the people of the Clyde shipbuilding area may be rescued.

So I hope that we shall keep on building carriers and keep them away from this island as far as practicable, because should the statesmen of the world be so foolish as to turn their backs on one another and refuse to talk to one another, thus bringing us to that awful situation where we may be plunged into war, all that we are trying to build up would be made nonsense of. Whether we are planning for a bigger Army or a smaller Navy or a bigger Air Force, none of it would matter; we should all be annihilated and this island would be a mass of ruins.

I hope that the First Lord of the Admiralty and all the officials of the Services will think in terms of creating our defence forces on a conventional basis, because to take them into the nuclear sphere is, in my view, merely wasting our time, since this island would be finished within a few weeks at most of the outbreak of a third world war.

10.29 p.m.

Sir Jocelyn Lucas (Portsmouth, South)

The statement of the First Lord that no cuts in the Service are contemplated will be a great relief to the officers of Her Majesty's Navy, many of whom were feeling exceedingly anxious. I do not pretend to be an expert on naval strategy, so I shall not attempt to follow those former naval officers who have taken part in this debate. Moreover, in welfare matters I believe that the; dockyard Members should interfere only when asked to do so. The usual channels are usually the best.

There are, however, three points which I wish to raise. The first is the case of the Chargemen's Association. On 9th October, 1947,I was approached by this association to help them. From 1900 to 1946 they had had the right to approach the Admiralty direct on their own problems. In 1946 the then Government took away the right, I believe as part of the Socialist policy of reducing the number of craft unions. I do not want to talk politics on that, but I think that that was the idea.

I took up the matter with the Admiralty, and in the following November the Civil Lord informed me that any grievances could be put forward through the Whitley machinery. The whole point of the association's case was that it was quite wrong for these people who had charge of men to have to put forward their claims for higher pay or better conditions through the men in their charge. Obviously, it made discipline exceedingly difficulty, and if those concerned were a bit strict, the chaps might well say, "You behave like that and we will not help you."

I arranged to lead a deputation to the Civil Lord on 19th November, 1948. The Civil Lord was adamant, and they lost their rights. This association, which represents between 2,000 and 3,000 chargemen, wants its rights back. I do not press for an answer now, but I should like the Civil Lord to promise to receive a deputation so that these people may put their case, which undoubtedly they would do very much better than I can.

Secondly, I want to mention the case of the dockyard "mateys." People often talk about the chaps in the dockyards and say that they are not always working very hard. Dockyards are peculiar places. Sometimes there is a rush of work when there are repairs to be done, and sometimes there is not very much to do. There is bound to be a certain amount of slack time but, by and large, when there is trouble they always do their job and put their backs into it.

The wage for some of these men is little over £6 a week and that is not very adequate in these days. Another point is that these men work in what we call the bombed cities, and their rents tend to be high. On top of that they have to pay bus fares to travel to and from work. All these make life difficult. In Portsmouth we are trying to improve the conditions by building a satellite town at Leigh Park. If these men live there the fares they have to pay are increased. I hope that the Admiralty will consider whether something can be done to make conditions easier.

Finally, the pensions for all the Services, for former career officers, who have helped to save their country, are far too low, as are the payments to their widows. Nothing can discourage the best type of young man from going into the Services more than for him to see his father or grandfather on an absolute pittance trying to get along as best he can. In the old days we were used to the colonel retiring from his regiment and taking his batman with him. The batman would have a cottage in the country, look after the colonel's horse, and he was there for life. Now it is pretty well a case of the retired officer having to go as batman to somebody else.

I can mention one case of a former general who served with the Allies in the war. He got away from behind the Iron Curtain, and he is now doing extremely well as a steward in one of the best New York clubs. I hope that the First Lord will press on the Treasury the point of view that if we are to get the best type of young officers, it is not a good thing to starve their parents.

10.35 p.m.

Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)

The central theme of this debate has been concerned with the role of the Royal Navy in the nuclear age, and I propose to make a few amateur observations on that subject a little later on. But there are one or two other matters which I wish to raise first, and, indeed, one of the minor results of the nuclear age is that it makes me alter in certain significant respects the speech which I have made for the past seven years on the Navy Estimates. I am hoping to bring this speech up to date in the light of modern conditions, but there are one or two points which inevitably have to be raised on these occasions. One does not have to apologise for doing that, because there is no other opportunity open to us for doing so.

In his reply to the earlier debate, the Civil Lord referred to the way in which the scheme for reducing the period of foreign service was developing, and we were grateful to him for giving an explanation of how the scheme was working. I hope that the Admiralty will continue to give the House a detailed account of how the scheme is working, and whether, in fact, it is producing results, because from my experience I am sure that the biggest issue which might affect recruitment to the Navy is this question of the period of foreign service. There has been a lot of talk in all these debates about deterrents, but I would say that the most powerful deterrent possessed by the Royal Navy today is the long foreign service period. I am glad that the Government are attempting to do something about it, and I hope that they will give us some more information on the subject.

Another item in the White Paper to which I wish to refer and which has already meen mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) is the dockyards extension schemes. My hon. Friend said in his airy way that they ought to be be done away with. I can perfectly well see the logical appeal of that demand, but, may be, my hon. Friend ought to inquire in a little more detail about the exact stage which the Devonport extension scheme has now reached.

The White Paper states that there is a proposal further to reduce the original extension scheme. At first sight, those words have a slightly ominous ring about them to those of us in Devonport and Plymouth, because we have already had two reductions in our extension scheme. I am not saying that I want the scheme to be as big as possible, but, obviously, the question of the size of the scheme affects the whole city, because the whole Plymouth plan and all the arrangements of the Plymouth City Council are based on trying to accommodate the desires of the Admiralty in carrying out the scheme.

I am sure that the First Lord and the Admiralty would agree that they have received every co-operation from the Plymouth City Council in carrying out the scheme. I understand that there is now to be another reduction, but I am not sure exactly on what scale it is to be. I am not complaining about it, because, obviously, if there is another reduction— and I gather that the Civil Lord will make an announcement about it—it will relieve some of the demolition of houses which would otherwise have to take place. Of course, we welcome that.

I should say that some 300,000 houses would be saved from demolition, many of them good houses. Therefore, we accept the reduction with equanimity, but there are two points about the new changes which the Admiralty is proposing and which I hope that the Government will consider. The first is that the Admiralty is now proposing to remove from the extension scheme two or three areas which were previously to be included. In those areas the houses have been rapidly deteriorating during the past five or six years owing to the fact that nothing much has been done to them by way of repairs because it was assumed that they were going to be taken over. Naturally money was not wasted on repairing them, but now the Plymouth City Council has to deal with them. Therefore, special consideration should be given by the Admiralty to compensating the Plymouth City Council and to ensuring that the council does not have to bear the burden of the deterioration of these houses which has gone on in the meantime. I am sure that the; Admiralty scheme for compensating the Plymouth City Council will be fair and take into consideration this new arrangement.

The other point is that I hope that the Admiralty will tell us that this is a final proposal for the boundaries of the extension scheme. I can understand, as can everybody, the Admiralty's difficulties in deciding what to include. It was not easy to settle, but the Plymouth City Council has its problems and the Admiralty should make it clear that this is the final settlement.

The next matter I want to mention is referred to in the White Paper, and that is the modernisation of the dockyards. I have been asking for seven years for more to be spent on the modernisation of the workshops and equipment in the dockyards. It now appears that something is really being done, and that destroys the theory that the Admiralty does not care a fig for what is said in the House of Commons. I am sure that the Admiralty has taken it to heart, which shows that if one blows one's trumpet loud enough the walls of Jericho will not fall down, but one will occasionally make a small aperture.

As I was rather sceptical of the Government's proposals last year for carrying this through, it is only fair to say that in the last 12 months there has been considerable improvement. Considerable credit is due to Mr. Chatterton of the Civil Engineer's Department, who did an absolutely first class job. The Admiralty deserves to be congratulated on starting this work of re-equipment and modernisation which will be required for whatever purpose the dockyard is used. I hope that the Admiralty realises that if it is to carry through a proper modernisation plan, it will have to be extended over the next three or four years. I hope that that is the intention.

There is another point which I have discussed before and about which we should have some report from the Civil Lord. It will be recalled that, following the Report of a Select Committee in 1951, which repeated almost all the recommendations which the Admiralty had pigeon-holed following a similar investigation in 1927, those of us who had campaigned for more civilian control in the dockyard scored a spectacular triumph—spectacular in the sense that it was the only triumph we gained from all these recommendations.

We persuaded the Admiralty to appoint one deputy superintendent with industrial rather than naval experience, and he is referred to on page 278. He works at Chatham and gets a salary of £2,375. As he is a unique specimen in the whole of our naval history, we should like to know how he is getting on and whether the catastrophes which the Admiralty earlier prophesied would follow such appointments have come about. Have things come to a standstill at Chatham? If not, are things going on more smoothly? Indeed, maybe as a result of that appointment there has been an improvement. We want to know if the Admiralty now has the courage to extend this experiment to other dockyards.

As I said earlier, most of the debate has been devoted to studying whether the Admiralty is applying the principles which the Government has laid down in the White Paper. I know that I am not an expert on the subject, but everybody seems to be able to join in the debate. For instance, if Field Marshal Montgomery can express his views about aircraft carriers, I do not see why I should not be allowed to express mine. I daresay that the First Lord would like to hear what I have to say as well as listen to-the Field Marshal, and, comparing the last two days' debate with our discussion today, I do not think that there is much relation—except for one or two speeches from this side in criticism of the Admiralty—between the principles enunciated by the Prime Minister earlier this week and the policy of the Admiralty as it has been stated from the other side of the House.

In discussion of the rôle of the Royal Navy and the Admiralty, as put by some hon. Members opposite, there is called in aid the example of the Korean war. We have been told, of course, that the Navy discharges a rôle in such a war such as would need to be discharged whether there is a hydrogen bomb war or not. But Field Marshal Montgomery, if I may refer to him again, and General Gruenther, have both said in statements—and all the generals seem to agree—that if there were aggression again on the Korean pattern, that would lead to hydrogen bomb warfare; and that is the statement of the Government, as I understand it, in the White Paper, although the Minister of Defence half wriggled out of it yesterday. If we are to have a genuine discussion as to how the principles of the White Paper are to be applied, it is necessary that we have an answer, which we have not so far had in the debate on defence, as to whether the Government agrees with Field Marshal Montgomery and General Gruenther that we would use the hydrogen bomb first if there were a "conventional" attack. That, of course, would involve a general hydrogen war.

If that is the argument, then most of the opinions about strategy which have been uttered from the other side during today are far away from the facts. There is a rôle for the Navy removed from actual aggression, but there has been no statement about the Navy's rôle as a deterrent, or as a force in fighting what we used to call until recently "broken-back" warfare. There is the defence which has been put forward by the First Lord, and here I would refer not so much to his speech today as to one which he made a few weeks, or a month or two ago, when obviously the big battle between the Admiralty and the other Services was going on. That was when Field Marshal Montgomery thought that he should bring the battle out into the open; when they were having a sort of dialectical hydrogen bomb war.

What I wanted to recall was what the First Lord said at the dinner of the Worshipful Company of Coachbuilders and Harness Makers. It was there that he appropriately made his defence of the aircraft carrier. The defence which he then made was different from that which he now presents. He has found that he must fit the aircraft carrier into his nuclear prospectus, so to speak. He may have been carried away at the coachbuilders dinner, but on that occasion he explained, quite rightly I think, that we should make all ships smaller. No doubt that remark was applauded at the dinner for its wise sentiment.

But then the First Lord had to explain why he was actually making the aircraft carriers larger. He went on to say that there were three compelling reasons, and he gave them. One was that modern aircraft demanded larger platforms. The second was that small ships could not be made to go fast enough as economically as large ones, and the third reason was that a number of smaller aircraft carriers could not carry the number of different aircraft required today.

None of these compelling reasons for building larger and more aircraft carriers relates at all to the vulnerability of the aircraft carrier. Surely that is a question which has to be answered much more specifically than the First Lord has attempted to do if he is to present his case—if there is a case—for going ahead with the provision of these great and vastly expensive ships, so roundly condemned by other people who have some right at any rate to speak on military matters. I am not referring to myself, of course, but to the field marshals.

Another action of the First Lord which cast doubt on the whole of his programme was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East—the completion of the cruisers. This does not fit into the nuclear perspective. It does not bear any relation to that or any other conceivable strategy put forward in these White Papers.

Moreover, the First Lord in this same speech to the coachbuilders—I do not know whether this was his peroration and whether he was getting really warmed up—said that we were going to keep the "Vanguard" in commission, and that the "Vanguard" was still one of the most formidable warships in the world. What is the meaning of the word "formidable"? The "Vanguard" is probably the most vulnerable warship in the world— I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman would deny that. What is the use of saying that this is a great and formidable weapon when it does not deceive anyone, but does cast doubt on the whole strategy of the Admiralty? It is the thirteenth stroke of the clock that casts suspicion on the previous twelve. If the right hon. Gentleman is willing to defend the "Vanguard" and the battleship with the same enthusiasm as he advanced for the cruisers and the aircraft carriers, there is a grave doubt about the whole of his strategy.

