HC Deb 08 March 1956 vol 549 cc2316-78

Order for Committee read.


3.42 p.m.

The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. George Ward)

I beg to move, That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair.

The House will have seen from the Explanatory Statement which accompanies the Estimates that the gross provision for next year of £401,670,000 is up by £9,700,000 compared with the provision made for the current year in the original Estimates and the Supplementaries. Next year's figure includes an amount, which we estimate at about £31 million, for increased naval and civilian pay and pensions and for increased prices of matériel and supplies. If we deduct this, we are left with an effective gross provision for next year of some £21 million less than this year.

We expect to get £55.67 million of receipts, or £4.2 million more than this year. So Parliament is asked to make a net grant of £346 million, which is £5½ million more than the net grant this year. The receipts include £5 million of financial aid generously granted by the United States; £3½ million of this is aid for which we made provision in 1955–56 but which we now expect to get next year. In addition to this, the United States are also granting aid in support of the research and development programme.

I believe it is much more thoroughly understood in the country today than it was some little time ago, that the advent of thermo-nuclear weapons has not changed the need for navies or their primary. Obviously it must affect the design of ships, the composition of fleets, the tactics of naval warfare. But it does not make navies any less important.

This conclusion has been drawn by the major Powers in the world, including Russia, who has chosen in recent years to accelerate the building of an already very powerful fleet. Clearly Russia recognises that massive land and air forces and the thermo-nuclear bomb are not enough, and that she must also be able to dispute command of the seas. Yet Russia and, indeed, the United States are largely self-sufficient. This country is not. In any major conflict, command of the seaways to these islands would be just as indispensable to the survival of our base as it has been in the past.

During the defence debate several hon. Members on both sides of the House spoke of the rôle of the Navy in peace, in limited wars and in global war, but I got the feeling that they were not all very clear about it. Let me try very briefly to put the position as I see it.

First, if local wars are not dealt with quickly, the danger of a global war is increased. The Navy is the most mobile of all three Services and can most easily operate independently of land bases. It is therefore especially valuable for dealing with local wars and preventing them spreading.

Secondly, it is this mobility, I suggest, that gives the Navy its great prestige value in peace, because of its regular visits to Commonwealth and foreign ports.

Thirdly, there is the rôle of the Navy in a global war. There are bound to be wide differences of view about the likely course and duration of a war fought with nuclear weapons. But I suggest that we should be most unwise to assume that in a war, of whatever length, the Navy has no part to play, since the enemy would certainly try to starve us into submission by cutting our sea communications.

It has been suggested that a few atom bombs on the enemy's submarine bases would put an end to the submarine threat. But since we shall not decide when a war is to start, the Power that does so will presumably have the wit to see that its submarines and, indeed, its entire Navy, are at sea first, with adequate seagoing support to keep them there for some time, and it is with this threat that our striking forces and our anti-submarine forces will have to deal.

Fortunately, we should not stand alone against the formidable Russian Navy. The British Fleet would be a part of the combined N.A.T.O. Fleet. But we must make as powerful a contribution to that Fleet as we possibly can. If we do not we could hardly expect to have an effective voice in the strategy and disposition of the N.A.T.O. naval force.

People naturally tend to compare the size of the Navy afloat today, or even the Navy's new construction programme, with those at certain times in the past; and they wonder why nowadays we seem to have less to show for our money. Let me try to give a few examples. A first-rate anti-submarine frigate today costs £2¾ million, which is more than a pre-war cruiser and roughly eight times as much as a frigate of the same displacement built fifteen years ago. The Daring class ships cost nearly £3 million each when they were built. For this sum we could have had half-a-dozen last-war destroyers of about two-thirds of the displacement; or for another £500,000 we could have had an aircraft carrier before the war. And, of course, aircraft for a given rôle may cost, I suppose, anything up to twenty times as much today as they did shortly before the war.

Obviously, this is not just a result of the fall in the buying power of money. Ships now contain incomparably more equipment, especially electric and electronic devices, and their real cost has risen enormously. So we can hardly expect the Royal Navy to have the same number of big ships today as it had before the war.

Even if men and money were available in unlimited quantities, I very much doubt whether we should want anything like the large concentrations of warships of the past. New weapons and guided missiles will give to navies a far greater hitting power. Our modern battle groups will be small by comparison with the Fleets of the past, but they will be more formidable both in attack and defence, easier to disperse and quicker to concentrate again.

This doctrine of the smaller striking force does, however, put a still greater premium upon the quality and efficiency we must have in material and men. That is why it is so important to have a well-equipped, highly-trained Navy manned as far as possible by long-term Regular sailors.

How are we getting on with building and equipping this kind of Fleet? Let me deal first with the ships and aircraft, and then with the men.

From time to time the House has been told of our progress with ships designed to combat the submarine and the mine. We know we have to reckon with potential enemies who have a huge submarine force and have made a special study of mine design and mine-laying techniques—including mine-laying from submarines. As I have already pointed out, even in the hydrogen age, the submarine and the mine would be a grave menace. Our present strength in escorts and minesweepers, in being and under construction, is set out in the Explanatory Statement, and I shall not go over that again. That is the defensive side of the Navy; but it is the offensive side—the striking power of the Navy—that I want to talk about now.

There is, I know, some feeling of anxiety in the country because all our battleships are in reserve and we have only nine cruisers in the active fleet. But the principal striking power of the Navy today is provided by a balanced force of aircraft operating from floating bases. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is not in his place this afternoon. He said the other day that he was looking forward to seeing me defend the aircraft carrier. What he probably does not know is that before the war I spent three years in carriers; so, when I speak of carrier operations I need an Admiralty brief only to bring me up to date. While I confess that as a pilot I prefer my landing-ground to be neither pitching nor rolling, I have yet to find a more convenient way of greatly extending the range of a comparatively small aircraft than by taking my aerodrome around with me.

Since 1951 the fleet carriers "Eagle" and "Ark Royal" and the light fleet carriers "Centaur," "Albion" and "Bulwark" have all been completed and are in commission, the "Bulwark" as a trials and training carrier. We now have a programme for adapting them to operate the coming generation of aircraft—the N. 113, the D.H. 110 and the new strike aircraft. The main additional equipments they need to do this, which so far only "Ark Royal" has, are the steam catapult and the new and more powerful arrester gear. The re-designed "Hermes" and the modernised "Victorious" will have both, and also a new type of radar which has a greater range than any set which we or any other nation now have in service, and which can track more aircraft at any one time.

Our front-line squadrons are now rearmed with Sea Hawk day fighters, Sea Venom all-weather fighters, Wyverns for the strike rôle and anti-submarine Gannets. The only piston-engined aircraft still in the front line are the American Skyraiders for early warning. These will be replaced later by a special version of the Gannet.

As regards the new day and all-weather fighters, and also the new strike aircraft, I am glad to say that good progress is being made with their development and they all seem likely to meet their forecast dates.

There is one change since this time last year of which I think I should tell the House. The first version of the N. 113 was to have been armed with guided weapons as well as guns. During development, however, it proved impossible to accommodate both weapon systems in the same aircraft without making it too heavy for carrier operations. So the first mark of this aircraft will be armed with four 30 mm. Aden guns—that will give it a tremendous punch—and it promises well in the interception and ground attack rôles In the strike rôle it will be able to carry an atomic bomb and will have a very good radius of action as well as speed. Investigations into the possibility of arming a later version of it with guided weapons as an alternative to guns are still going on. The development of the D.H. 110 is also going well, and this aircraft will, of course, carry guided weapons.

The hon. Member for Dudley and others are fond of saying that the D.H. 110 is no good and was rejected by the Royal Air Force. I wonder whether I can take this opportunity of putting his mind and those of others at rest on this point. I was at the Air Ministry when the decision to have the Javelin instead of the D.H. 110 was taken. I very well remember the discussions we had at that time. The merits of each aircraft were evenly balanced. I remember we discussed the matter for a very long time. There was really nothing to choose between them, but finally we took the Javelin because we felt that there might be rather more development potential in the delta plan-form than in the more orthodox swept-wing plan-form. The Navy was never faced with that decision, because it was always perfectly clear that the Javelin would be too heavy for carrier operations. So the Navy took the D.H. 110 and it got a first-class aircraft.

The next point I want to deal with is the use of the helicopter for underwater warfare. It is proving very efficient at operating an asdic set from the air, free from ship noises and practically free from effective retaliation by the submarine. We are exchanging ideas and information with the Americans, who share our confidence in the great possibilities of this method of anti-submarine defence. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply told the House last week, we are now planning to use the single-rotor S.58. We are also investigating the possibilities of using helicopters for minesweeping.

Now from aircraft back to ships. Design studies for the guided weapon ships have been approved and the sketch designs are in hand. As the Explanatory Statement says, it has been found possible to design the new fleet escorts with a guided weapon instead of anti-aircraft guns. So both the fleet escorts and the guided weapon cruisers will be armed with the ship-to-air missile and with a modern gun armament for surface engagements and bombardment.

The guided missile, I hope the House appreciates, is of course still far from being able to supersede the gun in all its rôles, and although we are switching the scientists away from developing new gun armaments and new gun fire control systems, our latest orthodox equipments will be in production for some years to come. Fortunately our range of advanced gunnery equipment is first-class.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

Is it still the intention to arm the "Defence," "Blake" and the third cruiser with conventional guns?

Mr. Ward

Yes, it is; the Tiger class will have conventional guns.

The first of our experimental high-speed submarines will be ready for acceptance in April and the second will complete later in the year. They will be extremely valuable for developing antisubmarine techniques against targets with high submerged speeds.

I should like to say something now about research into nuclear-powered propulsion. Since my noble Friend's explanatory statement, it has been announced that a subsidiary company known as Vickers (Nuclear Engineering) Limited will be set up, whose board of directors will include Sir Ronald Weeks, Lord Hives of Rolls Royce, Major-General Dunphie of Vickers-Armstrongs, and Mr. Hopewell of Foster Wheeler. I expect that other companies may become associated with this project as it gets under way.

It should not be many years before nuclear fuel becomes a good deal cheaper than it is now, and then great possibilities will open up in the use of nuclear propulsion for warships, merchant vessels, and locomotive power of all kinds. Indeed, the work done on this project may well reveal the shortest way to nuclear powered aircraft.

We have chosen the submarine as the first vehicle for an atomic reactor at sea because the operational advantages which nuclear propulsion will confer on submarine warfare are very great, and are more decisive than we could get by applying nuclear power to any other type of vessel.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Does the hon. Gentleman not think that this development is likely to cost an enormous amount of money, if the atomic submarine which was produced by the United States was costing millions of pounds? Do we see in front of us the prospect of heavily increasing costs for the Navy?

Mr. Ward

Of course it will cost money, but if the defence of these islands depends on it, as it may well, I am afraid we cannot shirk that.

I must make it clear that it will be some time before we shall be able to lay down a nuclear-powered submarine, and that this stage is by no means imminent. The first thing is to build a nuclear plant and test it out on land; and no doubt the new company will want to build up the manpower and brainpower to start designing this plant and working out how to put it into a submarine hull.

To sum up this part of my speech, the Navy of today has a fleet of modern carriers as its main striking power, supported by anti-submarine, anti-mine and escorting forces. Our plans for shaping the Navy of the 1960's are necessarily long-term plans, because they involve the development of equipment embodying quite new principles rather than the improvement of our existing armoury. But we know what ships and aircraft and weapons we want, and we can see clearly the course we must follow to get them.

I should like now to turn from the operational Fleet to the men in the Navy. Earlier in my speech I emphasised the need for high quality in the modern Fleet. In the past few years it has been becoming more and more evident that the Navy, in common with the other two Services, was failing to attract and retain enough officers and men of the right quality. The Admiralty's aim has been and still is, therefore, to reverse this trend and to build up a Regular long-service Navy. We have tackled this in four main ways. First, we are reforming the officer structure and improving the future promotion prospects generally. Secondly, we have revised the engagement structure for men. Thirdly, we have made really important improvements in the pay of both officers and men. And finally, we are concentrating more attention on improving living conditions both ashore and afloat. I want to deal very briefly with each one of those four measures.

The new arrangements for officers were announced to the House on 25th January, and they are summarised in my noble Friend's explanatory statement. For permanent officers on the General List they abolish the old distinctions between the executive, engineering, electrical and supply branches and they give—or will give—better and longer careers as well as much improved chances of promotion to these officers. And they will enlarge the opportunity of promotion to the special duties list open to the lower deck while keeping the avenue to high rank through the Upper Yardman Scheme for young men of exceptional quality.

