HC Deb 13 March 1958 vol 584 cc617-35

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £68,167,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the pay, &c., of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1959.

3.41 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)

There are one or two questions that we should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary on Vote 1. If he refers to page 14 of the Estimates and devotes his attention to the pay of the Women's Royal Naval Service, he might be able to answer this question. We see from the figures that while the number of officers has been falling, the number of ratings has increased. This appears to be different from what has happened in the Admiralty in the past, when, generally, the number of officers has increased in proportion to the number of ratings. It may be, in view of what the Parliamentary Secretary said during our discussion last week on Vote A, that there is a higher marriage rate among the officers of the W.R.N.S. As the hon. Gentleman has particular and personal information, perhaps he can give up an explanation.

I should like to ask one or two questions about National Service grants. Under the Vote, provision is made under the National Service Acts, 1948 and 1950, to assist personnel who find themselves in difficulty in not being able to meet their commitments. Special hardship allowances are made to enable personnel to overcome financial problems. We are not told how much is included in the sum asked for in the Vote and we wonder how much is involved. We would also like to know whether the Government have considered the increase in the cost of living over the past few years under their inefficient administration and whether this has been taken into account. If the amounts which have been given are higher than in the past, what is the proportion of the increase? How is this arrangement working?

My next question refers to the closing down of the Nore Command. During our discussion of Vote A, we devoted considerable time to what would happen to the civilian personnel, but I regret that we did not have the opportunity to say something about the Service personnel who would be affected by the closing of the Command. These men have been stationed in Chatham and district for a considerable time. They have their homes and their families there. The closing down of the Command has created fear and anxiety about their future and the future of their families.

Various problems arise. First, there is the education of the children, and secondly, the fact that these men will probably be transferred to another base. In such an event, what will happen to their families? Will they be allowed to remain in the Admiralty houses at Chatham? If so, what provision will be made for the Service personnel to visit their families? I visualise that some of the men might be transferred to Rosyth. At the moment, living as they do with their families at the base, no difficulty arises when they have leave or time off, but if they are transferred to a station elsewhere, will any added facilities be given to them to visit their families? Will they be issued with warrants for the purpose?

Another problem which arises if the men are transferred elsewhere is whether their families will be given the opportunity to get accommodation locally. Will special provision be made for this? Can the Parliamentary Secretary say what the Department has in mind for the Service personnel at Chatham, so that he may alleviate any fears or anxieties that the men may have because of the closing down of the Nore Command?

One other point on Vote 1 arises on miscellaneous allowances. Page 19 states: Provision is made for awards to officers qualifying at the Civil Service Commission examinations for interpreters. The amounts of these awards vary from £30 for French to £180 for Chinese and Japanese I do not know how many officers have already qualified for the maximum amount. It might be interesting to know how many of them are taking the opportunity to become qualified in these languages. Why are the awards limited to officers? This would be a useful provision for ratings, also. With the higher educational standards in schools today and the additional opportunities that are available, surely this scheme might be extended to enable ratings as well as officers to qualify for these awards. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will say something about this when he replies.

My only other point on Vote 1 concerns appropriations in aid and the item "Purchases of Discharge". I see that the Admiralty is expecting to receive exactly twice the amount it received last year for this item, and I should like to know the reason for its expectation. Is it that it is rather pessimistic about recruiting, rather pessimistic about the provisions that have been made about it, and rather pessimistic about keeping its recruits? Those are the points that I wanted to raise on Vote 1, but no doubt some of my hon. Friends will have other matters to mention.

3.50 p.m.

Mr. Victor Yates, Birmingham (Ladywood)

Perhaps on this Vote I might raise a matter that I put to the House when we were discussing personnel. I then mentioned the case of a 16-year-old boy who wanted to be released from the Navy, and whose application had been turned down. The First Lord was good enough to make inquiries. Today, I have received a letter from him, but I very much regret that the statement in that letter is not in accordance with the facts, and that I cannot accept his communication as a satisfactory explanation. If we are to be asked for a sum of money to pay for salaries in the Navy, I think that we should first be satisfied that they are being paid to those who want to be in the Navy, and that if a reasonable case for release is put forward it should be reasonably and carefully considered.