Despite the well written introduction to the White Paper, the Admiralty is doing what it would have done if that had not been part of the White Paper at all; if the Prime Minister had not made his speech yesterday, and if we had never had the highly dangerous statement of the Supreme Commander of our forces in Europe, backed by Field Marshal Montgomery, that if necessary we would be the first to unleash the hydrogen bomb and hydrogen warfare. So I do not believe that the Admiralty has made any great advance in dealing with the new situation.

What I think the Admiralty has done —and on this I consider that the First Lord has every right to preen himself— is to deal with the military situation, or the new strategic situation in Whitehall. The First Lord has scored a great victory over the other Service Departments. Considering the meagreness of the strategic arguments he has had, he has done absolutely brilliantly in standing up to the formidable case which might be put by the air marshals—who have been discussing a war which might be settled in 30 hours—and all the weight of the scientific evidence pouring in day by day to their side. We read in the dramatic article in the "Daily Mirror" written by Cassandra the ideas of the Strategic Air Command in the United States, and with all that evidence against him, the First Lord of the Admiralty has achieved a magnificent victory. He deserves every credit for it.

I am concerned about another aspect of this matter, partly because of the general situation, but particularly because I come from a city which would be smashed for certain in a hydrogen war. Most of the other cities of this country would be, too, but mine most certainly would be. I am rather concerned whether the First Lord of the Admiralty will go on winning such victories as he has won this year. He has got for the Navy a bigger proportion of the total defence expenditure this year than the Navy was able to get in the last two or three years; he has beaten back the pincer attack of the air marshals and the field marshals; he has kept all the different kinds of conventional weapons he was trying to get last year and has added to them the three cruisers; he has done brilliantly this year.

However, I do not think he is going to go on winning, because I believe that the weight of the argument against the power of the Navy as a deterrent force— which was, I think, the phrase used by some hon. Gentleman on that side of the House, though it is not a deterrent force at all—is so strong that, despite the skill and obstinacy and stamina the First Lord has manifested in winning vast victories over his Service colleagues, he will be defeated eventually. Eventually there will have to be a radical change in the way in which the Admiralty conducts the affairs of the Navy, to fit it in with the new strategy.

Therefore, I am concerned about Devonport Dockyard. Besides, I hope— we all pray—that there will not be a war. So I am concerned about the future employment of the people in Devonport Dockyard, because if the air marshals and the field marshals are right—I am not saying dogmatically that I think they are right, and I am not saying that my opinion is worth anything on the matter—but if they are right, as it is possible they are, and if in two or three years' time the First Lord is defeated in the argument and there is a cut in the Royal Navy, that would be a matter of great seriousness for the city which I represent in this House.

The Admiralty owes much to such cities as Plymouth. Cities such as Plymouth give the whole of their lives in one sense to the service of the Government, and the Admiralty especially. Many of the projects which we could have undertaken for the development of our city as a commercial port have been stopped by the Admiralty for various reasons. Therefore the Admiralty owes Plymouth—and Portsmouth and Chatham—a debt which it must always be prepared to discharge. It would not be at all acceptable for the Admiralty to say, "If we have to make cuts we will save a few thousands out of what is paid to the people employed in Devonport Dockyard." I say it is the Admiralty's responsibility, even if it thinks it will win the argument in the years to come, now to prepare plans which could be put into operation if need should arise for employing Devonport Dockyard in meeting civil needs, lest those cuts have to be made and naval work has to be cut down.

We had some experience after the war of the repayment schemes for the dockyard. It worked pretty well. They were only small schemes. I am sure they were not very much loved at the Admiralty. The Admiralty did its best to do away with the schemes it had as soon as it could, but they were an indication of what could be done. Of course, civilian work could be done on a much larger scale. If, as we all hope, and the Government say they hope, there is eventually some scheme of disarmament, there must also be a plan already worked out for the subsequent use of the dockyard. Therefore, the Admiralty ought to appoint an inquiry at once—now—to see in what way it could use the magnificent equipment in Devonport Dockyard, equipment which is now being improved, for civilian purposes.

I said this a year or two ago before there was the hydrogen bomb. A Conservative Central Office speaker spoke outside Devonport Dockyard. He appealed to the dockyard workers to vote against me, because, he said, I was in favour of world peace, and if what I favoured came about they would be put out of employment. I think that maybe a few more people are now in favour of world peace. It has become quite a general opinion. Therefore, even if there are differences between us on how we should obtain it, I believe it would be very wise for the Admiralty to recognise that they have a duty to discharge to these dockyard towns, and it would assist in discharging it if they produced or prepared now the plan by which there could be the peaceful and reasonable transfer from naval to civilian work; if, indeed, the opportunity should be offered because of a change in the strategy between the Services or because we achieve what all of us wish to see, and that is a more peaceful world.

11.1 p.m.

Mr. J. J. Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)

I am particularly grateful to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, after the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), because the hon. Member and myself share the honour of representing Plymouth, and although I do not agree with him on some of his points, I would join him in pleading that the Admiralty's decision about the future of the dockyard extension this time should, if possible, be final. Although the relationship between the Plymouth City Council and the Admiralty is good, I think the First Lord will agree that the city does deserve a final decision now.

I would ask the House to consider for a moment some aspects of the future employment of the dockyards, and Devonport Dockyard in particular. Much has been said in the last two days, in the defence debate, about the increased destructive power of the nuclear bombs. I can see a direct relation between the increased destructive power of the bombs and an inevitable decrease in manpower in the Services. I am not suggesting that this will happen in a matter of months, but I think it is probable over a period of years. This may not worry the Service chiefs, but it is bound to cause concern in a city such as Plymouth, where the whole labour picture is dominated by the 20,000 men employed in the Devonport dockyard.

In the Plymouth and Devonport area there is no possible alternative occupation in the event of redundancy in the dockyard. As I understand the picture, in the immediate future, in the period of conversion from conventional to non-conventional weapons, it is probable that employment in the dockyard will probably go up rather than down. I understand that there is to be an increase of some 400 men in the industrial staff of the Devonport Dockyard at present, and I hope that the Government can give some assurance that, provided the economic climate and international relations position remain the same, there is no probability in the immediate future of there being any unemployment or redundancy in the Devonport Dockyard.

I would ask the House to consider the future employment in the Dockyards, and although there are many imponderables in this, I hope the First Lord has considered this problem. It seems that it is possible, in five or ten years' time, that there will be a period in which there might be redundancy in the dockyards. I agree with the hon. Member for Devonport that the only way of getting round this redundancy is to increase the repayment works programme. There is always repayment work in the dockyards; it is going on now, and there is no reason to believe that this Government is against increasing it.

It has been argued by the hon. Member for Devonport, if he is correctly reported in the Plymouth Press—and no doubt this has been read by those who work in the dockyard—that, if there is to be a major increase in the repayment works programme in the future, it is necessary to have a plan now. I draw the implication from this argument by the hon. Member for Devonport that, unless the Government come out with some plan now, they are not fulfilling their obligation in this matter. I am sure the hon. Member is wrong about this. As I understand the situation, with labour, plant and material available, it should not take more than a few months to increase the size of the repayment programme if an emergency arose. I hope that the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary may comment on this in his reply to the debate, for repayment work is the only way of getting round this redundancy problem. But I question whether any action now is necessary.

If, on the other hand, I am wrong and the hon. Member for Devonport is right, I agree with him that the Admiralty should consider this matter now. Where 20,000 men are now needed, in 1960 perhaps only 15,000 may be wanted, but in 1965 they may want 20,000 to 25,000. These isolated pools of industrial activity can only be prevented from withering by repayment work. If that is not done, then I think the interests of the Admiralty would be badly served.

I hope that some mention will be made of these points when the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary replies. I would ask the First Lord to bear one thing in mind. Whenever the finality and power of the unorthodox and unconventional weapon, it is bound to cause concern, as is only natural, to those who have earned their living all their lives in creating conventional weapons or the ships that carry them. I hope he will take the view that it is not only in the interests of those in the dockyards but those of the Admiralty that there should be continuity of employment, whatever the year-to-year requirements of the Admiralty may be.

11.8 p.m.

Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)

It is almost an impertinence on my part to intervene in a debate of this kind, because I declare at once that I have no technical information on naval matters. But when we are dealing with the fundamentals of our present situation, there are no experts; we are all laymen; and I feel somebody ought to give a little support to my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), who, not knowing that I was to support him, has unfortunately left us.

My hon. Friend was the first speaker I heard—and I have heard most of the speeches today with the exception of one or two made in support of the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas)—who seriously challenged paragraph 1 of the Explanatory Statement, which seems to me to imply that the advent of the hydrogen bomb affected our strategy, tactics and thinking no more substantially than it had been affected in the previous decade by the advent of the torpedo, the submarine, the aeroplane or radar. There, it seems to me, the Admiralty are most profoundly mistaken.

It seems to me that fundamental to the whole defence position is the proposition which hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have expressed during the last two or three days; that is, that clearly we cannot defend ourselves, and prepare to defend ourselves, against every conceivable eventuality. The task of prudence is to try to prepare against eventualities which seem, on balance, most likely. It seems to me, with all respect to those who have high technical qualifications in these matters, that very largely in these Navy Estimates we are preparing for one of the most unlikely eventualities it is possible to imagine. Why? Because of the experience which has been implanted on all those who worked in, and have given their lives to, service in the Navy in two world wars within living memory.

In those two wars, what did the Navy do? What really happened to the Navy? There was a relatively small number of spectacular and brilliant naval actions, when fighting ships fought out thrilling battles against, roughly speaking, comparable fighting ships. Those brilliant events were an exception to the general rule. The general rule was that the Navy, day in and day out, week after week, month after month, kept convoys moving to bring food and raw materials to 50 million people in these islands, and to carry supplies to scattered armies. In the first of the wars this went on for more than four years; in the second, for nearly six years.

These experiences cannot help being implanted deeply on the minds of anyone concerned with naval problems. Thus I think it is that in paragraph 50 of the Defence White Paper we have the sentence: In a major war, the task of the Navy would be to secure the sea communications without which we cannot for long survive. I question whether that statement stands up to examination in the light of the major and terrible decision which the Government have taken and announced to the world in this White Paper; whether it stands up to the speech which the Prime Minister made two days ago. My position on this matter is awkward. Frankly, looking back over the years, my position is an inconsistent one, because, in the light of what has happened, I ought to have opposed the manufacture of atom bombs on every possible occasion since I came into the House in 1947. I hope to say a word about that next week when we are considering the Air Estimates and the cost of the strategic bomber fleet to carry hydrogen bombs to their targets.

Roughly speaking, we have adopted the position that we rely on a deterrent to save us from a major war—a deterrent which the U.S.A. has and which the U.S.S.R. has, or will have. The reason we hope not to be subjected to a major attack launched either by hydrogen weapons or by a massive attack by conventional weapons by the U.S.S.R. is that we calculate that the Russian rulers will calculate that the U.S.A. would blow them to pieces with the hydrogen bomb. We take it for granted that the Western world is never going to make an unprovoked action of aggression, but if we were Chinamen, and loyal supporters of the present Peking Government, we might be asking ourselves what is going to prevent the U.S.A. launching a hydrogen bomb onslaught on China.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Baronet is getting a little far from the sea in his discourse.

Sir R. Acland

With great respect, the area in which thermo-nuclear weapons might be dropped on China is not at all far from the sea. It is all an area concerned with islands, large and small. Nevertheless, without further elaboration, I can make the point that it is the possession of thermo-nuclear weapons by these two giant world Powers which we hope will prevent a major act of aggression from taking place.

It has been well said that while we hope there will not be a major act of aggression, that does not mean there will never be war of any kind. We can have cold war action. The Navy has played its part in the Korean action, and a similar action might be fought again; although the danger of its turning into a third world war fought by major weapons would be very much greater if it happened again than it was on the last occasion. But, at any rate, the Navy does not need to be anything like its present size in order to make its fair contribution to any reasonably likely cold war action.

The question of police force work has been mentioned. Then it is said that we need to have a screen across Europe. The Navy does not come into play very much with that, except to transport men and materials to and fro. And on that I should have thought it would have been better to dig the Channel tunnel. But all of these forms of war—the cold war action, the police work, the screen across Europe—all these, I agree, have to be taken into account as well as the possibility of a hydrogen bomb war.

But I ask in all seriousness is there any hon. or right hon. Member of this House who can foresee a situation in which year after year these islands, and the ships coming to and from these islands, would be subjected to an unlimited attack by submarine, by surface raider, and by bombing aircraft in which the hydrogen bomb would not be used? Will anybody say that that is an eventuality which can conceivably take place?

Despite the ambiguities which were offered to us by the Minister of Defence in summing up the debate last night, I see the possibility that if some minor aggression is made somewhere in the world—a little frontier incident—obviously we are not going to reply to that with a hydrogen bomb and nor, I trust, are our American allies. But a war in which the overseas trade of Britain is subjected month after month and year after year to an unlimited submarine aircraft attack and surface raider attack, that is not the kind of little incident which we would try to contain by what has sometimes been called a mobile fire brigade action. We would not get a submarine onslaught upon our shipping year after year unless it was part of a major war, a part of a supreme act of aggression.