These reforms result from the work of a high-powered committee done over the last two years—the most comprehensive review we have had in this field in the present century. That committee also devised the new scheme of training at Dartmouth which was introduced, as the House will remember, in May, 1955. Perhaps I may just mention here that we have had a good selection of candidates for Dartmouth and all vacancies have been filled. The Dartmouth Squadron for training cadets at sea is already partly in operation, and it is expected to have its full complement of ships by May of this year.

The new engagement structure for ratings and Royal Marine other ranks, which has been worked out during the past year, will get rid of the double-harness system of a 12-year and a 7-year initial engagement, and for most branches it will offer a single engagement of nine years. The 7-year engagement had for some time been spoiling the market for the 12-year one. We have chosen the 9-year initial period as the shortest that will suit the policy of a long-service Navy, and yet the longest likely in modern conditions, we feel, to be attractive to recruits. We think that the present re-engagement period probably asks a man to commit himself too far ahead all at once, and so we shall therefore follow the initial 9-year engagement by a 5-year engagement, and then another eight years to make up the 22 years for pension. As regards pay, we believe that the new service pay and other emoluments will really bear comparison with earnings outside. And we have introduced the new principle, which is most important to a long-service Navy, that the man who commits himself to a long engagement is at once paid more than the man who has only engaged for a short period.

We hope that these reforms in careers, engagements and pay will reverse the recent trend of recruiting and re-engagement and will provide firm foundations for building up the manpower needed in a really healthy long-service Navy.

In the remaining field of improving the living conditions ashore and afloat, there is still a vast amount of work to be done. Last year, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) neatly analysed the problem when he pointed out that the provision of good shore accommodation is almost entirely a matter of money, whereas afloat there is the additional and intractable question of the space that is available and the amount of weight that can be put into it. I should like to develop this further, because the improvement of living conditions in our ships is one of the reforms most urgently needed today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear]

When designing a new warship, the aim is—and, I understand, always has been—to produce the smallest and most economical ship that will do the job that is in mind. In the days when the equipment in a warship consisted of the engines, a large number of heavy guns with their heavy ammunition, and a simple form of gunnery control, the ship had to be fairly big simply in order to float and there was plenty of room for the ship's company. But now, the chief military characteristics are a few high precision weapons with a vastly increased amount of fairly light but very bulky weapon control equipment, and more men than than ever before are needed to operate and service these new devices. The result is that we can hardly provide enough space for the crew without making the ship a good deal bigger than it ought to be for fighting efficiency. I need hardly add that the cost of a ship rises fairly sharply with any increase in size.

If we can get over these obstacles and build a reasonably comfortable ship, our best-laid plans are apt to be upset by the scientists who come and invent a new and brilliant magic box which cuts a bit more off the living space and adds a few more hands to the ship's company.

There are various ways of tackling this problem. One is to discard any equipment that we can do without, as new devices are added. Another is to keep down complements by putting in labour-saving equipment wherever possible, such as all-electric galleys with modern kitchen machinery, vacuum cleaners and paint sprayers, stainless steel instead of brass, tank-cleaning vessels fitted with plant for cleaning dirty oil fuel tanks, and so on.

When ships are taken in hand for modernisation or large repair we already do everything we can to make better use of the available space, trying to build in furniture and stowages individually to fit, re-arranging the run of pipes, wiring and trunking to give more room, and we often plan with models to see how to do it. In certain major conversions where we have been able to redesign the living quarters almost from scratch, the results have been really satisfactory—for example, in some of the destroyers converted into fast anti-submarine frigates.

I think it is relevant to mention here also the introduction of centralised mess- ing, under which sailors have their meals in a central dining hall instead of in groups on the mess-decks where they actually live. By removing the feeding from the mess-decks we can improve the sleeping arrangements in the messes.

Not everybody prefers sleeping in bunks to the traditional hammock—I am afraid there is no possibility of a unanimous view on this—but the fitting of bunks in tiers of three undoubtedly makes it possible for more men to sleep comfortably in a given space, although it also raises questions of ventilation and lighting. Centralised messing is already the practice in some of the larger ships and will in due course be applied to all of them; and in a modified form it will be extended to destroyers and frigates as well.

The last method I want to mention for improving living conditions at sea is by fitting air conditioning into living spaces to cope with Arctic or tropical climates. More air conditioning plant is being fitted into certain ships already in service, particularly those which serve in tropical waters. All ships now being designed, from frigates upwards, will have air conditioning of all their living spaces.

My final topic is the Admiralty's civilian staffs. The House may well expect a newcomer to the Admiralty to have had at least a preliminary critical look at the numbers of non-industrial civil servants—or, roughly speaking, the salaried as opposed to the wage-paid civilian staffs; and I have done so.

There are, I think, two common mistakes made in thinking about non-industrial civil servants. The first is the idea that civil servants are necessarily either clerks or executives or administrators, busily drafting regulations in Whitehall. The second mistake is the idea that there ought to be a simple and direct relation between civilian numbers, on the one hand, and the number of fighting men in uniform or, say, of ships in the front line, on the other hand.

On the first point, important and indeed indispensable as those grades are, they are only part of the Admiralty team. Roughly half the non-industrial staff in Admiralty service, both at Headquarters and in the field, are professional and technical people, such as naval architects, scientists, engineers and draughtsmen. The reason for their existence is, briefly, that the Admiralty is responsible for the production of most of the material which the Navy needs. The Ministry of Supply carries this responsibility for the other Services but it provides for the Navy only aircraft and their equipment, guided missiles, and some items common to all three Services. And besides production the Admiralty is responsible for research, design, modernisation and repair of ships and their equipment.

It is also worth bearing in mind when thinking about this subject that the Admiralty employs civilians in the supply of stores, ammunition, food and clothing for sea-going ships all over the world. These people do a lot of jobs which are done by uniformed men in the Army and the Air Force.

The second point is, as I say, the misgivings that people feel because the Admiralty had all these responsibilities before the war, and a bigger Fleet into the bargain, and yet there were far less civilian staff than today.

One obvious factor in the increase is the Navy's taking over the Fleet Air Arm, a transfer which, the House will remember, took place only in May, 1939. As a result, the Navy now has an air training, repair and storage organisation ashore which needs many civilians as well as sailors. Another factor is the great increase in recent years in scientific research and development. There are several others: for example, the Admiralty Civil Constabulary now does what was mainly done before the war by the Royal Marine Police.

I have said this by way of explanation, because there are many reasonable questions that can be asked about staff numbers—I have been asking some of them myself—and I wanted in fairness to make it clear that there are also a number of reasonable answers. That does not mean that we are complacent about these figures. On the contrary, my noble Friend has been taking a good deal of interest in them over the past four years, and in fact it is worth pointing out that the number of administrators, executives and clerks has been brought down by about 650 in the past four years in spite of the rearmament programme and in spite of an increase of nearly 2,000 in the overall numbers of professional and technical officers.

I felt some diffidence as the last of a long line of new boys in our defence debates, about giving the House this broad exposition of the purpose of the Navy, and of what we are trying to do to implement that purpose. But it seemed to me, from comment made both in this House and outside it, that there was still some room for a plain statement on what the Navy is for. For the rest, I have tried to report how we propose to equip and man the smaller but still more efficient Fleet of the next decade. I have surveyed briefly the plans for the ships. I have described how, by giving a new deal to officers and men alike, we shall try to resolve our manning difficulties which, I agree, are very serious.

One thing more is wanted. I am making no mere rhetorical flourish when I say it is perhaps the most valued requisite. The Navy in our age needs the goodwill of the House and the country to enable it to serve the nation. It is in the belief that this House and the country will continue to give their goodwill and support to the Navy that I present these Estimates today.

4.20 p.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

I hope that you will not leave the Chair for a moment, Mr. Speaker, because there are certain observations which I wish to address to you in particular. I start by way of making a complaint. I have noticed increasingly in recent months, and perhaps years, the growing habit of Ministers not only of reading their speeches word for word from beginning to end but also of circulating copies of them before they are delivered here to persons who are not in the House. Judging from the rustle regularly taking place overhead, in a part of the Chamber that does not belong to the House, I gather that there are certain persons who have had access to material which the Minister has been using this afternoon before hon. Members of the House have had it here.

Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)

On a point of order. I saw the hon. Member look up to see if the Minister was reading his speech. When he discovered that he was, he decided to make that remark. The only paper I have been given is the Daily Mail, which I have brought in with me. We have not been given anything at all on this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order of any sort.

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. and gallant Member must not read too much into my words. May I make it perfectly clear? I deprecate the practice of circulating to the Press, although it may be for convenience, copies of speeches which, from beginning to end, can be read in the presence of hon. Members who do not have the advantage of having copies of those speeches. It is destroying all the vitality of the House. As a debating Chamber, this place is deteriorating fast. One cannot be rude to anybody now without being ruled out of order. I hope that you will consider what I have had to say about this matter, Mr. Speaker, because I think that most hon. Members will agree with it. I' know that the Parliamentary Secretary does not regard that as personal to himself. It is not so at all.

The Parliamentary Secretary's first flight was extraordinarily creditable, if I may say so. I am sure that the former Parliamentary Secretary, now the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, must have wished in one sense that the First Lord of the Admiralty had been promoted to another place a little earlier so that the hon. and gallant Gentleman could have had the advantage of introducing the Estimates. That is a great privilege, as we all know, and one which some of us have shared.

If I may refer to a hobby-horse of mine and an idea which is getting wider and wider acceptance, I think that the authority with which the Parliamentary Secretary spoke about aircraft and the comparison between the DH 110 and the Javelin and why we should have the one and not the other was the best advertisement and argument that I have yet heard for the closest integration at top level between the Air Council and the Board of Admiralty. I shall adduce the hon. Gentleman as one more argument for the need to integrate the Air Force and the Navy at the earliest possible moment. In one sense, I am sorry that we do not have the advantage of having the First Lord with us.

Mr. Ward

I should like to remind the hon. Member that the Controller (Air) at the Ministry of Supply is, in fact, a member both of the Air Council and of the Board of Admiralty.

Mr. Callaghan

But does he regularly attend? How many times has he been present at the last 52 meetings of the Board of Admiralty?

Mr. Ward

I was not there.

Mr. Callaghan

No doubt the hon. Gentleman will be able to find out and give us the reply. The former Parliamentary Secretary, the present Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, is here; no doubt he can tell us straight away. May I ask him how many times the Controller (Air) from the Ministry of Supply has been present at Board of Admiralty meetings? The hon. and gallant Gentleman can speak for himself. He had the responsibility.

Mr. Ward

Surely the fact that the hon. Member does not think that the Controller (Air) goes often enough to the Board of Admiralty meetings is not an argument for saying that the Air Force and the Navy should be completely amalgamated.

Mr. Callaghan

I did not introduce that point. The hon. Gentleman did. All I asked was how often the Controller (Air) goes to the meetings. If the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations does not wish to reply himself, surely he can whisper the information to the Parliamentary Secretary, who can tell us. I believe that the number of visits is extremely limited, and I should not be surprised if I were pretty close to the mark.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)


Mr. Callaghan

Is the hon. Member a member of the Board of Admiralty?

Mr. Burden

The hon. Member was himself at the Board of Admiralty for a considerable time. Perhaps he would say how often the Controller (Air) visited the Board of Admiralty when he was in office.

Mr. Callaghan

Never. He did not come once. That is why I am asking how often he comes now.

When I was interrupted originally, I was about to say that, if he cannot hear our words, I hope that the First Lord of the Admiralty will read them. He was a most agreeable and courteous Minister, and we always looked forward to his introducing the Estimates. Wherever he may be now, I should like the Parliamen- tary Secretary to convey to the noble Lord that we on this side of the House always had the highest regard for him. The only complaint I have about him was that he was too agreeable and too courteous. If only he had been sometimes disagreeable and discourteous, especially at the Board of Admiralty, perhaps we should have got further than we have.

I should like to deal in reverse order with the subjects with which the Parliamentary Secretary opened the debate and say a few words first about manpower. That is perhaps the most important subject of all. In defence of the Admiralty, I must say that it has made some praiseworthy attempts during the last year to secure a contented Service, and I think that it has made some very laudable attempts to get its officer structure right. The decision to introduce the entry of cadets on general grounds as distinct from introducing them in specialist capacities is a step in the right direction. It is certainly one which we on this side of the House would support.

I also support the reform under which senior officers in engineering and supply branches will play a more important part in what has been regarded hitherto as jobs for senior executive officers. Can we now look forward to seeing senior officers—supply, secretariat, engineering and so on—as members of the Board of Admiralty? I think that it would be a good thing if they were introduced into the Board and had an opportunity of going to the top in that way. The Board should not be limited to executive officers only. I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary what is the Government's intention in that respect.

There is another aspect of the functions and organisation of the Board of Admiralty. The Admiralty team has been mentioned. That hon. Gentleman has been willing to absorb rather a lot into his brief which I doubt he will be quite so ready to accept when he has been in office for another twelve months, but I put this to the Parliamentary Secretary. I think it is time that the functions and organisation of the Admiralty were reviewed.

Some very interesting ideas have been emerging from the Admiralty organisation of the United States about their own Navy, and, goodness knows, it is an efficient Navy. In the United States, the Navy Department is divided into seven Bureaux, and the organisation of the Bureau of Ships seems to impress every one of our people who goes to the United States and sees how this business is run there. I do not know whether it will be suitable for adaptation here or not. I do know that the Third Sea Lord and Controller is always heavily over-worked, and that during the 18 months I was there he always seemed to be the busiest member of the Board of Admiralty.

I therefore suggest to the First Lord and the Parliamentary Secretary that there is a case for calling in business consultants to overhaul the present system of Directorates in the Admiralty. I think that in that way they might find that they can get rid of some of the specialists—architects and all the rest—to whom the hon. Gentleman referred earlier on. Some very powerful criticisms have been made about papers being passed from E.N.C. to D.D.E. and then to D.P., and then passed on to somebody else, the correspondence mounting up all the time.

Although I am not qualified to say how that system could be improved, nevertheless I think it is high time it was looked into again, and especially in view of the fact that a good impression has been made upon our own people who have seen how the United States organise this matter in their own Service.

To come back to the question of the officer structure, I disagree very strongly with the intention of the Admiralty to create a Special Duties List for men promoted from the lower deck. I think it was the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard), who yesterday congratulated the Admiralty on getting rid of buttons with the mark S.D. on them. But that is no cause for congratulation. Why did they ever introduce them? These are the people who must accept the responsibility, and the question of what is going to appear on the buttons is extremely important I will bet my bottom button that it went before the Board of Admiralty and that a political decision was taken on it.

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

Would it not be true to say that, during the hon. Gentleman's period of office at the Admiralty, steps were taken to alter the R.N.V.R. stripes, which we all thought was a most regrettable change?

Mr. Callaghan

There were very mixed views about that; but the hon. Gentleman is not taking the point. That was in order to ensure that there should be no distinction between R.N.V.R. and R.N. officers. It was an attempt to give everybody straight stripes, whereas this was a system to distinguish between an officer recruited from the lower deck and another coming in through cadet entry. I say that it was extremely bad psychology ever to introduce this difference, and that it is now time to take the next step forward, having swallowed the buttons, by swallowing up the whole Special Duties List and merging it into the General List.

Why should these men, for example, only be eligible for transfer to the General List in exceptional circumstances? I can see no reason for making a limitation of that sort. It seems to me to be harking back to the archaic and out-of-date system which I had thought and hoped we had already got rid of. Why should these men alone have selective promotion to the rank of lieutenant-commander and above, when every other cadet who enters goes automatically to the rank of lieutenant-commander? These are distinctions which I believe have their origin in the social class from which these men come. Of course this will be denied, but this is creating class hatred.

We shall not find anyone on the lower deck who believes that these distinctions originated in anything else but some sort of snobbishness. I say to the Parliamentary Secretary that there is no harm at all in abolishing this Special List and merging it into the General List. There is absolutely nothing to be lost from turning these men into exactly the same sort of officers as their confreres at whose side they serve. I hope very much that the hon. Gentleman will look into it during the course of the next twelve months, and then bring us some better news.

So far, I have congratulated the hon. Gentleman on some things and smitten him about others. As far as the lower deck is concerned, I am quite certain that the increases in pay will do some good, but we simply cannot expect men serving in this Service to be contented when they find their rates of pay dropping behind the increases in civilian pay and conditions year after year. The House must expect to find, in a period of inflation such as we have been living in—indeed, a decade of inflation—that there is going to be a regular and increasing cost if we are to keep the men in the Service contented. We must prepare to face that aspect of the matter. As the hon. Gentleman himself said, there are many other complaints, and I myself think that the increases in pay will do only a limited amount of good.

Accommodation is still bad, even in some of our most modern ships. I was on the "Ark Royal" the other day in the living space, and I had to hunch almost double the whole time I was there. Admittedly that was not so where the men were eating in the messing room, but where they have their lockers and their equipment. The men will not put up with these conditions for ever, and no matter what the cost, the Admiralty must use its ingenuity to ensure that in our latest ships in the Fleet in the living spaces which the men use regularly they do not have to hunch up double to get about; otherwise, we shall not get the men.

One very acute young rating wrote me the other day and said: I regard a pay rise as a method by which the Admiralty can salve their consciences and dispense with the anguish of making extensive reforms. I do not know whether he is right or not; I hope he is not.

I am firmly of the opinion that the Navy must overhaul its methods of discipline, I do not mean that we have to pamper the men, nor do I mean that the men themselves want to be pampered with bedside lamps and all that sort of nonsense. That really is not the point at all. It is a question of the relationship between the leaders and those who are led. The men will put up with an awful amount of hardship and discomfort if they feel that their job is worth while, if they can see an end in what they are doing and if they feel that the relationship between those who are leading and those who are led is right.

I am bound to say, with a full consciousness of what I am saying—and I really do not care if hon. Gentlemen opposite disagree with me—that I do not believe that the relationship in the Navy is right today, and, because I feel it so strongly, I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will inquire into this matter.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

Give examples.

Mr. Callaghan

Does the noble Lord really want me to give examples? I will think about it during next week and will decide whether it is a good thing to bring out that sort of thing. I hope the noble Lord will not sneer about it. There is a case for making general allegations of this sort without following up with specific examples. I do not want to accept the noble Lord's challenge, though I am not normally backward in accepting challenges, but I do not want to bring out what I have in my mind at the moment. I will conclude what I have to say on this matter by repeating what was said to me by one of my young correspondents who is serving on a 7- and 5-year engagement. The Admiralty are failing to draw upon their vast human potential dormant in the form of a pent up desire to serve and achieve. That is only one man. but I wonder how many hon. Gentlemen who know the Navy would disagree that there is a lot in that criticism, and that there is a great deal in the feeling that men in the Services today do not clearly see the objective and do not feel that they are being asked to unite in a combined effort to achieve it.

If this is so, if what is called in industrial establishments "job satisfaction" is not present, the Navy will not get the men to re-engage. The initial good will is there because the Navy gets many thousands of recruits, but if men do not re-engage at the end of the initial period of service, the Armiralty must look to itself to find out what is wrong. If the initial enthusiasm is destroyed, it is the Navy that is wrong and not the men.

I will turn for a moment to the next item in the balance sheet, the ships and the aircraft. I have criticised consistently the slowness of the frigate programme. It was launched in 1951 with the intention of completing twenty-six frigates in the first half of the present decade. Last year the present Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations told us that eleven frigates would be completed this year, by which I take it he meant 1955–56. In fact, two only of the twenty-six are in service. Last year I said that none out of twenty-six was not a very good score but two out of twenty-six is not much better, and so the hon. Gentleman is convicted as a bad profit. What is the reason for this slowness in getting the frigates to sea? I know of the difficulties, but, as I have said before, when it is remembered that our shipyards are turning out well over a million tons of shipping a year, and that twenty-six frigates are equivalent to only 56,000 tons, the Admiralty should do better than it has done up to now in this programme.

I still consider that it is folly to continue with the three conventional cruisers armed with conventional guns. In my view, the Admiralty is wasting £20 million. The assumption of the Minister of Defence, upon which the Government stand in their defence policy, is that the prospects of war are less. Why, then, go ahead with conventional cruisers of this kind which will become out-dated and obsolescent before they are finished? Why not wait until we can put in the guided weapons and guided missiles now being tested out in the experimental cruiser? I ask the Minister of Defence to reconsider this matter, about which I have protested before. I believe that the Admiralty has only been thrust into it because of what the Parliamentary Secretary calls the feeling of concern in the country that we have not enough cruisers but what I call the laments of retired admirals when they do not see enough cruisers around to please them, as they used to do.

In regard to battleships, I congratulate the Admiralty on at last putting the "Vanguard" into reserve. Every year since 1952 I have asked why the "Vanguard" was not kept in reserve. I now know the reason. She was brought into commission when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) became Prime Minister; she went into reserve when he retired from his post as Prime Minister. She is the price we have had to pay for having the right hon. Gentleman as Prime Minister. I am sure I am, near the mark in saying this.

Only a year ago the present Under-Secretary for Commonwealth Relations told us that the "Vanguard" was engaged in an extensive refit, which I understand cost £1 million. The hon. Gentleman told us in this debate a year ago that when refitted she would be put back into commission. Alas, he was the only one not in the secret—he did not know that the Prime Minister was going. We wasted the million pounds. That has been spent. She has gone back into reserve and it is costing us £700,000 a year to keep her there.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), who obtained those facts yesterday, will have something further to say about them later in the debate when speaking on this issue, but I say to the Parliamentary Secretary that, having wasted a lot of money on the "Vanguard", money that we could ill afford to throw away, it is no use trying to disguise the "Vanguard" and those other battleships by calling them, as is done in the Naval News Sheet, "super-cruisers" and hoping to get away with that. We still recognise a battleship even though it is called a super-cruiser. The Government stand convicted of grossly wasting money in connection with our battleships.

Now I come to the new concept of the battle group of carriers. The Defence White Paper states in paragraph 22: In limited war we plan to make immediately available in any part of the world a force of aircraft carriers equipped with modern aircraft and supplemented by cruisers and escorts. I shall refer to the words "equipped with modern aircraft" later.

I wish we could have heard a little more from the hon. Gentleman this afternoon about our aircraft programme. It is treating the House casually to give us one paragraph of four lines in the Navy Estimates on the position of aircraft in the Navy, especially when that is the kernal around which the concept of the battle group of carriers is being built. This paragraph is concerned with only two aircraft, neither of which has yet been seen, and there is nothing about the current aircraft that should be in service.

Are there to be any more orders for the Sea Hawk or is the DH. 110 to be regarded as its successor? Have we finished with the Sea Hawk now? I hope to have an answer to that question. More particularly, I would like to ask a question about the Wyvern squadrons. Although there is nothing in the Estimates about them, I gathered from the speech of the hon. Gentleman that they are now embarked in carriers and that there are one or two or three squadrons at the outside. These aircraft are known to be thoroughly unsatisfactory, incapable of performing the strike rôle that should be performed by any battle group of carriers that is being formed.

I say to the Minister of Defence that to talk, as he does, about a force of aircraft carriers equipped with modern aircraft is misleading the House and the nation about what this group of aircraft carriers could do today. The plain truth is that there is no aircraft in service today, nor can I see one in the immediately foreseeable future, that is capable of operating with any battle group of the American Fleet on equal terms and striking to deliver the hydrogen bomb, not one. Therefore, to talk, as both the Navy Estimates and the Defence White Paper do, about the concept of the battle group centring around the modern carrier, as though this were something that could be done straight away, is grossly misleading.

Last year we were told that work was still proceeding on the Wyvern to remedy its defects, but is it not mentioned in the Estimates. We ought to know what is happening to these aircraft without having to drag it up at the Admiralty by means of questions. I hope, therefore, that the section on aircraft next year in these Estimates will be much more informative than the present one.

What has happened to the Seamew, which has dropped out of the picture? In 1954 we were told that the Seamew was being ordered to operate from trade carriers. Where is it today? What is the policy of the Admiralty? The Estimates are silent about it. Has it been abandoned, as I believe? If so, I want to ask the Admiralty why it was ever ordered and if we are continuing to order it. There is nothing in the Defence White Paper or Estimates to tell us what is happening about this aircraft.

I wish the Parliamentary Secretary had let down his hair about these aircraft. I would like to hear his private view about naval aircraft by comparison with the R.A.F. I can sum up the attitude of those who fly them best by quoting a comment made not long ago to me by one of the men who was flying these aircraft. He said, "Scrap the lot and buy American." That is a very serious statement to make, but I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary would agree with him. If so, we ought to know. My own view is that the Navy is not likely in the near future to have aircraft that will match those of the R.A.F.; it cannot begin to match those of the United States Navy, and its aircraft will be in no way comparable with those that will be sent against them by the U.S.S.R.

I object to a facade, a prospectus, a White Paper which talks about the modern carrier group which is to be operating with modern aircraft when we all know perfectly well that the Navy has not the aircraft. It is that sort of pretence which makes a mockery of defence, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government to be more forthcoming about these matters.

I have almost finished, but I wish to deal with one more matter, what could be called naval strategy. I firmly hold the view—more firmly as time goes on—that there is greater need for riveting together the Navy and the R.A.F., beginning at the top and working down. There is a case for going further, but I will start with that, if I can get agreement on it. There is a need to avoid inter-Service compromise, which in many ways is worse than inter-Service quarrels. I remember that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he occupied the post of the right hon. and learned Member, said that he had never heard of any quarrels between his advisers.

That is a frightening thing, because it means that they are all agreeing among themselves to compromise so that each shall have a bit, but they will avoid an open quarrel. That could be as dangerous to the nation's defences as open quarrels conducted in the pages of aviation newspapers between retired admirals and retired air marshals.

I have emphasised before the obvious fact that hunting U-boats is clearly a joint task for Coastal Command and the antisubmarine units of the Navy. That is demonstrable without argument. We now have this concept of the, battle group of carriers, which I suppose is to be capable in due course of delivering the H bomb—at any rate, I can see no other purpose for it. What will that group then be other than a sea-borne component of the R.A.F.? I have deliberately put it in that way, so that my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) will not be offended.

The two are inter-locking; they are both to do the same job, one is to be based on floating platforms and the other on land airfields; but in a global war the objectives of both will be the same. The case for integration gets stronger every year, as does the case for the Minister knocking people's heads together. In some ways I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is the Minister of Defence. In the past he has been the arch conciliator, the arch compromiser who brings everybody together and says, "You are all good fellows, let's all do the best we can." He must now knock together the heads of a lot of air marshals and admirals, and the sooner he does that the better I shall be pleased and the sooner the country will get value for money.

In dealing with naval strategy, I want to bring out one or two figures for the sake of comparison. We now have about 120,000 to 130,000 men in the Navy; the U.S.S.R. has 750,000, about six times as many; the U.S.A. has 890,000, including the Marine Corps. The United States has 106 carriers, including five of the Forrestal class. The United States budget for the United States Navy is £3,000 million, twice the budget for the whole of our Defence expenditure on the three Services, plus the Ministry of Defence. To put it another way; the Americans are spending nine times as much as we are on the Navy; they have seven times as many men; they have seven times a, many aircraft carriers, and they are vastly superior in the aircraft which they can put into the air from those carriers.

Compared with that, we can now stop singing "Rule Britannia," because it just does not mean anything any more, except as an old folk tune. It means nothing else. Of course, it is unpopular to say that, and nobody in the naval ports will like to hear it; but it is far more dangerous to continue putting our heads in the sand about this sort of thing and not facing the change which has taken place in the position of the Navy in the world today. It is starting from that point that I want to consider what the Parliamentary Secretary and the White Paper have had to say about naval strategy.

It is a very interesting and illuminating exercise to go through all three Service White Papers and to see what they have to say about strategy. Clearly the Air Ministry is thinking predominantly in terms of V-bombers, the nuclear deterrent and how to deliver it as quickly as possible. To analyse its White Paper very shortly, the Army is thinking in terms of breaking up its divisions into units that will be capable of fighting in a nuclear war, without being in groups as large as divisions are. In other words, it is thinking in terms of defence in a nuclear war.

What is the Navy's attitude? In paragraph 9 of that White Paper it says: In a global war our sea lanes would be open to attack by a massive underwater fleet and a powerful surface fleet. The main purpose of the Navy would be to retain control of the seas by destroying the enemy ships, submarines, and aircraft. That assumes that there will be a traditional attack upon these islands made by traditional methods. I do not think that I have picked out anything unfairly. That seems to be the central passage of the way the rôle of the Navy is set out in the White Paper. There is something to be said for what the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) said in the defence debate, that the Admiralty seems to have its own strategy in these matters, while the Army and Royal Air Force are clearly thinking that they will be faced with a period of nuclear war.

Does the Navy believe that or not, or is it in fact pinning its hopes on a global war in which there will be an attack by a massive underwater fleet in order to keep up its Estimates? There is really a hiatus between the White Papers. I may say that the Navy shares that view with Marshal Zhukov, who recently spoke in Moscow of the vital importance that massive sea battles will have during the next war. I do not know whether he is a sprucer or behind the times, but I frankly believe that both the British Admiralty and Marshal Zhukov will be disappointed if they are thinking in those terms.

Let us suppose that the enemy, whoever he might be, does not use the H bomb, but let us assume that there is a very powerful attack upon our sea communications and that it looks like succeeding, so that we are being slowly strangled and asphyxiated. What will we do? We have not used the H bomb and the enemy has not used the H bomb. Is it really supposed that if we were as close to strangulation and defeat as we have been on two occasions previously we would leave our V-bombers sitting un- touched and unused on their airfields while we sent up the white flag? I do not believe it. I think it unrealistic to assume, whichever side seems to be facing defeat, that even if the war does not start with H weapons, it will not finish with them, and pretty quickly.

My own view, which I express to the House for what it is worth, is that we should be very quickly in an era in which both sides would be using I-I bombs. I do not say that the war would be short. I think it quite possible that the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. would be able to carry on. What I do say is that even were the war long, this island would not be an effective base for any particular purpose at all, once H weapons were used, and I believe that they would be used. London and Liverpool, the two major ports through which 50 per cent. or 60 per cent.—certainly well over 40 per cent.—of our cargoes move, could be shattered by H bombs. Would the enemy spend a long and wearisome process of months or maybe years attacking a submarine fleet, when he could put this island out of action with half-a-dozen well-placed hydrogen bombs? I say to those at the Admiralty responsible for that paragraph that I think they are living in the past. I do not believe that the picture of any war in which this island would be engaged would resemble that at all.

Although the Parliamentary Secretary made what I thought was a very powerful plea for the conventional approach, I beg of him not to forget his past altogether, but to try to assimilate his past in his present and give us a synthesis of things more realistic than that.

I wish to ask what is the view about the convoy system today. We have heard nothing about whether it is intended or proposed by the naval tacticians who work these things out that the convoy system shall go on, and I must therefore expose my breast to public criticism and give my own opinion. I believe that whereas in the past merchant ships have had to huddle together to seek protection, in the future they may have to scatter in order to get that protection. It may well be that the day of the convoy system as we have known it—and it served us well in two wars—is over. I do not know about these things, I am not qualified to work them out. But I want some leadership and guidance from the people who are supposed to study them. I believe that the nation is entitled to that when we are spending the vast sum of money on the Navy, as well as on the other defensive Services, that we are today.

The hon. Gentleman told us that things are much more expensive than they used to be and that, in any case, ships are more complicated. I would point out to him and to the House—I hope it will be a salutary reminder to the Minister of Defence and to the Parliamentary Secretary—that by comparison with the period of 1950–51, the period immediately before rearmament, we are now spending £346 million on the Navy, and then we were spending £193 million. In terms of an active fleet, a fleet at sea, we have one less carrier. If we include the Darings, we have three more cruisers. We have eighteen fewer destroyers and frigates and twelve more submarines. Practically every major unit is down by comparison with 1950–51.

One test of any measure of this is, what have we at sea or ready to sail which could be put into battle? Although I fully understand and accept the explanation of the Parliamentary Secretary, any Minister of Defence pressed very heavily to keep down his defence expenditure must take these factors into consideration; because we are spending a lot more money and we have little more to show for it as a result of the last six years.

I wish to conclude with half-a-dozen proposals. The Minister of Defence threw out a challenge, and I think it right to try to put some constructive proposals into the pot and see them stirred round, even though they do not all come to the boil. Let us have much more urgency about producing the new freighters and a new strike aeroplane to succeed the Wyvern. Let us get on with that and have something concrete to say in the next Navy Estimates.

Let us scrap the battleships. Let us get rid of them, because they will not be worth anything any more. We have to save somewhere, because, as I see it, we shall not be able to go on spending £1,500 million a year on defence. Let us overhaul the Admiralty internal organisation, including the structure of the Board of Admiralty and the control of the Board, including especially the Controller's office. Let us have an independent inquiry into manpower problems, leadership and discipline in the Royal Navy. We are looking in another place into the Naval Discipline Act, but that is only part of it; that is the skeleton and I am concerned about the flesh on the skeleton. Both the Army and the Royal Air Force are having inquiries of one sort or another, and the Navy is as much in need of one. I make that suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister of Defence. Next, let us suppress the work on conventional cruisers armed with conventional guns. We are throwing away £20 million on this.

Let us get ahead with integrating the Board of Admiralty and the Air Council, and then there are these other things which are very important. I have been examining the Commonwealth contribution to our naval defence effort, and I am rather apprehensive about whether we are all going our own ways a little too much. I know that in the past, because of the Statute of Westminster and all the rest of it, we had to be careful about saying anything to the Commonwealth countries that might lead them to imagine that their rather decrepit old mother at Westminster was trying to keep them on a lead. But that is not the case any longer. Canada has taken a lead in the United Nations and Australia has her own point of view; and because of the vital need for the defence of our trade routes, assuming that the Admiralty is right about these things, I say that there is a very good case indeed for calling the Commonwealth into much closer consultation about their programme and about ours, and for the co-ordination of our efforts.

I know that we are building an aircraft carrier for one of them. That is a good thing, and I am delighted about it, but I wish to make a practical suggestion to the Minister of Defence. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should call a Commonwealth naval conference, side by side with our work in N.A.T.O., in order that we may jointly co-ordinate our defence effort on the naval side. We might also do something which I have pressed on the Minister before and shall continue to press. We should try to get some agreement with them about dispersing our Reserve Fleet, at present huddled in our exposed anchorages and harbours up and down the country, to other and less vulnerable parts of the world. These are ideas I have put forward more than once, and I have not yet received the answer that it would be a stupid and silly thing to do. Until I get such an answer, I shall go on pressing them.

I would sum up the position today in this way. Were there a global war without H-bombs, which I doubt, I think that the Navy, in conjunction with our Allies, would make a substantial contribution in the war against the submarines. I think that there we could hold the position. But were it a war with H-bombs, I do not believe that our battle carrier group would play any effective part at all as a striking group in conjunction with the Americans. They would be little more than passengers capable of putting up some fighter defence. This battle carrier concept looks fine on paper, but it means little as yet in practice.

The rôle of the Navy still seems to be uncertain. It still seems to be in the position where we say that we have a collection of ships, let us find a rôle for them, rather than having a clear definition of its duties. The Prime Minister should be giving some dynamic political leadership to ensuring a very much closer integration between the three Services so that the nation gets value for money, and secondly, so that we can say to the people of this country, "Within the economic limits at our disposal, we are doing the best we can to provide a reasonable defence system." I cannot honestly believe that that is so today.

5.10 p.m.

Major Patrick Wall (Hull, Haltemprice)

I count myself fortunate in having caught your eye so early in the debate, Mr. Speaker, and especially in being able to follow the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). During my period in the Service I always heard the hon. Member referred to as a man who deeply loved the Navy and who knew a lot about it. Having listened to him speak in three Navy Estimates debates, I heartily endorse that opinion, although I do not follow him in some of the more pessimistic points he has made about the future of the Navy.

I had the privilege of serving in the Fleet for five years after the war, and those years were not the happiest of my Service career. It is never very pleasant to be in any Service during a transition period when it is running down. Accommodation afloat and ashore had little money spent on it. To some people there appeared to be very little future for the Navy. The ships which were being constructed were mainly defensive ships, such as minesweepers and anti-submarine vessels. I think it is true to say that the renaissance of the Navy started last year. That renaissance, which was brought out in my noble Friend's statement last year, has been continued and improved this year. The Navy quite obviously now has a purpose. It has under construction ships which will be of great value to the nation in the future, and it is giving to the men who man those ships a square and an honest deal.

In a cold war, the purpose of the Navy is quite clearly brought out in page 4 of my noble Friend's statement. There is also a rôle for the Navy in the kind of warfare for which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) coined the word "broken-back" warfare. I would remind the House that the Navy is largely responsible for the defence of the trade routes of the whole Commonwealth, and I am a little worried about the rate at which Reserve Fleet ships are being scrapped, because they will have a very important job to perform in any period of "broken-back" warfare. I heartily support the suggestion of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East that these ships should be dispersed throughout the Commonwealth or in the Colonies, where, presumably—labour being cheaper—they would be considerably less costly to maintain.

But it is really the rôle of the Navy in the hot war which matters most. It is quite clear that the Navy has a most important job to perform in that sort of war. The reiterated conception of the battle group has shown that the Government have not paid too much attention to the advocacy of people who support the heavy bomber above all else. The Government have shown that they realise that the carrier has a very important rôle to perform in the future. It is mobile, and it is very difficult to detect. It is also relatively invulnerable when at sea. I am therefore particularly pleased to see the Fleet train referred to in this statement, because this is one of the things which make the carrier almost invulner- able when at sea. She is refuelled and restocked by means of the Fleet train.

