HC Deb 10 July 1957 vol 573 cc373-4
38. Mr. Bottomley

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty for what reason nine new rear-admirals have been appointed.

Mr. Soames

The nine promotions to rear-admiral just announced are required to fill vacancies due to retirement. There are four fewer officers of flag rank on the active list today than there were in July last year, and at least ten will be retiring during the rest of the year.

The rundown of the Navy's total Vote A strength will of course include a considerable further reduction in officers of flag rank.

Mr. Bottomley

Even this rate of retirement is not good enough. Is it not a fact that in 1939, when we were entering a major world war, we had twenty fewer flag officers than we have today, and that in 1951, when another world war was threatened, we still had eight fewer flag officers than we have today? The Parliamentary Secretary must look at the matter again and ensure that there is not promotion but pruning.

Mr. Soames

Generally speaking, there are three major factors which have brought about the increase in the number of officers of flag rank in the Royal Navy. One is the posts which we have to fill in N.A.T.O. The second one—this relates to the comparison with the pre-war figur4 —is the transfer to the Navy itself of the responsibility for the Fleet Air Arm. The third is the considerable increase in the technical aspects of the Navy and the considerable increase in the branches concerned.

Mr. Shinwell

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the reduction in flag officers is in proportion to the reduction in ratings, and if not, why not?

Mr. Soames

I think I can fairly say that during the course of the run down to the planned Vote A strength the reduction in flag officers will at least be in proportion.

Mr. Lipton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we seem to have enough admirals to sink a battleship if they all got on board together? Has not the time come for the Admiralty to set a real example and cut down on Government expenditure with a view to counteracting the galloping inflation with which we are now afflicted.

Mr. Soames

I know that my noble Friend will pay due attention to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman.