Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £50,604,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the pay, etc., of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1956.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
On this Vote for the pay of the Royal Navy, I hope it will be considered appropriate if we spend a few moments considering two aspects which are of importance, one being the position of the lower deck and the other being the officer structure.
When he introduced the Navy Estimates, the First Lord said that the manning of the lower deck was a grave problem. That is true. There is no doubt that recruitment to the Royal Navy over the last few years has been very disappointing. The number of Regular recruits has declined each year since 1951–52. In 1951–52, there were 11,000 recruits; in 1952–53, 10,000; in 1953–54, 9,000; and, in 1954–55, 8,000.
The fact that Regular recruiting for the Royal Navy has fallen from 11,000 in 1951–52 to 8,000 last year has not been due to a deliberate policy. It has been the result of an inability to recruit the men the Navy wants. It is, therefore, fitting that the Committee should spend some time asking the Civil Lord, who has to carry all the burden of the Board of Admiralty this afternoon because of the accidents and hazards of our life, what the Admiralty intends to do about this apart from having another inquiry.
I said in the debate on the Navy Estimates that we had had a great many inquiries over the last few years. In fairness, one ought to say that the conditions on the lower deck have been improved 1132 considerably over the last two years. In matters of pay, in living conditions—not to such a great extent in the matter of accommodation because of the inherent disadvantage of serving aboard ship—and in length of service abroad there have been a number of improvements. Yet, despite the improvements which have been made, recruiting continues to go down.
The Navy is having to rely more and more upon National Service men. During the coming year it is estimated that about 5,000 National Service men will go into the Navy. They are, of course, very welcome, as I am sure the Civil Lord will agree, for they are very fine men indeed. Those who have seen them during their training know that the Navy has a very good bargain in most of the National Service men that it gets. However, the fact remains that to have a system growing up in the Navy in which about 40 per cent. of its recruits are National Service men doing two years' service is destroying the conception of the long-service Navy which has been part of the whole way of life of the Navy for many years.
Is the Admiralty reconciled to this? Has the Admiralty got to the stage where, in effect, it is saying to the country that because it cannot do anything about it, it will rely for 40 per cent. of its men on National Service men? If that is so, the Navy will be getting into the same difficulties that the Army has found in having such an overload of men to be trained that it cannot get down to doing the real job.
§ Brigadier Christopher Peto (Devon. North)
Is it not a fact that one of the reasons there is a shortage of volunteers in the Navy is that the volunteers, such as there are, prefer to go into the Army?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member is trailing his coat, but I should have thought that that was far from the case. I should have thought that the Navy was the most attractive of the three Services, but I do not want to be diverted into an inter-Service war of that description. I suggest that the hon. and gallant Member passes that point to the Civil Lord.
That manpower position will affect so many things, not only the nature of the Navy itself, but its reserves. The 1133 R.N.V.R., which has, in the past, provided a very fine nucleus of men, is increasingly becoming a Service that is designed for the post-National Service and pre-National Service man. The number of recruits for the R.N.V.R., recruits who have no National Service obligations, is becoming very small indeed.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. and gallant Member is re-emphasising what I am saying. He is saying that there are no such recruits. That is going a bit far, but, certainly, the number of recruits for the R.N.V.R. is very small. I should like to ask the Civil Lord what he has to say about this position.
Can he tell us something about the R.N.V.R. air squadrons? They form an essential part of our air defence in the Royal Navy. I would sooner hear from him what is the position of the R.N.V.R. squadrons than give circulation to some of the very disquieting stories about the condition of the R.N.V.R. air service that have reached me. I have no means of checking whether they are true and I do not propose to give them wider circulation this afternoon. Will the Civil Lord tell us what is the state of readiness of these squadrons, whether they are up to strength in officers and men—it should be better in officers than in men—and what proposals he has for ensuring that we have R.N.V.R. air squadrons really up to strength? I want him to devote some attention to that point.
On the question of recruitment of men to the Navy, I fear that the attractions of full employment ashore—and this is a platitude—arebound to remove a large number of would-be recruits who were ready to join the Navy before the war when employment was by no means so easily obtainable and I speak from personal experience—
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am sorry that you have now raised that point, Sir Charles, as we are getting along very well. I will, of course, confine myself to the particular issue. Indeed, you have put me off my stroke to the extent that I cannot say anything more about it. I have put 1134 my case and I hope that the Civil Lord will have the same luck in making his reply.
I will deal next with the officer structure, which concerns the pay and promotion and the careers of these men and which, I should think, would be in order on this Vote. I am very glad indeed to hear the proposal that more officers should be promoted to the branch list. I have always felt that it was a very bad and unfortunate state of affairs that a man could get to the top of the noncommissioned ranks—become a chief petty officer at 32 or 33—and then find that any further avenues of promotion were closed to him. I welcome the new officer structure in as far as it provides for a good non-commissioned officer to go further in his chosen career. I am sure that that is a very good thing.
On the question of the rest of the officer structure, I must say that we should like to hear from the Civil Lord what is proposed. There has been considerable disquiet among those affected. How does the Board of Admiralty propose that the officer list should be divided at commander? Is it to be done by the decision of the Second Sea Lord? Will he review the potentialities of these officers when they become commanders and decide that some should go to shore appointments and some command ships? I understand that that is so.
Will the officers concerned have any right of appeal, or will they just get a chit one morning saying, "This is your future and there is no appeal from the decision of the Second Sea Lord"? What representations can they make? I know that it is not usual for representations of this sort to be made, but, on the other hand, this is a new system and the division of the officer list in this way, which is going to affect the careers of these officers very considerably is something that should be looked at with a sympathetic eye.
I ask the Civil Lord again, will those who are dissatisfied with their position in the list either ashore or at sea—and I expect it will be those who will be told they have to stay ashore who will be dissatisfied—be given permission to retire? Will they be given sympathetic consideration? Oddly enough, most men join the Navy to go to sea and if, when they are 35 or so, they are told that 1135 they stand no chance of going to sea, then in some ways they will have a grievance and we ought to consider how far that grievance can be met.