The carrier has a really powerful punch, and her aircraft can deliver atomic bombs and, presumably, hydrogen bombs in future. Surely that is a great contribution not only to this country, but to the Commonwealth, because if the gloomy forecast of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East becomes fact, the Navy will still have a great rôle to perform in protecting the rest of the world and operating from Commonwealth bases overseas. The deterrent of a mobile fleet, equipped with atom bombs, must give a considerable headache to any of our enemies.

Presumably the aircraft carrier is in a transitional period of development—because the capital ship of the future will be armed with guided weapons rather than aircraft. In the same way as the bomber will pass, so will the carrier, but surely the capital ships of the future, with atomic engines and with guided missiles, will not be so very different from the carriers which exist today? The experience we gain from operating those carriers will be vital to the development of the future capital ship. Because the main weapon of the Navy in the future will presumably be the guided missile, and because the bomber will presumably eventually merge into the guided missile, there is a lot to be said for the view, advanced last year and again this year by hon. Members on both sides of the House, that there is a need for much closer co-operation, or even integration—I have just returned from visiting Malta and that word seems very popular there—between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. I shall not develop that argument in detail now.

The atomic submarine has been mentioned. I would ask my hon. Friend to tell us, if he can, a little more about the possibility of co-operation between the Admiralty and private industry in the development of atomic propulsion, not only for naval vessels but for merchant ships. It is absolutely vital to our future that our merchant navy shall have atomic propulsion.

I now pass from ships to men. The conditions of the men who man our Fleet have improved a great deal. Last year we had the introduction of the discharge by purchase scheme; this year we have had better pay and, even more important, better pensions. During the debate on the Army Estimates a few days ago there was considerable talk of what was called "bull." I presume that in a Naval debate we must refer to it as "flannel." Much has been done to cut this sort of thing out of the Navy, but nevertheless a limited amount of ceremonial is liked, both by the people performing it and by onlookers. I would therefore plead with my hon. Friend—repeating a plea which I have made previously—to reintroduce full dress for the Royal Marines.

On the subject of dress, I suggest that a young man really joins the Navy because he wants to go to sea, and I think it would be an aid to recruitment, and popular with many young men, if all lower deck ratings, except petty officers, were dressed in square rig. I feel that this would be an advance upon the dress of certain categories of lower-deck ratings, which is akin to the uniform of porters or can be compared to that of petty officers. They are quite often confused in this respect by the public.

It is vital that we should have decent conditions afloat in the Navy. I appreciate the difficulties, and I shall not repeat them. Accommodation ashore also needs looking into. I should like to see the home-port barracks abolished completely, so that when a rating came home from foreign service he would be sent on leave until he was required to man another ship or to go on a course. In other words, we should abolish barracks, but we should keep our training establishments, so that we can preserve a correct proportion between home and foreign service. I hope that the Centralised drafting scheme referred to in the Statement is a step in this direction.

The question of pay and the career factor are also extremely important. The new pay code has been received with universal approval. There are only one or two relatively minor points which I should like to make on this subject. First, let us be careful to preserve reasonable differentials. We should guard against reducing the status of the officer and petty officer too much.

The only criticism I have heard of the pay code so far is that the sub-lieutenant, or second lieutenant in the Royal Marines, receives about 168s. a week, whereas the leading seaman receives only 4s. less and the petty officer receives more. This may be a very good thing, because the petty officer and the leading seamen are very experienced men, whereas the sub-lieutenant is under training. It is most important that the status of the officer and the petty officer should be preserved, and the differential adjusted as the conditions of the lower-deck ratings improve.

There has been a rumour that charges for married accommodation and quarters ashore may be increased. I hope this is wrong and that the Minister will be able to say so. It would be a disaster if ratings and officers are, on the one hand, to have an increase in pay and, on the other hand, to have pay taken away from them by increased charges for accommodation. I hope that the Minister will keep up the level of these pay increases. The Services generally get a pay increase because the Government of the day are forced to give it to them by reason of dissatisfaction in the Services or lack of recruiting, but, as year succeeds year, the level of Service pay falls behind civilian pay. The Government have given the Services a square deal and I hope they will keep the relationship between Service and civilian pay roughly equivalent.

We have a Navy with a purpose and a rôle. Fewer ships are being laid down and there are much better conditions. Therefore, recruiting should improve. We cannot tell yet whether the new pay code will increase recruiting; next year will tell. I hope that recruiting will be so good that we shall be able to end National Service, which is not regarded by the Navy as essential. The Navy has been very well served by National Service men, who have shown the highest possible standard, yet if we can get rid of the system we shall save both money and time.

I see in the Estimates that the Cadet Corps which consists, roughly, of 20,000 costs the Admiralty £115,000. This is jolly good value for money. Last year some 1,300 joined the Sea Services, which is 30 per cent. of those eligible in the age group 15–18. As three years are involved we might almost multiply that 30 per cent. by three and say that 90 per cent. have joined, but I know that figure would be too optimistic.

In addition to the money which the Admiralty allots to the Navy League and the very small amount that it allots to help the Sea Scouts, it might do a great deal more, not by increasing capitation grant or payments, but by allowing those youth services to have greater facilities. The Navy must have a lot of obsolete and obsolescent boats, including whalers and dinghies, as it is introducing new types of power whalers. Instead of selling the old boats at the relatively small sum of £200, why cannot the boats be passed over to the Cadets or to the Sea Scouts? I hope that the Minister will give consideration to that point and will answer it when he winds up the debate.

The Sea Scouts do not want more capitation grants or more money from the Admiralty, but would welome boats and equipment when these become obsolete for the Fleet. As an example, may I mention MTB's which are held on loan from the Admiralty, but are not fitted with generators, which produce light and heat. When these generators are obsolete for the Navy, they can be hired by the Scouts from the Admiralty. That may seem a very good arrangement, but when each one is hired at a cost of £10 or £20 a year and a further £25 a year has to be paid for insurance, the scheme becomes impossible for a voluntary organisation which is subsidised by the Admiralty only to the extent of £800 a year. I hope that an improvement can be introduced and that my suggestion with regard to the free loan of boats and equipment will be borne very much in mind at the Admiralty.

I turn to the Reserve. During the Army Estimates debate we were told that the Territorials were being streamlined, numbers cut down and efficiency increased. I hope that we shall hear of something like that being done in the Naval Reserves. There is a case for more money being given to the Reserves and for the amalgamation of the R.N.R. and the R.N.V.R. and cutting down their numbers so as to increase their efficiency. The money saved can be devoted to better, to more concentrated, more interesting and more up-to-date training.

I have the privilege of commanding an R.M.F.V.R. unit. For the past six years we have our two weeks' training on the Devon moors, but every time I have tried to get more interesting and up-to-date training I have been told there was no money available. I hope that streamlining can make more money available for training and for creating a more efficient Reserve capable of being fitted into the mobilisation plan right at the start of an emergency.

Now I turn to the subject near to my heart, the Royal Marines. I was very pleased to hear the Minister, replying yesterday to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers), say that the rôle and functions of the Royal Marines remained unchanged. I hope that the House will bear with me for a further few minutes while I say one or two words about those functions. They were defined in 1946, and the first is to provide detachments afloat. As hon. Gentlemen know, marines are carried only in the larger vessels, but we have now only a very small number of ships, like cruisers and aircraft carriers, and in any case the latter are not very suitable vessels for marines. I hope that this essential link with the Royal Navy will be maintained because it is absolutely essential to the Service and that marines will be embarked in Daring class ships and in larger Destroyers.

The second rôle of the Royal Marines, to provide commandos, has been criticised as being an Army job. In point of fact, the work of the Royal Marine Commando Brigade has been one of the Navy's major contributions to the cold war. The reference to this matter on page 4 of the Statement, The Royal Marine Commandos have strengthened the security forces of the Army, is a little ungenerous. Since the end of the war, this unit has served throughout the world in the hottest part of the cold war—Korea, Malaya, the Canal Zone. Palestine and so on. During that time twenty-eight officers and thirty-two other ranks have been decorated for gallantry and seventy-five of them have been mentioned in dispatches, while twenty-five officers and sixty other ranks have been killed. That is a pretty good contribution to the Navy's effort in the cold war, and is a credit to the Navy and the country.

The third rôle, that of craft providing landing and raiding, is decreasing in numbers, but one must remember that in the early stages of the hot war it could be of great importance. It is important to have a highly-trained, if small, force available to make reconnaissance raids, capture prisoners, cut out guided-missile sites or radar stations, on the enemy coastline. I would repeat a plea which my hon. Friend the Civil Lord has heard several times before, that we must bring our raiding forces up-to-date with modern equipment. We must make sure that helicopters are available for them—or, as an hon. Member opposite interjected on the last occasion, vertical-lift aircraft.

I think it would be fair to say that the "teeth-to-tail" ratio of the Royal Marines—that is to say, the operational numbers as opposed to the administrative—is good, and indeed slightly better than that of the Royal Navy as a whole. This ratio would be improved a lot if National Service were abolished, because the "sausage machine" of training has to be kept fully staffed to cope with the large and continuing annual intake of National Service men.

My last point is this. If hon. Gentlemen examine the Navy Estimates, they will find that the strength of the Royal Marines has fallen to 10,440 men—and that includes about a thousand in the band service. I think that that figure is the very minimum which can give a reasonable career factor to the corps, and it cannot be cut further without doing irreparable damage. Already one commando of a three-commando brigade has been brought home, and that might be interpreted in some quarters as a sign of further cuts to come.

My hon. Friend has already said that the rôle of the Royal Marines has not changed. Will he also assure us that the numbers will not fall below a round figure of 10,000? Otherwise, it may be that the force which has been referred to as "the country's sheet anchor," may start dragging its anchor, with disastrous results to the Royal Marines and to the Royal Navy itself.

5.32 p.m.

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

I would agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Haltemprice (Major Wall) when he says that the Admiralty appears in the last year to have made some efforts to improve conditions in the Service. One of the big things is, of course, the change in the officer structure, and I only want to say one thing about that. There is some danger that the common training for two years followed by division into the specialist branches may create a position in which certain branches acquire a status higher than that of others, and there would be a tendency for all the poorer types of cadets to drift into one branch.

For instance, one of the dangers of the scheme introduced a few years ago for the common training of artificers for eighteen months is that, because of the emphasis placed on certain branches, they attract the better types and more skilled men, leaving the poorer types of artificers to other branches. That would certainly be bad if it occurred in this scheme also. With that qualification, I think that the improvements that have been made and the reorganisation that has taken place are generally welcome.

Next in importance is the new pay code. Everyone welcomes it. It was overdue—let no one make any mistake about that—but it is not quite so generous as the Press would have us believe. I find that the improved pensions, for instance, are slightly worse in terms of today's purchasing power than those given under the pay scheme introduced after the First World War. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated in December that in 1924 8s. 8d. could purchase as much as £1 can today. In 1924, the pension of a chief petty officer was 38s. 6d. and, in terms of money, today's pension is not really any improvement on that, although it is now rather more difficult to work it out because account must be taken of length of service as a chief petty officer, and so on. What has been improved—and I welcome it—is the terminal grant, but do not let us run away with the idea that the pension itself shows all that improvement.

I want to say a word or two about pay in the artificer branches. I know I have spoken about this on a number of occasions, but I make no apology for returning to it. The Defence White Paper tells us: This concept of smaller and better equipped forces does, however place a premium on the highly-skilled, long-service regular. I think that is perfectly true. It goes on: …the newer weapons will demand for their proper use increasingly high standards of training and maintenance. When we consider artificer branches in relation to the new pay code, I find, for instance, that the substantive rate of pay for a chief engine-room artificer or chief ordnance or chief electrical artificer thirty years ago was 87s. 6d. per week. To that has to be added trade pay, charge pay, and certain other things so that we may make a true comparison with the figures given in the White Paper. The White Paper shows the new rate to by 255s. 6d. per week. In terms of purchasing power, that is only a few shillings more than the pay in 1924. That is wrong. Since then, we have increased our general living standards and our wealth as a nation and these men should be sharing in that. If, as the Defence White Paper says, these men are at a premium, I should have thought that something very much more should have been done to attract them into the Service, and to keep them in the Service.