I ask the Minister again to consider this case. If a boy aged 16, with the consent of his parents, joins the Navy and then later finds that he has made a mistake, and his parents feel the same way, it is reasonable that his case should be most carefully considered. As I said the other night, this boy, after joining, realised that his mother was ill, but the First Lord, in communications that I have received from him, has not made any reference whatsoever to the health of the mother.

Since I spoke about this in the House, I have seen the boy's mother, and it is true that her health is unsatisfactory. She knows that her son wants to be at home. That knowledge is no help to her, and it cannot be satisfactory for the boy. As I have previously stated, this boy came to see me after he had met his officers and his captain. He came to see me in Birmingham, and the Minister's decision was made before I saw the boy. I have had two letters from him saying that he did not want to remain in the Navy, and I have had his verbal statement. He tells me that since he returned to the Service he has not been questioned. Therefore, if the First Lord says that this boy now wants to remain in the Navy, he is under a complete misapprehension.

What is the alternative? If the Minister will not accede to my plea, I can only say that there is in Vote I a heading, "Appropriations in Aid". Obviously, this boy will be forced to try to buy himself out. Worse still, he has already said, in a letter that I have seen, that he is making an allowance of 10s. a week to his widowed mother, and, of course, although it will be extremely difficult for her, she will try to put that money away until she has sufficient to buy him out of the Service.

That is unfair and unjust. This is not a case of a boy realising his mistake at once, but over and after a number of months. It is only a little over a fortnight since he made his last statement to me, and I cannot accept the letter I have today received in which the Admiralty refers to an interview that the boy's commanding officer had with him last month. The commanding officer says that: He said he was not happy, not because of an inherent dislike of naval life, but because he was away from home; he worried about his mother, and his mother worried about him. I told him that having received the welfare report there was insufficient grounds for me to recommend a compassionate discharge. I therefore advised him that if he was to stay in the Navy, then the best way he could help his family was to do as well as he could, and not to exaggerate his difficulties here, and thus cause his mother needless anxiety; this he promised to do. I say that he did not promise. Even as late as last weekend, his mother had received a letter from him saying that he was waiting to hear if he was to be released.

I submit that this is a case for consideration on compassionate grounds. The mother submitted a doctor's certificate about her own condition. Why should the First Lord decline to consider that point? It is very material. I did not write to the boy in the first place. His mother wrote to me, and I wrote to the son to say that I was putting the matter to the First Lord. I would not have pleaded his case had I believed that he really wanted to remain in the Service. I assure the Minister that I am not making this appeal because I want the boy to come out from the Navy. What I say is that the boy himself has a right to change his mind, and to have his case considered.

I wrote to the boy, as I say, and he was questioned about my letter. If the Minister denies that, he can go into the question of inquiries about the House of Commons postmark on the letter. I am prepared to go with the officers concerned, and with the Minister. to investigate. If a boy feels that he has made a mistake in joining, and if the mother feels that she has made a mistake in giving her consent for him to join, it is a disgrace if he cannot be released unless the mother considerably impoverishes herself. She has no help whatever. Although not really well enough, she goes out to work. I plead with the First Lord to reconsider this matter. If necessary, I will supply him with all the details I can obtain and will go to Gosport—where the boy is—with him, because this is something that should be investigated.

4.0 p.m.

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

I certainly do not intend to pursue the merits of the case which has been pressed at some length in two debates now by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates). Indeed, I am not at all sure that these personal cases can appropriately be dealt with in any great detail in this Committee. What he said, however, leads me to repeat a suggestion I have made before which has a direct bearing on this Vote. Will my hon. Friend give serious consideration to changing the procedure whereby these appeals for compassionate release from the Services are heard?

I have never been able to understand why the Service Departments wish to settle them by administrative action. We have tribunals which consider, shall we say, the case of conscientious objectors and similar cases with regard to entry of men on to this Vote. Why cannot the work of those tribunals be extended to men already serving, thus obviating the necessity for the Crown to be, or anyhow to appear to be, judge in its own cause?

