§ VOTE A. NUMBERS
Motion made and Question proposed,
That 102,000 Officers, Seamen and Juniors and Royal Marines, who are borne on the books of Her Majesty's Ships and at the Royal Marine establishments, and members of the Women's Royal Naval Service and Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, be employed for the Sea Service, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1961.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)
Before I come to the Navy Estimates for 1960–61, I should mention the Supplementary Estimate required for the current year. I am glad to say that this is for a token amount of only £10. An explanation as been published in the usual way, and all I want to say is this. For the two previous years we had to ask for fairly large supplementary Estimates; and last year I spoke of the measures that we were taking to improve our control of production expenditure. It is in the production Vote that expenditure largely exists. Although I would not claim that we had solved all our difficulties, these measures are having some success—as our need for only a token £10 shows.
I have seen a good deal of comment, more, I must admit, in the newspapers than in Parliament, concerning the load which the defence budget is putting on the economy. The amount spent on the Service Estimates depends on three factors: the nature of the threat, the strength of the friends and allies who share our task, and, thirdly, the resilience of the economy.
My right hon. Friend, when he opened the defence debate, showed clearly that defence is placing a reducing load on our economy. The proportion of the gross national product which is steadily from the peak it reached in being spent on defence has fallen 40 1952–53. Over the same period, the Navy's share of the defence budget has remained roughly constant at about 25 per cent., so that the Navy is taking about 2 per cent. of the gross national product.
For the next financial year, we are asking for a total net grant of £397.5 million. This is nearly £27 million more than the grant for the present year. About a third of this increase is due to our having to provide more for naval and civilian pay and pensions. As a result, out of the gross Estimates we shall be spending about 40 per cent. on our naval and civilian personnel. I notice that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air said, when opening the debate on the Air Estimates, that this item represented 41 per cent. of expenditure in that Service, so we are roughly comparable. This is nearly £5 million more than last year, and it is being spent on fewer people.
We shall also be spending substantially more on the material side. Page 4 of the printed Estimates shows that the gross estimate of what we shall be spending, under Vote 8, Section III on naval production by contract is more than £121 million. This is over £12 million more than last year's total. The net estimate for new ships, aircraft and associated equipment amounts to just over £100 million—about £9 million more in real terms than in the present year. These figures are unmistakable evidence that our production drive is increasing, and that our plans for modernising and re-quipping the fleet are producing the goods.
Our warship programme is also making, at a time when it is most needed, a very useful contribution to the shipbuilding industry. Although I would not want to exaggerate its benefits in terms of jobs in the shipyards, the facts are that Admiralty work is spread over 46 firms in all the main shipbuilding areas, and that the total value of our present orders is nearly £200 million.
I should like to make an announcement here about the contract arrangements for our new ships. Before the last war, competitive tendering was standard practice for all classes of warships, even battleships. In the war, the practice had to give way to arrangements which made the maximum use of all 41 available building capacity. Subsequently—with the shipbuilding industry at full stretch, and commercial orders, specially export orders, getting priority—we have used, for the most part, a system of negotiation with the shipbuilders, both for placing orders and for fixing prices.
For some time, however, orders for small craft such as ships' boats and L.C.A.s and, more recently, tugs, have been placed by means of competitive tendering. From now on, we are reckoning to restore this actice for the larger warships, such as frigates and destroyers. In doing so, the main considerations will be price and delivery dates; but we shall, naturally, take into account the employment factor. We are confident that the effect will be to encourage the building of our ships as quickly, and that means as economically as possible, and we are confident that the shipbuilders will respond to the challenge that this healthy competition will provide.
My noble Friend has tried, in this year's Explanatory Statement, to give as much information as possible, and to present it in as striking a manner as possible. The Statement shows that the Navy is continuing to protect British interests, show the flag, and collaborate with Commonwealth and allied navies all over the world. This is the traditional rôle of the fleet, and it makes a significant contribution to the maintenance of peace.
Before I come to examine the progress we have made in re-equipping the Navy, I should like to say a word about the size and quality of the fleet. This year, we have 147 ships in the operational fleet, and a further 42 ships engaged on trials or training. Of course, we cannot match in size the navies of the economic giants—the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.— but we are the third biggest Navy in the world, and a growing proportion of our ships are new and of high quality. Of the 1960 fleet, all the carriers, two of the five cruisers, 22 of the 34 frigates, and all 37 minesweepers, have come into service since 1950. In addition, among ships on trials and training or in operational reserve, 140 minesweepers, 30 coastal craft, and 12 destroyers or frigates were also completed during the last ten years.
42 There is a higher proportion of small ships than in the past, but the capability of individual ships is much greater and, in some instances, very much greater. This is also something which we have brought out in this year's Explanatory Statement with the chart. It is our continuing policy to replace our older ships with new, better equipped and more powerful ships, though I can assure the Committee that we do not cast off any ships on grounds of age or obsolescence alone so long as they can continue to serve a useful purpose in the Navy. As I recently told the House, the total tonnage we are now launching is above the annual average of the post-war years; and the total of 25,500 tons for 1959 is more than 7,000 tons better than the average for the last five years.
But it would be wrong to think that our total naval strength alone could match the Soviet Navy. Much is being made of the threat which 500 submarines pose to the supply lines of this country and Western Europe. Our efforts are directed to countering this, not single-handed, but with the dozen other N.A.T.O. navies. That is why my noble Friend has this year, on page 22 of the Statement, put more fully than before some details of the extensive exercises which we have undertaken with our N.A.T.O. allies.
The anti-submarine field is one in which Britain plays a unique part because her experience is unique. Here is a sphere where interdependence can, and simply must, be a reality. I hope to visit soon the N.A.T.O. Anti-submarine Warfare Research Centre at La Spezia, which opened last year. It concentrates on basic and applied research, as distinct from development and has made a promising start on tackling a number of the problems of anti-submarine warfare. Close and continuous collaboration of this kind—at the planning level, in exercises, and in research and development— is essential to N.A.T.O. if this vital alliance is to remain strong.
Because the N.A.T.O. shield is effective, it is not surprising that the Soviet Union are deploying considerable effort on strengthening some of the countries on N.A.T.O.'s flank. Their policy has been to provide Soviet instructors, Soviet technicians, and Soviet armaments to their satellites and to their friends. This process is continuing in the naval 43 sphere. Nine Soviet submarines are now working with the United Arab Republic under President Nasser's control, and Egyptian crews have been trained.
The number of Soviet submarines based in Albania has increased. There are now eight there, and their ship-borne support has been strengthened by a modern submarine tender which was recently seen sailing into the Mediterranean past Gibraltar. I am not surprised at this. What I find a little surprising is that there has been so little criticism of this further example of Soviet bases overseas.
Now let me turn to our own submarines. They have several tasks today of the greatest importance. They are warships of attack and defence, and they are essential to the fleet for training our anti-submarine forces. Submarine philosophy is more and more turning towards their use in the anti-submarine rô1e; and this is likely to grow in importance as nuclear submarines come into general use.
We launched five submarines last year; they totalled 8,000 tons—a figure exceeded only once, except in the war, during the last forty years. The quality of our "Porpoise" and "Oberon" Classes as conventional submarines, is second to none. Five of the "Porpoise" Class are with the fleet; two more are expected to complete next year; and two of the "Oberon" Class have been launched. These submarines are most effective warships, with a capacity for silent stalking which has shown up well in recent exercises, even against nuclear submarines from the U.S.A.
Conventional submarines have a further asset in relation to nuclear submarines; they are very much cheaper. One can build about half a dozen conventional submarines for the capital cost of one nuclear submarine. Their running cost is about a seventh of a nuclear submarine's. Their refits will be much less expensive, though exact figures of comparison are not at present available. Of course, the nuclear submarine, with its high speed and underwater endurance, has an immeasurably greater all-round capability; but finance and other factors point to a policy of having some nuclear and some conventional submarines for many years to come. No fewer than 11 44 "Porpoise" and "Oberon" submarines are now building.
I now come to one of our more exciting projects: the "Dreadnought." The deliveries of machinery to this country from the U.S.A. have begun, and we are getting all the information we want. Staff from the Admiralty, and our own contractors, have had courses in reactor technology in the U.S.A. Officers and ratings selected to serve in the "Dreadnought" have been having training in nuclear technology at Greenwich and Portsmouth, and in operational techniques in U.S. submarines; and I hear that they have been showing up pretty well.
The electrical officer designate for the "Dreadnought" and two chief petty officers have just made a submerged crossing of the Atlantic in the U.S. nuclear submarine "Skate," which arrived at Portland last week. We shall have the first party ready to stand by the "Dreadnought" as soon as she is launched. Although we have met difficulties in the use of some techniques in hull construction which are being used for the first time, we plan to launch the "Dreadnought" in the autumn, and this will meet the programme.
As the Committee will already know, fortified by the experience we are gaining from the "Dreadnought", we plan to order this year a second nuclear submarine which will be British made. To remove any possible misunderstanding, I should like to emphasise that, like the "Dreadnought", she will be equipped to hunt and kill enemy submarines and surface warships; and she also will be designed to carry an asdic that can detect at much greater ranges than those at present fitted in our conventional submarines. She will not carry ballistic missiles—I wish to underline this—and could not be converted to do so. Ballistic missile submarines are of a different size and design.
To take the U.S. Navy, the "George Washington", their first Polaris submarine, has a displacement of something under 6,000 tons. The "Skipjack"—to which the "Dreadnought" can be compared—is a little over 3,000 tons. Both these types are, of course, nuclear propelled, but the missile-carrying submarine is twice the size—and, incidentally, about twice the cost.
45 I should say that we have very full information about the U.S. Navy's progress with "Polaris" and we are in continuous touch with them. "Polaris" has already reached the stage of exhaustive trials by the U.S. Navy, and the First Sea Lord had a detailed tour of the "George Washington" when he visited America last November.
Our second nuclear submarine will be British made. Its hull will be broadly of the same Admiralty design as the "Dreadnought's". Its reactor core will be made in this country, and its machinery will be of British design and manufacture, after the pattern of the shore prototype now being installed in the Admiralty Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay.
This is why we are pressing ahead as fast as we can at Dounreay. The prototype is urgently required for testing the British reactor design and the components of the British-made machinery. It will also be essential for training our submarine crews and others in nuclear propulsion techniques.
I should perhaps stress, in passing, that submarines are not the end of our interest in nuclear propulsion. Although the sponsorship of merchant shipbuilding has now passed to the Ministry of Transport, we continue to take a close interest in the possibilities of applying nuclear propulsion more widely.
To turn to surface ships, next year we shall have over 50 frigates in commission, of which more than half will be less than five years old. These are efficient ships, whether employed as policemen on the beat or showing the flag or on fleet escort duty. The Type 12 "Whitby" class anti-submarine frigates are proving particularly successful. Ten of these will be in service in 1960, and we have decided to exploit their good qualities in an improved and more versatile ship.
This improved Type 12 will be known as the "Leander" class. The hull and steam turbine machinery will be substantially the same as for the "Whitbys". The main new features planned are a long-range air warning radar, the "Seacat" anti-aircraft guided missile, improved anti-submarine detection equipment and a light-weight helicopter armed with homing torpedoes. We shall also introduce air conditioning and better living conditions. As far as 46 possible, these improvements will be extended, during refits, to the "Whitbys" now in service as well as to those still building. In all, we have some 17 frigates under construction for ourselves and eight more for Commonwealth countries.
This brings me to the Commonwealth. We have had a particularly good year for naval co-operation within the Commonwealth. Last August I spent a week visiting ships which were taking part in the Commonwealth manoeuvres —Exercise Jet. This involved the navies of Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, and with the largest contribution coming from Britain. At the start of the exercise, we assembled at Karachi. Never, not even in wartime, have so many warships been seen in Karachi Harbour. As we steamed down the west coast of the Indian subcontinent, it was a stirring sight to see nearly 50 warships working and exercising together.
Each day I transferred by jackstay— quite a stimulating experience, even in a relatively calm sea—to visit two or three different ships. One cannot help being struck by the tremendous progress which the Commonwealth navies are showing. Every year now they are growing in strength, experience and efficiency. There is a common bond between seamen all over the world. There is a much stronger bond between navies of the Commonwealth. The officers speak the same language, use the same expressions, enjoy the same jokes—salty ones—and share the same naval traditions. This is only to be expected since the great majority of them were educated and brought up at Dartmouth.
We have another task with the youngest Commonwealth countries. Last year Ghana established the nucleus of a navy with two of our new inshore minesweepers and some of our officers and ratings to help them with training. The Royal Nigerian Navy has now taken over an Algerine minesweeper and a seaward defence motor launch and is planning to add other vessels. This process of technical assistance and training is continuous, and with older Commonwealth countries it is certainly not all one way. I believe that the close relationship which is being increasingly developed with the twelve navies of the Commonwealth is one of the most important activities of the Royal Navy in peacetime.
47 Twenty years ago the Commonwealth navies, other than the Royal Navy, amounted to only four cruisers, 14 escort vessels, and a few smaller ships. Now, in escorts alone, they have nearly 100 between them. Since the last war some 70 warships and 30 miscellaneous craft have been transferred from the Royal Navy to Commonwealth and Colonial navies. Nor should we forget that these navies have modern warships designed by the Admiralty, ordered by them and built in British yards. The Commonwealth countries are all sovereign and independent, but should the occasion arise where our common traditions and freedom were threatened, then the close bonds between the Commonwealth navies might well stand us all in very good stead.