I fully sympathise with the desire to get in more sea-time. I am sure that it is absolutely right, but we must remember that there will be a number of intensely and bitterly disappointed men if they are told, when comparatively young and mobile and energetic, that they cannot again go to sea. I am sure that the Committee would like to hear from the Civil Lord what the Admiralty proposes to do for them.
I want to ask about the division of the Fleet Air Arm. I understand that some men will go ahead in the Fleet Air Arm and some will transfer to the general list. Will those who are left behind in the Fleet Air Arm be sidetracked, as it were? Is there to be a dead-end in the Fleet Air Arm? If so, that would be very unfortunate. In other words, what is the nature of the division of these officers in the Fleet Air Arm when they reach this point in their careers at which separation takes place?
Are there to be first-class men in the general list who will become flag officers in due course together with many people left in the Fleet Air Arm waiting until they reach the end of their careers? I hope that that is not so. I ask this question in no hostile spirit, but to clear up the position about which a number of people serving in the Navy still have some doubt.
That is all I want to raise at this time. I conclude by saying that the whole strength and foundation of the Navy lies in having happy and contented officers and men serving in it. If we do not have enough men, then there must be something wrong. We do not have enough men at present either serving, or in the reserve list. It will be generally admitted that there has been considerable frustration in officers' ranks which has not been removed by the announcement about the new officer structure, however necessary it may be for the Service as a whole. I hope, therefore, that the Civil Lord will be able to focus our attention on these matters and tell us something further about them.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)
I join with the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in wishing the Financial Secretary a speedy recovery from influenza.
There are one or two points which I wish to make about this Vote. Is it right that the Navy should get £126,000 a year for publicity purposes, compared with £231,000 for the Royal Air Force and £344,000 for the Army? Why should this publicity be run by the Central Office of Information and not directly by their Lordships? I hope that my right hon. Friend will do something to help to increase that amount voted for the Navy.
My next point relates to the post list. It will give more sea-time, and I hope that that will include the visits to resorts, which should help recruiting. It will promote more interest if people can see the ships and the Navy at work.
I think it an excellent thing, as revealed in the branch list, that these men should be promoted. There are such jobs open to them as school liaison. If we are to stimulate recruiting, it is important that we should have the right type of officer lecturing at schools on the work of the Navy, and not someone who has no hope of any further promotion. For this job we need someone who was well decorated in the last war, and able to tell an exciting story, and who can explain the work of the Navy in peace-time as well as in war-time.
Officers of the R.N.V.S.R. who do periodical training do not expect to be paid for it. But, it is wrong and unfair that these officers, who may have to come long distances to attend a course in H.M.S. "Vernon," should have to pay their travelling expenses. It would help if the Civil Lord could say that consideration will be given to paying their expenses.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
This Vote covers £47 million, which is a very large sum of public money. It relates to what is a nationalised industry which does not bring in any revenue. We have other nationalised industries which bring in revenue, but this one brings in nothing at all. I wish to know whether the First Lord is satisfied that there is no waste of any of this money.
1137 I should like, also, to know whether we are justified in having a huge bill for pay for the fleet at present on manocuvres in the Mediterranean. During our debates on the Navy Estimates I quoted from the American Admiralty, showing that there was an immense and powerful American fleet in the Mediterranean. Do we need to have our fleet there as well? Do we need to spend thousands and thousands of pounds on paying for all the retinue of admirals, and the whole paraphernalia, when, presumably, the purpose of the fleet in the Mediterranean is to prevent submarines and Russian ships from leaving the Black Sea?
As these manoeuvres are, presumably, costing a lot of public money, can that expenditure be justified? Should not this huge American fleet be able to bottle up any submarines in the Black Sea without the assistance of our fleet? We have had Mediterranean manoeuvres in the past, but are we justified in continuing them in present circumstances? The very fact that we are asked to foot this huge bill makes me revert to the proposal, which I made repeatedly during the discussion of the Navy Estimates, that we should have a committee of businessmen to examine these Estimates. After all, it was the Prime Minister who said that the Admiralty is full of useless people.
§ The Chairman
They may be useless people, but even if they are, they come under Vote A and not under this Vote.
§ Mr. Hughes
Presumably the people whose pay is dealt with under this Vote are directed by the useless people who come under Vote A, but I appreciate that I must not pursue that point.
The very fact that we are carrying on these old-fashioned manoeuvres in the Mediterranean shows that we should have a committee of businessmen—say the chairman of the Prudential Assurance Company and the chairman of the T.U.C., people who have some idea of spending public money—to examine these Estimates. So long as we permit the Admiralty to say, "Oh, yes, £47 million; we shall get that in half an hour," we shall not encourage the necessary spirit of economy for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has appealed. I submit that today we are making the Chancellor's Budget speech in advance, and that if we 1138 reduce this figure of £47 million, we shall be making the position easier for him.
The more one reads about these manoeuvres in the Mediterranean the more one feels justified in asking the most searching questions. One sees, for example, that the "Britannia" is there. I wish to know whether any of the £47 million is to be used to pay the crew of the "Britannia." What is the need for the "Britannia" in the Mediterranean at the present time? In reply to questions which we asked about the Navy Estimates, the Civil Lord said that the "Britannia" was a hospital ship. Is she in the Mediterranean in that capacity, or as a royal yacht? I should like to know whether the "Britannia" is now a hospital ship. I wish to be assured that the Duke of Edinburgh is not there as a hospital patient.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
The "Britannia" is quite likely to be a hospital ship, for has not my hon. Friend read in the Press that the Duke of Edinburgh was "killed" twice yesterday?