Now we have made the decision—it is an appalling decision—described by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh) as the gambler's last throw—that we will try to make that kind of major act of aggression as unlikely as we can make it by offering to use the ultimate and unlimited weapon. But if it happens, despite that hope that we thereby make the thing unlikely, that there is the unlimited act of aggression —namely, the only kind of act of aggression which would involve within itself the possibility of sustained submarine and surface raider warfare against our ships—if that took place, then the hydrogen war would be on.

Nobody has answered the challenging statement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) in the debate yesterday. What point is there in carrying 80 million tons of goods a year across the sea to a cinder? If the hydrogen war starts our little country is out. The problem will be to sustain, as it was in the case of Israel in an earlier act of unprovoked aggression by what was relatively to that country an aggressor equally powerful as the Soviet Union in relation to us. It may well be that the problem will be of sustaining a little remnant.

Therefore, if we had Estimates which provided for, shall we say, very fast merchant submarines—not fighting submarines—which might be able to bring in supplies to the battered remnant may be in Cornwall, Pembrokeshire or Caithness, that would be something relevant to a hydrogen war situation. If we had Estimates for mobile repair yards—small repair yards, highly equipped, which could be mounted on wheels and which could be stationed in Canada so that some of our ships damaged in war might be able to limp to such places to get repair——

Commander Donaldson

Surely the hon. Gentleman must know that there are fully equipped naval dockyards on both coasts of Canada willing and able and capable of repairing any of our ships.

Sir R. Acland

If a hydrogen bomb burst on them? The hon. and gallant Gentleman fails to envisage the sort of situation I am trying to illustrate.

Commander Donaldson

The hon. Gentleman was making reference to towing small repair yards from here across the ocean to Canada, and I informed him that the dockyards and the trained workers are already there.

Sir R. Acland

I am trying in an amateur way, of course, to put some ideas to hon. Members. But we are all amateurs in relation to hydrogen war. There are no experts on the subject. I am trying to ask myself the kind of preparations which a Board of Admiralty might be turning its mind to if it really contemplates that the hydrogen war might break out. I have mentioned the merchant submarine to sustain a remnant that might be left alive in some remote part of this island. If we had any mentioned in the Estimate, I would say that the Government were being realistic in the light of probable events.

I was then envisaging a situation in which the normal repair yards in Britain and in Canada might have been destroyed. I thought that there would be some advantage in establishing in Canada what I described as mobile repair yards which might be able, after the main crunch of the hydrogen war, to set themselves up somewhere on some suitable creek or inlet in Canada. That might be helpful to a damaged and limping Navy in getting some of its ships into some sort of service again.

In the light of the only kind of major war that is now likely to be fought, it is fantastic that we should be spending Britain's resources in preparing a fleet for a long-drawn-out battle against submarines and surface raiders which are attacking our convoys, as was so necessary and vital in the last war. After all, we have not got unlimited resources, and we are completely neglecting the major Soviet instrument of world strategy which just peeps out in one little sentence in paragraph 14 of this Report. I should be out of order if I developed the subject, but the sentence states: For this reason economic, social and political progress must be maintained, particularly in the less developed countries. I should have thought that it would have been the course of wisdom to divert some of the money now being spent in preparing naval vessels for the kind of war which never can happen, or which is so unlikely that it becomes reasonable to say that it never can happen, and to use those resources of money and manpower in doing a little bit on the economic, social and political lines to meet what is, after all, the main instrument of contemporary Soviet strategy.

11.27 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Stevens (Portsmouth, Langstone)

I have often regretted my lack of imagination, but I confess that my imagination rather boggled a few moments ago at the thought of "nifty" little repair yards, mounted on wheels, being towed from Cornwall across the sea to those parts of Canada which had not been devastated by the hydrogen bomb. We are amateurs, as the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) said, and it would need the imagination of a professor to create such an image as a practical suggestion in a debate of this kind.

I propose to come down from such high flights of fantasy to a relatively small but very important and practical detail. When my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty opened the debate this afternoon he said, in reference to the manning of the Royal Navy, that we must make sure that the Navy offers an attractive career. I am quite sure that we all agree with that. But I think that applies to the officers of the Royal Navy as well as to those of the lower deck, and, in that respect, I think that one of the attractions of a career for an officer in the Royal Navy should be the pension awaiting the 93 admirals and other officers on retirement.

I am not at all certain that under present conditions those pensions are as attractive as they should be. I have in mind, obviously, the example of the officers who retired from the Navy before September, 1950. A good many retired naval officers live in my constituency, and they have read with great assiduity the case which the Government have put up on many occasions when pressed in this House to reconsider the pensions of those officers. Though I have done my best when I have been in my constituency to explain and extend this argument, those of my constituents affected still consider that they have been hardly treated.

My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Sir J. Lucas) referred to the effect upon young men going into the Royal Navy of seeing their fathers hard treated. The Government have advanced two reasons for their inability to meet this demand which has come from all parts of the House.

On the one hand, they say that pensions earned in public service cannot be varied in the light of events after retirement, and their second line of defence that if the concession were granted to retired officers of the Services, then a proportionate adjustment would have to be in respect of a great many other people, including retired civil servants. Just for a few minutes I want to examine these two fundamental reasons, which I do not think are entirely sound.

I think that the first one—that pensions in public service cannot normally be varied after retirement—is fundamentally a sound principle, but I also believe that circumstances alter cases. It seems to me—as between 1938 and 1955, for example—that the fall in purchasing power of pensions of officers of the Royal Navy who retired in 1938 and before has been so substantial that the case demands readjustment to bring it closer to current reality.

In passing, I should say that a good many private firms and companies have created pension schemes for their employees so that when they retire they receive fixed pensions. In many cases these schemes were started before the war, and in other cases the pension is payable from a fixed fund. But I and many other hon. Members know of many cases where these employers have felt in duty and honour bound quite voluntarily to increase these pensions because of the fall in the value of money.

On the other point—that if the concession is made to officers retiring from the Services a proportionate concession should be made to the Civil Service—I am not sure that that argument convinces me. I admire our Civil Service, which is certainly second to none. But whether in peace or war, conditions in the Civil Service are nothing like so arduous as conditions in the Services.

In peacetime, while it is true that some civil servants have to spend a proportion of their careers—sometimes a very large part—overseas, they are a minority and not a majority. Even if they do so, they frequently take their wives and families with them. Very different in peacetime is the case of the naval officer who has much of his service always to spend abroad. He leads a life of constant change with no settled home.

So far as war is concerned, every speech to which I have listened in the debate has indicated that the slogan of the last war, "We are all in it," will be even more true if there is a hydrogen war. That slogan was not the whole truth. It is a fact that in the last war— and from what the Home Secretary said in the defence debate on Tuesday, it will be so in the next war—the majority of civil servants were evacuated from the target area to relatively safe areas. They will not be completely safe areas, but relatively safe areas.

But the naval officers and ratings will be spending their whole war-time service seeking out the most dangerous spot. Surely there can be no comparison between the lives in war-time of naval officers and the majority of the civil servants. I very much doubt if the civil servants will in any way be jealous if officers' pensions of this kind are increased. The First Lord says that he is the champion of all serving officers; but he is the champion, too, of all retired officers of the Royal Navy, and I do hope that he will not merely knock on the door of the Chancellor but bang very hard indeed and represent in strong terms that many hon. Members on both sides of the House feel that these retired officers have had harsh treatment. I hope that he will try to persuade the Chancellor to apply a suitable remedy.

11.36 p.m.

Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

I want briefly to raise four points. What is the assumption on which this debate is based? It is, I take it, and the assumption enunciated in the White Paper on Defence, namely, that aggression will be met with overwhelming nuclear retaliation. Throughout the Government's White Paper on defence it is argued that that dread decision is necessary for the purpose of achieving the deterrent value of thermo-nuclear weapons, and to counter-balance the military preponderance in what are called the conventional forces of the Soviet Union.

In the White Paper, that assumption that the Government is prepared to take the responsibility with its allies in N.A.T.O. for the initiation of thermonuclear warfare in the event of aggression is clear and categorical. Because of that terrible decision, with all its unbelievably appalling implications, we should insist on the Government initiating high level talks; but we should also be quite clear and honest with ourselves, and with the rest of the world, as to what is meant by this strategic policy.

Since that White Paper was issued, it seems that some grave doubts have been cast upon this assumption, which affects our whole discussion today on the Royal Navy. For instance, one doubt arises from the failure of the Minister of Defence last night to give a plain and clear answer to some of the questions and suppositions put forward by some of my hon. Friends. A second doubt is cast by the fact that the Service Ministers appear to be carrying on as usual.

As some of my hon. Friends have said, although this decision and this assumption is made in the White Paper on Defence, we can see no real conclusions drawn in the Memorandum of the First Lord, nor did we hear any in his speech today. It appears to me that this leads us to an extremely dangerous situation being created at home and abroad, for if people see the Royal Navy carrying on just as usual, with the same kind of statements, and the same assumptions, this would appear to falsify the strategic and defence assumptions made in the White Paper.

The statement in the Memorandum of the rôle of the Royal Navy seems to me to have no relevance whatever to what the Prime Minister said about the possibilities or the prospects of thermo-nuclear warfare. What on earth has half this programme to do with a war which might be decided in 30 hours? This country cannot possibly afford to be prepared at one and the same time both for a thermonuclear war and for a repetition of the Second World War. We cannot have a big Navy, Army and Air Force and mobile columns, and the H-bomb. But the statement made by the Admiralty and the speech of the First Lord suggest that the Navy is carrying on on the assumption of the possibility of a long-drawn-out conventional major war. I think it an extremely serious position and that we are entitled to a definite answer.

The Minister of Defence owes an explanation to the House about the strategic assumptions made in the defence policy. It is important, in view of what has been said in the defence debate, to make clear to the Russians, and to the world, and to the British people, just what is involved in this policy. To carry on with the construction of large targets for the atom and hydrogen bombs; to carry on with the same sort of phrases about the role of the Navy, and to make no conclusions about the obsolescence of the equipment of our conventional forces in the light of the assumption that nuclear weapons will be used, is to cast grave doubts on whether this decision has actually been made or would be carried out. That is a very dangerous bluff.

If in fact the N.A.T.O. commanders have decided that nuclear weapons must be used in the case of aggression, it is for the Services ruthlessly to draw conclusions from that; ruthlessly to reorganise their forces and their policy, and to construct their equipment in relation to that dread decision. This, I fear, is a question which will be raised, not only in relation to the Navy, but to the other Services. Like my hon. Friends, I do not pretend to be able to give any expert judgment on the conclusions which should be drawn. But, from reading this Memorandum, and from the speech of the First Lord, I think that any sensible citizen can see that the Government have not drawn the conclusions from their own assumptions.

Quite apart from the role of the Navy in relation to communications and in local incidents, there are assumptions made of the possibility of major conventional wars and the part to be played by the Navy in them. That falsifys completely what we have been told by the Prime Minister and what is stated categorically and in unqualified terms in the Defence White Paper.

Now I want briefly to deal with three other matters. First, I think it is time that all the Service Departments stopped over-estimating their requirements. In view of the revelations of what has happened in the last few years, it is time that the Service Departments were required to estimate accurately what they are going to spend. Continually we have been asked to vote for each Service more money than could be spent. Once again, in the First Lord's Memorandum, reference is made to the possibility of under-spending. It is time the Admiralty and the other Service Departments estimated their requirements in relation to the economic capacity of industry and the state of the economy of the country, so as to avoid the situation in which each year a large sum of money is voted and the Chancellor of the Exchequer then declares that there is a surplus, sometimes of several hundreds of millions of pounds, out of what was voted to the Services.

Second, the First Lord's Memorandum shows a deplorable state of affairs in recruitment, one which must concern all Members of the House. Many Members have commented upon it in this debate. I am not satisfied with Departmental inquiries into the situation. It is time that a Parliamentary inquiry was established into the position of manpower in the Navy, Army and Royal Air Force, and into the reasons for the decline of voluntary recruitment. This Memorandum shows the unfortunate dependence of the Navy now on conscripts, and its dependence on the two-year period of service. I regard that as a grave breach of faith.

It is time that Service Ministers appreciated that conscription should be reduced. Pledges were given five years ago, when the period of National Service was extended from 18 months to two years, that that extension was simply for an emergency period that was related to the Korean war. The Korean war has been over for some months and the com- mitments of the Services have been reduced, and it is, therefore, time that the period of National Service was reduced. It is time, too, that the Navy was reorganised, redeployed its manpower, and reduced its dependence upon conscripts and its dependence upon this long period of conscription which, I believe, the country cannot afford.

Therefore, I say that Parliament should now insist upon reducing the period of National Service. It is clear from this Memorandum and from other statements by the Service Ministers that a general inquiry should be made into the use of manpower in the Services and into the reasons for the decline in voluntary recruitment because of this dangerous dependence upon the system of conscription.