To return to our own ships: there are now four guided missile ships of the new "County" class being built—on the Mersey and the Clyde, and the last two have just been laid down on the Tyne, and in Northern Ireland. We expect to spend about £12½ million on them in the coming year. It is planned that the "Devonshire" will be launched at Birkenhead in June. That is the first. These four ships will be fitted with the Seaslug missile, for which a production order has now been placed. The development of the close-range guided missile Seacat is also going well and ships are being fitted to take it. We are particularly glad that Sweden has placed an order for the Seacat system and missile in order to evaluate this British replacement for their own very famous Bofors gun.
To turn to aircraft carriers, the accent is also on first-class equipment. H.M.S. "Hermes", which commissioned last November, is one of our smaller carriers. When I visited her last month I was very struck by the skill in design and construction that enables her not only to operate the latest generation of aircraft—the Scimitars, and the new Sea Vixen squadrons—but also to provide the most up-to-date living accommodation.
She shares with the "Victorious" the distinction of having what is at present the finest air defence equipment in the world; and this was splendidly tested last July during an exercise with the U.S. Navy, Exercise Rip Tide, off the coast of Virginia. Over 90 per cent. of some 48 150 aircraft dummy attacks on her were intercepted by fighters directed by the "Victorious", and our American friends could not have been more generous in acknowledging the outstanding success of the 984 radar and comprehensive display system which goes with it, which have proved to be a triumph of electronic ingenuity. I was associated with radar for about twenty-one years of my life and I can say without doubt that these two equipments are absolutely outstanding in their way and a great credit to the British electronics industry and naval design.
The introduction of new types of aircraft is going ahead steadily. The first Sea Vixen squadron, which formed in July, 1959, embarked in the "Ark Royal" last week. The second squadron formed five weeks ago. The gas-turbine powered Wessex helicopter enters service next month and the first squadron, should join the fleet next year.
I have said something about N.A.T.O. and Commonwealth collaboration. We have also had a year of especially close association with the United States. H.M.S. "Victorious" went on from Rip Tide to visit Boston and New York; following the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the 5th Frigate Squadron visited ports in the Great Lakes; and H.M.S. "Adamant" and 10 of our submarines exercised with the United States Navy and other N.A.T.O. navies before visiting the United States submarine base at New London.
In marked contrast, we tried something of an experiment in the United States by showing something which has been seen here many times and has become almost traditional. We accepted an invitation to send two field gun crews of the Fleet Air Arm to the United States after their success at the Royal Tournament. They travelled 15,000 miles and performed in Portland, San Francisco and Chicago before over 100,000 people. Having read a complete report of the tour, I have no doubt that it left a great impression. I gather that a typical reaction was that of the American who, at the start, was resistant to what he thought would be another piece of ancient British pageantry.
Very soon he was yelling his head off in enthusiasm, and at the end of the show he said, "If they'd all been like 49 this, George Washington wouldn't have had a hope in hell." He had put his finger on the point. Field guns are not part of the Navy's fighting potential, but the men who manned them are. I should like to pay tribute to the fine qualities of skill, toughness and particularly team work which they, and many others of them, in the fleet, show.
Those Fleet Air Arm gun crews were nothing if not versatile, and I would like to end what I have to say about our new ships by emphasising the growing versatility and mobility of the Navy. From the operational point of view, 1959 was a quieter year than the years immediately preceding it; but there has been no letting up in our plans to strengthen the capacity of the Navy to provide well-equipped forces at short notice in any part of the world. The growth of nationalism in many countries and its effect on our overseas bases and air routes underline the value of the high seas—across which, in an emergency, our ships can still move freely and, perhaps even more important, discreetly. This is the background to three developments to which we attach great importance.
First, H.M.S. "Bulwark," our first Commando Carrier. She will embark No. 42 Commando next week and sail east of Suez later in the year. With her ability to accommodate a complete commando of 600 men and to carry a second commando or battalion when necessary, with her helicopters and assault landing craft, she will be ready to play a major part in any emergency in any climate. But, if we are not to lose this capability whenever H.M.S. "Bulwark" is due for refit, there will have to be at least a second Commando carrier before very long.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
Hon. Members said that in the House two years ago.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
What is perhaps even more important, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said it last week, and I was delighted to hear it.
§ Mr. Steele
The difficulty is that he did not say when.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Nor did I.
Secondly, amphibious craft. We have been giving a lot of thought to how we 50 can best replace our amphibious warfare vessels. We envisage the amphibious craft of the future as being a larger vessel than in the past—one capable of transporting at high speed a considerable force and its equipment. Design studies for a ship of this type are well advanced. It would be complementary to the Commando carrier, and would carry a number of smaller amphibious craft for landing troops and heavy equipment over exposed beaches. But these projects lie quite a few years ahead, and we have, therefore, overhauled the ships of the present amphibious warfare squadron and installed air conditioning, so that they can operate wherever they may be needed in the meantime.
Lastly, afloat support. Our ships cannot be poised for or engaged in operations indefinitely without needing fuel, food, ammunition and the other necessities of Service life. Many of the fleet maintenance ships and depot ships are gradually being modernised, and a building programme of fast replenishment ships and tankers is being planned for the next few years.
So much for the ships and weapons— all essential to the balanced fleet of the future—which are coming along, as part of a continuing programme, to meet the ceaseless threat of obsolescence.
I now come to personnel. I have spent some time on equipment because, having listened to thirteen hours of the defence debate last week, I had the impression that this year the House of Commons was less concerned with this matter, possibly as a result of the pay and pensions increases, than it was with hardware.
Admiralty civilian staffs have a large share in the task of countering this threat. The many developments in our material strength are the result of much thought and detailed design work—not only by boffins working on black boxes, though we have quite a few of them, but also by naval architects, engineers, draughtsmen and many other kinds of technical staff. In all, well over a third of the staff employed at Admiralty H.Q. are working directly on the design of ships and weapons, or in watching over work by contractors, or controlling work in research establishments and in the dockyards. Naval officers and civilians work side by side in this sphere. This 51 seems to me the best way of blending the different experience so that we can exploit the rapid advances in technology.
It is striking what a greatly increased effort these technical advances demand from us. For example, the effort in terms of design staff required by the "Dreadnought" project is gargantuan. We have about 100 draughtsmen on this project alone, more than five times what we needed twenty years ago for an A Class submarine. Compared with a "Dido" class cruiser, the new guided missile ships require five times the design effort for the actual ship, and almost eight times for the armament.
One of our major problems, in fact, is to find enough design capacity for all the projects we would like to undertake. Both we and the shipbuilding industry have difficulties in recruiting all the design staff of high quality that we need. Perhaps I might emphasise that ship design and shipbuilding—especially in these days of nuclear propulsion and other new developments—offer as fascinating and valuable career as any now open to young men of ability.
To turn from civilian to naval personnel, I have an encouraging report to present. Vote A is about 100,000 men. This is a little bigger than the Navy we had during most of the inter-war years. It is very much bigger than the Navy which existed in the fifty years before 1900—the period of Pax Britannica. We have once again become virtually an all-regular Navy. Our task is to achieve a high standard of recruiting and a high rate of re-engagement in order to build up the balanced Service we need.
The rate of re-engagement for pension is particularly striking. It has continued to improve and, except for one or two branches, is at its highest since 1936. Two in every three Royal Navy ratings completing twelve years' service are deciding to stay in the Navy for a further ten years. Considering the high level of employment and prosperity in the country, I think that this is remarkable evidence that the men who really know what life is like in the Navy find it a satisfying career. There is also a useful dividend in terms of greater efficiency and a saving in training effort.
For those leaving the Service, the prospects of obtaining a good job have 52 never been better. The modern rating is well placed to make his mark in civilian life, with his combination of technical efficiency and the qualities of integrity, loyalty and good sense which naval service develops.
As to recruiting, we are confident that the Royal Navy and Royal Marines will be able to attract all the Regular recruits they need, though there are still some categories which are short. After some disappointments in the past, I am particularly glad to be able to say that we have obtained this year all the artificer apprentices we require. These young men have an increasingly important part to play in the Navy of the future.
It is part of the price which the Navy has to pay for its new ships, aircraft and weapons that it will need many more— and more highly skilled—technical ratings for maintenance work. The new pay code, which ensures that Service men keep abreast of the increased rewards of civilian life, offers special benefits to technical ratings with its emphasis on skill and experience. A young artificer of 25 today can earn nearly £14 a week all found. If he is over 25 and married, his total income will amount to about £1,000 a year. His corresponding earnings in 1950 would have been about half that. To take another example, the unmarried leading seaman who was earning £5 a week in 1950 will now be receiving a weekly wage of nearly £9 15s., all found. In real terms he will be about 40 per cent. better off.
I think that the Committee will agree that it is a very satisfactory development of recent years that, generally speaking, naval ratings are content with the level of pay and do not feel at a disadvantage compared with those in civilian life. All this means that sailors have become expensive people. Today, the annual cost of an able seaman is about £740 and a seaman petty officer costs the Navy £1,120. This makes it all the more important to deploy our uniformed man-power as efficiently as possible.
I believe that the situation is no less good for officers. We are still not quite getting all the able young men we need for entry to Dartmouth, and I would, therefore, like to sum up briefly what we can offer to those who are attracted to the sea and the career of a naval officer.
53 I shall start with pay and pensions, for these are probably what parents and schoolmasters, not the boys, tend to look at first. The Navy now offers pay and pension rates which compare favourably with what young men can expect to get elsewhere. The young unmarried officer of 21, for example, can now earn nearly £600 a year, with free board and lodging. If he marries between, say, the age of 25 and 30, his total income, including marriage allowance, will be over £1,300 a year. This seems a fair enough begin-ing within the Service. But if he should wish to leave it, and should not be selected for further promotion, he will in future be able to retire with a pension in his late 'thirties when he can start a new career in civilian life.
If, on the other hand, he takes advantage of the longer career we are going to offer, he need no longer be afraid of only a negligible pension. For example, a lieutenant-commander retiring at 50 would receive a pension of £800 a year. This sum, naturally, increases for longer service in the higher ranks. A senior captain, for instance, retiring in his 'fifties could expect to get a pension of about £1,400 a year.
Last March, I told the Committee about our new entry standards and scheme of training at Dartmouth, and we have been discussing our plans during the year with many schoolmasters and many schools. In broad terms, the position is that we are after young men of university entry standard—nothing less will do for the highly complex Navy of the future—and we shall be offering them careers which, from the financial point of view, will be as rewarding as anything that a great many university graduates can expect in civil life.
That is the career side. No less important—and this is what I would stress to the young men themselves—is the kind of life which the Navy gives. It is a life of service, which offers as much responsibility and adventure as it ever did. In the Fleet Air Arm, a young man of 23 or 24 can expect to be flying a Sea Vixen or a Scimitar only about six years after joining the General List. A submariner, at the age of 28, may be captain of his submarine, responsible for 60 or 70 officers and men on what may be long and arduous patrols in any part of the world.
54 No wonder that we are looking for qualities of intellect and character wherever we can find them. As I stressed in an Adjournment debate, we want boys from every type of school and background. Our liaison officers visit as many schools as they can; and one of the appendices to my noble Friend's Explanatory Statement shows the many schools from which they come.
As the Committee knows, a boy who has the qualifications we require can now hope to secure a naval scholarship at the age of 16. This will help his parents to meet the cost of his last two years at school, or, failing that, to get a reserved cadetship which, subject to his clearing the academic hurdle, will guarantee him a place at Dartmouth later on. I warmly commend this system to the parents of any boys who, at an early age, have set their hearts on joining the Navy. I hope, however, that our introduction of this system of scholarships and reserved cadet-ships will not discourage boys from trying in the ordinary way for a place at the age of 18. Some boys may very well do better when they are a little older. There are always late developers, even in the House of Commons.
I have spoken at some length about the problem of officers because we have been giving much thought to it with our new system of training, starting at Dartmouth this year, and the new rules for entry coming into force in September, 1961.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
What the Minister has been saying is exceedingly important in connection with the attraction of boys of all schools to the Navy. Can he say to what extent the Navy is receiving cooperation from local authorities in putting over this information to all capable young lads in State grammar schools, many of whom would be interested in the Navy as a career?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising that point. The great majority of education authorities allow liaison officers of all three Services to make approaches in this matter, but there are still some areas in which they are completely debarred. In a recent Adjournment debate I said that there were about 50 constituencies in which we were not able to point out to boys the advantages of a Service career. Since 55 that debate there has been an improvement, to the extent that in one area— Swansea—we are now able to tell the schools what we have to offer.
I hope that this process will spread, because at a time when the bulge in the birthrate will make many more young people become available we have wonderful opportunities for them in every sphere, and the more information we can put before these schools in all areas the better it will be for the Services and for the country. It was necessary to speak at length of the officer problem, because all three Services have a problem in this direction, and it is desirable that the country should know what is to offer.