It is not good enough for the Financial Secretary to say that these rates of pay have been levelled up to those obtaining in outside industry. The man in the Service gives far more than the man outside. He gives twelve years of his future. He has sold his freedom for twelve years, and he has also sold himself for twenty-four hours a day. It is all very well for men to start work at eight o'clock in the morning and finish at five o'clock at night, but if a job has to be done in the Services, the man just has to work until the job is done—probably twenty-four hours at a stretch. I have done it myself—worked all night, stopped off for two or three hours and then gone on again because the job had to be finished so that the equipment might be ready.

If a man in outside industry had to do that he would receive overtime—and very considerable overtime. It is, therefore, not enough just to say that the rates have been levelled up roughly to those operating outside. The men in the Service, and this applies to all branches—I quote artificers only because I am more familiar with them—have to be paid for the conditions I have mentioned. There is also the fact that a married man is a very long time away from his wife and family—a year or eighteen months. I want to add that note of caution about the new pay code. When its provisions are examined they are not as generous as we are apt to think.

Mr. Ward

I am very interested in what the hon. Member is saying and I agree with a good deal of it, especially with his comment that men are on duty for long hours and must be available to go away at short notice. I hope he will bear in mind, however, that many of the things which they are getting in kind are those which have increased most in price in civil life.

Mr. Willis

I fully recognise that. I was simply trying to relate rates of pay with those of thirty years ago. I have done this in a previous Estimates debate. I think in 1947.

I still cannot understand the Admiralty's bias against the artificer. The chief engine room, electrical or ordnance artificer gets a fiat rate of 255s. 6d. The staff-sergeant, Class 1, in the Army gets 259s. I cannot understand why that should be. I am surprised that when the Admiralty was considering the officer structure and the new rates of pay it did not consider the complaints which have frequently been made about the fact that there is no rank corresponding to that of warrant officer in the Army. I know the Admiralty's argument about the Upper Yard Scheme and commissioned ranks, but that does not answer the question.

If we consider the position of artificers generally, we find that they can take their examination for chief engine room or chief electrical artificer when they are first class, which means, probably, at the age of twenty-five or twenty-six. Once they have passed that, unless they become commissioned engineers, their promotion is ended until they are about forty. They have to wait for the roster to put them up to the chief rank, and then they are finished. I am sure that that is wrong.

Many of them become chief petty officers before they are thirty, but there is no inducement to them, in terms of promotion, to stay in the Service. I should have thought that the Government could have introduced a rank equivalent to that of W.O.I and W.O.II in the Army and Air Force, giving an increase in pay to this rank, so that men did not have to spend ten to twelve years without some increase in pay. This would have been one way to offer an inducement to men to stay in the Service.

It is imperative that the tradesmen and men in the technical branches should stay in the Service, because they have cost the Admiralty a lot of money. It has cost hundreds of pounds to have them trained and they have become accustomed to the nature of the work. To let them leave the Service at the age of thirty, after twelve years, is quite wrong, and every effort should be made to keep them in the Service.

One effort which could have been made was to have done something about this gap which exists by comparison with the Army—the fact that there is not a noncommissioned rank equivalent to warrant officer rank in the Army.

I have often pointed out in the House that one of the ways to keep men in the Forces was to ensure that they were able to settle satisfactorily when they left, and I have raised in the House the question of their being given certificates indicating to potential civilian employers their capabilities and qualifications. I have been glad to see the new certificates which the Admiralty have introduced, which are a great improvement and will, I think, meet the bill.

The only question I should like to ask is whether the men could not get that part of the certificate which gives their technical qualifications three months before they come out on pension. That ought not to be difficult to arrange and it would be fair to the men and to the nation. One of the points which strikes me is that at present we are training an enormous amount of technical manpower—very valuable manpower—in the Forces and that, in the country's present situation, we cannot afford to allow that manpower to be wasted when the men leave the Services.

In the Navy men often leave the Service at the age of forty. Strangely enough, most of the ex-artificers I know are in the Civil Service or similar non-technical work. Last year, in a similar debate, I quoted the example of some of these men who were museum attendants in Edinburgh. From the national point of view that is an enormous waste of manpower. Could the certificate giving the technical qualifications, at least, be given to the men so that it might be used in order to get a job before the men leave the Forces—say, three months before they are due to leave?

In my opinion, the Ministry of Defence ought to examine for all the Services this question of fitting men with technical qualifications into suitable trades in civilian life. This applies to the Air Force and increasingly to the Army and of course to the Navy. I do not think it would require a great deal of organisation on the Government's part and it would be worth while if the Government would explore the possibility, from a civilian point of view, of assisting the nation's needs.

I agree with my hon. Friend that some of these battleships in reserve ought to be scrapped. I am not certain that the Vanguard ought to be kept at present, either. This love of the big ship has cost the country far too much over far too long a time. Between the wars, we spent millions and millions of pounds on building immense battleships. No sooner had we built them than we had to put them in dry dock where, at the cost of another £2–3 million, we modified them, put blisters on them, and so forth. In the end, how much service value did we get out of them? Could not the money have been better spent in another way?

I think we must get rid of the idea of the big ship. I am not certain that, in seeking to defend itself against attacks made on its privileged position in the past few years, the Admiralty has not built up for us a conception in which the big ship appears again. I was alarmed to read in the Navy White Paper the statements about the Tiger Class cruisers. We were told that Work on the three Tiger Class cruisers, which will mount the new fully-automatic six-inch gun turret, is going on well. But these are out of date by the time they are built, because the design of the new type of cruiser with the anti-aircraft guided weapon is going forward. My hon. Friend was right when he said we ought to stop work on these three cruisers.

The next part of the White Paper frightens me even more: We are also looking further ahead with the object of planning the fitting of more powerful guided weapons which are now being designed. Of course, the more powerful the guided weapon, the bigger the launching platform. That was found to be the case with the guns. The bigger the guns mounted, the bigger and heavier had to be the ship, and there arose a large number of other considerations.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The more astronomical the cost.

Mr. Willis

I am alarmed by this statement that aircraft carriers and battle cruisers are to become larger. I think that we should have some information about this. If that is true, we are committed to an immense Navy Estimates programme for a very long time. Before the House commits itself to this large naval programme, it ought to ask itself whether this is really necessary.

Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have dealt much more fully than I have time to deal with the future rôle of the Navy. Reading the White Paper, it appears to me that the Admiralty still imagines that a potential enemy will launch exactly the same kind of attack on exactly the same targets as it did before. I do not think that assumption is right. Why should a potential enemy spend a lot of time trying to destroy individual convoy ships when, with one blow, it can destroy London or Glasgow? We have to ask ourselves whether this really is right. When we are dependent, as we are, on other countries for our food supply—and it is vital that we get food supplies and raw materials—it seems to me that, whilst the future job of the Navy will still be to protect our trade routes against attack, this will become increasingly an Air Force job. Therefore, we should be exploring that situation and not allowing the Admiralty, once again, to build itself up to the preeminent position which it held, when practically no one could challenge it. We should compel it to conform rather more to the ideas of this House. We must also examine the question of its integration and closer co-operation with the Air Force.

When one examines these Estimates and looks at the figures in the White Paper, one gets the impression that the number of men afloat is very small. The hon. and gallant Member for Haltemprice said that every boy joined the Navy because he wanted to go to sea. At the present time, he may find it rather difficult to get to sea. Reading these Estimates as intelligently as one can, it appears that there is an enormous manpower at present in the Admiralty offices—some 12,000 personnel—to deal with a Fleet which consists of almost a handful of ships. It is time that this was looked into. Other Services have examined their manpower and their organisations, and, in fact, the Army has done it two or three times. I think that it is time that the Admiralty did the same.

5.54 p.m.

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

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) will, I trust, forgive me if I do not follow him, especially on the question of artificers, about which he obviously knows a great deal. I have been glad to see that the whole mood of the House has been to leave to their Lordships in general the overall strategic considerations, because they are the people who know most about them and who are therefore best equipped to deal with the subject.

There has been a great deal of talk about cruisers. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) quoted from the Statement on Defence. Is it not true to say that in any cold war the cruisers, even if they are armed with what some people describe as obsolete guns and equipment, will be extremely useful? As the White Paper, quite rightly, says: The cold war is the immediate problem. The Navy is able to play an important part in upholding our interests and influence in peace-time in distant parts of the world. By its presence on foreign stations, by its close ties with the navies of other nations, and by the goodwill that it engenders in foreign countries, the Navy is a valuable weapon in the cold war against Communism. I feel, therefore, that cruisers certainly can fit into that picture.

We have heard about the rôle of the carrier and of the fear of the Navy going back to bigger ships, which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East mentioned. Assuming that there is another conflict—pray God there will not be—surely a mobile air fleet which cannot be strafed or atom-bombed immediately on the outbreak of hostilities is a very useful proposition for us. Let us consider the case of the R.A.F. bomber pilot who has been to deliver his load of bombs, whether conventional or atomic, on the target and who comes back to find that his airfield in England no longer exists. He has to look for another one. In his position, I should be happier if I had to fly back to a mobile airfield such as a carrier whose position can be varied according to circumstance.

I ask the Financial Secretary if he can tell us anything about the Navy's rôle in N.A.T.O., and how far we have got in the combined exercises. Obviously, he cannot tell us everything about that, but can he tell us how far we have got with inter-service procedure, whether the Allies are working well together, whether the exercises are going well and how far ahead the Navy is in that regard as compared with the other Services; in general, how we fit in to the N.A.T.O. picture.

There is one small part of that picture which worries me. I was at Fontainebleau some time ago, and I know of the very real grievance of our officers there. It is this. Officers of the other Services and other Navies of the countries represented there get certain allowances to meet the expenses necessary for maintaining the club which they all use. I understand—it was so when I was there—that our Service personnel do not get that allowance. They have to End the equivalent sums so as to be able to pay their share out of their own pockets. I think that is very wrong, and I hope that if that is still so something will be done about it.

I hope that the recent pay and pensions increases will help recruiting, but I should like to know if it is quite definite that there is no deduction from pensions when a man leaves the Service to go into Government employment. I have mentioned this matter before, and it is most important. A chief yeoman of signals who went into the Post Office raised this matter with me. At that time, it was said that because men leaving the Navy were in receipt of a naval pension their pension rights and pay in Government Departments were cut. I think that is thoroughly unfair. Is it still true? A man has earned his pension in the Navy and it should not in any circumstances be deducted.

Whatever the pay and pensions improvements, if the accommodation provided is wrong it will upset the good which has been done by those increases. I wish to ask if the problem of housing could be undertaken by local authorities where there are big stations such as naval air stations, on the strict understanding that those local authorities, in exchange for doing that work—which would fit in with their existing programme—would make allowance for Service personnel, especially for men, such as we all have in our constituencies, who are natives of the area and want to know what is to happen to them when they leave the Service and find difficulty in obtaining accommodation.

I know of many of those housing cases. There is one in my constituency with which I was not unconnected, as the Civil Lord will know, where there were certain faults in the design of a house. One wonders whether it might be cheaper for their Lordships if that sort of civil engineering work could be handed over to local authorities, or outside contractors. I believe that in many ways a better job would be done, and it would be cheaper.

In his excellent speech, the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary dealt with the question of accommodation in carriers. Could we be told whether there are any schemes afoot for modification of existing carriers? If it were known that such a step was being taken that knowledge might go down very well with the Fleet. All who have served afloat must know of the yard foreman in the bowler hat who asks, "Where am I to put this or that piece of equipment?" and how the space gets smaller and smaller. I know that it is a difficult and an almost insoluble problem, but it would be a good thing if it could be shown that it was being tackled.

In regard to small ships, I wonder if much thought is being given to the problem in small ships like M.T.B.s, fast patrol boats, and so on. In the last war, I believe the German E-boat was nothing but a floating boxful of engines and fighting equipment. She was treated like an aircraft, and when she got back to her base the ship's company came off and went to really comfortable billets, whilst the maintenance team went on board and got on with the job of getting her ready for sea. I wonder if we could be told whether we are thinking on these lines.

I should also like to ask about fishery protection. I know that representations have been made to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and to the Admiralty on this subject. Now that we have modern motor minesweepers in the Fleet, I wonder if the numbers of ships on that duty could be increased, as that would be a great advantage for all. In West Cornwall it is said, in reference to fishing, that the only good Frenchman is one who cannot be seen, because if he can be seen he is inside territorial waters and doing something he should not be doing. We feel that we could do with more fishery protection vessels. There could be no argument that if more fishery protection vessels could be allocated it would be welcome to the fishing industry.

That policy would also be a good thing as it would provide experience afloat, and there might be dilution by R.N.V.R. trainees, who could go afloat to do their share of this work. It would be good experience and good seamanship training. Plenty of experience in seamanship is still necessary and will always be necessary, however automatic a ship's equipment may be.