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

It is a good suggestion.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I notice that the right hon. Gentleman agrees and says that it is a good suggestion, but I am bound to say that, although I have put it forward when speaking on a number of occasions, I have never succeeded in having it agreed to. I think that it would save the time of the Committee and of the House in dealing with cases of this nature if a reform like that were introduced.

There are two other matters to which I wish to refer on this Vote. One of the most striking features is the big percentage increase, under Subhead E, that is to say, marriage allowances. I presume that the big increase arises as a result of the higher rates of marriage allowance, and not because the Admiralty expects a higher proportion of personnel to become married in the coming financial year, although, no doubt, the increase in the rates will have that effect as well. I still consider that my hon. Friend would do well to look into the question whether the marriage allowance as paid unconditionally to very young ratings is too high in relation to the basic pay.

It is a striking fact that the proportion of males aged about 21 who are married is higher in the Services than it is in civil life. When one considers that a young man serving in the Armed Forces is really better off if he does not marry, at any rate, until he is 23 or 24, it seems open to question whether the present policy is wise. I should like my hon. Friend to consider whether something should be done by way of incentive to the man who marries later on, whether, perhaps, a higher rate might be paid to the man who draws it for a shorter time through being married for a shorter period of his service.

The other point to which I should like to draw attention has been raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele), who opened the debate for the Opposition. He asked what is to happen to the families of men of the Nore Command when that Command closes? I must say that I feel in some difficulty, because I am not sure that this is not really a question of the disposal of the married quarters. However, there is a tenuous connection with the Vote, because, if the families are moved from their married quarters, they will come on to a higher rate of marriage allowance.

On that basis, I venture to suggest that, although the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is, I am sure, inspired by the best intentions, it would, I believe, raise a very dangerous precedent if furnished married quarters were to be supplied to the families of men at places remote from where they may be serving. That would be quite a new principle.

Mr. Steele

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but the point I was making was that the Admiralty is closing down the Nore Command, and the families will be left there after the men have been posted to another station. How long will they be expected to remain there? Will the Admiralty be selling the houses? Perhaps I did not put it completely, but I did not want to catch the disapproving eye of the Chair too quickly in this matter; it was just the general problem that I was raising.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I agree that it is an interesting problem. I merely repeat that I think it would be a rather dangerous precedent to establish the idea of providing, on this Vote or on any other, married quarters for men remote from where they happen to be serving. If they were disposed of, I should have thought that something more on the lines of disposing of them on easy terms to the occupants at the time of the move would, perhaps, be more attractive and more fruitful.

4.5 p.m.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu (Huddersfield, East)

One point I wish to raise has a tenuous connection with the Vote, Subhead A, "Pay of Officers". In the recent debate on the Navy Estimates, I asked the Financial Secretary whether he would give me some information about facilities for promotion from the lower deck. He very kindly sent me a letter giving me some information, but I should like to ask for a few more details and figures. Can he tell us what is the proportion of serving officers at present who have gained promotion from the lower deck? Could he give me a comparison of the latest figure with, say, the figure in 1949 or 1950 or some convenient date at about that time, so that we may see whether the proportion is increasing or not?

This is obviously a very important matter. If I may say so, naval officers on the whole are excellent, but I feel that, if the source from which they are derived is broadened, they may become even more excellent. I am absolutely certain that, if the opportunities for promotion from the lower deck are extended, the Navy will become an even more attractive Service for recruits.

4.7 p.m.

Mr. John Baldock (Harborough)

I wish to draw attention to the education allowances. Each one of us in this Committee feels that the fewest possible financial penalties should rest on married officers and men in the Services resulting from the fact that they are liable to have to move about. Obviously, in equity, they should not be penalised financially as against a civilian who can remain in one place for some time, if not indefinitely. Also, as a disincentive to recruitment, it is a factor of some importance. Under Subhead L, "Education Allowances", we are told that these are payable in respect of children between the ages of 11 and 18 years". Might not the starting age be lowered a little so that the allowance would be paid sooner?

We are further told that personnel are eligible for the allowance when they are serving abroad—that is obvious—and, also, those who are subject to frequent changes of station in the United Kingdom are eligible. I feel that that definition should be very generously interpreted, because even one change of station can have exactly the result to which I have referred, causing a great deal of inconvenience and financial handicap. I cannot see why only those who are subject to frequent changes of station should be eligible, and I hope that this provision is generously interpreted.

4.9 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I have a question to put on Subhead H. We are told in the fourth paragraph of the Explanatory Notes, "Miscellaneous Allowances" that Provision is made for awards to officers qualifying at the Civil Service Commission Examinations for Interpreters and that the amounts of their awards vary from £30 for French to £180 for Chinese and Japanese.

I should like to know whether these provisions apply to men as well as to officers. Further, I should like to know why the figures for officers who wish to study Russian are omitted. If it is £30 for French and £180 for Chinese and Japanese, where do the people who wish to study Russian come in? I understand, from our debates, that the main potential enemy is not the Chinese but the Russians, yet we are told nothing about awards given to people who wish to study Russian.

I attach importance to this matter, because I believe that the more officers in the Navy study Russian the better they will learn to read the Russian newspapers. Perhaps these figures have been omitted for a mysterious reason. It may be that the Admiralty takes the view that learning Russian is bad for their morale. I can understand that view, because if some of these officers learn to read Russian they will read the Russian Navy's official organ, "Red Fleet", which is a most tendentious paper.

Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)

That would not be of much use to them.

Mr. Hughes

I would like to know why there is no mention of the awards that are being given to people studying Russian, when the whole object of the Navy Estimates is to be prepared to fight the Russians. What does an officer who is studious enough to learn Russian receive? It may be that the danger is that by reading the "Red Fleet" he may acquire some knowledge of Marxist-Leninism or some other theoretical aspect of Communism. That would be the very opposite effect from that which the Admiralty would desire. It might destroy their morale.

Mr. Edwards

Why not give them "Comic Cuts" to read?

Mr. Hughes

There are a number of both officers and men who can and do read "Comic Cuts".

I want to know why the Russians have been omitted and exactly what award students who do acquire a knowledge of Russian get. Is it between £30 and £180 for the Chinese? Why are the Chinese singled out? In all of our debates I have never heard anything about the Chinese Navy being a menace. I assume that there is a reason why the students should be encouraged to read Chinese and Japanese. I would like to know from the Minister how many officers have acquired a knowledge of Russian and exactly what payment they receive as a result.

Mr. Baldock

Might I ask the hon. Gentleman whether the article in the "Red Fleet", which said that the Sea Cadet Corps was used by the Government for political indoctrination—

The Chairman


4.12 p.m

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

My hon. Friends have raised a number of points and I have no wish to stand between them and the Parliamentary Secretary; but I would like to ask one or two questions which have not been raised.

My first point concerns the Nore Command. I agree that something should be said concerning the Service personnel to be affected by the closing of the Nore Command. Undoubtedly, there is a great deal of concern about this matter, and anything that the hon. Gentleman can say would be helpful in allaying that concern.

For a number of years we have been concerned, on both sides of the Committee, with the increasing number of naval officers, particularly high ranking officers, and the failure of the Admiralty to get rid of many of them. I would like to know whether the closing of the Nore Command will enable us to do this. It seems to me that with the closing of the Nore Command at least some of the higher-ranking officers ought to be dispensed with. We probably still require most of the officers, but I should have thought that we would require fewer officers if the Command is closed.

My second point relates to the rates of pay published in Cmd. 365. It has become the general practice in the Services, when considering rates of pay, to give overall, I was about to say, flat-rate increases. They are flat-rate increases to certain branches and ratings which correspond to the ranks in the Army. I wonder whether this is the best way of dealing with questions of pay. This is a big question. The Labour Government introduced the principle of uniformity for all the Services—the equating of certain ranks in the Navy with certain ranks in the Army and Air Force.

There is undoubtedly a great deal to be said for this proposition. But it leads to a certain number of difficulties. For instance, at present, in each Service there are particular branches for which we cannot recruit men. Whenever we cannot get recruits, the solution of the Government is to give an overall increase in pay. The experience in the past has been that this does not solve the problem of the branches in which there is a shortage of men. The Government should look at this matter. The answer might rest in the structure, which is being inquired into at present.

I raise the point because it ought to be looked at in connection with the classification structure of the lower deck in the Navy, and changes should be made accordingly. We are getting to a situation where, unnecessarily I think, we tackle this problem in an overall manner instead of in an individual manner in an attempt to deal with difficulties that are exceedingly acute. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that when the Admiralty considers the question of the classification of the lower deck and the ratings structure attention ought to be paid to this problem. We ought to ask ourselves whether our method of tackling the question of pay is the right one.

4.18 p.m.

The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Robert Allan)

Perhaps the Committee would not mind if, first, I answered the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates), as he has told me that he has to attend a Committee. He asked me whether I would say a word about the problem that he raised. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) was right in saying that it is very difficult to deal with these matters in debate across the Floor of the House. In general, in these compassionate cases—most of which come to me and in which a great many hon. Members on both sides are involved—there is the utmost sympathy shown by the Admiralty in its examination of them. But we have to lay down hard and fast rules on compassionate discharges. In other words, there has to be a very real compassionate reason why a man should be discharged after having taken on an obligation in signing on.

The domestic circumstances of this boy, Castello, despite what the hon. Gentleman says—and I understand his feelings in the matter—did not match up to the standards which permit us to give a compassionate discharge. Part of the trouble, I think—it happens in many cases, particularly of young boys—is that the influence works both ways. He appears to be unhappy and his home life and family push him the other way and he builds up a sense of friction and grievance which is not often there, and it is magnified.

It would be best if the hon. Gentleman would come to see me privately, when I will talk it over with him in my office and try to persuade him that this matter has been considered with the utmost sympathy and that the boy, if he would settle down, has a good career in front of him. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will get in touch with me so that we can talk about this case privately.

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) raised a number of points. Perhaps it would be convenient if I went through, in order, the questions that he raised.

I was asked about the officer-rating ratio in the W.R.N.S. by comparison with that in the Service generally. The point about the W.R.N.S. is that many services are provided for them. I hope that in such a matter all of us are both honourable and gallant and that we are glad that they are looked after so well. For instance, they do not have a planning organisation of their own, they do not have a hydrographer, and they do not have a number of other specialist organisations which exist in the Admiralty and which make provisions for the Service generally. The W.R.N.S. tag along, too.

It is, therefore, not fair to compare the officer-rating ratio in the W.R.N.S., which is 77 per 1,000, with the officer-rating ratio in the Service generally, which is 118 per 1,000. We plan by 1963 to bring that ratio down to 111, which, I hope, will satisfy the hon. Member that we are aware of the position and are doing our best to try to achieve a better balance.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) asked about admirals. Admirals provide a very good cock-shy. I suspected that this question would be asked and investigated the matter in some detail. It is a complicated problem, but I played a game rather like "Hunt the Admirals" and went through the list with considerable care to see how the admirals are posted.

The hon. Member mentioned that we are estimating for 81 admirals in the general list this year, but, in fact, we shall have only 79. Of those 79, 17 are specialists, either engineers, supply, secretariat or electrical. That leaves 62 to be accounted for in the general list. Of these, seven are in full-time N.A.T.O. or other allied jobs. That reduces the figure to 55. Of the 55, 12 are seagoing admirals in command.

Next, there are 24 admirals in more or less traditional posts, in which I include the commanders-in-chief in the home ports, Flag Officer, Scotland, and so on. We have flag officers in Malta and Gibraltar and other places, there is a Flag Officer, Submarines, a Flag Officer, Air and a Flag Officer, Air Training. In addition, there is a Flag Officer, Greenwich, and a flag officer at the Imperial Defence College. I have previously mentioned the hydrographer and D.N.I. All these 24 are traditional posts for admirals.