§ Mr. Hughes
All I can say is that I hope the resurrection of His Royal Highness will follow shortly. I have not the slightest objection to the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh, but I wish to object to the continuance of camouflaged expense such as this. We know that the "Britannia" has cost £2,100,000, and that this vessel was the subject of a searching inquiry by the Select Committee on Estimates. The Admiralty do not know what to do with this ship. I should like to know whether she is in the Mediterranean as a royal yacht or camouflaged as a hospital ship. The very fact that we have to ask these questions—
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member may feel that he has to ask such questions, but in this Committee we can only ask about the pay of the crew of the ship.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am quite sure that the sailors are not there in a voluntary capacity, Sir Charles. They are getting paid. I do not object to their pay. If sailors are to be employed, I believe that they deserve decent pay and conditions. The conditions in this hospital—royal yacht—ship have already come under scrutiny, and I shall not go into that again. But I should like a real explanation of what these sailors are being paid 1139 for during the weeks or days that they are to be in the Mediterranean. Is it not a fact that the Admiralty is indulging in all this expensive frippery simply because the House of Commons does not carry out a very careful pruning of this expenditure? The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) says that £126,000 is too little. I think it is too much. Why should there be this publicity for the Navy? Surely people know that there is a Royal Navy.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard
There seems to be so much uninformed criticism and talk about the Navy that I thought a little information would be rather useful.
§ Mr. Hughes
I should be delighted if some of this £126,000 were to be devoted to telling us exactly what the "Britannia" is doing in the Mediterranean. I do not believe that the Navy needs this publicity now. Everybody knows that there is a Navy.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
My hon. Friend seems to have touched off a very important question. Does he appreciate that public money is being used for political propaganda? The money voted for publicity ought to be used to get recruits for the Navy, and not to whitewash the Government.
§ Mr. Hughes
My hon. Friend has raised a serious question. I did not know that the £126,000 was to be used for such publicity.
§ Mr. Hughes
I can quite understand my hon. Friend thinking that those two institutions were one and the same. The Government really ought to justify the expenditure of this sum of £126,000 for publicity. Hon. Members opposite have argued over and over again about the publicity carried on by other Departments—
§ Mr. Hughes
I cannot solve that problem. Sir Charles. The hon. Member for 1140 St. Ives discovered it. I regret it if it is not there. We need the searchlight of publicity upon these Estimates.
I have made my case for having a full explanation of this huge expenditure of £47 million. I believe that we have become used to rushing through these Estimates in a very short time, and the Admiralty now become peeved and grieved whenever we ask important questions. I should like the Civil Lord to assure us, first, that this expenditure of £47 million is necessary; secondly, that every penny being spent upon these Mediterranean manœuvres is necessary in modern conditions and, thirdly—and I hope that he will not try to avoid it—exactly what "Britannia" is doing in this venture, and what it is costing.
§ Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)
Since I represent a constituency which probably has more naval men than any other, I should like to make a few observations upon this Vote. There is no doubt about the difficulty of recruiting men for the lower deck, but there are also many problems connected with the administration of the officer structure. Although £591,500 more is to be allotted this year in respect of officers' pay, the numbers concerned are shown to be less. In his speech last week the First Lord said that nothing he had read gave him any reason to suppose that there would be any axeing among naval officers, but I do not think that the Committee needs to be told that a very great degree of alarm now exists among officers about their future, and that unless something more specific can be said to assure them that they will not be let in for a large axe, the partial demoralisation which I have mentioned elsewhere will continue.
It has come to my knowledge that the splitting of the list has already taken place, and that officers have already been told whether they are on the post list or the general list—or, as they themselves say, on the wet or dry list. Officers now serving at sea, in fairly high positions, have been expressing not a little concern because they have been suddenly informed that they are on the dry list and must be employed ashore in future. In the letter which is being sent to them they are told that there is no prospect of any further employment at sea. It is not surprising that this is causing a certain amount of wonderment and alarm.
1141 4.15 p.m.
Can any statement be made now, or at short notice, about the relative prospects of promotion for officers placed on the dry list? It is inevitably bound to occur to them that if they are on the dry list they will, in effect, no longer be employed as naval officers but more as Admiralty civilians, and they will think it best to seek the earliest opportunity of getting out. Those whom I have met in the last week have all told me that, having been informed that they are on the dry list, they think that it may be time that they took a job in civil life. For their sakes and the sakes of other officers, I should like the Civil Lord to give us some assurance in the matter.
It has been said that there is more future in the Navy for officers upon the dry list than for those upon the wet list—not because alcohol reduces one's expectation of life, but because there are so many more shore establishments, or "stone frigrates," than there are sea-going ships and, therefore, the numbers employed ashore will always be greater. Can my hon. Friend give an estimate of the relative prospect of a long life of service in the Navy for those upon the wet and dry lists respectively?
It has been reported that their Lordships are to set up a new Board of Admiralty to administer the general list, which body is to be referred to as the "Landlords." I was not sure that it was necessarily to be staffed entirely by people who had gone through the Service as naval officers. I should like the Civil Lord to give me some information upon these matters, and also tell me whether officers—such as electricians and engineers—who have now shed their distinction lace are to be employed interchangeably, though coming from different Departments, or whether they will continue under precisely the same conditions of service as before.
May I say how pleased I am—knowing the strains and stresses involved—that officers on the branch list are to have a larger representation in the Navy? My opinion is that their total numbers, on promotion to officers, could be multiplied several times—and not merely added to—without the Navy suffering in any way. I hope that my hon. Friend can give me some reassurance upon the matters which I have raised.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
During the Estimates debate last week I raised the question of artificers' pay and was chided by the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), who told me that many people in the Navy thought that they were already paid too much. That was not the point which I was trying to make. I was seeking to compare their pay with that of comparable trades and professions outside. It seems to me that if we are to recruit more men into the Navy—and the White Paper refers to the situation in relation to long service men as being critical—we must ensure that their pay bears some relationship to that in respect of similar jobs outside the Navy.
I am not certain that it does at present. An able seaman gets 11s. a day or £3 17s. a week at most—he may get as little as 9s. 6d.—and if he is married he receives £2 2s. for his wife. Surely no one would say that that was a very good rate of pay which was likely to encourage people to stay in the Service.