The last point I make has been referred to already by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Major Wall). It is the use of boats for pre-entry units. When I was Commissioner of the Sea Scouts after the war I used to visit an East End group of lads who were dead keen. They met in the crypt of a church, and there one boy said to me, "You must see our equipment." He produced a battered old sextant. I asked him if he did not think they should start rather lower in the scale. I think that a small, disused dinghy, or a whaler which is no longer required but is quite good enough for conditions in the Thames or the Lea would be of far more use to Sea Scouts than a battered old sextant in a box, which probably none of them would ever have to use. I think the Admiralty can be realistic about this matter. When I was doing my training before the war we had two old steam pinnaces, and we had to pay for our own coal to take them to sea. If there are suitable boats in the boat pond, surely something could be done about using them in this way.

I did not agree with what the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said about "Rule Britannia." It rather reminded me of the famous story of the two sailors in ships which were alongside each other. One looked down to the other and asked, "What is it like to be in the second largest navy?" and the other replied, "What is it like to be in the second best navy?" I think that position still obtains.

I do not mind what people say about the Service. If we look to the young people who are sailing in small boats today we find that their feelings are still the same about the sea. The Navy is entering a new era, and I am sure that we can trust their Lordships to take care of that. The Navy is to have a "new look." I am sure we shall also get the new type of young man who is growing up in this day and age, to fit this "new look." I hope that if we make the conditions right there will be no lack of recruits, and that the traditions of the Navy will go forward into this new age as firm and as great as they have ever been.

6.8 p.m.

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

There are only a few observations I wish to make, and I would not undertake to say that they will come in sequence, because the longer I have sat on these benches the more thoughts, recollections and reminiscences of the past have come to me from a fairly long period of time.

The first thing I want to say is most sincerely to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary. I think he made an excellent presentation of the Estimates today. It was very interesting to those of us who take an interest in naval affairs. I think the House is indebted to him for the way in which he has switched from the Air Ministry to the Admiralty.

I propose to put two or three questions to the hon. Gentleman arising rather more from my ignorance than from my knowledge. I have felt concerned as I sat in the House today to note the very few hon. Members who seem anxious to intervene in the debate on what I would call the general issue concerning the Royal Navy as distinct from specific constituency interests. I hope that will not disturb my right hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley). It is regrettable that there are not more of us in the House who have an interest in the Royal Navy, an overall, general interest in its functions and service. Therefore, as I say, the questions I shall put arise from my ignorance rather than from my knowledge.

It is thirty-nine years since I left the Royal Navy, and I imagine that an enormous lot has happened to the Royal Navy in those thirty-nine years. During the intervening period I have had only one opportunity of seeing a Royal Naval vessel, and that is the point I am trying to put to the Parliamentary Secretary. We cannot discuss these Navy Estimates intelligently or understandingly unless we have some sort of facilities to learn more about the Service in which we are interested. The Army and the Air Force have always gone out of their way to provide opportunities for interested Members of the House who want to visit stations, or barracks, or to attend exercises and things of that kind; we can always get an invitation from those Services to go and interest ourselves in those things we desire to understand. It may have been through the good offices of the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) for all I know, but an offer was made in September of last year, which I believe eventually collapsed for some reason or another.

I am not suggesting that we always want to be running away from this House to be with the Royal Navy, but we ought to have some opportunities of seeing the ships, and particularly the aircraft carriers, which I suppose will be the major weapon of the Royal Navy in the years to come; we want an opportunity of seeing these things for ourselves; and even more, what concerns me most, we should not be denied the opportunity of meeting members of the lower deck. Now, I do not say this in any way offensively. After ten years I think hon. Members will know that I do not go out of my way to be offensive to other hon. Members, but the major representation of this Service in the House comes from the upper deck rather than the lower deck: there are very few Members in the House who have been through the lower deck of the Royal Navy. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) was what those of us who were stokers in the Royal Navy in the First World War used to regard as being one of the aristocrats of the lower deck. It is necessary for the point of view of the other ranks, the ratings, to be expressed in this House if we are to be truly representative.

I was interested in two remarks made by the Parliamentary Secretary, one at the beginning of his speech and one at the end. The first was when he said that we were failing to attract men of the right quality, both for officers and men. I would not, of course, know just how right or wrong that assumption may be, but one thing is certain. If that is the case, there would obviously be a reason for it, and it would be for the Admiralty and the officials there to try to discover what that reason may be. I want to suggest one or two reasons which may account for the fact that we are not attracting quite so many long-term engagement men in the Navy, and why, according to the White Paper, there has been a decline in the number of ratings who have signed on for the extended period of Service.

The first thing I suggest is that naval discipline has something to do with it. I made a note when the Parliamentary Secretary said that the Navy needs, more than anything else, the good will of the House and the country. I believe one of the first things that might be done to encourage at least serving men to sign on for their second period of time is something which it will take this House quite a fair amount of time to do, and that is the review of the Naval Discipline Act. I believe that to be a matter of urgency. We have had such a review for the Army, and I think the Air Force review was incorporated at the same time. I do not know whether it will take the House as long to review the Naval Discipline Act, or make suggestions for its revision, as it took to bring the Army Act back to this House after it went away for revision. I am a believer in discipline, and a very firm believer in discipline.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

My hon. Friend is a Whip.

Mr. Wilkins

That has nothing to do with it. I am very serious about this. I believe that discipline is good for people, and if it is not naval, military or air force discipline, people should know the way to impose self-discipline. I have no complaints whatsoever about discipline, but what I complain of is the type of discipline. The only word I can find to describe it is childish discipline. I do not believe that grown men respond to childish discipline. Here I must again emphasise that I may be speaking out of ignorance rather than knowledge, because I do not know whether the discipline in the Royal Navy has changed in the thirty-nine years that I have been out of it.

The major resentment with which I left the Royal Navy in 1919 was the perfectly shocking kind of discipline to which I considered I had been subjected. We do not need the little pin pricks that occur, where because the new training rating on the parade ground in Portsmouth Barracks fails to discover the class with which he is training on the very first day, without any knowledge of what the Navy requires him to do, he is hauled before the commander of the barracks and given two hours 10A, which is, or was, two hours of five minutes walking and five minutes doubling around a pair of lampposts on the parade ground. If that is not sheer childishness I should like to know what is. I am pleading that the first thing to be looked at should be the removal of what I would call the inessentials of discipline.

The second matter to which I wish to refer, and to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred, is the question of living conditions. I imagine that living conditions in the Royal Navy will now be considerably better than they were nearly forty years ago. If they are not, I do not know what the Navy has been doing in the intervening period, when certainly conditions in the other Services have been improved. I have never been able to understand why it is that, particularly on the larger vessels—the battleships, battle cruisers and vessels of that kind, and probably aircraft carriers for all I know—accommodation for the lower deck has not been better than it is. I remember going aboard an American battle cruiser which was with us in the Firth of Forth—and it stayed there almost the whole time; we exchanged fraternal visits. Even in those days I was amazed at the accommodation that was available to the lower deck ratings. There might have been a sacrifice of valuable machinery, but the mess decks were an amazing contrast against our own battle cruisers and larger ships. Even the two hush-hush vessels newly out of the dockyard had nothing like the same accommodation as that old class of American battle cruiser. Only the Admiralty can explain this. There needs to be greater concentration on the provision of living accommodation.

I remember also the suggestion made last year by the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East that ratings, when free of their duties, might be allowed to go home. I should like to know whether any developments have arisen as a result of the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion, which was extremely well received in all parts of the House. Some of us, at least, were led to think that the Admiralty would take notice of it and would consider it.

My third point concerns education. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to say what advance has been made in the provision of facilities for education in the Royal Navy and what rewards are given for ratings who are prepared to sacrifice their leisure time on board for purposes of study. I know that, generally speaking, educational facilities afloat can be provided only on the very large ships, but facilities were provided even during the war. If a rating wanted to continue his studies, he was given the opportunity of attending evening classes.

On this aspect, I have a matter of complaint. It arises from personal experience. I used to attend these classes and I enjoyed thorn, and in due course an examination was held. It was called the petty officers' examination. The petty officer was somebody in the Navy on the lower deck. In those days, however, after a rating had studied and passed the examination, it counted for nothing. The Navy was still sticking fast to the days of Trafalgar.

There had to be an interval of three years before a rating could get the leading rate, seven years before he became a petty officer and thirteen years—in other words, he had to engage for his second period—before he could become a chief petty Officer. That procedure had to be rigidly adhered to irrespective of an individual's ability and no matter how studious he was in his endeavour to make progress in the Navy. I imagine and hope that that has now changed, but I mention it in case it has not.

I have never regarded the Admiralty as a very fast-moving machine. It requires a long time to make up its mind to go in for advancements. Therefore, I have raised the question of education in particular because we are dealing today with the type of lad who, following the provision which is made for him during his ordinary schooling, might be prepared and keen to continue his studies while undergoing his National Service or even during Regular training.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East suggested that the present rates of pay for the lower deck represent little more in purchasing value in comparison with pre-war days.

Mr. Willis

Nineteen twenty-four.

Mr. Wilkins

The comparison was with 1924. I would like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary whether the old victualling system is still in operation, and whether ratings get a messing allowance. in addition to having a certain amount of their food provided. I have always regarded it as an anachronism in the Navy that so much of the men's food should be provided and that they should then have a victualling allowance to purchase the remainder. I must, however, be careful, because, strangely enough, those serving in the Royal Navy seem to like this arrangement whereby they are able to buy a certain amount of their food themselves. Nevertheless, it seems strange to those of us who are not in the habit of feeding in that way.

If the victualling system is still in operation, can we be told whether the amount allowed per head in the mess has taken account of the increased cost of living over the years? I remember that at one time the figure was only 5½d. I estimate that it would need to be in the region of at least 2s. a head today to compare in any way with the value of the food which the 5½d. would have purchased.

Similarly, I should like to ask about the soap and tobacco allowance. Am I right in surmising that according to the figures in the Estimates, which I have tried to work out, the allowance is now 26s. a year, or 6d. a week? It would appear that it has not kept pace with the change in the value of money.

Once again, I regret that there are not more Members in the House who are able to take a keen interest in this debate. The Navy is a great Service. There are those who would like to relegate it into third place—it may be that they will be successful—but the fact remains that it is a great Service, and one which merits the very close consideration of hon. Members. We know that not all hon. Members have the time to study naval problems and matters of that kind, but it is regrettable that there are not more here who are prepared to devote the time to, and to take an interest in, naval affairs.

6.30 p.m.

Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)

It is always a great pleasure to follow, in the debate on this subject, the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins), because his affection for the Navy and the interest that he has in it shines through all his remarks even after all the years since he was in the Service. He made a number of interesting suggestions and asked some interesting questions to which no doubt my hon. Friend the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary will reply. I should like to back his plea that hon. Members who are interesting in naval affairs should be given more opportunity to visit the Fleet and go to sea with the ships.

I do not intend to say very much about general strategy because I think that I said quite enough about that during the defence debate, but I was most interested in the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) on the subject of the Navy's relationship with N.A.T.O. I should like to make the point, from recent personal experience with the Navy, that the Navy is far ahead of the other two Services in its close integration with our Allies, the other N.A.T.O. Powers. That is a thing which we should bear in mind when we criticise the smallness of the forces which we maintain. We no longer stand alone, we are part of a unified, effective whole.

At the end of the defence debate, I still considered that the emphasis which the Admiralty had laid in the White Paper on the trade war needed to be reconciled with the policy of meeting a major attack by all-ont nuclear retaliation. I had intended to repeat the question that I wondered whether the Admiralty believed that a global war might continue so long after the nuclear opening phase that various measures associated with trade protection in the last two wars would be needed once again. I feel that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, in opening today's debate, answered that question, and it is dear to me from what he said that the Admiralty thinks it possible that such a war might last long enough to render the starvation of the country possible.

I would not dream of expressing either assent or dissent with that view, because this is a very complicated and important matter which could be decided only by people who have access to knowledge which is not open to us. It depends, among other things, upon knowledge of the stockpiles of these nuclear horrors in different countries, and on how fast they can be replaced, which, so far as I know, are items of information known to few people in this country.

Before turning to more detailed points, I should like to join in the congratulations which have been extended to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary on his new office. He comes to the Admiralty at a very critical time. I am sure that on both sides of the House we all wish him every possible success. If I may say so without impertinence, if my hon. Friend remembers that he is Financial Secretary as well as Parliamentary Secretary his term of office will be attended by that success.