We recognise that we are competing, with the other two Services, for a share of the best young men in the country. But we see no reason why we should not get all we want. We believe that our new entry standards are on the right lines, and that the selection system is fair to boys wherever they come from. The opportunity of commanding one of Her Majesty's ships at sea, together with an income of over £1,300 a year before the age of 30, are a prospect that no other profession can offer. And our future career structure and the new pension code ensure that if an officer leaves the Service he goes out not only with an excellent training, but a reasonable pension.
Before I summarise, I would say that with a Vote A of around 100,000 we are continually tackling the problem of manning the maximum number of ships. The recent cyclone at Mauritius and the earthquake at Agadir both showed that sudden and extra tasks can arise. H.M.S. "Gambia" went 2,500 miles to bring help to Mauritius. Her Majesty's ships "Tyne" and "Darlaston" went nearly 500 miles to give help to Agadir. These acts of God occurred without warning. Similar acts of man may also occur without warning. This illustrates most vividly why the Royal Navy must always have ships available to react with speed and the utmost versatility.
I would put the present position in this way. Today, we have a flexible Navy. Our ships are not designed for one kind of task or one kind of war; they have an all-round capacity for a wide variety of tasks both in peace and 56 war. There is a higher proportion of small ships than before, but the capability of individual ships is greater. We have an operational fleet of 147 ships, and a further 42 ships on trials or training; a vigorous programme of new construction is under way. The size of our total naval manpower is very much what it has been in the past, except in war-time. The opportunities for a useful career and promotion to the top are, therefore, as great as they have ever been.
We take pride in the efficiency of our ships all over the world. We take pride in the weight and precision of the attack which the fleet can deliver, but, above all, we take immense pride in the spirit of the men and women now serving throughout the naval Service.
I ask the Committee to approve the grant we need for the next financial year.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I congratulate the Civil Lord on having survived at the Admiralty for two years, and on having been able to introduce these Estimates on two occasions. I also congratulate him on having gathered unto himself the double responsibility of Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, and Civil Lord. I am sorry that he has not gathered unto himself the double salary.
When the two offices were merged I wondered why. At first, I thought that it was simply a rather typical naval gesture of defiance that the office of Parliamentary and Financial Secretary should disappear precisely at the moment when our naval expenditure was the highest ever in peacetime. Then I thought that that might not be quite correct; it might be a tacit recognition on the part of the Admiralty that the Navy is becoming increasingly a shore-based force.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
§ Mr. Willis
The hon. Member shakes his head, but he will remember that last week, in answer to a Question, he told me that out of a personnel of about 89,000, no fewer than 54,000 are now based ashore and only 35,000 afloat. I found that rather difficult to reconcile with his statement today that we had to 57 deploy our skilled manpower as efficiently as possible. I cannot see how that can be done if the great bulk of it is ashore.
We are faced with an Estimate of £397½ million, which is an increase of £26.8 million over last year. This is the smallest in the Service Estimates. The days are long past when the Navy accounted for fully half of our defence ependiture. As the hon. Member said, it now accounts for only one quarter. In spite of this, however, expenditure has steadily increased, both in monetary terms and as a proportion of our net national income.
The hon. Member said that our expenditure was decreasing. He took 1952 as the year for comparison, as did the Minister of Defence during the defence debate last year. I would say only that in taking the year 1952 both the Minister of Defence and the Civil Lord were taking the year in which we were engaged in a rearmament programme. The facts concerning the Navy—and I give them because the hon. Gentleman rather discounted what I said last year on this matter—are that in 1928 we spent 1.37 per cent. of our net national income on the Navy; in 1935, 1.57 per cent.; in 1948—one has to omit the war years —1.7 per cent.; and if we omit the period of rearmament, which I think it is fair to omit, and come to 1958, we find that the Navy is consuming over 2 per cent. of our net national income. We are spending an increasing amount upon the Navy.
Commenting on this last year, I said:In spite of this … we can no longer … build aircraft carriers. The missile cruiser … is out. The missile submarine is also out. The Polaris is out. We have a smaller operational fleet than we have ever had before and smaller reserve fleet than ever before. The Navy will make no contribution at all to the strategic deterrent … We are left today with a fleet that is capable of certain limited operations and a certain limited anti-submarine rôle, in spite of the fact that we are spending this increasing proportion of our income upon the Navy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1959; Vol. 601, c. 1017.]This still remains true, although this year we are being asked to pay an additional £27 million.
It is true that during the defence debates last week the whole question of the future shape and rôle of the Navy 58 was discussed. We heard a great deal about mobility, about credibility, about invulnerability and the necessity of putting the deterrent at sea. Polaris may now be in. We do not know. In any case, all these things are several years ahead. What we do know is that these Estimates make no allowance at all for any of the many suggestions which were made during those debates. They re-represent this year's cost of the fleet that I have indicated.
Let us not shirk the fact that this is an enormous cost. There has been a tendency to try to write down this cost during these debates. I do not think that it is a wise thing to do. It is far better to face the fact that it is a very large sum of money for which we are asked. What is more, all the available evidence points to its becoming even larger in the near future, in spite of which we become less and less able to defend ourselves, as, of course, do other nations. It becomes increasingly urgent then, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) pointed out during the debate on the Air Estimates, that we make some progress towards controlled international disarmament, and we must hope that no effort will be spared in attempting to make any talks successful.
Meanwhile, we have to face the fact that discussion of defence in national terms becomes less and less real as year follows year. The present Minister of Aviation, when he was Minister of Defence, said during the defence debates in 1958:With the increase in the power and range of modern weapons, no country can any longer defend itself in isolation. The conception of separate national defence has become almost wholly replaced by that of collective security organised through a system of alliances."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1958; Vol. 583, c. 386.]In naval terms, Admiral Wright said at the N.A.T.O. congress last year that it was not a case of one nation defending the Atlantic, nor two nations nor three nations: it was a job for everyone. It is because of this interdependence that we have our alliance and our co-operation with the Commonwealth.
It is a serious criticism of both the Defence White Papers and the Explanatory Statement that neither of them gives us any picture at all of how our defence forces fit into the allied defence plan. 59 With very great respect to what the hon. Gentleman has said, and to the Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates for this year, we really learn very little about this matter. Why is this? Why should not this Committee be told what is being done with our forces with our allies?
The Economist said in its issue for 27th February:The shape of the Navy still does not make much sense.It never will, of course, unless we know what it is supposed to fit into. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman and to the Government that they ought to consider the possibility of publishing as an appendix to the Statement details of what is being done by the allied forces as a whole.
I should like to ask one or two questions about this matter of how we fit into this plan. Last year, my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) quoted the "SACLANT N.A.T.O. Story" at great length to indicate the policies our naval forces were expected to follow. The significant sentence of his quotations was this, that the policy wasFirst, to strike, with the maximum atomic capability, the enemy airfields and naval bases which support the forces which would seize control of the seas."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1959; Vol. 601, c. 914.]It was the naval equivalent of the notorious paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper.
Are we still committed to this policy? Or has it been modified? We tried to find this out last year. We were told nothing at all about this during the whole of the debate. My hon. Friend also asked the important question: who decides when the atomic strike should be delivered? Once again, we were told nothing. I do not know, and I doubt whether very many Members know, how exactly we fit into this picture. One thing we do know is that if this atomic strike is delivered we can expect nuclear retaliation and can more or less expect to be wiped out. In other words, this is a policy of suicide, and we ought to know something more from the Government of what their views are about this.
Talking of operational activities, the Explanatory Statement, in paragraph 15, says: 60Never before in peacetime have major powers progressed so far in training and planning for a common purpose.The hon. Gentleman said during his speech that there was an Appendix published in the Explanatory Statement this year telling us about the exercises which had taken place during the year. That is very good, but I am bound to ask whether this is enough.
In the Report "State of European Security", which was adopted by Western European Union, very serious criticisms are made of the N.A.T.O. naval arrangements. In paragraph 62, there is a very heavy indictment of the N.A.T.O. forces because of the lack of integration of the supply services. It says:The Committee was shocked to discover the lack of integration of the supply services of the various nations. Under present circumstances, ships of different nationality operating under an allied command in the event of war would depend on their own supply system, and it would be difficult for a destroyer of X to be refuelled by a refuelling ship of Y. Apart from financial considerations the operation of this system leads to duplication and waste of physical resources.They go on to suggest that there should be a joint solution of these logistic problems.
In paragraph 74, they criticise the lack of balanced naval forces, and say:There appears to be little attempt to produce an overall balanced force designed to provide the minimum naval strength needed by the alliance. Indeed, while N.A.T.O. naval forces consist only of units allotted by nations from navies whose composition is largely determined by national and not N.A.T.O. considerations, it is difficult to see how adequate naval forces can be built up. Arguments for collective as distinct from individual defence efforts seem equally convincing on sea as on land or in the air.They go on to recommend that specific tasks should be allotted to the various members of the alliance.
Paragraph 75 recommends that the units of the strategic strike fleet should be placed permanently under the command structure which will operate in wartime. Paragraphs 72 and 77 criticise the SACLANT command structure, and call for its overhaul and rationalisation. We all know that the existing command structure was brought about in an endeavour to satisfy the national prestige and aspirations of nations taking part in N.A.T.O., but it does not measure up to the realities as they exist today, and something should be done about it.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
I do not wish to take exception to the quotations which the hon. Gentleman has been reading, but when he says "they" the whole time I think that he should make it clear to hon. Members that the Report is the personal report of his hon. Friend on the Committee who prepared it. Although the recommendations at the beginning of the Report were, in fact, adopted by the Assembly as a whole, not all of us, as I am sure the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) will agree, accepted with unanimity all the points which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned in the Report.
§ Mr. Willis
That might have been so, but these recommendations and criticisms were accepted by Western European Union. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Yes. As I understand the recommendations were, in fact, sent to the Council of Ministers. I rather fancied that the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) would have something to say about this, because I noticed that he was one of the members of the Committee. While he may wish to dissociate himself from some of them now, the fact remains that these are serious criticisms. [An HON. MEMBER: "He voted for them."] I do not know whether he voted for them or not, but I am told that the hon. and gallant Gentleman did vote for this Report.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. We must get this quite clear. The procedure at the Assembly is that the Rapporteur is personally responsible for the Report, but the Committee is responsible only for the recommendations. I certainly voted for the recommendations, but there are a number of points in the Report which the hon. Gentleman read out which are rather different, in nature and emphasis, from what is to be found in the dehydrated recommendations.
§ Mr. Steele
As a member of the Committee, I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that what my hon. Friend said in reading out the document itself was that, in fact, the basis of these remarks was embodied in resolutions which were adopted by the 62 Western European Union Assembly, for which the hon. and gallant Gentleman voted.
§ Mr. Willis
I will leave the hon. and gallant Member to fight it out with my hon. Friend. The point that I wish to make is that these are serious criticisms, and, as such, we ought to be told something about the position in relation to them. They appear to have a considerable validity, and I think that probably the hon. and gallant Gentleman would agree that he voted for the resolutions which were ultimately sent to the Council of Ministers.
The Government ought to tell us something about this. After all, when we are asked to vote 102,000 men and women and £397 million, we are entitled to know whether the purposes for which they are required are being met in the most efficient manner possible, and if not, why not. If these criticisms are valid, quite obviously this money is not being spent as efficiently as it ought to be spent. We are, in fact, wasting money.
It seems to me, too, that we ought to be told what is being done under the N.A.T.O. infrastructure arrangements. We read from time to time in the Press small paragraphs about a very expensive boom defence or bases being established here, there and elsewhere, but we should know something about this in the House of Commons. This does not seem to me to be secret information, but the only people who are not able to get it easily are the Members of the House of Commons. We have to search in all sorts of obscure publications, in the Library and elsewhere, to try to find out something about it.
Let me now turn to the fleet. Whatever our views about the future, and I agree that these are very important, the shape and size of the fleet are likely to remain much as we see them now for several years ahead. It makes some sense, but there are a number of questions which I should like to ask. The first is about cruisers. Three years ago, I questioned the wisdom of proceeding with the three "Tiger" class cruisers. They are to be completed at a cost of £40 million. They are obsolescent.
Would it not have been better if we had spent some of this money on some of the more urgent needs of the Royal Navy at present? Would it not have 63 been better if some of this money had been spent on a second Commando carrier, or if some had been spent in providing up-to-date craft for amphibious operations? I can think of a number of ways which, in my view, would have better ways of spending this money.
I have never yet been able to discover properly what are the functions of these cruisers today. In last week's defence debate, we had the curious situation of the Minister of Defence and the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut-Commander Maydon), who wound up the debate on the first day, both claiming as the raison d'etre for these ships that they could help in times of disaster. Nobody is against ships helping in times of disaster. We are all proud and pleased when they do, but we do not need ships costing £14 million a time simply to help in times of disaster.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
What was behind the remarks of my hon. Friend in that debate was that they are ships of long endurance and high speed which can operate a long way from bases, which get further and further apart and more difficult in this troubled world. Therefore, cruisers and ships of that type have become of tremendous value not only in a disaster—but it is the intrinsic merits of the ships that make it possible to use them in a disaster.