If we take the first-class Marine—and I understand from the statement made from the Government Front Bench during the debate on the Estimates that this was one of the branches in which there was a serious shortage—we find the same rate of pay. That does not seem to me to be a sufficient rate of pay for this type of man.I agree, of course, that there has been considerable improvement in the naval rates of pay since the war. I agree, too, that unlike the position in the inter-war period, when the rates of pay tended to be below, in some cases, the rates of pay outside the Service—although owing to the fear of unemployment men were still willing to join—there has been, since the war, a serious endeavour to level things up to comparable conditions outside.
But I must say that when I examine the figures, even taking into full consideration all the various allowances we offer for good conduct, long service, tradesmen's badges, or other allowances, the rates of pay still seem to me to be, whilst comparable, not sufficiently higher than the civil rates ashore to form an incentive for people to stay in the Service. We are in a period of full employment, but when a man passes a certain stage he wants to settle down and to be at home. 1143 and if he is married he wants to be with his wife and family. The man in the Service is without that companionship. He is aboard ship, his conditions are much more uncomfortable, and he probably gets sent away for 18 months' foreign service, or something like that, and does not see his children for a long time.
It seems to me that unless there is incentive of some kind for him to stay—and that incentive, I would suggest, should include the payment of a rather higher rate of pay than the comparable rate of pay outside—he is not going to stay. That is the first question which I wish to ask the Minister—whether, in fact, he is satisfied that there is sufficient inducement in these rates of pay to help to solve that problem.
My second point deals with the relative rates of pay. I remember that while I was in the Navy comparison was always being made in many branches with the rates of pay in the merchant service. I should like to know how the rates of pay—this was a common topic of conversation all the time I was in the Service, which was for a few years—compare with those paid for comparable jobs requiring similar qualifications in the merchant service. I am asking whether this is not one of the things which causes discontent and people to leave.
My third point concerns the junior officer, which Ithink the right hon. Gentleman mentioned during the Estimates debate. Today, the junior officer receives about the same amount of pay, sometimes less, of course, as the chief petty officer in the Service. I wonder whether that is right. There are, I admit, many complications about this. A chief petty officer has probably been in the Service a very long time and getting all sorts of extra pay due to various qualifications which he possesses.
If I may, I will give my own personal experience again. I have met scores of fellows in the artificer branches, third-class artificers and upwards, who refuse to accept promotion or even to try to get promotion because they would be worse off financially. I think that that position is well known. That seems to me to be an enormous waste of manpower and the ultimate reason why so many of these people, at the end of their period of service, went out. 1144 Surely it would have been a good thing for the Service to have been able to retain these men, with their qualifications, long experience, service at sea and familiarity with routine and traditions, which are all going to waste because they consider themselves to be worse off. Any one examining the rates of pay for junior officers in particular must ask himself whether, in fact, we are likely to get what we require when we talk about retaining a proper personnel in the Navy. I wonder whether the Minister can give us some information on these three points which, I think, have an important bearing on this very critical situation of manpower.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
There is one question which I should like to ask, and I should be grateful if I could have an answer when the Civil Lord replies to the debate. I know that, however much we may share the anxieties expressed on both sides of the Committee about the officer structure of the naval service, we must all agree that it is of the greatest importance that we should attract into the Service the very best possible recruits from the schools. What arrangements does the Admiralty make to maintain contact with the schools and to bring the terms of service of the officer to the notice of boys when they are at school? Have any results been forthcoming from experiments made in that direction, and have any criticisms as to the terms of service been going up to the Admiralty as a result of such inquiries?
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I should like to follow the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) on the question of rates of pay. What we ought to ask ourselves is: is it not time for a general revision and review of the pay codes? This House is responsible for the rates of pay of the men in the Navy. They have no trade union which will put in a pay claim. I think that one of the best things done by the Labour Government in relation to the Service was their attempt to relate, for the first time, the rates of pay to civilian wages by taking the average wages paid over a period of one year in industry. By estimating roughly the value of the emoluments of the Servicemen, it was possible to try to establish a comparable basis as between the pay in the Services and the pay in civil industry. This has a great bearing on the question of recruitment.
1145 Since then, a number of modifications have taken place as a result of the acts of the Labour Government and of this Government. For example a differentiation has occurred between the pay rates of Regulars and those of conscripts. Differentiation took place last year between the rates of pay of certain long-service volunteers and of volunteers on less service. We now have a multiplicity of codes. We also have a situation in which some of the men in the Service have, comparatively recently, had their pay raised, while others, and in particular the conscripts, have not had their pay and allowances raised for a considerable time.
To a certain extent these men are affected by the rising cost of living when on leave, and their wives are certainly as much affected by the rise in the cost of living as anyone else. Have the Admiralty recently made a comparison between the present pay rates in the Service and the present average wage in industry? It would be a good thing if the Committee were informed of the result of any investigation that has been carried out, because I firmly believe that we should try to maintain the basis which the Labour Government attempted to lay down, keeping the rates of pay in the Service comparable with the movement of wages and salaries in industry. The Navy cannot hope to get the volunteers which it needs in order to get rid of conscription unless it does so.
The second point which I wish to raise refers to the revision of the disciplinary code. We are very strongly dissatisfied with the reply of the Admiralty spokesman on this subject and we still do not know what the Admiralty intends to do. It neither produces legislation to carry out the recommendations of the committees which have shown that the Naval Discipline Act ought to be revised and the naval disciplinary code reviewed, nor will the First Lord of the Admiralty agree to appoint a Select Committee, as was done for the revision of the disciplinary codes in the other Services.
I hope that the Civil Lord will say something on this subject. We want either a Select Committee of the House of Commons to do what was done for the Army and the Royal Air Force, or an assurance that the Admiralty will bring forward legislation based upon the Pilcher Report 1146 and on what has been done by the previous Select Committees.