Finally, I come to the Admiralty's resistance to reform. It is scandalous that the Admiralty refuses to implement the recommendations of the Pilcher Committee.

Mr. Speaker

We are now on Supply. We cannot deal with legislation at this stage.

Mr. Swingler

In view of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I must amend what I have said. I have drawn attention previously to the necessity of carrying out reforms in the Navy, such as have already been carried out in the judicial procedure of the other two Services, and which were recommended in 1950 by the Pilcher Committee. It is, I think, deplorable that we have had no statement from the First Lord of the Admiralty, either in his speech or in the Memorandum, on this situation or on the general question of bringing up to date the Act of Parliament that governs the Naval discipline. I appreciate that I cannot go into the question of legislation, but I hope we are to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary that some action is to be taken by the Admiralty to inquire into the archaic character of the Naval Discipline Act, in view of the admirable work that has been done by the Select Committee on the Army and Air Force acts, so as to bring it into line with the reforms of the rules and regulations governing procedure in the Services.

In this debate many questions have been raised, both big and small, but I should like to come back to the point with which I opened: that I believe that if the Government are to carry conviction that they have made the decision that is declared in the Defence White Paper, the only way they can carry conviction is if they are prepared to carry out the necessary reforms and consequences in the Services. What has so far been said by the spokesmen of the Navy shows that the Government have a split mind on this issue. That seems to me to be the most dangerous situation of all, in which we might reap the worst of two worlds. I hope, therefore, that in winding up this debate the spokesman of the Navy will show more realism in relation to this and will say that he appreciates what are the consequences for naval forces of the Government's decision to take responsibility for using thermo-nuclear weapons.

11.54 p.m.

Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)

I apologise for speaking at this late hour, and will try to make my remarks as short as possible. I am particularly anxious to touch on three subjects: dockyards, the Navy, and Service personnel, in that order. As the Member representing the Portsmouth Dockyard, I should like to draw attention to the fact that although we have voted more money this year for the improvement of the dockyards, and the Explanatory Statement says that the dockyards are to be redesigned and replanned over a period of four years or more, so far the progress has been extraordinarily slow.

The sums voted, when divided between all the dockyards, do not come to very much for any one dockyard. This year, I believe, the figure is just over £1⁓million pounds. If one divides that between Chatham, Portsmouth, Plymouth, and dockyards in the North, it does not allow for very much reconstruction. I have seen progress made in the dockyards in respect of the machinery which has been put inside these sheds in the last two or three years, but the sheds are in a terrible condition.

I do not think that outside the dockyards the trade unions would allow the workers to work in the conditions in which they are willing to work. Anyway not for very long. Perhaps it would be a good thing if the Civil Lord spent a little time in the winter months going round and seeing the conditions under which these men are working in the dockyards. In hot weather in the summer these tin sheds can be unpleasant enough. In the winter they are extremely unpleasant, and personally I should not like to work in one myself.

I hope that this programme can be speeded up, and I should like to know how much of the money voted in the last two years has actually been spent in trying to improve conditions in the dockyards in addition to adding new and better machinery to the equipment of the workshops.

Apart from the sheds being out of date, there seems to be an immense amount of money required for the upkeep of the roads and railways inside the dockyards. A sum of money is voted by Parliament, but it is divided between the dockyards and there are quite a number of things on which it has to be spent. I see this in the Navy Estimates under the heading "Dockyards and factories": For the construction of workshops, the reconstruction of wharves and crane tracks, roads and railways, the construction of further facilities at an explosives plant and instructional facilities, etc., for dockyard apprentices, and improvements to shore electrical services. That sort of thing, spread over all dockyards, takes up an immense amount of money, and that is why we see so little progress each year in the workshops themselves.

The next point I should like to touch on is the pay of the dockyard workers. The man working in the dockyard, before he has had P.A.Y.E. and insurance deducted, earns £6 7s. 10d. That is an extremely small amount for a man living in a city, particularly if there is no other income coming into the home. There are many of these workers who have to exist on this sum.

I would say they have even less than the agricultural worker when we take into consideration that the agricultural worker gets "perks" in the way of tied cottages at reasonably low rents, while his produce and commodities like that are cheaper in the country than they are in the towns and cities. In addition, the agricultural worker in season gets a reasonable amount of overtime. Overtime in the dockyard, on the other hand, is extremely limited, and many of these people on £6 7s. 10d. a week do not get any overtime at all.

I know the Parliamentary Secretary is going to tell me that these workers have merit awards, a pension and gratuity at the end of their time, but I would point out to him that even if every dockyard worker was 100 per cent. efficient, they cannot all get the merit award. Only a proportion of the workers will get it. There are many men who consider themselves as efficient as the man next door and believe that these merit awards are only given to those whose "faces fit" in certain quarters and not because of merit at all. That is a very difficult situation to overcome. I know the merit award was given to try to help the dock-yards man.

At the same time, there are still a large number on this very low wage. I would remind the First Lord and the Civil Lords that quite an amount of new industry is coming into Portsmouth. I am doing everything I can to try to attract new industry to Portsmouth. I read in our local newspaper the criticsm that the Admiralty is against new industry coming to Portsmouth because it is frightened that workers will be taken from the dockyard.

I believe that the Admiralty has no control over new industries coming to Portsmouth, and I believe that it will find that unless it does something to increase these wages it will lose certain of the skilled workers, and a great number of the unskilled. I think we ought to see more factories coming to the town so that if we get a situation such as that hon. Members opposite have suggested, and we may well do so if ever they come into power, namely, the abolition of the Navy, we shall not find in Portsmouth an appalling state of unemployment and no alternative work for the people.

I ask the Civil Lord to look into the differential between wages of the skilled and the unskilled workers. Although I think that the unskilled do not get enough, I am not sure that a maximum rate of £8 19s. 6d., with little overtime available, is adequate for skilled workers. I know that they get a great deal more money on the outskirts of the city already. In the housing of officers and ratings we have seen enormous improvement, and improvement is still taking place. I congratulate the First Lord and the Civil Lord on what has been achieved.

Let me now deal with the idea that the Navy is finished, and that we are now to have nothing but nuclear war. I feel that if the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)—who I am sorry is not in his place—had lived 100 years ago, he would have thrown up his arms and said that the end of the world had come, and that everything must be abandoned as there was no defence against the sort of warfare which was developing. There is no defence against the bullet when it is fired at one, and hits one; but ways have been found of getting underground, putting bits of iron and steel between oneself and the bullet, and trying to hit the other chap before he fires the weapon.

The same applied when howitzers and big guns were invented. We did not evacuate Dover because big guns across the Channel pumped shells across. I remember during an exercise in 1943, when we were pretending that we were going to cross the Channel, watching the flashes on the other side of the Channel, counting 10, and waiting for the shell to arrive. We shall need a Navy for a long time, and shall need it because of the chance of someone like the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale becoming Prime Minister of this country—which heaven forbid! If that were to happen we would abandon the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, and just negotiate with anyone who liked to negotiate and on any terms they chose.

I see no reason why we should be frightened of nuclear warfare. We saw no hysteria from hon. Members when the former Prime Minister announced that he had developed the atom bomb, unknown to his friends. Suppose that a hydrogen bomb is worth 50 atom bombs —I do not know what the figure is, and I do not think anyone else does—I would still rather have 50 atom bombs than one hydrogen bomb. It is no good killing the same man 50 times. It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh.

I doubt whether a certain hon. Member sitting in a corner on the other side of the House has any knowledge of this subject. He talks in every Service debate, but I do not think he gives the subject matter a single thought. A hydrogen bomb kills everyone in the centre of the explosion literally 50 or more times. All one wants to do in war is to kill a man once. [Interruption.] That is not funny. It is a fact. The people on the fringe 100 miles away are killed once, but if 50 atom bombs are dropped over a larger area there will be much more damage and the people in the middle will not be killed unnecessarily fifty times.

Let us assume that the hydrogen bomb is a deterrent and that people do not use it, in the same way as they did not use gas in the last war, and that, because the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is our Prime Minister, we abandon the Navy because it would be of no use. Russia could starve us out without ever having to use the hydrogen bomb. They could starve us out because they know very well that if they do not drop a bomb on us we will not drop it on them when the right hon. Gentleman is Prime Minister. Let us keep our courage up, and keep our Fleet, and forget this nonsense and hysteria about the hydrogen bomb. A means of defence against it will be found just as a means of defence has been found against every other weapon to date. It will be found, so let us keep a Navy.

There are various things I wanted to say about the pensions of officers, but those have been dealt with by my two hon. Friends the Members for Langstone (Mr. Stevens) and Portsmouth, South (Sir J. Lucas), so I will not touch on them tonight, but I may speak on pensions in the debate on the Army Estimates. There are, however, two other points I want to make, and I apologise for detaining hon. Members for an unnecessarily long time——

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The night is young yet.

Brigadier Clarke

The first is about boys' service in the Navy. I have had a certain amount of correspondence with the Admiralty about this matter. I am not sure that we have not got to think again as to whether it is a good thing to get a boy in the Navy at 14 and tell him that he has to like it until he is 30, which is what the situation amounts to. I am all for boys' service because I think we get the best sailors and soldiers by getting them young. But a boy ought to be given the opportunity at the same time as has a National Service soldier or sailor if he wishes to have his release, say at the age of 20.

Make him pay a small penalty if necessary, but it is wrong to take a boy in at 14 and tell him that his service does not start until he reaches his 18th year and that he has to serve another 12 years. I should have been very angry if my father had put me into the Navy at 14 and told me that I had to stay there until I was 30. At 20, the boy should be allowed to think again.

In conclusion, I want to say something about voluntary retirement, a topic which I raised last year. I hope that when my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary replies to the debate he will tell us how many officers who have asked to relinquish their commission are still held in the Navy, because he has opened that door considerably and I have the feeling that the Navy is a great deal happier on that account. Nevertheless, I believe that there are still quite a number of officers and ratings who are held in the Navy who should be allowed their release.

There are naval officers who, having been held all these years, suddenly find that they have a new job open to them, and they are unable to get out, even to pay their way out. In my early days when I was a soldier we used to pay for our education at Sandhurst just as our equivalents in the Navy paid for theirs at Dartmouth. We could leave the Army the day we got our commission, if we did not like it, because we had paid for our own education, which did not cost the War Office one penny. Now, the education at Sandhurst and Dartmouth is paid for by the State; in fact, the men receive a certain amount by way of pay while they are being trained at these establishments.

If the Admiralty agrees to release officers it ought to ask them to pay some sort of penalty for leaving during the first five or six years. These officers should have the same sort of liability to remain in the Service as has the rating and the other rank. I do not think that the naval officer or the Army officer ought now to be allowed out scot free when he wants to leave, after having got his commission.

This point has not been discussed before. I should like to hear what the Government have to say about it. I am sorry for having detained the House at this late hour, but there were these matters, important to a naval port, which I felt it was my duty to discuss.

12.12 a.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I should like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) on a really wonderful maiden speech. I hope that we will have the pleasure of listening to him a good many times in future. The only difficulty in following the hon. and gallant Member is that there seems no point of contact. He apparently regards the British Navy as one of the laws of nature. He regards it as part of his faith. It is very difficult to apply the laws of logic and reason to the point of view of the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Apparently he believes that the British Navy was laid down by some Divine Providence and that it will go on for ever and ever and from strength to strength. While that may be faith and devotion to something which I cannot very well understand, I think that we fully appreciate it. I regard this £356,750,564 as a colossal, ridiculous, and unjustifiable waste of public money. I am here to try to do my best to assist the Chancellor of the Exchequer to save some of it.

On these matters I am often a very lonely voice, and we have a sort of gentlemanly coalition between the two Front Benches. There is Masterman Unready sitting on the Government Bench and Mr. Midshipman Uneasy on this side of the House, rather uncomfortable when we get down to fundamental principles. I do not want to improve the Navy. I want to end the Navy. I want to wind up the Navy and give the gentlemen who are now in the Navy something useful to do to justify their existence.

I remember a speech by the Prime Minister which was a far more devastating attack on the Admiralty than any I have ever attempted to make. He knew something about the Admiralty.

Mr. Callaghan

No, he did not.

Mr. Hughes

I remember him being the First Lord of the Admiralty at least twice, and he had some idea of what went on in those sacred precincts. I remember when the right hon. Gentleman stood at and thumped the Dispatch Box when he was the Leader of the Opposition, and talked to us about the horde of officials in the Admiralty whose one great interest in life was to perpetuate their own jobs and to find jobs for their descendants. That was the most fierce indictment of the Admiralty that I have ever heard in this House, and I would not try to improve upon it.

It is quite understandable that the Admiralty consists of very gallant gentlemen who have served their country according to their lights, and who have done it very bravely and courageously, and so on, but who are quite out of touch with modern thought. They naturally want the Navy to go on and on, and the British Admiralty to go on for eternity, because it means jobs for themselves and for their grandsons and great-grandsons. But when, in the atomic age, they come along and want us to spend £356,750,000 at a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer is so hard up for money that he wants us to clamp down on hire purchase for perambulators and things of that kind, it is time that the ordinary representative of the British taxpayer asked some questions.

What has been the dominant excuse running through this debate? We have had the mirage of the Russian Navy, and, though we have not heard so much about it this year, I remember that last year the Parliamentary Secretary made the Russian Navy four times more expensive than it was by the simple expedient of taking the ruble at its external value of 2s. instead of at its internal value of about 6d. It is very easy to make the Russian Navy four times more formidable by calculating the rouble at an inflated rate. We have this picture of a great Russian Navy, aggressive, determined, as the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West has just said, trying to starve us out. That is a completely cockeyed picture of the whole strategic situation, because the Russian Navy is comparatively small in relation to the conglomerated collection of navies that will be ready to attack it if war comes about.

Brigadier Clarke

How does the hon. Member know?

Mr. Hughes

I have not done yet.

I have never been able to accept that picture, because Russia is not and never has been a great sea Power. Russia is a land Power, and, if its navy has become such a powerful force within the last decade or generation, that is a wonderful tribute to what the hon. and gallant Gentleman hates most—Communism. If it has grown to such fantastic proportions and has become so efficient, it is a tribute to the planning and organisation of Communism, about which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is so frightened.

One might be forgiven for thinking that if the Russian Navy has become so powerful, then it is time that we had a little Communism on our side in order that the Admiralty might make a better job of the British Navy than it is doing at the present time. Of course, Russia defends this expenditure on her navy on the ground that she wants it for defence. After all, we have never seen the Russian navy attacking our ports in all of its history, but we have seen the British Navy in the Baltic. I remember sailing up the Baltic and seeing Kronstadt, which the British Fleet bombarded in the early days of the revolution. The Russians argue that they have this gigantic navy for defending the Baltic, and their strategy is understandable.

Then there is the Black Sea. The British Navy has also been there. We had the Crimean war, when the British Navy operated there. After the First World War we had the British and the French Navies——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think that we are getting rather a long way from the Motion.

Mr. Wigg

With respect, I think that my hon. Friend is in. order. He is criticising the size of the Navy, and it is part of the Government's case that there has to be a large Navy to meet the Russian navy. Surely he is in order in discussing the history of Russia to show what the possibilities are.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That would be in order, but I thought that he was travelling a good deal beyond that.

Mr. Wigg

He has gone back to the Crimea, and is now coming forward.

Mr. Hughes

I am trying to find out something about this huge Russian menace.

Brigadier Clarke

Will the hon. Member let the Russians know that the hydrogen bomb has made their navy out of date and get them to wipe it out?

Mr. Hughes

I should welcome any opportunity of talking to the Russians to point out that the hydrogen bomb is as much a menace to Communism as it is to capitalism. The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West is quite wrong in thinking that I am an apologist for Communism. I am a good deal to the left of the Communists. I remember being interrupted by an hon. Member who said that I was the voice of Moscow, and I said that I wished to goodness I were.

The hon. and gallant Member misunderstood me. I do not at all apologise for Russian strategy. If I had the opportunity, if the Russians invited me to put a case against their rearmament programme in the columns of "Pravda," I would make a better job of it than would the hon. and gallant Gentleman. In the debate, it has been taken for granted that there is this huge, aggressive Russian navy which we must spend enormous sums of money to be ready to combat.

That is a nightmare and a delusion. We have to deal with a comparatively small navy which has all the navies of the world likely to be arrayed against it, especially the American Navy, which is the greatest naval force that has ever existed. I want to argue that if we are ever engaged in a war with the Russians, the Americans are likely to be on our side, and we are never likely to get into a naval war with the Russians except as a result of some mistake of American policy.

If the Americans have a big navy quite capable of bottling up the Russian navy in the Baltic, or the Black Sea, or the White Sea when it is free of ice, we are not justified in spending this colossal sum of money at a time when we are in a serious economic position. Let us have a look at the American Navy. We are told in the latest report that the paid manpower of the Navy Department now totals about 1,600,000 people; that is, about one per cent. of the nation's entire population.

Mr. Callaghan

How many admirals?

Mr. Hughes

I have not gone into the details about admirals, because, for one thing, I do not think that they matter so much. They do not think anyway.

What I am saying is that at the end of the year, there were 794,440 American naval personnel and 249,000 marines at drill pay stations, and 149,617 "white collar" workers, and 298,861 "blue collar" workers. I do not know exactly what they are, but that is the description which I find in this report. [An Hon. Member: "They had not washed their collars."] Perhaps, but this is the report of the American counterpart of the First Lord.

Mr. Callaghan

His name is Thomas.

Mr. Hughes

I do not know his name, but he states that last year 117 billion dollars was spent on the navy; an enormous sum of money from the national wealth, and representing an enormous number of ships; and when I read that there are in reserve, or in "mothballs" as they term it, no fewer than 2,500 ships, then I do not believe this story about the gigantic Russsian navy being a tremendous menace to the peace of the rest of the world.

Let us not forget that the other nations have their cruisers and aircraft carriers, quite apart from the American Navy, which is so huge and so preponderating that to claim that we, a small nation, have to spend this vast sum of money in order to be prepared against the Russian navy is not, to my mind, realistic at all. I do not know, for instance, why we need a Mediterranean Fleet. That will come as something of a shock and a new idea to some hon. Members opposite, but I really do not know why we need a British fleet there when the Americans have their Sixth Fleet in that area.

I have read in this report of the visit of the battleship "Missouri," which I believe is the largest in the world, to Istanbul. This display of naval strength was used to give dramatic support to the foreign policy of the United States; bandit may be making the United States safe from invasion. But I do not understand why, in all these circumstances, we need to keep an expensive fleet in the Mediterranean when there is this huge American fleet there, equipped as it is with aircraft carriers and all the various vessels.

This American fleet in the Mediterranean is practically independent of any base in the United States; it is an entity in itself, and it represents practically every type of ship there is in the American Navy—hospital ships, refrigerator ships, depot ships, radar ships, tankers, and submarines—everything except an American "Britannia."

In the last debate on the Navy, the American fleet was completely ignored. It was assumed that only the British Navy would be likely to be called on to operate in defence of what is called freedom. But this American Navy is also a big vested interest. The American admirals, like ours, also have to invent reasons why they should continue, and the industry which supports the American Fleet has to be perpetually on guard against Russian aggression. Not only is there a naval lobby at Washington, but there are various industries which obtain contracts from the American Navy. It will be a difficult thing to persuade these gentlemen to change their habits, and to make them realise that they are redundant and must do something else in order to keep going.

I listened carefully to the speech made yesterday by the Minister of Defence. I stuck it right out, even to the peroration about John Bunyan. The right hon. Gentleman has apparently managed to convince himself that even John Bunyan would be in favour of the hydrogen bomb. In some respects the Minister of Defence is like Nelson—he turns a blind eye to the facts. In fact he is a double Nelson. He turns two blind eyes to the facts. He asked, "What is all this nonsense, this story about quarrelling between the Service chiefs? I do not know anything about it. They work cordially together, and co-operate as a team."

But today we heard that the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Deputy Supreme Commander of N.A.T.O. in Europe have been engaged in a fierce public controversy. I read about it, and for the first time I began to form a good opinion about Field Marshal Lord Montgomery. He went to America and said, "These aircraft carriers are of little use in the present state of the development of the world: why do you not face the facts and scrap them?" That was his opinion, but when we remind the First Lord of that he says, "Oh, he is only a soldier." But presumably Field Marshal Lord Montgomery knows something about the other Services. I think that the Minister of Defence has deliberately turned a blind eye to this controversy, which we have now heard reverberating this evening, although yesterday the Minister of Defence said that it did not exist.

There is another controversy going on between our Admiralty and the American Admiralty. Let me refer to a newly-found ally, the naval correspondent of "The Times." He tried to find a compromise between the American Admiralty and Field Marshal Lord Montgomery. He came to the conclusion that the American Admiralty was going too far because the American Admiralty wanted aircraft carriers of 60,000 tons—I think it was, I do not know—but, at any rate, naval correspondent of "The Times" came to the conclusion that aircraft carriers of only half that size would do. So we have these Admiralty and naval experts trying to perpetuate their existence, but completely out of touch with the realities of today, and the realities of today are those of the hydrogen bomb.

How is the hydrogen bomb likely to affect naval establishments in this country? How is it likely to affect naval shipbuilding in this country? I vividly remember the attack during the last war on Clydebank, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence). Why did the Germans attack Clydebank? Because there is John Brown's yard, which has been for a long time a shipbuilding yard of the British Navy. Of course it will be a vital target again.

The Prime Minister talked on Tuesday about the 100 targets that could if necessary be pinpointed for attack in the U.S.S.R. That pinpointing works both ways. There will be somebody in the strategical department in Moscow who will work out 100 places on the map to be pinpointed if an attack on this country is supposed to be necessary—not an aggressive attack, but an attack purely in the interests of defence. Nobody is talking about aggressive wars. They are purely for defence.

The Russian strategist will say, "Where do they build British cruisers? Where are they likely to repair them?" He will say, "On the Clyde and at Belfast." And so here we come in. Unfortunately, I live in the West of Scotland. I live between Belfast and Glasgow, which is a very dangerous strategical position to live in—and there is Prestwick Airport on my doorstep as well. What will be left of John Brown's shipbuilding yard after a hydrogen bomb attack?

One of my hon. Friends advocated transferring some of our dockyards to New Zealand. The question is, what is to become of the population? What is to become of the million people in Glasgow congregated in a radius of five miles of Clydebank? The "Glasgow Herald" has been recently examining these possibilities. Suppose there is another attack on Clydebank with a view to putting out of action John Brown's naval shipyard, where, presumably, some of the cruisers and other naval vessels are being built.

We are told by the "Glasgow Herald" that, if a bomb were dropped on John Brown's or on the centre of Glasgow, A 20 million ton hydrogen bomb will produce complete devastation over an area extending from the explosion, with collapse of buildings and destruction of essential services, up to a distance of 10 miles. In a city such as Glasgow the death rate after such an experience would be measured in hundreds of thousands, and the number of gravely injured survivors needing blood transfusion and major surgical aid would be almost as great. What is the use of deluding ourselves that the British Navy is going to protect the West of Scotland? If the British Navy is not able to do that, one can well imagine Scots people asking what is the use of spending over £300 million every year on something which is no earthly use in protecting the people, whom the Navy is presumably meant to defend.

It is no use talking about defending freedom unless we defend individuals, and there is no defence against the hydrogen bomb in the very places which for two or three generations have been making the British Navy. We are not told any of the secrets. Where are these ships to be repaired? One can apply that argument to the Fleet base in this country, and simply come to the conclusion that it is absolutely impossible to defend this country by means of the British Navy. One may bomb the other people and bomb all the targets in the U.S.S.R., but that is no comfort to the people who will be congregated in our shipyard areas.

We have reached the position prophesied by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), in this House in 1942, when he said: I, myself, hate to think of the military centre of control shifting to Washington…it strengthens a nasty feeling which I have had for many years, that we may find ourselves reduced to occupying what I term the position of America's Heligoland off the coast of Europe."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th January, 1942; Vol. 377, c. 152.] What a wonderful position we have come to as a result of recent history. We have become America's "Heligoland" in Europe. I believe we should cease to be that, and should face the fact that the intelligent course of action is not to have a programme of rearmament but a three-year programme of disarmament, winding up the British Navy by instalments, always remembering that we have to find alternative work for the dockyard ports. That is a realistic programme.

The days of the admirals are over. They are as obsolete as Guy Fawkes. There is no future for them, and in time they will find that even the First Lord of the Admiralty will not be able to come along to the House of Commons and insult hon. Members who are prepared to stay after midnight by presenting them with a colossal bill in which no one really believes. Of course we want to find jobs for these distinguished gentlemen. I do not want to see any of them unemployed.

Two years ago I was in Peking, and I remember listening to an address by the Minister for Waterways. I asked what this gentleman had done before he was Minister for Waterways, and he said he was a former military governor of Peking in the time of Chiang Kai-shek. That man has at last become an honest man, and is doing some useful work.

There is no reason why the admirals and all the people who organize military strength could not be employed in developing our national resources, and no reason why the naval dockyards should not be engaged in building river craft for the Chinese, or dredgers for the Soviet Union, or doing something to cement decent international friendship throughout the world. When one begins to think in those terms there is real hope and a real sign of sanity after all.

I have listened to the speeches in this House this week feeling sometimes that I was not in this Chamber but in the chamber of horrors. We have heard people talking about the extinction of the human race. We have heard the Prime Minister talking about this country being devastated, and it is being taken as axiomatic that Western Europe and this country can be destroyed in a few hours or in a week. That is defeatism.

I do not believe that the people of this country would prefer that sort of thing to Communism. I do not want Russian Communism in this country, because as a free thinker and a political non-conformist I should be among the first to disappear. I would not be able to address the Soviet Praesidium of the U.S.S.R. in the way that I can address the House of Commons. I do not want to see Russian Communism in this country, but I would prefer to see Russian Communism here than this country become a mass of radio-active ruins.