§ Mr. Willis
I would call the hon. Gentleman's attention to his own publication, the "Admiralty News Summary". The last paragraph in the February issue, dealing with the Commando carrier H.M.S. "Bulwark"—not cruisers—says:By virtue of the great variety of stores and equipment onboard, the ship is particularly well suited for providing rapid assistance in cases of civil disaster, such as earthquake, typhoon and flood.I think that that is correct and that it is a much better proposition than a £14 million cruiser.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Much more expensive.
§ Mr. Willis
It also fulfils rather more important rôles than can be performed by a cruiser.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Is my hon. Friend aware that "Britannia" was originally built as a 64 hospital ship and that it would be far more economical to use her rather than these expensive cruisers?
§ Mr. Willis
I do not want to enter into controversy about the merits of "Britannia", but I agree that something much more economical could be used. This is as poor an excuse as the one we had a few years ago, when these ships were described as good ships because they could stay in port a long time. I thought at the time that that was a queer kind of reason in favour of ships for the Navy.
But, to be serious, the advantages announced two years ago were that these ships were capable of operating alone and capable of putting on shore a sizeable landing party and of carrying fuel, workshops, repair facilities, stores and medical supplies. One is driven to the inevitable conclusion that these things could be supplied by a depot ship much more cheaply than by a cruiser.
I thought two years ago that this money had been badly used. Speaking of Commando cruisers, I understand that we are to have a second, but are we to have a third? Why cannot the old hulk "Leviathan" be used for this purpose? Sooner or later the Admiralty will have to make up its mind what it is going to do about "Leviathan". Unless some use of this kind is found for her, the money spent on her in the first place will be wasted.
Two or three years ago we heard about the Admiralty's conception of an aircraft carrier task force. We have heard nothing about it since. Is it still part of the Admiralty's conception of how our forces should be used that a task force should be grouped round an aircraft carrier? We tried to find this out last year, but we have been told nothing. In any case, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) said last week, the aircraft carrier is very vulnerable. I ventured to mention this when I first appeared at the Dispatch Box to speak in a debate on the Navy Estimates. In addition to being vulnerable from the air, the aircraft carrier has the disadvantage of being vulnerable from below the surface of the sea.
We were told two years ago that we cannot afford any more. They are increasingly less credible and it appears 65 that there must be a very big question mark concerning the future of aircraft carriers, unless they are to be regarded simply as part of the N.A.T.O. naval strike force. If that is their function, the case for integrating them would appear to be fairly strong.
The Civil Lord told us today about the present position of nuclear submarines. Last year, we were told that Polaris was out. Now there appears to be some doubt about this. It might, after all, happen that the Government will decide to carry the strategic deterrent in submarines, but I would remind the hon. Gentleman that last year the then Civil Lord said this about Polaris:It is something which is quite beyond our own capacity to develop … without a radical recasting of the whole of naval expenditure."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1959; Vol. 601, c. 1037]I believe that that was a rather modest statement and that it would require a recasting of the whole of our defence expenditure, because if that task is to be undertaken by the Navy there cannot be much of a case for the Air Force undertaking it.
We must ask ourselves whether we can afford this and, what is more important, we must ask ourselves a much more fundamental question concerning our policy on the strategic deterrent. Last week, in the debate on defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West suggested that the deterrent might be put aboard a conventional submarine. This idea has been canvassed with me and probably it has been canvassed with other people. It seems to me that the canvassing of this idea is a method of trying to avoid facing the much more difficult questions which the Government have to answer as to what our future policy on this deterrent is likely to be.
I was interested in the Civil Lord's remarks about craft for amphibious operations. This is one respect in which the Navy has a very definite rôle. It knows that rô1e and it is not tied very closely with allied considerations. One would have thought that the Admiralty could have got on with the job. Two or three years after Suez, when some of the weaknesses were revealed, we are told by the hon. Gentleman that a great deal of thought is being given to the problem, that designs are well advanced, and that we might even have a few ships in a few 66 years' time. This is not good enough. This is far too slow. The Admiralty should undoubtedly carry some of the responsibility for our failure to keep up-to-date in this respect.
We are glad that "Vanguard" is to be scrapped, but I should like the Civil Lord to reconcile two statements which he made on Wednesday in answer to two Questions. In reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis), he said:The current policy is for Government ships to be disposed of for scrapping through the British Iron and Steel Corporation (Salvage) Ltd.Three Questions later, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easing-ton (Mr. Shinwell), the hon. Gentleman said about "Vanguard":I cannot give a precise statement because we are considering disposal of the ship following competitive tendering."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 1191–2.]I have been puzzled by this. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could explain how competitive tendering is achieved if the vessel is to be disposed of through the British Iron and Steel Corporation (Salvage) Limited.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
We might get that question disposed of straight away. It is true that in the past we have used B.I.S.C. for scrapping vessels and on occasions it has gone out to tender. We are reviewing now whether this procedure should continue for a further number of years. Therefore, at the moment, I am not in a position to say whether "Vanguard" will go to B.I.S.C. —and if it did the Corporation might itself go to another tender—or whether we might introduce a system whereby we would go to tender direct. That is why there is an apparent contradiction of ideas.
§ Mr. Willis
I am grateful for that explanation.
Turning to the Estimates rather more closely, one of the first things that strikes us is the fact that the number of personnel at the Admiralty office has increased—18 more in the warrens of Rex House with 4,000 fewer men. This is not good enough. In five years the Navy has been reduced by 31,000 out of a total of 133,000, but there are only 16 fewer at the Admiralty office.
67 The Admiralty has carried out a reorganisation of the Departments within the last year and this makes it difficult to track down some of the people about whom we have asked questions in the past. In spite of the reorganisation, however, I notice that there are more psychologists than there were five years ago with 31,000 fewer men. It will soon be much easier for a psychologist to reach the Board of Admiralty than for a scientist to do so. May I put it once again to the Civil Lord that with the highly scientific Navy we have, with some of the finest scientific equipment in the world, is it not time that, in addition to the hon. Gentleman himself, we should at least have a serving officer familiar with this aspect of the Service? I should not like to suggest which seat he might hold. I could do so, but it might be invidious.
I notice, too, that the Admiralty has increased its scientific personnel, and the Civil Lord has explained to us that this is because of the fact that nuclear research demands a large number of scientific personnel. I want to ask one question on paragraph 38 of the Explanatory Statement, where it states:Particular attention is being given to launching and control equipment for guided missiles and to counter-measures to the fast submarine. Underwater detection devices of improved performance are coming forward.I understood that this work was being done at La Spezia. If it is to be done there, what is the point of our duplicating the work? Is not the desirability of joint work the fact that it enables an interchange of knowledge, that it should save scientific manpower which is in short supply, and should also result in some saving of money to us?
I see that I have taken rather a long time, but I have been interrupted a great deal. May I say one or two things about personnel? I will reserve my comments on pay for Thursday. I think that the amalgamation of the electrical and engineering specialisation in the General List is good. I ventured to suggest during last year's debate that it might also be carried out rather lower down, because on the whole it appears to me to be desirable.
I also think that the changes in artificers' structure are fair enough, but there is still no comparable rank in the 68 Navy to the Warrant Officer I and II in the Army, or to the Master Technician in the R.A.F., and this seems to place technicians of the Royal Navy at a disadvantage. The hon. Gentleman himself talked about their great skill, and in the Navy recruiting leaflets they are described as the most skilled men in the Navy. It is not much to ask that there should be a rank in the Navy equivalent to those in the Royal Air Force and the Army which I have mentioned.
What has happened to the Committee on Lower Deck Structure, which was set up three years ago and which reported eighteen months ago? Is it not time that the Admiralty considered its report and gave us the result of its consideration? Or is it that the Admiralty cannot do very much unless the Army and the Air Force also follow suit? We should be given some reason for the long delay.
The scheme for mechanician apprentice is good but it does envisage two and a half years at sea as part of the training, although already in the Service we cannot find sufficient sea-going billets for men undergoing training. In reply to a Question, the hon. Gentleman told me that the difficulties had been largely overcome. I do not know what that means. He also said that no training was being held up to any significant extent. I do not know what that means either. The fact is that men cannot get to sea to complete their training, and this holds up their promotion. Now mechanician apprentices are to have two and a half years at sea, which means crowding the ships much more than at present, and also means that many of the boasts the Admiralty has made about improved accommodation will not be realised.
While on the subject of accommodation, and, in particular, accommodation on the "Hermes", about which the hon. Gentleman said something, I received the following letter the other week:I spend most of my time on new construction ships of all sizes, in between trials I usually make it my business to investigate messing arrangements, and in my opinion the situation is worsening. Even on a large ship like ' Hermes' there is not even room to sit and write a letter in the chief petty officers' messes.This rather destroys some of the publicity which the Admiralty has been putting out about the improvement in accommodation.
69 Now a further point about the problem of training. It has been put to me that there is a great waste of expensive ships and material equipment in sending some of those ships on various patrols and "showing the flag," trips, because while on those duties they have no submarines with which to train men in the use of asdic gear and they have no aeroplanes with which they can train men in the use of radar. This seems to me to be a legitimate criticism and suggests the need for cheaper all-purpose ships without such valuable equipment. I put forward that suggestion to the hon. Gentleman because of suggestions that have been made to me.
Now I turn to Chatham Barracks, about which the hon. Gentleman said nothing, although last year we were told emphatically by the then Civil Lord:What we have decided, is that the Royal Naval Barracks, together with a proportion of the married quarters, should be transferred to the War Office … we in the Navy are very glad to be able to hand them over. … We are keeping Collingwood Barracks, as many of the married quarters as we require, and we are staying in the dockyard."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1959; Vol. 601, c. 1031.]Twelve months later the Admiralty finds that it has made a mistake. Is there not some incompetence somewhere, since the Admiralty was unable twelve months ago to estimate its requirements of accommodation for the ships that might be refitted at Chatham? Was not that envisaged when it was decided to keep on the Collingwood Block, and if so, why should those barracks be taken back again?
I received a letter about this from an ex-naval man who, after reading the news in The Times, wrote:If this is all true … it is absolute nonsense. The naval barracks can house many thousands and there would be no need to retain it to house 1,000 or so. In any case, most of these men would be living ashore on Ration Allowance, either in their own homes or in married quarters. Furthermore, if accommodation was required for that number it is easily available in a part of the Naval barracks known as the Collingwood Block.This block was built to accommodate the artificer apprentices.
The writer goes on:Far be it from me to advocate or encourage the disposal of the naval barracks to the Royal Engineers or anyone else … but as a taxpayer I would object to the expense of the Royal Engineers building alternative barracks elsewhere when these premises are available to them.70 It certainly seems that there is going to be some empire building here.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
§ Mr. Willis
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but he knows quite well that if increasing numbers of men are to be accommodated ashore at Chatham there will be an increasing staff to look after them. There is bound to be. No justification of this has been given to us unless, of course, if some of the Press reports are true, the Admiralty has in mind the fact that we might be getting German ships to refit in this country.
I have made a number of criticisms of these Estimates and would like to make more, but time forbids. No doubt, however, hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will add to them. This must not be taken as a prejudice against the Navy, for if there is one thing of which I am sure it is that no Service holds a greater place in the affections of the British people than the Royal Navy. But this should not blind us to the fact that there is widespread concern about the very large sums which we are being asked to vote this year. That is borne out by the results of the Gallup poll published today. The poll indicates that both Conservative and Socialist voters do not like paying more and more for defence. In fact, they seem to be against doing so.
Year by year we are asked to vote more and more for less and less. Nobody can feel happy about this, and while it is not our intention to vote against these Estimates we are bound to express the concern that is so widely felt. Very big decisions have yet to be made, and it is our view that only if these decisions and policies are correct can that anxiety be dispelled. The responsibility for this rests not on the Admiralty, but on the Government.
The results must be seen in terms of controlled disarmament and ever closer co-operation and integration of our naval forces with those of other nations. Only in this fashion can we hope to lighten the burden of defence and pave the way to our future security and to peace.
§ 5.14 p.m.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
This is not the first occasion on which I have had the 71 good fortune to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) in a debate on the Navy Estimates. It is a pleasure to do so, although I am bound to say. if the hon. Gentleman will not think me rude, that I think in this Parliament he has become something of a Jekyll and Hyde. We sometimes see Mr. Hyde in the small hours of the morning on Scottish business, but we see more of Dr. Jekyll when we are discussing the Navy because, like so many of those who have served in the Navy and in spite of those proper criticisms which he has been called upon to make, the hon. Gentleman still retains considerable affection for the Service as, indeed, do I and other hon. Members on this side of the Committee who have had the same experience.
I do not wish to bore the Committee by answering at length the points made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East concerning Western European Union resolutions, but I must repeat that he really must not hold those delegates who vote for the recommendations which come before the Assembly as necessarily agreeing with all the aspects of the reports which come before them. That is not the procedure. Indeed, his hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) and myself both voted for the very interesting report by the same author, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), on providing a European nuclear deterrent. We voted for it, but in doing so I am sure that in our minds we voted for something quite different, and said so. If the hon. Gentleman is anxious to know how far some of us on this side went in criticism of that report I would ask him to read the record of the proceedings in the Assembly, because I for one spoke at some length on the subject.
The hon. Gentleman also had something to say on the higher strategy behind the Government's policy today in so far as it is reflected in the Navy Estimates. I will not follow him in that way at all. There have been criticisms in the Press and, indeed, in this House, of the very small attendance both of the defence debate and during the debate on the Air Estimates. Indeed, the attendance at this debate is well up to the standard of the two previous occasions.