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
I wish to enlarge upon what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) about officers who, coincidentally with the introduction of the Navy Estimates here, received a letter saying that they would either be wet or dry, the wet ones being the good and the dry ones the not so good.
Officers who are told that they are not to go to sea again are inclined to think, as it would be reasonable for them to do, that they have failed and are classified as being more or less useless. That is not so at all. These unfortunate people have been told that because the Navy is not so big as it might be there is no chance of their going to sea any more. To a man who joined a Service which entails life at sea, that is a bitter blow.
I hope that the Civil Lord will tell us that special compensation will be offered to these officers, if they wish to get out of the Navy now while they are still comparatively young and to pick up another profession. Obviously, they cannot get where they originally expected to get in the profession they chose when they were young men. This bitter pill can be coated. They should be offered compensation for finding themselves in this position through no failure on their part.
§ Mr. Wigg
I count myself as fortunate in being called to speak when we have the Minister of Defence with us. I wonder whether he would answer the question I put to him during our debate on going into Committee of Supply on the Navy Estimates. I am sure that Committees and, indeed, the country require an answer before we pass this very large sum of public money.
In 1951, the right hon. Gentleman, speaking after my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) in the defence debate, was assessing the strength of the Soviet forces and the number of men we should require to meet that threat. He told us on authority that within two years the Soviet Union would have 1,000 submarines. Would the right hon. Gentleman be kind enough, now that three years have gone by, to tell us whether that estimate was correct. I asked the question previously and did 1147 not get an answer. I observed in "The Times" this morning that the estimate is now 350. How can the right hon. Gentleman—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Perhaps it may help my hon. Friend if I ask whether he read the last debate on the Navy Estimates, in which the spokesman for the Government inflated the expenditure of the Russian fleet three times, by taking the wrong value of the rouble. Perhaps that is the explanation also in this case.
§ Mr. Wigg
I thank my hon. Friend for making a reference to that fact. I am dealing with the estimate on the evidence supplied by "The Times" this morning, which shows that the right hon. Gentleman was 300 per cent. wrong.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman did not deliberately try to embarrass the Labour Government. We all know him far too well to think that he would do anything like that. He never plays politics. Would he be kind enough to tell us whether his estimate was a wild guess or whether he still stands by that figure?
§ Mr. Wigg
I know we are dealing with pay, but it may well be that if the original estimate given by the right hon. Gentleman was wrong, and "The Times" was right, the estimate should be much less. We cannot possibly decide on that until we know whether the right hon. Gentleman was telling the truth on that occasion.
§ The Chairman
Whether the Minister of Defence was telling the truth or not, we cannot deal with that point now.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am very sorry. The country and the Committee will have to draw their own conclusions about it. I hope that I shall not follow the right hon. Gentleman into the realms of poetry. If I did, I should probably be out of order. Perhaps on some future occasion he will tell us how he arrived at that remarkable estimate and whether he still stands by it or not.
We are extremely fortunate, also, in having with us an ex-Minister of Defence, 1148 my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington. I hope that he will take note of the fact that the Government of the day have deliberately evaded the demand made from both sides of the Committee for an inquiry into naval discipline. It will be regrettable if this becomes a party question, because there is common ground that the discipline of the Royal Navy ought to be above politics.
The Select Committee that inquired into the discipline in the Army and the Royal Air Force has finished its job and the Bill that it drafted is shortly to become law. It is not asking too much of the Government to give an undertaking that they will this Session set up a Select Committee to inquire into naval discipline; or, if they do not like that procedure, will introduce a new Naval Discipline Bill. All we got the other night was evasion. That was not good enough, and that is why I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington is here.
If we cannot get an assurance from the Government I hope that my right hon. Friend will take a Supply day before the end of the Session and put down a Motion on this subject. We have pleaded for this revision over and over again, but there has been no attempt whatever to meet us. It may well be that we shall be told why the Government will hot take action in this matter.
Still keeping well within the bounds of order, Sir Charles, I turn to Vote I, Subhead K, which deals with bounties. We always get sensational information from the Government on the day before a big debate, or in the course of the debate, as we recently did about General Templer going to the Colonies on the day of the Army Estimates. This was done to quieten any criticism about the administration of the Army, but I should be out of order if I proceeded with that.
About a year ago we had an announcement from the Ministry of Defence that at about 5 o'clock there would be a paper in the Vote Office on bounties, etc. I would like to hear from the Civil Lord how those bounties have worked in the Admiralty. Good luck to the chaps who got the bounty under this Vote. Has the bounty persuaded any of them who were thinking of returning to civil life to stay on in the Navy, or was the announcement anything more a little bit of sugar 1149 for the birds? Has it served any practical purpose at all or does it come about because of the policy which the Army has had to adopt as a result of the Secretary of State for War's appalling failure? Has the Navy had to allocate £120,000 in the 1954–55 Estimates without any practical results?
It was obvious from the speech of the First Lord, introducing the Navy Estimates, that the Navy is beginning to get worried about its recruiting. This is a very serious matter indeed, because so far the Navy has had the good fortune not to have worries about recruits. Men have taken on easily. While the Army, ever since the end of the war, has been hag-ridden about the shortage of recruits, this has not been a problem in the Navy.
I congratulated the First Lord during that debate on the fact that he has set up an inquiry to see what has happened. He is not as stubborn or as puffed up with his own importance, or as incompetent, as the Secretary of State for War. He has done something about it. But we have to be careful to see that in facing this alarming problem the Navy does not come out with a brand new policy which simply subtracts recruits from the Air Force and the Army, leaving those Services with a problem.
I should like to hear from the Minister of Defence that he intends to make sure that the manpower policy of all three Services is co-ordinated and that it will not be a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul. What I think should happen is not that we should have simply an inquiry into the Navy, but that we should have an inquiry covering all three Services, because it is quite clear that even the Secretary of State for War is now learning the elementary lesson which any staff officer learned on his first day as a commissioned officer—that there are only a given number of recruits.