After all, one of the worst things that could happen to us under Communism is that perhaps 1 per cent. of the politically conscious people might disappear or be liquidated, but the great majority of the people—up to 99 per cent.—would continue to live. They would prefer, I believe, any kind of system rather than suicide. If it were put to any ordinary woman who is not interested in politics whether she would prefer to live under a Communist society rather than see her children——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think that the hon. Member is again going a little far from the Estimates.

Mr. Hughes

I agree I am going far from the Navy Estimates, but I do not often get such an appreciative audience.

I believe that hon. Members have reached a point where they are genuinely interested, but I will retire to a stronger position in the rear. I merely say that we have to look at the Navy Estimates and the Estimates which are to be presented next week in the proper perspective of decent, human relationships. I do not believe that what is represented by the sum of money that we are now discussing is going to be a deterrent to anybody. This is an anachronism, and the ideas that are behind it, however, genuinely held by hon. Gentlemen opposite, are completely out of date, and so far as they are held by the Opposition Front Bench they are out of date too.

Mr. Callaghan

My hon. Friend is the only one in isolation.

Mr. Hughes

I am not the only one in isolation. I am making converts all the time. I recall that only a few weeks ago there were only six; now there are 57 of us. There is no other political party increasing at that rate.

I have every reason to feel encouraged in my campaign against this ridiculous expenditure, and I believe that in 20 or 30 years' time, if this country survives, and if Hansard is still available—that is, if anyone reads the speeches that are published in Hansard—they will not think that my contribution has been the least intelligent.

12.49 a.m.

Major Patrick Wall (Hull, Haltemprice)

I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the realms of strategy, fantasy and foreign affairs. Morale has been referred to frequently in the debate. I think hon. Members will agree that the Royal Navy does not occupy the high status in public opinion that it did in the past. That is due to many things—the run-down after the war, to the defensive mentality creeping over the Service, and, probably more than anything else, to the fact that no one knew what was to be the role of the Navy in future. In the past week my right hon. Friend has produced a White Paper which has, I believe, done more than anything else since 1945 to restore morale in the Navy, because it has shown that the Royal Navy still has a vital part to play in modern war.

In thermo-nuclear war the carrier will undoubtedly have an important part to play in the deterrent we talked about so much in the defence debate. The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) dismissed the carriers in scant terms, but our records show that there are more than 100 carriers in the N.A.T.O. forces. One hundred mobile airfields, capable of operating the aircraft to deliver atomic bombs, must surely cause an aggressor to think twice.

On conventional warfare I will not waste time, because we are surely all agreed that the Navy will have a vital role to play. Anyone who does not agree has only to study the Soviet building programme of large cruisers and submarines. In the White Paper we have postulated a balanced fleet—carriers, guided missile ships, escort vessels and submarines. The interesting fact about this balanced fleet is that its eyes and teeth are to be in the air. There may be times when the eyes of the Fleet namely airborne radar, and the teeth, strike aircraft will require to be larger land-based aircraft; I refer to Coastal or Maritime Command. It seems strange to me that in these cases aircraft, performing these vital functions for the Fleet, can be controlled by another Service.

In case hon. Members think that at this late hour I am trying to rake up an old inter-Service controversy, let me say that I am doing nothing of the sort. I am reinforcing the suggestion that has already come from both sides of the House, it came first I believe, last year, from the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), regarding the possible amalgamation of the Navy and the Royal Air Force. When I make a similar suggestion to Royal Air Force friends they say, "Yes; we know that the Navy is obsolete: it is now 'washed up,' All you want to do is to use this idea to create a new Senior Service." However, I believe that if we go into the question in detail we may find that in future the Royal Air Force as we know it with its bombers and fighters and vast airfields will be as obsolete as some people seem to think the Navy is today.

It seems probable that in the future the Navy and the Air Force will be operating guided missiles of similar types. Therefore, now is the time to start examining the question before we come to the position when both Services are operating similar weapons in similar ways which neither want to give up. It will take a long time, and a lot of thought, to produce any possible amalgamation of the two Services, so the sooner we start the better.

The next point I want to make concerns raiding. We are an island race, and throughout our history we have invariably won wars by the exercise of maritime strategy. Yet in each war we tend to forget the lessons of the past, and we do not have in readiness the technique the equipment or the forces immediately required on the outbreak of war. I suggest that there is a vital role to be played today by small-scale raiding forces.

In days of thermo-nuclear war we may not have sufficient bombers or nuclear bombs to neutralise the enemy airfields or rocket sites that threaten us. It may well be that small raiding parties, achieving surprise, could do much to neutralise some of these sites. Again, scientific intelligence is important. I suggest that small raiding parties are one of the best ways of obtaining scientific intelligence from an enemy nation, again, there are many reconnaissance roles, and so on, that could be, and would be, of importance.

Have we the forces existing today, or visualised for the future, that can provide these small-scale raiding parties? My right hon. Friend will know that we have the personnel in the Royal Marine Commando Brigades, and hon. Members who visited the National Boat Show at Christmas will have seen one or two of the prototype craft which the Admiralty are developing for the small-scale rocky landings. The point I want to make to my hon. and gallant Friend is this, is he satisfied that we have the ships capable of carrying these raiding craft to the scene of operations? Is he relying on the L.S.T.(A). with their slow speed, now rapidly becoming obsolete and falling to pieces because of age, or is he thinking in terms of the last war when we adapted cross-Channel steamers to carry these assault craft?

I do not suppose he can answer that question because of security, but I hope he can give an assurance that he is bearing in mind this important problem of having modern carriers for raiding craft in being at the start of any future war; and also that he is bearing in mind new forms of raiding craft, such as the transport submarine. We have heard already of the food carrying submarine, and I suggest that there is also a future for the raiding or transport submarine.

In case I should be accused of fighting the last war, may I say that I believe it is ridiculous to consider purely amphibious raiding forces? We must also consider air-borne raiding forces. I am again thinking in terms of small-scale raids. The helicopter and the vertical lift aircraft seem to promise the ideal carriers for these small raiding parties. I am told—I do not know if it is true—that the U.S. Marine Corps are already talking of abandoning landing craft altogether and are concentrating on helicopters and vertical-lift aircraft. I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will be able to assure me that we are developing aircraft on those lines and that, above all, the aircraft we have are available for training the personnel we have; or, to put it another way, are helicopters available for training the raiding forces we have in this country and in the Mediterranean today?

Finally, two points on recruiting. First, the question of maintaining the long-service personnel and encouraging them to sign on for further service. I believe that what a man looks for in the Service is security of employment, namely, a guarantee that he will be employed during the whole of his working life. I suggest that there are two ways of giving him this security. There is the question of pensions. Suggest again this year to my right hon. Friend that if we are really getting worried about people not re-engaging, we should look to increasing pensions rather than to increasing pay.

But there may be another way. If, by some means, the Government could give priority in employment in certain Government services or in certain nationalised industries to men who have served their country for a long time in the forces, it would be going a long way to solving this problem. I know that the argument which is immediately advanced against this suggestion is that if we do this for the Services we have to do it for the Civil Service. But I venture to suggest that this argument is fallacious because, in the Services, we have men who have been subject to discipline, who have been subject to the highest degree of moral and physical strain, and whose families have suffered continual disturbance throughout their Service life. If these men are prepared to make those sacrifices for the good of their Service and their country, then their country should do something about their future employment when, finally, they retire from the Service.

Also on the question of recruiting, there is another aspect—the attraction of young men. The Admiralty could do more than it is doing at the moment to help the youth organisations. The ones that give recruits to the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy are the Sea Cadet Corps, the Combined Cadet Force and the Sea Scouts. The Estimates show that the Sea Cadet Corps, with a strength of 23,000, has an allowance of approximately £4 per head per year. For the Combined Cadet Force that allowance increases to £7. That is probably right because from that force, from our public schools and grammar schools, we expect to find the leaders of the future Service.

For the Sea Scouts, where the total is about 9,500, the allowance per head per year falls to 1s. 9d., but in Admiralty qualified units—if one allows only for them—there are about 3,600 and the allowance goes up to 4s. per head per year. I am not necessarily appealing to my right hon. Friend to be more generous in money, in capitation grants, to these youth services, but I believe that the Admiralty could do very much more than it does now to help these youngsters by supplying boats and equipment. The Admiralty should supply these boats and equipment without expecting the organisations, which have very little financial backing, to pay for insurance and transport charges, as they have to in the scout movement at present.

The Admiralty could also do something else. It could give more encouragement to the men who help to run these youth services. For instance it could do some propaganda to encourage young naval officers employed at the Admiralty in London to help in their spare time with those organisations. It could have arrangements whereby men who had previous service in the cadet force and had completed their two years' National Service, could spend their three years' residual liability in the cadet units instead of serving say as able seamen in Devonport Barracks for the two weeks of their training liability every year.

The Admiralty could do more to encourage the civilian committees that run these units, possibly by a more generous pat on the back occasionally when the time for honours and awards come round. A better liaison could be maintained with the Volunteer Reserve units. I shall be very interested to see how much the youth movements are allowed to use Captain Scott's training ship "Discovery" when she comes back to her moorings on the Thames Embankment under the White Ensign.

Lastly, we have an excellent system of school liaison officers in public schools and grammar schools. As we are short of recruits for the lower deck, could not we have a similar liaison with the secondary schools? Could not it be not necessarily recruiting but part of the boys' education to receive balanced instruction on life in the three Services? The local education authorities could be encouraged to have more talks or demonstrations from Service officers than they have at present.

I apologise to the House for having spoken so fast, but the time is getting late. As an island and, more than that, we are a maritime Commonwealth. The future of our Commonwealth depends on the control of the sea, on the sea, under the sea and in the air above the sea. That control is now exercised by a partnership between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. I suggest that we may find a better method of controlling maritime communications by integration rather than by partnership. I suggest that now is the time to examine this question which may be of very vital importance to the future of the greatest assembly of free nations the world has ever known.

1.5 a.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

The hon. and gallant Member for Haltemprice (Major Wall) has a curious similarity to the Secretary of State for War at his best, a glibness in superfluity and a profundity which can best be gauged by his concluding remarks during which he informed us that we live in an island—an astonishing discovery. I hope that his future researches into recruiting and the like will take him a little deeper than they did tonight, because this is a very important problem which affects all three Services.

I congratulate the First Lord on his speech this afternoon and on the fact that he is setting up an inquiry into this problem of Regular recruitment. I wish that it were an all-party inquiry, and that the right hon. Gentleman could persuade the Minister of Defence of the wisdom of looking into the question of recruiting as a whole in relation to the working of the National Service Act.

The mere shovelling out of public money à la the Secretary of State for War is not the answer. I suggest that between now and next Tuesday the hon. and gallant Member for Haltemprice should go into purdah and study in detail the speeches of those who are as glib as he about the solution being the pouring out of public money. There is far more in it than that.

Major Wall

I gather that the hon. Gentleman is referring to my remarks about the youth organisations.

Mr. Wigg

No, I was talking about the whole of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's remarks, but I am now dealing in particular with his remarks about recruiting.

Major Wall

My point about youth services in relation to recruiting was made to stress that what was needed was leadership and equipment rather than money.

Mr. Wigg

I am sorry that I failed to make myself clear. I was saying that the problem of getting Regular recruits is quite clearly worrying the Admiralty as it worries all three Services, except, of course, the Secretary of State for War who is apparently quite satisfied. It does not matter what size the Estimates may ultimately become if we cannot get the Regulars from which to provide N.C.O.S or petty officers, because then the efficiency of the Services is bound to suffer. That seems to me to be an obvious problem.

I have noticed the regrettable reluctance of the First Lord to set up a Select Committee to inquire into the working of the Naval Discipline Act. Of course, one could easily say that the fact that the Navy has begun to lose its high reputation for getting Regular recruits is due to the fact that it has not set up such a Select Committee. It may well be that one should make that point. Perhaps there is dissatisfaction in the Navy about the code of discipline, and perhaps one of the things that the First Lord should do at the earliest possible moment is to set up a Select Committee. I certainly would not press for any revision of the Naval Discipline Act until such a Committee had been set up.

It is extremely regrettable that when the Minister for Housing and Local Government made his announcement about his circular to local authorities on the subject of housing he did not include naval ratings. It may well be that they are included. If they are, then I am very glad, but, according to the terms of the right hon. Gentleman's announcement, it sounded very much as if it applied only to the Army. [HON. MEMBERS: "To all the Services."] Perhaps I was rather obsessed from the Army point of view, because it was one of the recommendations made by the Select Committee. I apologise if I am wrong.

I shall not detain the House for very long and I have stayed only because there is one central point that must be made and that is about the astonishing, disappointing and depressing speech of the Minister of Defence last night. I went home a very sad and sorry man. It does not matter very much what majorities the Government have, nor it does not very much matter that there are differences on this side, which I greatly regret. What does matter is that the Government—never mind what is said— have failed to face up to defence problems which confront this country.