This makes 36, which leaves 19 of the 55 still to be accounted for. Here we come to the personnel, staff and weapons side, and also to the documents side. There are 12 admirals to be found in these categories. This leaves seven, who are usually either working on special committees or are on their way to take up new appointments or on leave or sick; they are in the pipeline.

We intend to continue to reduce the number of flag officers and we hope that by January, 1959, there will be 10 or 12 fewer admirals than in January, 1958. The question of the Nore Command is also involved here because that post will be abolished and will not be replaced. The command in the North Channel of the N.A.T.O. element will be given to some other admiral but a special post will not be created to fill it.

Mr. Willis

I take it that the same opportunities will be available for technical branches to reach the highest ranks of the Service as are available to the general branch. It is important that that should be the case.

Mr. Allan

The number of specialist admirals is likely to increase.

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West asked about National Service grants and how much of Subhead E, Vote I, was devoted to these grants. He asked whether cost-of-living increases were included in them. These grants are made by an inter-Service committee. The basis on which they are made is that the man's family standards should not fall below a certain level. In general, the intention is to see that his standards are maintained at the level at which they stood when he joined the Service. The payments alter when the family conditions alter. If another child is born while a National Service man is in the Service, the National Service grant may well be increased. These grants apply in nearly all cases to married men and, since the majority of the National Service men in the Navy are not married, the numbers concerned are relatively small.

Of the sum in Subhead E, £25,000 is allocated to National Service grants. That is the same amount as was allocated in the previous year, but the number of National Service men in the Service has almost halved, from nearly 8,000 to just over 4,000. We thus have a fairly substantial over-provision in case there is need to increase the grants.

Several questions have been asked about the Nore Command. They were asked by the hon. Members for Dunbartonshire, West and Edinburgh, East and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East. The problem when we shut down a home depôt now is not as great as it was, because we have central drafts. The old idea of a depôt has rather disappeared, because central drafting has altered the position considerably.

We have kept two connections with the depots. The first is the selected depot. The value of the selected depot is from the point of view of the family welfare organisation. It will not be possible for existing Chatham ratings to opt for Chatham as their selected depôt after the autumn of 1960, but the family welfare service will remain there until it is no longer required. The other connection with the depôt is what we call the preference depôt. If a man is coming home or is ending a general service commission and is due for a spell of short leave, he can indicate a preference to be drafted to a certain area because he has personal connections there.

Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)

Thank you very much. I just wondered whether the welfare services which are to remain at Chatham will be given some extra power and will not have to work within their present limited regulations.

Mr. Allan

I do not think that extra power will be necessary, but, if it is, then we shall certainly consider it.

I was mentioning the question of the drafting preference. Ratings can still choose, and are, in fact, now choosing, Chatham. They will be able to continue to do so for quite a while if they wish, but the number of shore billets will he very greatly reduced, and it will not be possible to draft people in accordance with their drafting preference to any great extent. It is not intended to give up the naval married quarters in the Chatham area until the demand for them ceases. The houses which we are building in certain areas will be completed.

What we shall ultimately do with them is still under consideration, but certainly for a period, and for quite a long period, families will be allowed to stay in the married quarters at Chatham, even though the husbands have been drafted elsewhere. I would see no objection, despite what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East said, to keeping a number of married quarters permanently in the Chatham area, even though the members of the Service may be serving in other places. We are relatively short of married quarters and will quite gladly have this general addition to the pool.

Mr. W. Edwards

I gather that the hon. Gentleman was saying that the married quarters which are being built in Chatham for the personnel in Chatham barracks, and the programme for Chatham barracks, are still to be completed. There is, of course, a programme for Portsmouth barracks and for Devonport barracks. Does he say that when naval personnel who have lived in the Chatham barracks in due course go to Portsmouth or Devonport their married quarters will remain at Chatham, and that though a man may be stationed at Devonport he will have to travel to Chatham to go to the married quarters there?