72 I suggest that the reason why we do not get more hon. Members attending these debates is because we really have not the information on which to base criticisms of the wider issues. I spoke at some length about this in the defence debate last year and asked whether the Government might not think the time had come to lift the veil of secrecy a little. I regret that it has not been found possible to do so and therefore I do not feel qualified to express an opinion on the major strategical policy of the Government. On the other hand, there are quite a number of points of fairly big detail, if it comes to that, in these Estimates which we can follow and on which I would like to make some criticisms.
I always feel a little unkind in doing this in Navy Estimates debates, because the Navy Estimates are presented in a clearer way than that of the War Office or the Air Ministry. The Navy's only reward for this is to receive more criticism when the Estimates are debated. Be that as it may, I would again like to refer, as did the hon. Gentleman, to the Admiralty Vote and, once again, to register a protest at its having gone up by very much the same amount as it did last year, namely, £500,000.
This criticism has now been made year after year, and I say to my hon. Friend at once that I do not for a moment accept the story about requiring more people because of greater complexity. I think that the real reason for the rising Vote is that some of the staffs of the out-stations are too big. They make paper work which has to be sent to Government Departments to be answered. That is the root of the trouble. But, be that as it may, it is now, fortunately, unnecessary to pursue the matter, because I understand that the repeated complaints made in these debates have reached the ears of the Select Committee on Estimates and that the Committee's eagle eyes are now scrutinising the Admiralty. All I can say to my hon. Friends who serve on the Select Committee is that I wish them very happy hunting.
Let me now turn to Vote A itself. It would appear that the running down of the Vote is becoming a good deal slower. I see that in the coming financial year it will decrease only from 106,000 to 102,000 men. I should like to ask my 73 hon. Friend four questions. What is the target figure at which the Admiralty is now aiming, and how does that compare with the sort of indication of the target figure given in the 1957 White Paper on Defence? Has the policy been changed, and has the Admiralty, like the War Office, now succeeded in persuading the Government that it must have a few more men?
I should also like to ask my hon. Friend why it is necessary to have in Vote A more leading rates and above than there are working hands, and not a few more but a great many more, because there are more even when we include in working hands all the men under training—all the artificers' apprentices, all the boys under training, and so forth. It seems to me that the structure is getting a little top-heavy.
I am bound to confess that I am a little disturbed about what appears to be happening on the personnel side. I hope that the forces of reaction have not gained control of the Admiralty once again. I was a little suspicious last year when we heard that what my hon. Friend called the "middies"—young boys of 20 to 21—were to go back to sea for training. I do not propose to criticise that at any length now, because, again, I do not have the knowledge. However, I served on a committee which recommended the change in the naval training practice to conform with what has always been the practice in the other two Services. We developed various arguments saying that, with the older entry, it was not appropriate to send these young men to sea to learn on the job. I am sure that not one of the arguments which was used in 1954 could possibly have changed today.
Be that as it may, this year we have had two much more severe shocks, both of which have already been mentioned. Last week, in a Written Answer to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East we were given the figures for officers and men at present at sea. If my arithmetic is correct, those figures show that 73 per cent. of the officers and 60 per cent. of the ratings are ashore.
Furthermore, I am inclined to suspect that the position is a good deal worse than appears by that mere recital of percentages. What does my hon. Friend mean by "Service afloat"? Are we to 74 understand that the ships listed under "B" in page 5 of his Explanatory Statement count as "Service afloat", since they include training ships, many of which seldom go more than two or three hours from the port at which they are based? Do the ships listed in "C"—"Fleet support and auxiliaries" —count as "Service afloat"? Above all, are the crews of ships doing refits shown as being afloat, notwithstanding the fact that some of the refits may go on for a long time and that men may have to be accommodated ashore or. more sensibly, sent home on leave?
That brings me to the second shock, which is much more severe. In a reply which my hon. Friend gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Critchley), we were told about the naval barracks at Chatham remaining open. I confess to a prejudice against barracks. I remember that the first time I ventured to take part in a debate on this subject, I was incited by the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) into suggesting that barracks should be blown up and not rebuilt.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I still hold the same views.
Let us look at the reasons given for the retention of barracks. We are told that ships will be refitting at Chatham and that during some such refits, a substantial number of the sailors and the ratings will need to be accommodated ashore. We are also told—and I cannot help feeling that this is a much more cogent reason for what must have gone on at the Admiralty—that the change also enables the Royal Naval Supply and Secretariat School to remain at Chatham instead of having to suffer the hardship of being moved to Plymouth.
Why is it necessary to keep these men hanging about if their ships are having refits, the nature of which makes it impossible for the ships to be habitable? Why should not the men be used to man another ship from the Reserve? In those conditions, why cannot ships be paid off into dockyard control, leaving a small number of key ratings to stand by, men who could be accommodated, like Vickers accommodate their key men who go to Chatham in exactly the same circumstances and for exactly the same reason? Why should not those men be 75 paid allowances and allowed to find their own accommodation, probably with their wives and families, in lodgings or hotels in the town?
What makes me rather alarmed about this is whether we will next hear about the reversal of the decision about the Commander-in-Chief and his staff and whether the post of C.-in-C Nore is to be continued after all. We are witnessing a reversal of the policy which has often been described to us in these debates and to the Press as "The way ahead", a policy which we came to associate with the noble Lord, Earl Mountbatten, who has now gone to the Ministry of Defence. I should like to be reassured and told that the Admiralty has not changed its slogan from "The way ahead" to "Back the way we came".
The fact is that for a generation there have been two navies so far as personnel are concerned. There has been a navy composed of officers and men who go to sea, officers for more than half of their total service and ratings for two-thirds or three-quarters of their time. There has been a second navy which was growing all the time I served in the Navy and which has evidently continued to grow in the years since I left, a navy which practically never goes to sea. That navy should be eliminated, because the work done by the officers and men in that navy could be done with greater efficiency and at smaller cost by civilians.
That is truer than ever it was now that the rates of pay of the uniformed personnel have been so strikingly increased. It is quite disgraceful that the Navy should keep highly-skilled young men hanging about ships chipping paint and cleaning out double bottoms when they are trained for and should be employed in operational ships at sea.
I want to say a word about officers. One reason given for the recent considerable increase in pensions and pay for serving officers was that it was necessary to tempt more boys into joining cadet colleges, and my hon. Friend touched on one or two of the difficulties which the Navy is still experiencing. I believe that to be a mistaken argument. I believe that, on the contrary, we are probably entering too many and not too few cadets. Ever since the war, it has been the practice to fill every job requir- 76 ing an educational background higher than normally available from the lower deck with a cadet entry career officer.
The result of that—and I do not wish to criticise only the Navy in this respect, for I am sure that it applies to the other Services as well—is that in a warship one finds officers employed as technicians, employed in jobs which call for considerable personal skill, but not for the qualities which are normally described as officer-like qualities. It is not good for them and it is a very extravagant policy.
The type of young man far more fitted —at least, equally fitted—to carry out those jobs is the product of our modern technical colleges of which the Service makes no use. The Committee on Officer Structure which I have mentioned and which sat in 1954 was driven, rightly at the time, to recommend promotion factors far above what would normally be desirable, on account of the very poor pensions available in those days. Had it been foreseen that there would be this tremendous increase in pensions, I do not think that the same recommendations would necessarily have been made.
That Committee recommended that there should be a new type of officer, a type whose educational background would be more comparable with those of short-service pilots and those who entered the Service with such success during the war in large numbers in the Special Branch of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, officers with three or four General Certificates of Education at Ordinary level. To some extent, these proposals were approved.
If hon. Members will turn to paragraphs 96 and 97 of the Admiralty Fleet Order which dealt with the new officer structure, and which was placed in the Library of the House early in 1956, they will see that a Supplementary List was established. The Order explained that to begin with, the Supplementary List would be for pilots and observers only, but that its scope would be expanded when necessary to provide for the employment of Supplementary List officers in the seaman, engineer, supply and secretariat and electrical branches. It stated later that it was not intended to do that so long as it was possible to employ officers of about 50 years of age who had missed their promotion and would like to do the jobs instead. The 77 concept was, therefore, entirely different from what had been proposed by the Officer Structure Committee.
It may be asked, why not fill some of these posts, or more of them, from the lower deck? The answer, paradoxically enough, is probably the improved educational system of the country at large. It is an unfortunate fact that except for, I think I am right in saying, the artificer branches and, to a lesser extent, the writer branches, the Navy does not enlist a large number of grammar school boys. One of the paradoxes of improving the national educational standard is that inevitably less officer material comes into the Navy by way of the lower deck.
Surely, the answer is to create this new type of officer, something between the officer as he is now understood and the man. It always seems to me that the Admiralty is still in the 18th century, when we had the gentlemen and the labourers and nothing in between. In this way, a great gulf was fixed. It is rather as if one tried to run the Civil Service with the clerical class and the administrative class and no executive class in between. It would be exceedingly wasteful of talent and the first complaint we should hear about it was that there was difficulty in recruiting the necessary number of graduates for the administrative classes of the Civil Service. The Committee and the taxpayer would know what was coming next.
The opposition to that view comes from people who say, "But you cannot have two different kinds of officers." I have heard it said that we cannot have Brahmins and Untouchables. I regard that argument as rubbish. Again, the answer is to be found in the Civil Service.
Turning now to the later Votes in the Estimates, I should like to say a word about the enormous sums of money which are spent on major refits and modernisations. This is something which I have criticised before and, I have no doubt, will criticise again. It is easy to say that only the very latest gadgets will suffice when we have a small Navy, but I wonder how far that is true. We have spent £20 million on the "Victorious" and I do not know how much—is it to be another £20 million? —on the "Eagle". My hon. Friend the Civil Lord would be wise not to answer 78 Chat question. I do not expect that he has been let into the secret yet.
The history of the "Eagle" is quite enlightening. She joined the fleet for the first time in August, 1952. I well remember, because I was the first Admiral to fly my flag in her. Even on the day she joined the fleet, an imposing list of proposed alterations and additions had been drawn up by the ship's staff. They were all desirable and all expensive and included extra dynamoes, extra evaporators, a new wardroom, better mess decks here and there and quite a lot of other things. Being devoted to the cause of economy, I made myself unpopular by refusing to allow those items to go forward, because I said that sooner or later the ship would be due for an extensive modernisation and that that was the time to do all the work. When my hon. Friend the Civil Lord replies tonight, however, I would like him to tell us, in the seven and a half years since the "Eagle" first joined the Fleet, how many months she has spent refitting and how much money has been spent in having some of these alterations done. It is an unending process.
That raises the question of whether we can really imagine these ships fighting the sort of enemy, against whom it would matter whether the weapons were bang up to date, without the war becoming a nuclear war. I cannot imagine that happening. On the other hand, if we contemplate a nuclear war, even if the nuclear weapons were used only between the armed forces and the civil population did not have to withstand a direct nuclear attack, I do not believe that these aircraft carriers would last a week.
My hon. Friend the Civil Lord said that the "Hermes" was able to shoot down 90 per cent. of the aircraft that attacked her. He did not tell us what aircraft they were. When I say "shoot down", I do not want to be misunderstood, but I take it that what is meant is that interception by the fighter aircraft of the "Hermes" would enable them to stop 90 per cent. of the attacking aircraft. Whether they are the equivalent of Victors or Vulcans at their maximum operational height and speed, I do not know. Even assuming that they were, it is not the least use nowadays shooting down 90 per cent. It is no use 79 shooting down 99 per cent. We must shoot down 100 per cent., because one single nuclear weapon would destroy the greatest carrier ever built.
I ask myself whether it might not be better to have more ships of a simple nature—and to this extent I go part of the way with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East—suitable for peace-time duties and for dealing with minor troubles. For example, as a Commando carrier the "Bulwark" is admirable. I am given to understand that before she became a Commando carrier in 1958, the "Bulwark" played a decisive part in dealing with the troubles that arose in Arabia. Her aircraft were by no means the last word in modern fighters.
I wonder whether we are are not underestimating the Navy's rôle in time of peace. The Royal Navy still enjoys a worldwide respect and affection which is not shared by any other fighting force of any other nation. This unique reputation rests mainly neither on the Navy's achievements in the last two wars nor upon the memory of Trafalgar. It rests rather on the conduct of Her Majesty's ships during the long years of the Pax Britannica.
For generation after generation, the Navy acted as the policeman of the seas all over the world. It became known to many millions of humble people as the friend of the weak and the helper of the distressed. There is still this rôle to be played I should have thought that it could bring this country greater influence and more good than can the possession of the very latest gadgets.
Today, unfortunately, in playing that rôle we are hampered by lack of ships. Only twenty-five years ago, the British Navy would have been first on the scene at Agadir. and it would not have been with merely a minesweeper and a depot ship. A fleet would have arrived there. For the cost of modernising the "Victorious", we could have built about ten small cruisers or big sloops, call them what we will. I dare say the same number could be built if we left the "Eagle" as she is and invested the money in that way instead. Those ships would admirably fulfil the sort of peacetime rôle which I have in mind and be capable of dealing with the sort of trouble that can be dealt with by force today with any degree of safety.