The test will come, just as now has come the test of what was done in the last year. In a year there will be another test and we shall be able to see whether recruiting for the Regular Services has been improved, whether the Estimates have been spent—and perhaps the Minister will tell us whether he has spent the Estimate for last year. I do not believe that they have been spent either last year, or in previous years. In production, there is under-spending.

I am very sad and sorry about the statement of the Minister of Defence. He is a glib, slick politician who pulls out all the stops. Do hon. Gentlemen doubt that? They should read his speech in the debate of 14th February, 1951. Then, he prophesied—he said he had been informed on high authority—that in two years the Russians would have 1,000 submarines. Does he agree with that estimate? If not, why did he not take the opportunity to correct it last night? He has not corrected it, because the Government's policy when in Opposition was to boost the Russian menace to the maximum and now that they have become the Government they take the opposite policy, that of playing down the Russian menace.

This country, weakened as it is, yet with a vital role to play, must make a careful revision of the problems which confront us. If the Government, with the aid of their military advisers,, decide to undertake a strategic planning which is based upon the use of the nuclear weapon, then, provided it is a conclusion at which they honestly arrive, would be a conclusion from which I could not dissent; but that should be reflected in the White Papers for all the Services and it is not there.

I shall not attack the Navy, nor say that aircraft carriers are finished, nor that the "Vanguard" does not have a role. I am prepared to leave that to the experts —and I am certainly not that—but I have very grave doubts indeed about the conception which is implicit in these Estimates.

Here I come to a point which I want to emphasise. When it comes to the role of the missile ship, is there anybody very sure that missiles will work out? We do not yet have—in spite of all the announcements and enthusiasm of the Government Press—a satisfactory air-to-air missile. I agree that they have gone into production, but it is only a limited production and it is not at all the final answer. To build ships before we have them is a risk that we might take, but I shall be very interested indeed to hear more of this project.

I am not at all sure that the conception of push button warfare is right. I am equally sure that the conception of the hydrogen war and the nuclear age has not penetrated to the Government benches. The speech we heard tonight from the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) who held a very senior rank in the Army, of his conception of a hot war demonstrates the complete failure of the Government to explain to their own supporters what they are really about.

If that can happen to hon. Members, what must be the effect on people in the country? We are unlike the Russians. The Russian Government have the power and the organisation to act administratively. Here, we cannot get action unless there is an informed public opinion behind it to understand what the Government want to do and to back it. The general public is a long way from understanding what the role of the Royal Navy is, or what the overall picture is.

I should like, briefly, to turn to the question of aircraft. It is all very well to have carriers with the fleet, but we must also have aircraft to put in them; and they must be satisfactory aircraft, and while I let go by default—or rather, I would say, do not press the argument— the question of the efficiency of the aircraft carriers with the Fleet, I can say that I am a little more certain about some of the aircraft. For all the arguments that have been made, and all the answers to questions which I have had in this House, the DH 110 was turned down by the Royal Air Force. It certainly had a great deal of trouble, and my view is that de Havilland would never have done much about this machine after it was turned down at Boscombe Down except for the fact that they were in trouble with the Comet and wanted to keep going.

We are spending £20 million on an aircraft which is the last of a vintage. This aircraft is a long, long way short of being technically satisfactory. It is true, of course, that the Air Ministry had the choice between the Javelin and the DH 110,and I should like to congratulate the First Lord's advisers on choosing the DH 110 in preference to the Javelin. If I may put it this way, that is one up to the Navy; and the Navy should run this as hard as it can. This is entirely better than the Javelin, which has two engines and carries 780 gallons of fuel, with a fuel consumption which is such as to give very low endurance; and, faced with the choice between the two, the Admiralty made a decision which means that it comes out much better than the Air Staff on this point.

But that is not saying much. It is rather like having to choose between a horse with only one leg and a horse with none. I believe that the Javelin is "no go" for all that has been said about it. I believe that it belongs to the same class as the Swift, and if the case is made out for the aircraft carrier—and that is a matter for the closest research at the highest level without the inter-Service rows which are rather childish—then might I suggest that the First Lord ought to fight the battle with his colleagues, even, if necessary, to the point of resignation, in order to ensure that he gets aircraft worthy of the carriers?

If the case for the carrier is established, then do not let it be loaded with junk; because that is what we have been doing. Not that I make any great point about that; it was choice between junk and nothing. I am suspicious that the smart operators at the Ministry of Defence lacked the political knowledge about what ought really to be done about the Navy, but I congratulate the First Lord. He must have had "bags of guts" to have got away with it. I hope he is right. If he is, he has taken £350 million of public money, and he has either got away with things which he should not have done, or he has not got away with quite enough because he has the carriers but not the aircraft.

May I say now that I am astonished to read a statement in the "Daily Express" which, I hope, is not quite true. It is not a newspaper which I buy, but I came across this report of the Government's decision to have some form of coordination by the appointment of Lord Mountbatten as a sort of supreme commander of all three Services. That makes me very suspicious when I see the political triumph achieved by the Admiralty over the other two Services. I hope that we shall not foist this minor Royalty on to the Service in the hope that that will gloss over the real need for co-operation.

Although the First Lord has triumphed to the extent that he has, I would remind him that when he is fighting the Secretary of State for War he is not fighting very much. I believe that the Secretary of State for Air is in a different class, and I should have thought that the Under-Secretary had plenty of "go" when fighting for his Service. But if the right hon. Gentleman gets away with it to the extent of foisting Earl Mountbatten on the Army, I can assure him that he will have more trouble from some of us than from the Secretary of State for War. I hope he will tell us that this leak to the "Daily Express" is not another example of the smart politics played so admirably by the Minister of Defence.

I wish the Navy well. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes),I do not want to bring the Navy to an end, but if there is a choice between my hon. Friend and the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West I shall become a pacifist. After listening to the hon. and gallant Member on the subject of the hydrogen bomb, I must say that. In the months that lie ahead I hope we shall get the question of the use of the aircraft carrier cleared up, and, if it is established, that we shall make absolutely sure that the Navy gets the aircraft that it ought to get.

1.22 a.m.

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

I think the House will agree that this has been a very good debate. It has covered a variety of topics, besides the main topic which has run through the whole debate, about the role of the Navy. A great many points of detail also have been raised, and I shall find it extremely difficult to answer them all.

I feel rather like the young author who visited one of Her Majesty's ships recently to write a book. He was asked how long he was going to stay. He said, "I arrived yesterday and I am leaving tomorrow." When asked what his book was to be called, he said, "The Navy Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow."

First, I should like to welcome to our naval debates my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett). As was said by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) he brings to our debates the most up-to-date professional knowledge from the Service. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) made, as he so often does, on naval topics, a most moderate and thoughtful speech.

I shall try, first, to deal with the personnel and more general points and then turn to the role of the Navy, ship construction and merging of the Air Force and Navy which has been suggested. I shall not be able to cover all the points, but I will write to hon. Members to whom I cannot reply, especially as I have received apologies from a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House for being unable to be present for my winding-up speech.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Mait-land) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) referred to promotion and the careers of officers. What my right hon. Friend said today about the new officer structure made it quite clear that we are actively attacking the problem of providing better careers for naval officers. He said that the base of the pyramid was too big, with the result that too few got to the top and many had to leave at a time when a man had no wish to finish his career. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells asked how we were to reduce the base of the pyramid.

My right hon. Friend said there were to be fewer entries of cadets, and that we intended, if need be, to employ for special duties special service officers, and would also make some appointments from the branch officers. Officers on promotion to commander and officers on promotion to captain will be promoted either into what is called the new Post List or into the General List. Of course, the new Post List will provide opportunities to sea time for all those selected to proceed through that channel of promotion.

I would emphasise what is called the General List. Many officers may find that on the General List they will have just as good as or an even better chance of promotion than they would have had today. There will be many appointments open to them. I think that the other steps my right hon. Friend mentioned, such as the taking away of the colours between stripes and the suffixes after those branches and increasing the marks of respect to cover flag officers, give a good idea of the lines on which the Board of Admiralty is thinking today.

An hon. Member—I cannot remember who it was—asked whether this meant that there would be fewer jobs in the Civil Service. That will not be the case. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle, when talking of promotion, referred, I think, to what is often called the "master rate." That has had a considerable amount of study in the past. I have found, when visiting the Fleet, many men who thought that when warrant officers went to the wardroom and became branch officers a new rating would grow up, the master rate, on the lower deck, rather like that of warrant officers in the other Services. That matter is still being examined. It is too early to say what decision will be reached, because that is the sort of point that will be considered by the structure committee, which is still sitting, when it considers branch officers.

I was very much impressed by what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Major Wall) said about Sea Cadets and Sea Scouts, and school liaison, but I am afraid that I have not time to deal with all the details of his case tonight.

Several hon. Members on the other side of the House have raised the question of the Naval Discipline Act—the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler), the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) and the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). Hon. Members opposite are very fond of saying that the Naval Discipline Act is of great age and contains a number of out-of-date provisions. They know perfectly well—at least, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East knows—that it was amended in 1922 and that it has been kept up to date by orders and regulations ever since. I would not deny that some of it is in rather picturesque language, but it is being interpreted today in the spirit of the times.

It is very misleading to say, as the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) does in the Motion of which he gives notice on the Order Paper, that it … fails to reflect that mutual respect between officers and men which is the basis of discipline…. I think that that is going a bit far.

I am asked by several Members about a Select Committee to amend the provisions of the present Act.

Mr. Wigg

To examine them.

Commander Noble

To examine them, and recommend, no doubt, amendments, to the present Act as in the case of the other Acts.

My right hon. Friend has made it quite clear that he does not rule out the possibility of a Select Committee, but let us look for a moment at the position. As the hon. Member said, there have been two Reports, by the Committee which sat under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Pilcher, on the Naval Discipline Act since the war. They made a number of recommendations, most of which have been implemented without legislation, either in full or in part. As I told the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme yesterday, those that have not been implemented deal primarily with court-martial reforms, and although they are desirable they are, nevertheless not indispensable. On the other hand, there has been a most thorough Select Committee on the Army and Air Force Acts, which has produced a variety of recommendations, and the resultant Bills are now going through Parliament.

The Admiralty, therefore, wish to consider the Naval Discipline Act in the light of these Bills and of the Pilcher Committee recommendations, because some of those recommendations conflict with those of the Select Committee, but surely it would not be beyond the bounds of human ingenuity to produce a Bill which would be acceptable to both sides of the House. I would also mention, in passing, the Admiralty committee that is still examining the officer structure. The statement my right hon. Friend made today about non-executive officers points to the lines on which we are thinking and which would affect the naval disciplinary code. I ask the House to accept the assurance, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, that this will be proceeded with as soon as possible.

Mr. Callaghan

With great respect, this is just about the same answer in just about the same language as we had last year. The time has gone by, and the Select Committees have reported. We know what the Bills are to contain, and they are not opposed in any party sense. We know roughly the shape in which they are to become Acts, so what is the Government waiting for now? Why cannot they tell us now? When will they be able to tell us? Is it the Royal Assent that will enable them to determine when they are in a position to set up the committee, or not? The Admiralty really is giving the impression of stalling.

Commander Noble

I think I made the position quite clear. I said that some of the recommendations of the Select Committee are in conflict with those of the Pilcher Committee. The Select Committee produced a very long report under the chairmanship of my right hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), and we want to give that careful consideration, especially in conjunction with the changes that may be made in the officer structure. It would be silly to have to try to amend it again. We should only be told by hon. Members opposite that the Act was out of date again.

Mr. Wigg

This is rather an important point, because we have tried to work on an all-party basis. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East that this reply is not satisfactory, and I hope that the next time it comes before the House will be on a Supply day, and that it will be carried to a vote.

Commander Noble

I think we had better wait for that to happen.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East asked me about stocks of stores, and how many weeks' fuel and stores, etc., we were maintaining. I am sure that he and the House will understand that it is not normal to give such figures, but perhaps I should amplify the statement that is in the White Paper, which says that we are running down our stocks.

That is for two reasons: the sea-going Fleet is to be smaller, and the Reserve Fleet that is to be brought forward is to be smaller. Therefore, less stores will be required; and during the past few years we have been able to stock up with short-term items, when we were not able to spend the money we had on the new construction which had not then come forward. So our stocks are relatively high. As an example, in 1952–53, the increase in stocks was about £18½ million, while the decrease next year will be only about £3½ million.

I want to say a word about the dockyards, about which I think every hon. Member who has a dockyard in his constituency has spoken. I was very glad that the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) thought so highly of our plan of dockyard modernisation, but I am sorry it was not agreeable to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke). After his remarks about the hydrogen bomb, I really emphasise the word "gallant."

We did spend about £1 million last year as a first contribution towards this £7 million programme and this year we are to spend another £2½million. There also is a major expenditure on works in the lockyards which, of course, covers those buildings to which several hon. Members have referred.

The hon. Member for Devonport and my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor) raised the question of our now requiring less land in Devonport. That, of course, is also in connection with the point raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East. To achieve a higher degree of dispersal we have decided to take 17½fewer acres of land in Plymouth. The changes in the plan have been explained by my hon. Friend the Civil Lord to the Plymouth City Council and he has assured them that the changes will have no material effect on the labour force employed.