I am glad to see that the Secretary of State for War has entered the Chamber, because I am on one of my favourite and inexhaustible subjects—his incompetence. He has learned the lesson, for he admitted this year that there are only a given number of men who will join the Fighting Services and who like undertaking Regular engagements, and that if the Army gets two of them and there are only three, then the other two Services have to fight for the odd man. 1150 This is, therefore, a problem which faces all Services, and while I congratulate the First Lord on his vigour and drive in setting up an inquiry, I should prefer the inquiry to be undertaken by the Minister of Defence, because I fear that all that will happen is that we shall add to the bill without increasing the total number of recruits. It is the policy of the Labour Party—and, I think, a wise policy—to press for an inquiry into the working of the National Service Act, and I wish my right hon. Friends would go a little further and press the Government for an inquiry not only into the working of the National Service Act but also into Regular recruiting as a whole, not because I think the facts are not known—
§ The Chairman
I have been very generous to the hon. Gentleman and I hope he will not pursue this question too far. The Vote concerns only pay.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am dealing with pay, Sir Charles, because, obviously, if we have more Regular recruits, then the make-up of the bill would be quite different. Nevertheless, I will not trespass on your kindness for more than another minute.
I do not think that such an inquiry would elicit any new facts. They are well known. But it could lead to a sharing of the responsibility on both sides of the Committee in seeking a solution to this problem without which we shall go on year after year adding to the bill for pay for recruits in each Service without getting any more recruits.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)
In accordance with your Ruling, Sir Charles, I shall not attempt to give an answer on behalf of the Minister of Defence to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) about the number of Russian submarines. I want to relate certain remarks made on recruiting publicity to the damage done by the statement of the Minister of Defence, made when he was in opposition, because it is now apparent. I believe that it has an effect on the validity of propaganda for Navy recruiting when false figures are given in the House.
I well remember that on that occasion the present Minister of Defence raised 1151 the matter rather as a query. He mentioned a figure of a thousand Russian submarines and another hon. Member mentioned a million Russian submarines. I realise that the right hon. Gentleman is now acquainted with the facts, and so is the Admiralty and the Admiralty public relations department. I do not consider that propaganda of the kind which was put out during the summer about the size of the Russian Navy—certain facts which I will say without hesitation were incorrect and must have been known to be incorrect—should be used in order to obtain recruits.
I ask the Civil Lord to look into the policy followed by the public relations department in the Admiralty about the number of Russian submarines, because if we try to draw people into the Navy by suggesting something which, on investigation, they can later find to be misleading, then it does the Navy no good service at all. The majority of this figure of 350 submarines is still largely made up of obsolescent submarines which are likely to play no effective part in any future war.
Still keeping within the rules of order, like my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, I want to turn to the question of the lodging allowance, and on this subject—Vote 1, Subhead F—I want to ask a question about the position of the establishment on shore of a distinguished naval officer who goes by the name of "Cinceastlant," who is also C.-in-C. Home Fleet and a number of other people all at the same time. "Cinceastlant" has now decided—and I have mentioned this on a previous occasion—that during war or during naval manoeuvres it is desirable for him to have his flag with "Cincaireastlant."
In order to do that, he has to live within a few miles of London, and I notice that under Vote 1, Subhead F there is provision for lodging allowance for those members of the Navy who live within 10 miles of Charing Cross. Cincaireastlant, and therefore Cinceastlant, live just a little further than 10 miles from Charing Cross, because in fact they live at Northwood. There is no secret about that. It is not only desirable that Cinceastlant should be there but also that he should have a permanent staff there. It has been very noticeable in recent 1152 manoeuvres that when "Cinceastlant" goes ashore or when C.-in-C. Home Fleet suddenly becomes Cinceastlant—
§ Mr. Shackleton
"Cinceastlant" has command of that part of the North Atlantic which "Saclant" has allowed the British to have. I could continue on this subject at some length, including some rules which the Prime Minister made about the territorial definition.
Although this use of terms may seem a little far from Vote 1, in fact it relates specifically to the numbers who receive lodging allowance, because I believe that the numbers receiving lodging allowance should be increased; because when these operations take place, the Admiral and his sea-going staff come ashore and go into a large operations room. They have to find their way about it, for a start. They are not trained in that kind of work, and I believe it is of the most utmost importance that permanent shore-based staffs should be established for the efficient conduct of these operations.
I am not raising this point lightly, because it was obvious to many officers during the recent exercise that the policy of the Navy of bringing back sea-going officers from almost anywhere in order to staff an operations room does not make for the efficient conduct of operations.
§ Mr. Shackleton
It is very mysterious.
I believe that lodging allowance should be increased by the total amount necessary in order to ensure that an adequate permanent shore staff, possibly made up of reservists and possibly made up of Regular Navy men, can be given to Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Wingfield Digby)
A number of very interesting points have been raised on this Vote. I will attempt to deal with them more or less in the order in which they were raised.
The first point raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was in regard to recruitment. That point was also touched upon by the 1153 hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). The question of recruitment was referred to at some length in our Estimates debate not very long ago and, in particular, the question of conditions of service for the lower deck was debated when we discussed the Amendment. As I endeavoured to point out then, quite a lot has been done to improve conditions and, therefore, we hope, recruiting. But it is essentially a long-term problem, and it takes a little time for these necessarily varied measures to have the desired effect.
It is true that about 10,000 will be the number of National Service men we shall have during the next year, but I should like to reassure the hon. Member that it is not our intention to increase that proportion, and that we are very anxious to get as many volunteers as we can. That is the reason why my right hon. Friend has decided to hold the inquiry into the whole question of manpower.
§ Mr. Digby
I have not got the figures in front of me, but perhaps I can clear that point up later.
I think I should be in some difficulty if I dealt with the question of the R.N.V.R. at some length because the appropriate Estimate comes under Vote 7. Although there may be difficulties arising from the conversion of the Fleet Air Arm units to jets during the coming year, we are not dissatisfied with the general recruiting position in the R.N.V.R.