80 I am not saying that there is no global rôle for the Navy—I am sure there is. It is the rôle which has been advocated from both sides ever since I have been a Member of the House of Commons and, I should imagine, for some years before. The proper rôle, surely, is to send part or all of the nuclear deterrent to sea and to have it afloat. I do not mean to have it afloat in the form of carrier-borne aircraft.
Last year in a similar debate I ventured to criticise the obsession of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation with Blue Streak. I suggested to my hon. Friend the Civil Lord that the Navy might develop its own form of Polaris, that it might go to the torpedo establishment and ask for advice. I was not entirely joking. From what we know of Polaris, which is little—there has been a certain amount reported about the American trials—I think that the Americans have gone off on the wrong tack and that they will have a good deal of trouble with this weapon.
But now we are told that the deterrent has to be indestructible if it is to be valid. That is the origin of this Sky-bolt project, but surely the Skybolt project has gone only half way to solving the problem. The aircraft carrying it will have to operate from fixed airfields which would still be vulnerable. A nuclear-propelled warship, whether operating on the surface of the sea or as a submarine, would be able to stay at sea for months if that proved necessary. I hope that my hon. Friend will resist proposals to build new super carriers or aircraft to carry the Skybolt. I feel sure it will not be long before that suggestion is put to him.
I think we should be mistaken in thinking that a nuclear ship carrying a nuclear missile need necessarily be a submarine. It could be a medium-sized surface ship that could be designed tomorrow. It might have a tough outer skin and be fitted with anti-aircraft guided missiles, which would give it a high degree of immunity from bombing attack, and also it could be fitted with anti-torpedo protection. It would not be invulnerable or indestructible, but it would be a good deal better than a missile base in the United Kingdom.
This is by no means a new idea, as my hon. Friend may know and as I am sure 81 hon. Members opposite who were Members of the Labour Government will recall. The same sort of idea has been advanced for over ten years. Royal Air Force enthusiasts will reply that ships would not stand for a moment against the stand-off bomb. I do not accept that, but were it true, what possible value are the carriers? They are far from vulnerable when compared with the sort of ship which I have mentioned.
There is one aspect of this nuclear deterrent policy which worries me a great deal. To what extent is the policy being governed by inter-Service rivalries? Is the R.A.F. determined to make a corner in the nuclear deterrent and if possible to deny the Navy from having any share? Is it a coincidence that the misgivings regarding Blue Streak coincided with the emergence of Skybolt which will require both rockets and bombers? If there is anything in these fears, the sooner we merge the two Services the better it will be for the country.
I wish to conclude on a different note. This is the year in which all men of vision and good will look for a disarmament agreement. I would not venture to prophesy, but I feel certain that there is a greater prospect of such an agreement in the coming months than has existed at any rate during my lifetime. Therefore, it is my earnest prayer —I am sure it is the prayer of any hon. Member taking part in these debates— that when we debate the Estimates next year we may no longer be concerned with a nuclear deterrent; that that will then be a nightmare fading into the past. Rather we shall be concerned, let us hope, with the need for a force of warships designed to play its part in the maintenance of international law and in the defence of the freedom of the seas.
§ 5.45 p.m.
Mr. John Dngdale (West Bromwich)
The Committee always listens with the greatest possible interest to the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett). The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows what he is talking about and he speaks with remarkable clarity, so that those of us who know less can understand. I find difficulty in disagreeing with anything which the hon. and gallant Gentleman said, and particularly with his concluding remarks, but I wish to take up one 82 or two points which he made before making others of my own.
I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman about the veil of secrecy which is cast over the affairs of the Admiralty. This applies also to other Service Departments. I agree that the case of the Admiralty is better in many respects and I think that the Explanatory Statement that we have had is very good. But even so, there is much too much secrecy.
I agree particularly with the references by the hon. and gallant Gentleman to the numbers of officers and ratings ashore. I once had a brush with no less an eminent person than the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman had a great deal to say about the large number of officers and ratings ashore at the time of the Labour Government. Apparently, it was something particularly wicked that the Labour Government had done. It is interesting to note that the same thing goes on today.
In defence of the Civil Lord, I am bound to say that very many are in the Fleet Air Arm, so, obviously, they must be ashore, but I have no doubt that the Civil Lord can put his own defence. It is certainly a large percentage and I do not think that any of us thought to see so many ashore.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
There are the marines also, of which about 92 per cent. are ashore.
§ Mr. Dugdale
Of course, there are also the marines.
Like many other people, particularly those who have held the office, I mourn the demise of the office of Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty. I am glad to welcome this new office under what I feel is a rather awkward title of "Civil Lord (Parliamentary)". That does not seem to me the best of titles.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
It is just "Civil Lord".
§ Mr. Dugdale
I am glad to hear it. I understood that "Parliamentary" was still attached from force of habit.
While I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment, I do not congratulate him on having exactly the same 83 salary as he had before. I have been looking at the salary of members of the Board of Admiralty and it is interesting to see that the Civil Lord receives less than half the salary of any other member of the Board. This is an extraordinary state of affairs. Not only that, but he has a smaller salary than any of the private secretaries of members of the Board of Admiralty.
Looking through the list I was staggered to see that that was so, except possibly in the case of his own secretary, although it may be that even his own secretary gets more than the hon. Gentleman. Anyhow, all the salaries of private secretaries of naval members are higher than that of the hon. Gentleman and I do not think that this is right. Of course, this raises an issue which goes far wider than the subject we are discussing. I realise that the salaries of all junior Ministers are involved.
I hope that the status of the hon. Gentleman will be increased as a result of his new office. When I was at the Admiralty I thought it wrong that when the First Lord was absent the chair at the Board of Admiralty should be taken by an admiral; in other words, by a naval officer acting in the same way as a chief civil servant might do in a civil Department. I think it wrong that any Minister should have to sit at a table at which the chair is taken by a man who is not a Minister, be he a civil servant or an officer of the Armed Forces.
This does not apply in either of the other two Services and I hope that as a result of this change of office the situation may be remedied. I do not ask the Civil Lord to comment on it now, for obvious reasons. It is something upon which I did not comment when I held the office, but I can do so more freely now.
I wish to speak mainly on the question of submarines. On looking at the Estimates I looked, first, at the Estimates of the Admiralty Office. Last year, the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East said that he hoped the Parliamentary Secretary and Financial Secretary would look at the Admiralty Office Estimates and reduce them. He has, in fact, looked at them and increased them by £½ million. That has been the result of the efforts of the Parliamentary 84 and Financial Secretary. We hope that the Civil Lord will look at them again and perhaps be able to decrease them next year.
I have looked at some of the more detailed Estimates. Here I speak with some diffidence as I am not as sure as I might be of the actual scope of the work, but the Undersurface Warfare Division would seem to be a division concerned, at any rate indirectly, with submarines, and which might be expected to play a very big part in the work of submarines. I find that there are 14 people in the department and that it has had no increase from last year to this year. I find, on the other hand, when I look on page 171, that the Historical Section has exactly 14 people in it, but last year it had 13.
In spite of the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, it has been increased to 14 and has now caught up with the Undersurface Warfare Division. I cannot think it right that there should be the same number to record the past services of the Navy as there are to prepare for the future warfare of the Navy in its most important aspect, the aspect of the undersea warfare. That is something which should be attended to. It shows that there is something of unbalance in the Admiralty Vote.
So strange is it to me that the hon. Gentleman has not looked into it himself that he might well consult that other department, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), the Department of the Chief Psychologist. I see that department has gone up in numbers by one. There is one more psychologist than there was before. I have nothing against the department. It performs very good service, but its increase is an interesting point. When I was at the Admiralty a number of ratings were anxious to leave the Service, as can well be imagined, because it was shortly after the war. One was so anxious to leave that eventually he was sent to the psychologist, not to the Chief Psychologist, but to one of the junior psychologists, who saw him over a considerable number of weeks. At the end of that period something extraordinary happened. The psychologist himself put in for leave of absence from the Navy.
85 I turn to Vote 8, which perhaps is the most important Vote in the whole of the Estimates. It is a Vote of £233 million. I note that it is no less than two-and-a-half times what it was ten years ago. That is quite a big increase. I am sure that all of us will agree that it is better to spend money on equipping the Navy well and possibly having rather fewer men in it than to have a larger number in an ill-equipped Navy, but I am not quite certain that the money is spent as well as it might be. It is difficult to discover how it is spent. One has this enormous block and there is very little subdivision which makes it practically impossible to discover details of expenditure.
I should like to know how much is spent on submarines. The Explanatory Statement says that five were launched last year. I understand that the nuclear submarine has not yet been launched.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
§ Mr. Dugdale
Not yet, and there is one planned in addition. The Civil Lord said that it was difficult to contemplate planning any more and difficult to contemplate planning a submarine of the Polaris type because it was so expensive. I think he said that it was six times the cost of the others. I may be corrected on this by those who know better, but I understand that it is about 300 times as effective as a normal submarine. That seems quite useful. In any case, however, none of them, apparently, is to be capable of firing nuclear weapons. Why is this? My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East said that it was time we recast our defence policy.
§ Mr. Willis
I was quoting from what the Civil Lord said last year, that if we were to consider Polaris we would have to consider the whole of our naval strength.
§ Mr. Dugdale
It might be well worth doing that. The Navy today has an opportunity such as it has never had for the past ten years, or indeed, since the war. It has been forced by the other two Services into third place. Those of us who are fond of the Navy, and want to put it first, should make no mistake that it has been forced into third place. The Air Force, as carriers of the nuclear deterrent, naturally has the leading place and the Army, with the amount of work it has to do, has second place.
86 Here, I sound the only controversial note of my remarks. Largely as a result of Government policy in Cyprus, in Kenya, and one or two other places, the Army has had a great deal of extra work to do. One has heard of its work much more than one has heard of anything the Navy has done.
Now we have come to a point when people are beginning to say, "Is it right that the whole of the nuclear deterrent should be concentrated in this country?" My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) put it very clearly in the defence debate, when he said:a fixed site missile was an invitation and not a deterrent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 884.]I will not argue whether there should be a nuclear deterrent or not. That seems much too big a subject to get involved in at the moment, but I am asking whether, if there is to be a nuclear deterrent, it is better that it should be placed in this country or placed on board ships which are floating, which are away from this country, and can be in different places.
There are two disadvantages in having the nuclear deterrent here. The first is that it is static and everyone knows where it is. The second is the particular place it happens to be, in the middle of the United Kingdom. Those seem very large disadvantages. We have a large American force here, kept to be able to deliver the deterrent. We have little right to say to them, "Take your deterrent away" unless we can say, "We offer you somewhere else from which to fire it." That is always assuming that there is to be a deterrent.
What we can offer them today, or should be able to offer them today, is that it should be fired from Her Majesty's ships of the Royal Navy. I do not know what ships can fire it, or if any ships can fire it, but I know that apparently the best ship for firing it, and the ship from which it could be fired with the greatest effect, is a submarine of the Polaris type. The money spent on the Navy today, therefore, could well be spent not so much on developing a large number of small ships or a large number of antisubmarine ships, as on developing a smaller number of Polaris-type ships capable of carrying the deterrent. When they are developed, and only then, can 87 we say to the Americans, and, indeed, to the Royal Air Force, "We do not want any more nuclear deterrent bases in this country, because we are providing them elsewhere." That is a task which the Navy can carry out, a task which could not be done better by any other Service, a task which would place it in the front rank of all three Services.
Judging from the Civil Lord's speech, the Navy, unfortunately, will not be able to carry out these duties. He said that we were not to have such a ship as this. There is no possiblity of having it for some time, yet we are spending this enormous sum of money. It could be better spent on preparing a Polaris submarine than on many other items on which it is proposed to be spent.
With all the money that the Navy has today, it could take up this rôle of being the carrier of the nuclear weapon which is now based in this country. It could take over this rôle if it was willing to prepare itself to do so, and I hope that it will. If it was prepared to undertake this duty it would again become of the first in importance among our defence Services.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I always feel rather diffident about taking part in a debate on the Navy Estimates, because I am probably the only hon. Member present who has not had the opportunity of serving with the Royal Navy. However, since I have been in the House I have taken a keen interest in the affairs of the Navy, and I have gone as far as my hon. Friend has in going from one ship to another in a jackstay.
I should like to take this opportunity of saying how much we appreciate the work that the Civil Lord does, and in particular to thank him for the many problems which I send and he attends to in addition to the work that he does in the House.
We on the Government benches are pleased that since the last election our numbers have been increased by Members who have far more knowledge of the Navy than we had previously, which is an additional reason for my diffidence in joining in the debate.
88 My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) referred to the number of civilians employed. In April, 1955, there were 180,600 civilians. There are now only 150,000. That shows a drop of 30,600, and may mitigate some of my hon. and gallant Friend's feelings about civilians.
During the defence debate there seemed to be a shift of emphasis with regard to the Navy. It seems that we are now not going to rely entirely on the nuclear deterrent, and that some reliance will be placed on conventional weapons. I presume that the Royal Navy, as has been mentioned by one or two right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, will have a bigger part to play.