Mr. Foot

On that matter, will the hon. Gentleman deal with two points that I mentioned? The first is that this land is not now to be included but there has been a considerable deterioration in the houses there. Will that be taken into account in any arrangement between the Admiralty and Plymouth Corporation? Secondly, can the hon. Gentleman say whether this is the final decision of the Admiralty on the matter?

Commander Noble

On the first point, I think that that is a matter for consideration between the Admiralty and the City Council. On the second point, I am rather loth to use a word like "final" in this House, because one never knows what might happen in the future. One might have something far worse than the weapons we have been concerned with today. But I will say that as far as I know today this is our final decision.

Several hon. Members asked about employment in the yards, and, again, I would say that we do not foresee any unemployment in the Royal dockyards and we do use them to the full capacity.

The hon. Member for Devonport talked about the appointments that had been made in the dockyards at the instance of the recommendations of the Select Committee. The Deputy Superintendent (Industrial) at Chatham was appointed for a trial period of three years with the task of securing economic production and good labour relations in the yard. He has been there a little over a year, and I do not think the House will expect any spectacular results can be reported yet. He has, of course, had to spend much of his time analysing data, statistics and examining the practices and procedures currently in use in the dockyard at the moment. He has, however, re-organised the Central Estimating Office, which, we hope, will lead to a closer watch on the out-turn of expendi- ture on ship work. He has established machinery for the allocation of labour in the different parts of the yard. He has also achieved a number of economies in the use of labour, particularly of non-productive work.

The Civil Lord will, I am sure, deal individually with any other dockyard points I have not been able to mention. Only one hon. Member said anything about shipbuilding and that was the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence). He said he hoped to stay awake on this occasion to hear me, but he does not seem to be here.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

He is sleeping on the "Night Scot."

Commander Noble

I was sorry to hear what the hon. Member had to say about the Clyde. It had been the impression of the Admiralty in the last few weeks that there had been an upsurge not only in ordering, but in inquiries.

Turning now to the role of the Navy, the Admiralty has been criticised in this debate, and was also criticised in the defence debate this week, for not replying to its critics in the last few months when they have been saying the wrong things about the Navy. I think it would have been most improper when, as the House knows, a complete review of what was going on within the Government on our defence policy and the roles of the Services, if Service Ministers had stumped the country selling their wares in public by speeches and articles.

The role of the Navy has been set out clearly by the Prime Minister in his speech on Tuesday and in the Defence White Paper. In his speech on Tuesday my right hon. Friend said: Unless we were prepared to unleash a full-scale nuclear war as soon as some local incident occurs in some distant country, we must have conventional forces in readiness to deal with such situations as they arise. Later, he said: Thus, substantial strength in conventional forces has still a vital part to play in the policy of the deterrent. It is perhaps of even greater importance in the cold war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1955; Vol. 537, c. 1907.] My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, East, in an excellent speech, re-emphasised the point about local wars when he said that it might be necessary to deal with a series of swift campaigns with limited objectives, in which the enemy might think he could get away with it without risking thermo-nuclear reprisals. One cannot help thinking of-the years which led to 1939.

In this sort of operation the Navy can play a necessary part in getting our forces to out of the way parts of the world in the shortest possible time. Perhaps I might give the House a quotation from Sir Arthur Bryant. It reads: The sea's relation to England is a kind of 'Escape me Never.' At various times in our history we have tried to ignore her, but never without disaster.

Sir R. Acland

Does the Parliamentary Secretary feel that the Prime Minister's words about some local incident which would be dealt with by conventional weapons, cover a prolonged, all-out submarine and surface-raider attack against shipping?

Commander Noble

I do not want to go further into that now. The Minister of Defence made the position clear last night.

When talking about the rôle of the Navy, I was surprised that the Leader of the Opposition said last night that he did not believe in the aircraft carrier and cruisers, and that we ought to have a small-ship Navy. I do not think that the small ship Navy is a cold war deterrent. It might be able to sweep the mines when laid, and chase the submarines; but it could not prevent these things happening. That, of course, is the rôle of the Navy.

I have been rather surprised that there has not been the real criticism of carriers which I thought there would be. Many authorities on carriers have been quoted, so I would like to quote General Gruenther, who gave an interview to a magazine called "The Aeroplane." This is the quotation: When a correspondent of ours recently interviewed General Gruenther he said that since an enemy's first move must undoubtedly concern itself with the neutralization of airfields, or as many of them as possible, he favoured the aircraft carrier construction programme and welcomed the use of such vessels in the Mediterranean. While he was not concerned with the question of how limited funds should be applied as between the construction of land bases and carriers he felt we should welcome all the platforms ashore and afloat we could be given. They would all be needed and the side which survived the first phase of an atomic attack with most airfields—afloat or ashore—in an operational condition would clearly hold the advantage for further phases of the war. Some of the conventional arguments against carriers were well dealt with by my hon. and gallant Friends the Members for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder), South Angus (Captain Duncan) and Horncastle. We are told that aircraft carriers are vulnerable. Personally, at the start of a thermo-nuclear war I would very much rather be at sea in an aircraft carrier than I would be on one of the airfields in this country from which our own bombers are to operate and I have a feeling that most hon. Members would share that preference.

First, the carrier has to be located. Anyone who has seen those recent television films "War in the Air" will realise how small a ship is compared to the ocean. After it is located it can put up a pretty good defence because it carries the most powerful radar and its own interception fighters, and both the carrier and its escort have their own anti-aircraft weapons. I think that a carrier task force is about the most elusive and heavily defended target that a bomber could attack. I was asked last year, and again today, what deterrent a carrier provides in the cold war. They form, of course, an integral part of our N.A.T.O. forces, and they show that we are able and determined to deal with any emergency that may arise.

With regard to their use in a striking fleet, which is mentioned in the Defence White Paper, I feel that I must emphasise the primary rôle of the aircraft carrier, which is to provide our own forces with protection and, in company with our other forces and Coastal Command, to deny the enemy the seas. One does not know where air power will be needed. Looking back on the last war one saw carriers in the Arctic, the North Atlantic and the South Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the landings at Salerno, Madagascar, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. And do not let us forget that aircraft carriers are not static; they can move 500 miles a day. The "Sunday Express" seemed to complain last week that a carrier does not go as fast as a bomber, but it certainly goes very much faster than an airfield.

To answer the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, who asked about the "Vanguard," she is undergoing a refit and is to come into commission with a reduced complement. Many arguments are advanced on either side of this problem and I appreciate that opinions vary. We have, however, gone into the matter fully and, on balance, we think it right to commission the "Vanguard." Not only is she the greatest possible deterrent to the Sverdlov cruiser, but she forms part of the deterrent in the cold war and a possible warm war. Her fire-power and her sea keeping qualities are of the highest order, added to which, there is no getting away from the fact that her cold war prestige value cannot be denied. She also provides training facilities for a large number of men of a kind that is most valuable, but is getting less and less available today.

When the "Victorious," is completed we shall have a first-class fleet carrier with all the modern equipment—radar, angled deck, steam catapults, and all the modern improvements. Though it has taken a long time, she has cost less than we would have to pay for a modern carrier. All the same, I rather agree with the hon. Member; I do not think we would attempt another modernisation like this, because it is a very great strain on the resources and the organisation of a Royal dockyard.

Now the "Tigers." I was sorry that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East was not in agreement with his noble Friend, Lord Hall, a previous First Lord of the Admiralty who, in a debate in the House of Lords in December said: It is pleasing to note that the First Lord, in a very recent speech, mentioned that the three 'Tiger' class cruisers… are now being proceeded with, with a view to their completion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 2nd December, 1954; Vol. 190, c. 147–8.] My argument just now about wars in various parts of the world, which are sometimes called peripheral wars, applies to the "Tigers" just as well. They are of great use in a cold war and a warm war. Even with the guided weapon ships coming along, we may not always want to use the guided missile. The conventional weapon for bombardment, or whatever it may be, will have to be used.

Mr. Wigg

On a point of order. I should like to ask, for my own guidance in future, whether it is in order for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to quote from the proceedings in another place in the way he did?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

No, not in the same Session.

Commander Noble

I understood that it was either a Government statement or an official Opposition statement. I am sorry if I transgressed the rules of the House.

I personally saw one of these ships in the Gareloch a few weeks ago and I was astonished by the fine condition in which I found her——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. A Government statement, but not an Opposition one, would be in order.

Commander Noble

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East asked one or two questions about new construction. He mentioned the frigates. There are 26 under construction, 11 of which will complete in this financial year. When he was talking of destroyer conversions he had forgotten the eight that were completed in the year before, so nine plus ten plus eight makes the 27 that I think he was looking for.

Several questions were asked about naval aircraft, but I really do not think that I can answer them all tonight in great detail. The Minister of Supply put the position pretty clearly yesterday and my right hon. Friend in his opening speech today dealt with a lot of the points made during the debate. He said that the front line of the Fleet Air Arm will be reinforced with new aircraft by the end of this year. He also told the House of the fine new aircraft that we are providing for the future. Do not let us think that these fine aircraft are only in the future, for a young officer of the Royal Navy won the de Havilland award for last year for the fastest flight in 1954. He flew in a Sea Hawk from London to Amsterdam at an average speed of 571.5 miles an hour.

These new aircraft that we have in the Fleet today have teething troubles. The Minister of Supply explained that yesterday. He also said when talking about new aircraft that all aircraft in use are obsolescent because there is always a new aircraft being produced. The hon. Member said that the Attackers and the Sea Hawks are not satisfactory. He knows as well as I do that the Attacker is an interim aircraft which is to be succeeded by the Sea Hawk. I seem to remember him when he was on this side of the House referring to the new tailor-made aircraft that were to be made for the Fleet Air Arm. I think that probably his Sea Hawk is one of them.

Mr. Callaghan

If I was misled, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will profit from my experience. I should like to ask him a question. I realise that he is trying to finish his speech, but can these heavy carriers expect to have the new planned replacement of the Wyvern which is really the only justification for having carriers of that sort?

Commander Noble

If the hon. Gentleman had not interrupted, I would have come to that.

We are just as disappointed as he is that the Wyvern has had these troubles, but we are confident that they will soon be cleared. The successor for the "strike" rôle is in the design stage. The design has been chosen and his estimate as to when it will come into service is not unduly pessimistic. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is not possible for me to give dates to the House. Aircraft carriers of the "Hermes" class will be able to operate all the aircraft we have in mind, including this one.

There are two or three other points. It has been suggested both in the defence debate and today, especially by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, East and the hon. Member for Preston, South that there should eventually be some merger of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. They did not say that it should take place at once. I think they said that it should take place over a period of years. But I do not think that that sort of thing can happen quickly. It is more a question of evolution than of revolution, and an example of that is the way in which the chiefs of staffs' committees which grew out of the war exist today. The Board of Admiralty has taken a step in this direction, because when we discuss aircraft supply matters an air marshal from the Ministry of Supply joins us on the Board of Admiralty.

This is a most serious subject. Perhaps the inquiry suggested is no answer. That is the sort of thing for evolution and the sort of thing that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence will always be considering. I do not think that one has to be a Jules Verne or indeed a Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty to be allowed to look into the future. It is not a very easy thing to do.

I doubt very much whether when in 1946 the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) and I went to Bikini to represent this House at the atomic bomb test we realised that in about six years' time the weapon which we had seen as the wonder of the world would be relegated almost to the role of a conventional weapon. One cannot help wondering, as has also been mentioned, what will be the role of pilot less planes with the coming of long-range ballistic rockets. One cannot visualise a ballistic rocket or a guided missile carrying out search and reconnaissance at sea. At the same time, the Navy being required to provide launching platforms perhaps some thousands of miles nearer the target than our most forward shore bases.

In conclusion, there is just one further point I wish to make, and that is that the Royal Navy much resents the implied criticism both inside and outside this House that it is merely hanging on to old weapons in order to find a place in our defence programme today, and also the suggestion that the money which we have been allocated is merely out of sentiment——

Mr. Wigg

On a point of order. Surely it is not proper for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to make a political speech as though he is uttering words on behalf of the Fighting Services. He has every right to speak on behalf of the Government, but not of the Royal Navy in a political sense.

Commander Noble

The hon. Gentleman must have misunderstood me. I am perfectly entitled to say, as an Admiralty Minister, that the Admiralty and the Royal Navy—and I use the terms collectively—resent the implied criticism both inside and outside this House as I have just said, and also the suggestion that the money which we have been allo- cated is merely out of sentiment for a Service which has a proud place in the heart of the nation. The Government have made their views quite clear, both in the Defence White Paper and in the recent debate, that the Navy has a vital task to perform.

Mr. Wigg

It is a piece of impertinence for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that the Navy resents or does not resent, or approves or does not approve, the action which this House may take as a result of its deliberations. The House of Commons, in Supply, has a right to go into these questions perfectly free from any pressure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman may care to bring on behalf of that Service. I savagely resent that intrusion in the name of a Fighting Service to influence the House and public opinion.

Question put and agreed to.

Supply accordingly considered in Committee.