Mr. Allan

No, but they would probably prefer to have married quarters at Chatham than nowhere. That is the point. I was not saying that the whole scheme in the Chatham area would be completed, but only those houses which are under construction. The married quarters programme will, of course, continue in other places, but the Navy will be very glad to have a little pool of married quarters which can be made available in various circumstances.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dunbartonshire, West asked about interpreters, and so did the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). The latter, surprisingly enough, did not seem to think that there was any good will in learning languages; he seemed to think that we were encouraging learning these languages in order to be hostile to people. There is a good deal of friendship to be gained from speaking a man's language, and it is not only in terms of ill will that this is encouraged, as he seemed to suggest.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

No, no.

Mr. Allan

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dunbartonshire, West asked how many officers qualified for the top rate, which is for Chinese and Japanese. I understand that there are four officers at present serving who qualify for the top rate. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Ayrshire asked me about Russian. In the Vote we have merely indicated examples of the minimum scale and the top scale. The Russian language can, of course, be learnt, and interpreters are paid £90. I do not know quite how that figure was arrived at, but that is the figure, and we apparently have 10 first-class Russian interpreters.

Mr. Hughes

That is a very small amount for anyone studious enough to acquire Russian.

Mr. Allan

I should have thought it was about right in relation to Chinese and Japanese. We have, as I was saying, 10 first-class Russian interpreters, and 34 second-class.

Mr. Steele

Will the hon. Gentleman not ask my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) to take on a temporary position as interpreter? He is a fluent speaker of Russian himself.

Mr. Allan

I do not know whether he would qualify for the £90.

Both hon. Gentlemen asked me why this was paid to officers and not to ratings. The point is that we, unlike the other Services, do not, in fact, have ratings living in the countries concerned, and most of the naval requirements are for intelligence, attache and N.A.T.O. appointments, which are, by and large, filled only by officers.

Another point is that the other Services employ uniformed personnel in their attache and intelligence offices, whereas we in the Navy employ civilians. There is, therefore, really no requirement for ratings to qualify as interpreters, but there is certainly nothing to stop them learning these languages if they wish to do so. We do not, I am sorry to say, encourage it.

A question was also asked about the purchase of discharges. The fact is that we have increased, by an inter-Service agreement, the price, and we do not expect any greater number of purchases of discharge than we had last year. I think that that answers all the questions put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dunbartonshire, West.

In connection with the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lady-wood, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East suggested that tribunals might consider these cases of compassionate discharge. There is a good deal to be said for that and I am, oddly enough, already in the process of investigating this problem to see what can be done. I am grateful for my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion, which seems, from what he said, to have been in a pigeon-hole for some time. We will take it out, dust it and have a look at it.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman also mentioned marriage allowances. The amount for this has increased, as he rightly surmised, because of a larger allowance rather than because of a larger marriage expectancy.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) asked about promotion from the lower deck. About 25 per cent. of the general list officers in the Navy come from the S.D. list. I am told that in 1949 the percentage was 18, so that there has been an increase. It is the policy to increase that still further. At present, we have an intake of about 140 per annum from the S.D. list, and this will continue at around that figure for some time, but will increase when the rundown is coming to its end and is completed to 180 a year.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu

What would that be in percentage?

Mr. Allan

It is impossible to give the percentage because of the wastage of those who come in by other schemes, but, obviously, after the next five years the proportion of lower deck promotions will go higher than 25 per cent. I should not like to set a target, or to say what it will be. While on the subject of lower deck promotion, I should like to say that there is a new scheme, the details of which we hope to announce shortly, for upper yardmen promotion.

This we hope we start in 1959, although I hope that the details will be announced within a month or two. I think that this will be of tremendous benefit and an improvement on the existing interim upper yardmen scheme. Broadly, the intention is to make them almost parallel and bring them in line with the cadet entry through Dartmouth. This again, as it comes on, will increase the percentage of lower deck promotions. The figures I have just given refer only to special duty men, not to upper yardmen.

Mr. Willis

Has there been any increase in the upper yardmen scheme during the last year?

Mr. Allan

Last year there was an increase of seven in the numbers of the upper yard men.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Baldock) asked about education classes. This is very often considered and is being looked at sympathetically. At present, I am not able to answer the point he raised, but I will look into it and get in touch with him about it. I am grateful to him for making the suggestion.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £68,167,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the pay, &c. of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1959.