The notes in Cmnd. 949 are very helpful, and perhaps the diagrams were put in for people like myself. We have been given more knowledge this year than in previous years, though the votes themselves are tied up in a way which rather confused me.
Dealing with the point made by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King), I suggest that this Cmnd. 949 Paper should be sent to headmasters of schools from which boys are likely to come into the Navy. It would be of great interest to them, and would be an excellent form of publicity.
I was delighted to see that at the end of the notes there is a map showing over 300 places visited by the Navy. Diplomatically that is a great asset. It shows, in addition, the forces that we have can be spread round the world. I presume that these visits were made during the year, but I should like confirmation of that. We have a good chance of publicising the Navy by showing that it is capable of going a considerable way round the world.
The Minister of Defence stated that the nuclear and non-nuclear deterrents must be more mobile. During the defence debate, he said that the accuracy of the Russian rocketing seemed to prove this. It seems to prove what the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) said, that if missiles were fired from ships they would be less vulnerable than if they were fired from a static point in Norfolk. I support that view, and I hope that we will consider having more missile-carrying vessels, besides the nuclear submarines 89 which apparently we cannot have at the present time. In this context, I should like to know what has happened to the Girdle Ness trials. Has any progress been made?
If the Navy is to retain its rate of recruiting, it is essential that there is not a change of policy every year. People do not join the Navy because we have a different policy from year to year. I hope that we shall now get rid of the view expressed in the White Paper issued by the Ministry of Defence last year about the rôle of the Navy, and that its future rôle will soon be settled.
We have heard a lot today about the good work that the Navy can do in rescue work, the work it did during two world wars, and during the period of the Pax Britannica. All hon. Members are anxious that whatever happens there shall be no war in future, but we realise that there is a need for a Navy to police our seas. We must, therefore, make it plain to future generations coming into the Navy what part they can play in a peacetime Navy. The peacetime Navy can play a great part. The presence of a Navy on the seas contributes to peace.
Fishery protection has not been mentioned. I notice from the Cmnd. Paper that 53 ships were used to protect our fishing trawlers off Iceland. I understand that that is good training for the younger officers and ratings. I was interested in trying to find out the average age of the people in these ships, and I understand it is about 20. My only concern is whether there is sufficient change in the drafting of the crews. These young men go to sea for a long period, and it might be better to change the crews more frequently and give more people this experience. I know that this duty is not being carried out at the moment because the trawler fishermen have agreed not to fish off Icelandic shores until the Conference on the Law of the Sea, which I hope will be successful. If, after all, the Navy again start protecting our trawlers, I hope that the need for changing over the personnel on these ships will be emphasised.
The feeding arrangements on small ships are not as satisfactory as they are on the larger ships. I have visited larger vessels where the messing facilities and feeding arrangements are good, but on 90 the smaller vessels the food is monotonous and cooking is done under difficult conditions.
Paragraph 54 of the Command Paper refers to candidates for direct entry to Dartmouth. None of the candidates came from a traditional recruitment area, which is Plymouth. I wonder whether there is sufficient publicity, as I notice that very little is spent on publicity. If we are to attract the type of young men we want, both in the Navy and as apprentices in the dockyards, there must be more publicity, because the Admiralty has to compete against industry. Unless we put our policy stating the type of life in the Navy over to the public, we will not get the young men that we require. They may not volunteer for the Navy because they do not know the various careers that they can follow.
The first paragraph of page 9 of the Command Paper says:The Navy must always keep abreast of technical advances affecting sea warfare; the quality of its ships, aircraft, and weapons must match that of the other principal navies of the world.My hon. Friend told us today that ours is only the third largest Navy in the world. Perhaps we can be told later in what way we shall try to match the other navies. We obviously cannot do it in all sections—it is important to know how we are going to match them. Are we to match them in regard to submarine warfare, or are we to match them in regard to aircraft carriers in which the Americans are vastly superior to us? It would be very helpful to have a more definite explanation of that paragraph.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East, mentioned H.M.S. "Eagle", which at the moment is refitting in Devonport. I can assure him that he is not wrong in suggesting that the amount of money envisaged by the First Lord and publicised by our local papers will be £20 million and that it will take between three and four years to complete.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
Four and a quarter years.
§ Miss Vickers
After that, will it be a modern ship? Consideration should be given either to speeding up the reconstruction of this ship or to doing it in not such a "complicated manner", 91 which my hon. and gallant Friend criticised. If a refit is to take four and a quarter years and cost £20 million, would it not be better to build a new ship, which I gather would cost about £50 million? How much longer would it take to build a new ship?
I am saying this because I visited H.M.S. "Ark Royal". Despite its refit, I would not call it a modern and up-to-date ship. The accommodation, though very much improved, is still not equivalent to that in a great many merchant ships which I have seen. I know that naval ships have to carry more equipment. If the "Eagle" is to be re-equipped, we should think seriously about whether it can be made modern with an expenditure of £20 million or whether it would not be better to build a new ship.
I was interested to hear that the "Ark Royal" is the first carrier to be able to operate at the same time Scimitars, Sea Vixens, Gannets, A.E.W.s and Whirlwind helicopters. This is a credit to the reconstruction of the ship and to the new technical equipment which enables her to land all these types of planes on her deck.
What is to be the policy in regard to Her Majesty's Dockyards? I am not referring only to the dockyard at Plymouth. It is essential that the towns which are dependent on the yards should know what is to happen in the future. Are they to be merely repairing yards or are they to be turned over, as has been done in the case of Devonport at the moment, to building ships? At present, as my hon. Friend knows, we are building H.M.S. "Plymouth" and another frigate. There should be a definite policy in this. We are only too delighted to be able to build these ships in order to train young men, but if this policy is changed we might again be left with many unemployed and, if we had, have to return to repairing the Navy's existing ships. It would appear that there will not be much money for building more ships. In the present Estimates provision is made for £750,000. The other money would seem to be going simply to hurrying up those ships which have already begun.
Furthermore, there does not appear to be any money in the Estimates for the 92 provision of new machinery for the dockyards. In many dockyards the machinery is becoming very obsolescent. There is also a need for new machine tools, but there is a reduction in the Estimates concerning these.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
It is a little confusing. Dockyard machinery has been transferred to the Navy Works Vote.
§ Miss Vickers
Will there be any extra money in the new Vote for machinery? The trouble may arise from the new way of computing the accounts, but I have been informed that there is not sufficient money to make any real improvement in the machinery.
Furthermore, there are to be cuts of about sixty in the established personnel and 601 in the hired personnel. Is this to be a continuous process? Are the dockyards to be gradually run down, and is it to be a continuing process year after year? There is an increase for wages of only about £3 million. It does not look as if the dockyards will be able to increase wages in the coming years or make any increase in the numbers employed.
The Civil Lord was kind enough to receive a deputation about apprentices. Many yards are anxious to be allowed to take on more of these young people. The British Employers Federation has circulated its member firms, and 154 public companies have agreed to take an increase of boys into skilled occupations in 1961, 1962 and 1963. I hope that the Admiralty will consider following suit, because in certain areas there is no other industry which can take up the training of young boys.
When can we expect the second Nihill Report to be ready? The reorganisation of Chatham and Rosyth is being carried out. This I believe is very desirable. We cannot expect to get into the dockyards the best recruits from the Services or from the engineering students if they do not know what the future organisation of the yards will be.
Further, I am worried about the number of safety officers. There are only six of these officers employed in all the yards. There is very complicated machinery in many yards, but there is only one safety officer for each yard. If he is sick or on holiday, there is no one of his grade to take his place.
93 The dockyards are very short of welfare officers. All the yards employ many thousands of men. There are only fourteen welfare officers altogether, four of whom are at Rosyth. I hope that my hon. Friend will reconsider the position, because it would be very useful to have more welfare officers to deal with the many problems which occur in the yards.
I asked a Question of my hon. Friend the other day about the Royal Marine Barracks at Stonehouse, and he said that he might be able to reply during today's debate. We should retain these barracks. They are very admirable and beautiful buildings. They have a long room, and also a theatre. The interior accommodation could be repaired and modernised. Then they would provide an excellent centre for the future.
The Minister of Defence went on board H.M.S. "Bulwark", the first Commando carrier. According to the Press, he said:In addition to its fire brigade rôle, which I regard as of the greatest importance, she can still act in the anti-submarine rôle.I suggest that we have another ship of this type which could be used particularly by the Royal Marines. Is any further action to be taken about the accommodation at Bickleigh, where men are still housed in huts?
I wish to thank my hon. Friend for allowing the use of the Royal Naval Hospital at Stonehouse for civilians. It is a great asset at the moment when there is a shortage of accommodation in civilian hospitals.
There is also the problem of the Admiralty constabulary. I hope that the Minister will be able to say today—he may remember that I had an Adjournment debate on this question—that there will be no further reduction in the age of retirement of these men. They are now being retired at the age of 63 and they have still two years to wait for retirement pension. This is causing hardship, and I hope that he will see that the age is not lowered any further.
I should like to bring to my hon. Friend's attention two final points in regard to pensions. I understand that at present naval officers on special duties receive a lower pension than those on general duties. For instance, a Royal Navy officer on special duties receives £700 per annum, whereas a Royal Navy officer on general duties receives £800. 94 I believe that this is not the case in the comparable ranks of the Royal Air Force or the Army. Perhaps this has been overlooked or is a mistake, and I shall be glad if my hon. Friend will look into it and put it right?
I want to refer to paragraphs 49 and 50 of the Command Paper in regard to the retirement age of officers. I understand that in order to carry out certain recommendations of the Report of the Grigg Committee, Command 545, there is to be an earlier retirement age. Lieut.-commanders, in particular, would like to know whether they are to be allowed voluntary retirement within the next four years. It would appear that there is to be an inroduction of this earlier age for those entering after May, 1957. This does not help a considerable number of officers because of the difficulties of promotion. Can those who cannot be promoted further be allowed to retire, as they should be allowed to, in their late 30s or 40s? There are quite a number of officers who were in the 1939–45 War for whom there is no possible chance of promotion because during the war R.N.V.R. officers were given permanent commissions. Is it the wish of the Admiralty to keep these men if they have no chance of promotion? Is there a shortage of officers of this type? Many of them would like to retire before the B scheme officers who are being released from 1960 onwards. They cannot get promotion and they would like to know what is to be their future.
I should like to pay tribute to the Women's service. I see that they are particularly mentioned in this Command Paper, and that they are playing a larger part in the Royal Navy than previously. I also raised this matter in an Adjournment debate with regard to the Grigg Committee's Report on conditions of women in the Service, and I take this opportunity of thanking my hon. Friend for various steps that have been taken to improve their conditions.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)
It is not my intention to keep the Committee for long and, therefore, I do not propose to follow the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) into the details of the Estimates. I want to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) 95 and the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) with regard to Vote 12, but to refer to it on a different basis.
It may not be apparent to many hon. Members that in Vote 12 we find a situation where there is a reduction by one in the membership on the Board of Admiralty. This has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich. The posts of Parliamentary and Financial Secretary and of the Civil Lord have been for the first time merged. That means that there will be one less political member on the Board than has been the case, certainly for the whole of this century, and perhaps for the last one hundred years.
We now find in the Board of Admiralty a situation in which the naval officers retain their numbers this year— and, of course, the Permanent Secretary has to be there—but there is a reduction in the political membership of the Board. I view this change with serious concern. I am quite sure that those who believe in Parliamentary democracy will be a little worried that this century-old ratio has now altered to the disadvantage of the political members.
I am sure that most hon. Members are aware that it is the Board of Admiralty which finally sends this Vote to the House of Commons. There is a body in the Admiralty called the Finance Committee which, for months, goes into the financial situation for the ensuing year and sends its recommendations to the Board for its final decision. Until now there have always been two political members on the Finance Committee, one the chairman and the other the Civil Lord. Representatives from other Departments go to the meetings of the Finance Committee which decides whether financial requests for the ensuing year should be allowed.
That situation is to be changed, because of the change in the composition of the Board of Admiralty. I imagine that it will mean that the Civil Lord himself will take the chair, and I am wondering whether it will be possible for him to stand up to the Departments, when they go there, without the assistance of the other political member. I always found 96 that that was necessary, and I am sure that the Civil Lord will.
I suggest that this reduction in the political membership of the Board of Admiralty, although voting does not take place at the meetings of the Board, will mean an increase in the power on the Board of the naval staff and a corresponding decrease in the power of the First Lord and the Civil Lord. I had the privilege of serving at the Admiralty for over six years, and it is my conviction that this change in the Board's composition will do a great disservice to the House and to the country.
Let us look at the situation. The First Lord is in the other place. The Civil Lord is the only Admiralty representative in this House, whereas both the Army and the Air Force have two representatives. The Civil Lord has had to open this debate on his own, and, if he wants a cup of tea, will doubtless have to be replaced by his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War—who does not know the first thing about the Admiralty. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State for War will agree that he does not know the first thing about the Admiralty's work. I merely mentioned it because it is hard on him to have to take over while his hon. Friend gets some refreshment.
I have served on the Board with a number of admirals, with three First Lords, and with others of my colleagues in the position of Parliamentary and Financial Secretary. I do not know whether the First Lord will be one of the most outstanding men in that post that we have had, but I am sure that, without the assistance of another junior Minister, the Civil Lord's job will be much more difficult. If the Press reports were right, one read that just after the present First Lord took office his private secretary was in the wrong, because the Press photographs showed him, and not the First Lord, in a peak cap.