A most satisfactory feature of the Admiralty statement is the sign which it shows of the renaissance in the building of new warships. I hope that the Admiralty will press forward with the rebuilding of our Fleet with modern ships, and will finance that rebuilding by really ruthless economies in all that does not contribute directly to fighting efficiency in modern times. During the defence debate, and during the debates on the Army and Air Estimates, a number of hon. Members asserted that warships are back numbers and could not survive in a nuclear war. There is no more highly technical question than that, and I should certainly hesitate to express a firm opinion.

Hon. Members who make that assertion should tell us on what they base their views. A bold assertion is not sufficient. I believe that it to be altogether premature to assume, for instance, that the days of aircraft carriers are over. I would agree that the American conception of a great carrier task force operating for days on end off a hostile coast, protected night and day by its own combat air patrol and its ring of anti-submarine vessels, is out of date. I believe that that conception belongs to the past.

On the other hand, a single carrier which can maintain radio silence while it operates, can move about in secrecy and launch small but deadly strikes of aircraft armed with nuclear weapons, and can recover its aircraft and withdraw again before a counter-attack can be mounted. My guess is that for some years an aircraft carrier which was boldly handled could not only form a formidable supplement to the rôle of our V-bombers but could be the sole means of reaching and attacking effectively certain targets. Those are some of the reasons why I think it is nonsense to pretend that the days of the Navy are over. At the same time, it is none the less urgent to cut out all that is inessential and obsolescent if we are to build a modern Fleet.

We come back, therefore, to the question of economy, and I should like to say a few words about personnel. The key question is whether we need, under Vote A, 128,000 officers and men, supported by 180,000 civilians, to maintain the exceedingly small Fleet listed in the White Paper. I put the matter very conservatively when I say that at least two uniformed men out of every three are serving ashore. One source of waste of personnel has been bound up with drafting and with depots, and I most strongly welcome the decision to create, at last, a central drafting organisation. I hope that it spells the end of depots as such, those great expensive mausoleums of buildings used only to house men and which date in conception to at least a century ago.

Turning to a different but related question, I should like some information about the employment of National Service men. The House will recall that during the debate in the autumn on whether National Service could be shortened or not, my right hon. Friend the present Foreign Secretary gave some striking figures to show the dependence of the Services on National Service men for the carrying out of their highly-skilled jobs. I cannot remember whether he gave the figures for the Navy or not, but I recall the figure which he gave for the Air Force, and which is relevant to the Fleet Air Arm, for I have no reason to suppose that that figure would be very different.

My right hon. Friend said that one-third of the skilled ground staff were provided by National Service men. That was a complete answer to the suggestion that we could at that time or, indeed, if it is still the case, at present either shorten or do away with the National Service period. If we are ever to end or even shorten National Service, which I take to be a major objective of both sides of the House, we have to escape from this dependence on National Service men to fill the highly-skilled posts.

We must replace them by long-service volunteers, but I should like to call attention to the consequence of doing that, because I believe that those consequences are inclined to be overlooked. If we fill all our skilled jobs—and not only in the Navy, because this applies equally to the other Services—by long-service volunteers, it is perfectly obvious that there will be no skilled jobs left for National Service men. That means that we shall have to go through a period in which young men called up for National Service, no matter what their background or skill may be, will have to do unskilled jobs. That will be unpopular, but I submit that it is quite inevitable if we are really determined to get rid of National Service.

We should face that fact, and I would welcome the views of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary on this point, because I must say that I was rather surprised and disturbed when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air, when replying in the debate on the Air Estimates, indicated that there was no change in the Government's policy to try to employ National Service men in such a way that full rein would be given to their skill. I think that is a point which needs clearing up.

That brings me to my next question, which I do not, however, address to my hon. Friend, because although I am sure he would be only too pleased to answer it if he could, it cannot yet be answered by anyone. It is: what is to be the effect of the new pay rates? In 1950, the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) himself admitted that the increases given then had proved to be only a shot in the arm. A number of reasons for this disappointing result have been put forward, and I wish to refer briefly to two, to which I think no reference has yet been made in this debate.

The first is what I would call the misery propaganda conducted within the Services, with the knowledge, and therefore, one must assume with regret, with the tolerance, at least, of the officers. I will give the House my own experience. At the time when the 1950 pay rates came into force, I was serving at Bath, and my duties required me to make frequent journeys by road between Bath and Portsmouth. It was impossible to drive very far from Bath without hundreds of airmen "thumbing" for lifts, and equally impossible to drive far from Portsmouth without hundreds of sailors "thumbing" for lifts. In the course of the time I spent there, I must have given lifts to a very large number of men in my car. They were all very talkative, and it was very noticeable and rather disturbing that, only a few weeks after the pay rates had gone up, they had only one subject of conversation—their pay.

It was very curious, because they never seemed to talk about it before, at all events to me. But they talked about it after the increase had been given, and it was one long whine about their low rates of pay. If one tried to argue with them, as I usually did, one was met with the conclusive and final answer, from their point of view: "It is all very well, sir, but even the officers admit that we are underpaid," or "Even the officers agree that we could get more outside."

I submit that it is most important that we should not have any repetition of this, because there is really no justification for it. There was no justification for it then, because the pay rates in 1950, having regard to the cost of living as it then was, were very generous, and there is no justification for it now. I am greatly in sympathy with the interesting suggestion which was made in the debate on the Army Estimates by my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Hughes-Young) that the Services would be well advised to quote gross rates of pay instead of the net rates. I did not entirely understand the reasons which were given for suggesting that this was impossible, because, after all, if one takes the trouble to look up the table of pay, one can see precisely what a man would get if he had to pay for his own board and lodging. There are recognised allowances, and indeed in the Navy the majority of men are married and serving ashore and at home, and are providing their own board and lodging.

I should like to quote one or two figures, because I think it is possible that even now the House may not realise how generous these rates are. I take the case of three youths, aged 20, and unmarried. The first, an able seaman on a long-term engagement, receives £480 a year. The second, if trained in one of the artificer colleges and if he has become an artificer, receives £692 a year. The third, a sub-lieutenant, receives £647 a year, unless he happens to fly, when the figure goes up to £975.

Now let us look at the position of the same three men five years later—and married. The seaman has now become a petty officer and receives £723 a year; the artificer has become a third-class artificer and receives £793 a year, while the officer now receives £1,195 a year. I submit that these rates of pay provide no justification whatsoever for grievance or complaint. I think that we here should make it quite clear to the Services that we are asking the taxpayer to pay a lot of money—£67 million a year extra—to raise these pay rates, and that we are determined to see that that this time the rates do the job which they are intended to do—to boost up recruiting so that we can get rid of the National Service system.

There is another factor of an entirely different nature which I think deters men from joining up for long periods. I refer to the fear which they may have lest something may happen during the course of their engagement—some tragedy in their homes—which will make them wish to escape and to be released. We know that they can apply for compassionate release, and I would not for a moment suggest that these releases are not invariably given in conditions in which release is deserved. All that the men in the Services hear about, however, are the cases in which release is not approved, when all they hear is the point of view of the man who applied but was turned down.

It is a basic principle of British justice that no man should be judge in his own cause, and one of the parties to these causes is the Crown. Furthermore, it is very difficult to deal with them by administrative action. I have often had to consider them, and there are many parties to each case—the couple of doctors who disagree completely, the man and his wife, who do not always agree with one another; and, at an early stage, the Member of Parliament comes into it. I have often said to my secretary, "If only we could get all these people together and hear their evidence in public and on oath, how much better it would be."

The suggestion I would make to my hon. Friend is that the Services would be well advised to refer these cases to some type of tribunal, such as those to which people apply when they wish to claim exemption on conscientious grounds. These tribunals are greatly respected, and I think that the mere fact that the evidence is heard in public—and I believe on oath, though I am not altogether sure about that—greatly reduces the number of applications, because it has the effect of getting rid of the bogus ones. At the same time, the man with a genuine case is assured that he will have fair treatment. I believe that matter to be well worth considering, and it would have the additional advantage of allowing senior officers of the Services to escape from a most distasteful and difficult task.

If I may now turn to the question of officers, I would start by congratulating the Admiralty on their bold acceptance of the sweeping changes recently announced. Here I must admit that I have to declare a prejudice, because I was myself a member of the Committee which recommended the alterations. The problems which faced the Committee were of great complexity, and of an interest which goes much wider than the Navy itself.

I should like to say first that the age of entry was not in the Committee's terms of reference. That was a matter which had already been decided, and I refer to it now only because I should like to take the opportunity of paying my tribute to the 16-year-old entry cadets during the years in which the scheme operated. I think they have been very much maligned, and that an unfortunate political bias got into the matter at first. In any case, the new age, which cut across the curriculum of both the grammar and the independent schools, naturally mat with some difficulties at first. I took the trouble to go into this matter carefully when I was on that Committee, and I am certain that the record of the 16-year-old boys compares favourably with that of both young age and of the special-entry older age throughout all the years that the other two systems were in force.

In passing, I should like to draw the attention of my hon. Friend to what I understand is a grievance of the survivors of the 16-year old scheme, although I speak subject to correction. There are still a few of these lads left at Dartmouth, and they have not benefited from the large rises in pay announced recently. It appears that they still receive 4s. a day whereas the older and newer entries get 8s.

Contractually, of course, they have no ground for complaint. That I concede at once. At the same time, they are sharing the same accommodation, they are working alongside the others and, what is more I am sure that a number of those who have joined under the new system were ones who competed and failed under the earlier system alongside some of the young chaps with whom they are now working. It is a bitter pill to the 16-yearolds when they find the others getting twice as much, and the cost to the Government of making this concession would not be great. Of course, if it has been made already I apologise for wasting the time of the House in mentioning it.

Now I wish to mention briefly the efforts made to ensure complete integration between Fleet Air Arm officers and the remainder. There are two facets of the problem. First, the pilots must become qualified as seamen, and, secondly, the seamen must understand air operations sufficiently to enable them to direct them when they become more senior. I am satisfied that the new scheme ensures this, and I only mention it because it is of great significance in determining the feasibility of my own hobby horse, which is the ultimate merger between the Navy and the Air Force. Such a merger would enormously reduce the overheads and the Votes under consideration tonight.

I thought that the manner in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air dismissed this project when he wound up the defence debate was rather too casual. After all, it is not a new idea. Some of us have been thinking, writing and talking about it for seven years. It is more than two years since it was first raised in this House, and it has been supported by hon. Members on both sides. Certainly there is no question in my mind of rushing it. The only proposal that I have ever committed to paper in detail visualised a period of thirty years, which I should have thought would satisfy the most obstructive people in Whitehall. I think that my right hon. Friend was misinformed on one point. He laid great stress on the difficulty of shaking paraffin and water together, but paraffin is not the liquid supplied to the personnel either of the Navy or the Air Force. If my right hon. Friend had thought in terms of rum and gin he would have known that they mix very well with water and make an excellent beverage.

Finally, I want to refer to the number of officers and to justify the suggestion which I ventured to make in the defence debate, that the Services should reduce their officers' list by between one-third and one-half. I will take as an example the simple case of the captains' list in the Navy today. A captain spends nine years in that rank, of which it is agreed that three have to be at sea. It follows, therefore, that the total sea list of captains must not exceed three times the number of sea commands. If we assume that there are fifty sea commands, which is about true, then the sea list must not exceed 150. which leaves 100 officers for serving ashore at any given moment.

Yet the captains" list today totals about 450, so that there are another 300 captains on the non-sea-going list also available for shore commands, making 400 available all told. Yet we are informed that the necessary jobs are available for them. It is true that there are jobs of sorts, but where I part company with the Admiralty is that I cannot accept the view that all those posts are necessary. I should like to see every one of them reviewed, with the object, if possible, of eliminating it altogether or, failing that, of replacing the officer with a civilian.

I am convinced that if that course of action were pursued with resolution it could lead to the necessary reduction. Here I submit to the House that it is a cardinal principle that we should never employ officers in the Fighting Services in a job which can be performed by a civilian. I say that because not only are the officers more expensive, which is an important consideration in these days, but if we misemploy them in this way we debase the officer currency, if I may so express it. It means that the high qualities called for in officers are being put to a wrong use.

It used always to be naval policy to employ civilians wherever possible. That is how the lists of naval officers have been kept so low in the past. I am afraid that this navalisation, as it is called, is largely a disease that we have caught from the Army. Although I know that what I am about to say is tinged with controversy, I regard it none the less as a disease which is as mortal as cancer and as contagious as leprosy. We should reverse this process, and try to return to the old integrity which the Navy had at one time, of employing naval officers only in positions where no one of lesser calibre and training would do.

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