A number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, spoke about the officer structure. That is a very important point. My right hon. Friend made a very full statement on the new officer structure in the debate the other day. The question of the branch list officers has also been raised. That is still under consideration by the Committee considering these matters which made the main recommendations. It is a matter about which no final decision has been reached.
I have been asked about the division of the lists. Obviously it is a very difficult matter for those who have to make the 1154 decision upon which list a certain officer should be placed. As has been mentioned, a letter is written to the officer explaining that the chances of promotion on the general list are good. There are good chances of promotion up to captain and Hag rank on the general list. A lot of attention has been given to that matter.
I have been asked whether there is any question of appeal. It would be very difficult to have an appeal on a question of this kind, although I realise well how much it may mean to an officer to hear one way or the other. I can say that in certain circumstances representations would be considered, but I do not think it would be feasible to have any general right of appeal. I wish to stress that because a particular officer is not on the post list but on the general list he should not be too disappointed, as there will be many prospects open to him if he is an officer of ability—many prospects on the general list. This point was also mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke). I hope that what I have said deals with the point which he had in mind.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East also referred to the Fleet Air Arm and asked how it would be affected by the split list. The answer is that some officers will continue in the Fleet Air Arm and occupy posts up to and including flag rank for which an officer with those qualifications is desirable, and others, after seven years, will join the general list with the same chances of going forward and of promotion as they would have had previously had they been doing duties of another kind.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) raised the question of publicity expenditure, most of which is borne by the Central Office of Information. The reason is that it is thought desirable—
§ The Chairman
I was noting how the Civil Lord was developing his argument. So far he has been keeping in order rather cleverly.
§ Mr. Digby
We are spending more on this matter in one way or another than we did last year. My hon. Friend thought visits to coastal towns very desirable for 1155 publicity purposes. We go into that list very carefully. The list for next summer has not yet been decided upon, but we shall do our best to visit the coastal towns.
My hon. Friend raised the question of schools liaison, which was also mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger). In each of the four Commands we have an officer who is occupied with schools liaison work. We also have one or two officers at headquarters who go round dealing with that question. They do their best to get round to the right schools and get people who may come forward fully interested in the Navy. We have favourable reports on the activities of those officers.
As to the expenses of officers in the R.N.V.S.R., the answer is that they are in the same position as comparable officers in the other Services, and it is not possible to extend to them allowances which are not received in the other Services.
We had an intervention by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), in which he asked whether the very important exercises in the Mediterranean were really necessary. I can assure him that they are. We consider that those exercises will teach us valuable lessons.
He went on to ask about the total of the Vote. Again I can give him an assurance. All these figures have geen gone into very carefully at the Admiralty. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East will know the process only too well. We have been into the figures very carefully, and we believe that the money we are asking for is absolutely necessary. The "Britannia" has been playing the part of a hospital ship, as no doubt the hon. Member has read in the Press. Incidentally, those who form the complement of the "Britannia" are volunteers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) raised the very important point, which stands out in Vote 1, that, although the numbers are somewhat reduced, the amount of pay for which we are asking is higher. That shows the extent to which pay is improving in the Navy. That is one of my answers to several hon. Members who are anxious as to whether at present pay is realistic and comparable with that in outside industry.
1156 5.0 p.m.
The hon. Member then went on to speak about the fears among naval officers of the possibility of taxing. My right hon. Friend the First Lord made a careful statement on this subject in his speech the other day, and made it plain that at present he did not foresee any likelihood of axing. I should not like to go any further than my right hon. Friend's statement, which are carefully thought out.
Regarding the receipt of letters stating whether an officer is on one list or another, it is true that letters have gone out, but only in the case of junior captains and junior commanders. I need not say more about the split list at this point, because I have already dealt with it.
§ Dr. Bennett
Can my hon. Friend enlighten us at all about the interchange-ability of officers who have previously been in different branches, with different distinction cloth, but who now all wear the same uniform?
§ Mr. Digby
Certainly. Iam afraid, however, that complete interchangeability would not be possible between the branches, because many of the tasks are of a specialist nature; but there may, perhaps, be a movement in that direction at a later date. My hon. Friend mentioned also the question of promotion prospects. As I have emphasised, promotion prospects on the general list will be good, and officers should not believe otherwise.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) dealt at length with the question of pay and how it compared with the rates for outside industry. It is always very difficult to compare Service pay with the pay of outside industry, because many factors of one kind and another—for example, food and lodging—have to be taken into account. Only last April we introduced the new pay code, and we have introduced the sea-going local overseas allowance. We wish to give the new pay code a chance, because we believe that, given time, it will show good results.
§ Mr. Digby
There have been substantial differences. I have already pointed out that the increases in pay in these Estimates alone are about £5½ million.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East also raised the question of junior officers who receive less than chief petty officers. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) raised a similar example in the debate the other day. As a general rule, we hope to avoid that kind of situation, but hard cases make bad law, and it would be a mistake to assume that that kind of thing happens very often.
The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) also raised the question of rates of pay, and how far the Admiralty moved in relation to the movement of wages in industry. As I have said, our rates of pay were adjusted as recently as last April.
§ Mr. Swingler
The hon. Gentleman cannot expect to get away with that. If he does, will he answer this question? What proportion of men in the Navy have received pay increases since 1951? The hon. Gentleman talks about a new pay code which was introduced last year. I should like to know what percentage of men in the Navy have benefited from those pay increases, and the percentage of men who have had no pay increases for the last four years.
How recently has the Admiralty made a comparison between the average outside wage and the present rates of Service pay, and with what result? The hon. Gentleman says that it is difficult to make this comparison, but it was done by all the Service Departments in 1948. Are we to understand that the idea of making a comparison between civilian wages and the Services has now been abandoned?
§ Mr. Digby
The comparison is frequently made. I could not give figures of the number of officers and ratings who have received pay increases in the last year; I should require notice of that.
The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme went on to deal with discipline in the Navy. It would be out of order for me to deal with legislation on a Supply day, so that all I can say is that we are looking carefully at that matter. We are watching the progress of the Army Bill on a similar subject, and when we have 1158 seen what happens to it we are prepared to consider the question of a Select Committee. My right hon. Friend will not reach a decision until he sees how the Army Bill develops.
The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) raised several matters, including the lodging allowance of "Cinceastlant" staff. I was grateful for the hon. Member's suggestion. I would say that he has used his time in the Services to good purpose in view of his suggestion that it might be desirable to have permanent staff ashore. That is certainly a question which we shall consider. It is the kind of thing which will be facilitated by the new officer structure of the Navy, and perhaps it will make that kind of question a little easier to solve. I am grateful to the hon. Member for his suggestion. We shall look into it. That disposes, I think, of all the questions raised on this Vote.
I should like, in conclusion, merely to stress again that there is a very considerable increase in the amount of pay per officer and man which we are asking for next year.
§ Mr. Wigg
Would you consider, Sir Charles, accepting a Motion, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again? We have been given sets of figures which are utterly bewildering. In paragraph 62 of the Statement on Defence, 1955, under the heading "National Service Requirements," we are told that in 1955–56 the Navy will be allocated 7,500 National Service men. In paragraph 56 of the Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates, 1955–56, we are told:It is planned to enter about 5,000 national servicemen into the Navy in 1955–56.Now, this afternoon, the Civil Lord comes down to the House of Commons and tells us that the number is 10,000. How can we possibly consider these Estimates and the Vote on pay when we have been given three different statements? It would be much more satisfactory, Sir Charles, if you were to report Progress and ask leave to sit again, while the Government make up their minds which of the three figures is correct.
§ Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in his suggestion, if only so that I might register a protest. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was told that the First Lord would not be here today. I am all in favour of Ministers being on operations to gain experience and to be better qualified to answer questions in the House, but the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, who was to have been present, is unwell—we are sorry to hear it—and a Minister's first responsibility is to the House. I do not think that the First Lord is so far away that he could not have got an aircraft and attended. Clearly, as my hon. Friend has said, we are not getting satisfactory answers or explanations appropriate to the material and matters that we have to consider. In those circumstances, I support my hon. Friend's proposal.
§ Mr. Wigg
May I complete my remarks, Sir Charles? I gave way to the Civil Lord, who gave that smart answer. This is what the hon. Gentleman's Explanatory Statement says:It is planned to enter about 5,000 national Service men into the Navy in 1955–56.There is nothing there about multiplying the figure by two. Likewise, paragraph 62 of the Statement on Defence (Cmd. 9391)—I apologise for having to read it all, but in view of the lamentable misinterpretation to which I have been subjected I am compelled to do so—says:On present estimates of Regular recruiting and prolongations of engagements, the Services will require in 1955–56 to enter about 198,000 National Service men, or men who undertake Regular engagemnts in lieu …
§ The Chairman
It will save the time of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) if I tell him now that I cannot accept his suggestion. The question he raises has nothing to do with this Vote. It is Vote A that he is talking about.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I think we must try to obtain a better explanation than we have had so far from the Civil Lord of the discrepancy between the Statement on Defence and the Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates. I confess I had not noticed it myself. The Statement on Defence says that the Navy will call up 7,500 National Service men this year. 1160 The Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates says the number is to be 5,000.
§ Mr. Swingler
On a point of order. It is claimed that this is an accurate estimate of the pay required, and it is on the basis of its accuracy that we discuss it. You will be aware, Sir Charles, that there is a difference between the pay of the National Service men, the conscripts, and the Regulars, and a variation in the number of men called up must make a difference to the total of this Estimate.
It is quite clear that one or other of these State documents is inaccurate. The Statement on Defence says that the conscripts in the Navy will number 7,500 in the coming year. The Admiralty memorandum says 5,000. We want to know which of these figures is correct, and until we do so we cannot discuss this Estimate as being accurate.
I submit to you, Sir Charles, that we should report Progress, at any rate until such time as the Minister of Defence can tell us how many conscripts it is intended to call up at the lower rates in the next 12 months, so that we can judge whether this is a correct Estimate of the pay or not.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member said he wanted to raise a point of order, and that is not a point of order.
§ Mr. Wigg
Surely the question of how many National Service men are borne on this Vote has a bearing on the total amount of the Vote? It was part of the Civil Lord's case that the pay bill had gone up during the current year, but the question of the Regulars' pay has nothing to do with the National Service men. The number of men will depend on the amount that will be voted.
§ Mr. Digby
I do not want there to be any misapprehension, and I should like to clear up any doubt in the minds of hon. Gentlemen. The figure of 7,500 was a rough calculation of men of National Service age who would be called up for the Navy. Of those 2,500 are expected to 1161 take Regular engagements, leaving 5,000 on ordinary call-up. The two figures add up to 7,500, the figure mentioned in the Statement on Defence. The figure of 5,000 National Service men is the number of Natioal Service men expected to be called up, and not just the number of men of National Service age. It includes men who engage as volunteers.
§ Mr. Wigg
That is all very well as far as it goes, but we must have an assurance from the hon. Gentleman or from the Minister of Defence or from the First Lord that care will be taken next year, in preparing the White Paper on defence and the Navy Estimates, to get these rough calculations less rough. It is as though the hon. Gentleman had made a guess or played dominoes to get the answer. It bears no relation to the facts.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The First Lord told me of his proposal to go to the Mediterranean, and as far as it had anything to do with me, I said I thought it was an excellent idea that he should see what is happening out there. It is very unfortunate that the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary should have fallen ill yesterday. The Civil Lord has done his best and given us a painstaking answer, but perhaps by Thursday, when we reach the Report stage, the First Lord will be back.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That a sum, not exceeding £50,604,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the pay, etc., of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1956.