It is important that we should have a First Lord of the most outstanding type, and one who can let the admirals know that he means to be First Lord. No doubt, the Civil Lord will try to help him in that way, and I am sure that he would agree that we should not have had this change. It would be much better to retain the second political member on the Board, and, perhaps, get rid 97 of two admirals—at their rate of pay, it would certainly be cheaper. The Board might then function more in accordance with a political democracy. However, it may be a little too late to examine this change.
The Finance Committee is very important, especially at the beginning of the Estimate period. Comment has been made that the cost of the Board has gone up by £1 million. I do not know by how much it may increase next year without the watchful eye of a Financial Secretary. Most of those who serve on the Board come under Vote 12. It is, therefore, quite feasible that that part of the Estimate might be looked on fairly generously, but that, next year, we shall again find ourselves complaining of the cost.
I hope that public notice will be taken of this change. I do not think it has been made on the initiative of the Board, although I have sometimes suspected that the naval members preferred not to have so many political colleagues. This change is one of the most retrograde steps in the Admiralty, and bears out the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich that the Admiralty will now be No. 3 on the list instead of being the senior Service. Of course it will be No. 3. If it is to be treated in this way by the Government, everyone will take for granted that it is No. 3. Those of us who have some regard for the Royal Navy should express our disapproval of the Government's action.
It is a good job that we gat the Navy Estimates each year, or we would not notice these changes, and I see reference to another rather striking change. There was an important department called the Civil Engineer-in-Chief's Department. It existed for over a hundred years, and carried out its work most efficiently during and after the last war. It has now been given the new name of Navy Works Department.
That is confusing to the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport in regard to machinery in the dockyards, and confusing to all of us in regard to Vote 10 and Vote 8 work. The Civil Lord has not told us why it is proposed to change the system which has worked so well in a department for which he is primarily responsible. If all the Board has to do is to change the name of a 98 department in this way, it is high time it found something better to do. I want the fullest information on this.
The first change has been to reduce the political membership of the Board of Admiralty to the lowest figure in the last century. We are left in this House with one junior Minister—let us hope that he never has to go sick. That hon. Gentleman has to answer for the Admiralty in this House. He is responsible not only for the naval service, but for the supply services, for the Admiralty's works programme and for all industrial employees both here and abroad. Can we expect the Royal Navy to be efficient when the Government adopt such a cheeseparing reduction of the political membership of the Board? It will probably mean that this one Admiralty representative will not be able to supply the House with all the information that it requires.
The second change means that an establishment that has been in being for over a hundred years is more or less merged with some other establishment, and we are not told whether it is for the benefit of the works programme, for the benefit of the Navy, or of any benefit to the Admiralty at all. I hope that the Civil Lord will be able to give a very considered reply to both the matters that I have mentioned.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
The hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) made it clear that it was not his wish that the Admiralty should become No. 3 in importance. I assure him that I agree with any suggestions which he may make which will ensure that the Admiralty is not third on the list.
Having said that, may I come at once to what I think was a striking passage in the opening speech of my hon. Friend the Civil Lord, when he talked of the co-operation between the navies of the Commonwealth and mentioned that we had 12 Commonwealth navies. That is a figure which surprised me. and if it comes as a surprise to me, I think it might be of interest to people outside the House and, indeed, outside this country.
In the precincts of the Palace of Westminster I have been asked by some nationals of one of our allied countries how we manage to persuade the people 99 of the Commonwealth to subscribe so liberally to the defence programmes of this country. I explained to them as best I could that we had no power to do any such thing. However, I believe that there are people who are under the impression that the Commonwealth contributes in this fashion at the suggestion of us here at Westminster.
When the Civil Lord tells us that there are 12 Commonwealth navies, it might be worth making the further point that such decisions are taken by independent countries, by people who want to accept their responsibilities for the peace of the world. This means that the strength of the Commonwealth is greatly increased, because they are free decisions.
The Civil Lord, I think, might well on another occasion attempt to tell us a little more about the development of the navies of the Commonwealth. I know a little about the development of the Navy in Canada. In 1939, there was a very small naval force in Canada, but by the end of the war the Canadians decided that they wanted to continue to be a naval Power, and we now find them a most valued and important part of the N.A.T.O. contribution. Therefore, I suggest that the Civil Lord should see whether he can in some way make available fuller information about the Commonwealth which, I am sure, would be of interest to many of us.
We have been discussing today the nuclear deterrent. I have always felt that the policy of the Government was right in developing the deterrent, and I have also felt that in having the deterrent, is to be found the greatest possibility that we should never see it used. I am sure hon. Members will remember that at the beginning of the last war, whether we were civilians or in the Services, we all had to carry gas masks. We did so because we knew there was a weapon in the possession of the enemy which, if it were used, could have devastating results.
Now we have reached the stage in the nuclear deterrent where we can feel that there is, perhaps, a state of balance between the two sides, I hope that the Civil Lord and those responsible for our naval policy will not concentrate purely on nuclear activities. I believe that if, unfortunately, the time should ever come when a war has to be fought it is con- 100 ceivable that it will not be a nuclear war.
I am reinforced in my conclusions by the leading article which some of us may have seen in The Times last Saturday when it considered the reasons for the lack of support in the recruiting programme for civil defence in London. The article summed up its argument in these words:In short, the common feeling seems, not unreasonably, to be that total nuclear war is unlikely but that it would virtually annihilate this country if it came.If the people who might serve in civil defence in London come to the conclusion that nuclear war is unlikely, it is as well for us to consider the situation in which we would find ourselves if we were involved in a war which was not a nuclear war. It is impossible to range over the whole subject of naval defence, but I should like to consider one aspect in this context; that is, the position in which we should find ourselves if we should happen to be fighting a war against submarines.
The only information which I possess is available in the documents with which we have been supplied. If we look at pages 4 and 5 of the Explanatory Statement we find that the ships in the operational fleet and those engaged on trials and training which would be suitable for anti-submarine operations—the smaller ships—number 23 destroyers and 39 frigates. If we turn over the page we find reference to ships of all classes in reserve, numbering 29 destroyers and 37 frigates. These total 52 destroyers and 76 frigates.
The Civil Lord said that we might find ourselves engaged in dealing with 500 submarines. Some of us have heard an even higher figure mentioned, but let us assume that many of those were engaged in other fields of endeavour and suppose that we had to deal with only 100 in the Atlantic. I wonder whether any of us who saw the anti-submarine war in the Atlantic in the last war would feel happy if we knew that we had only 52 destroyers and 76 frigates available.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Has not the hon. Gentleman left out of his calculation the fact that there is also the large naval strength of America and other naval countries?
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
If the hon. Member, who is always nimble in his arguments, would be kind enough to wait he would find that that was the point with which I was about to deal.
As the hon. Gentleman will recall, I was dealing only a few moments ago with our Commonwealth naval strength. We also have N.A.T.O. in which there are massive forces. At the end of the last war I was with the United States Navy, and I had the greatest admiration for the work that it did. However, there was a time during the last war when the people in the United States had its eyes firmly fixed on the Pacific, and some of us who were fighting the war at this end felt that for quite a long period there was not quite the same devotion to the war which was being fought in Europe as there was to the war in the Pacific.
That is no criticism whatever. All I am saying is that we might find ourselves in a similar position again. We might find that if the United States was harried on both its coasts by different forms of attack, it would not be quite so eager to deploy all its forces to come to the assistance of this country.
The Canadians have specialised in anti-submarine warfare, so we would doubtless be able to rely on them. But the point I am making is one which has already been made by my hon. and gallant Friend She Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) and by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), that we do not have the information on which we can make any real assessment of the position. I have raised this point on other occasions, as have other Members, and I would reinforce the plea which has been made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, that there ought to be some way in which a little more information could be given to us, because it may well be that this point has been dealt with in our various alliances and agreements.
During the debate on defence last week my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence mentioned that it was… not customary or proper for one member Government of N.A.T.O. publicly to disclose the details of the numbers and so on, but in 102 my researches I found a very good pamphlet recently issued by the Institute of Strategic Studies and entitled "The Soviet Union and N.A.T.O. Powers—The Military Balance". This pamphlet quotes certain figures and I can tell the hon. Member from my own knowledge that those figures seem to me to come from a well-informed source."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1960; Vol. 618., c. 1150.]I know that "military" sometimes includes "naval", and I have not seen that document. It may well be that in that document we can get a good deal of the information which we require. But if it is not there, I would ask the Civil Lord to take a look at this problem and see whether there is some way in which we can get better information about the actual defence position of this country should we be faced with, for example, anti-submarine warfare.
We are in exactly the same position if we look at the future. Figures of ships being built are given on page 12 of the Explanatory Statement, and in pages 220 to 229 of the Estimates. But insufficient information is given for hon. Members to form any adequate idea of what is likely to happen. The wordsOther ships are on order …does not take us very far. It may well be that we cannot have complete details of everything, but the 17 frigates which are mentioned would not carry us very far in the shipbuilding programme and that is nearly all the information about the future which we are given for anti-submarine ships.
I know that there is a school of thought which says that the right way to fight submarines is by other submarines, and we have heard of the extra nuclear submarine which is to be built and of the possibility of its being used in this way. There is a passage in the speech of the Minister of Defence in the defence debate, when he referred to this matter and said:As to the rest of the scene, we must get into the nuclear submarine business because we may need these submarines for the hunter-killer rôle and equally for the missile-carrying rôle. It is, therefore, quite right that we should lay down our first nuclear submarine".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1960; Vol 618, c. 852.]What did the Minister of Defence mean when he said that we needed these submarines for "the missile-carrying rôle"? So far as I know, we have not entered into that business, which the Minister of Defence said we should get into.
103 We have been asking for mobility and for methods of carrying troops speedily, and now we have the Commando carrier "Bulwark", for which we are all grateful. However, this carrier might be needed in anti-submarine warfare and I hope that in the operational work which "Bulwark" carries out there will be some regard for the fact that in a limited way she could be used as an anti-submarine vessel. I hope that some time will be given to her training for anti-submarine work.
I want to refer to the assistance which the Civil Lord and Admiralty have given to hon. Members to visit the fleet. When I first became a Member of Parliament it was occasionally indicated that it would be possible for some of us to visit ships of the fleet. Although I applied on such occasions as were open to me, nothing happened for about three years. During the last two or three years, however, the situation has appeared to be entirely different and I thank the Civil Lord and those responsible for the facilities which have been offered, and I have to say how much they are valued by all hon. Members.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East spoke of the results of a Gallup poll being published today and providing some results of which, unfortunately, I am not aware. Evidentally, the hon. Member has been reading a newspaper which is not included in those which come to me.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
It is the Scotsman.
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
Perhaps it is not surprising, then. I was going to say that is was not a newspaper which circulated in my constituency, because the one thing of which I am confident is that my constituents would like to see the Navy occupying a strong place in the defences of this country.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
Like the hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Godman Irvine), most of us, in present circumstances, want to see the Navy as strong as we can afford. I say "in present circumstances" because constant efforts are being made to achieve disarmament. And we all hope they will succeed. However, we ought not to be too sanguine 104 about those efforts, because many people think—and I am one of them—that there will never be disarmament as long as we hang on to the ridiculous idea of sovereignty appropriate to a bygone age. Since most people hang on to it to a very large degree, we find it necessary to have Service Estimates, which many of us would like to do without. When we have Service Estimates, it is our duty to see that the money is properly spent.
I have two points to make before coming to the short main theme of my contribution to the debate. Perhaps a note can be taken of the first, because I should like a reply, although not necessarily in this debate. From Vote J, Subhead Z, I see that there are to be fewer Commonwealth students at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, this year than there was last year. With Nigeria beginning to have a navy and with Ghana starting a navy, I should have expected more students than usual. Can we be told how in these circumstances there are to be fewer?
I had an opportunity to meet the first two Nigerian cadets when I last visited the college, and very fine fellows they seemed to be. I thought that if people such as this were to follow them Nigeria would not have very much to fear in naval matters.
About three weeks ago, I was privileged to be conducted by the captain around the Apapa Naval Base, at Lagos, where the beginnings of the Nigerian Navy were very much in evidence. There, I saw a handful of British officers rendering devoted service and I thought what a pity it would be if that sort of thing were to come to an end. I hope that this diminution in the number of cadets at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, is not indicative of a trend which is to set in, because there is something at that college from which students can benefit and which they can take back to their own countries. If they do so, it will be very much to the future advantage of both our countries. I hope that we shall continue to do all we can to help this friendly people.
The second comparatively small point is about the service which is being rendered, or was rendered until recently, by the Royal Navy in Icelandic waters. I see the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) in 105 his place. Like him, last summer I had the opportunity of going into Icelandic waters to see this work. I do not know whether he went into the Arctic Circle, but much of my experience was in the Arctic Circle and I saw at first hand the absolutely splendid work done by the Royal Navy there.
As hon. Members are aware, parts of the sea around Iceland are divided into havens, perhaps 20 miles in width and going out from Iceland to the limits claimed by Iceland. In those havens our trawler men can go about their lawful occasions under the protection of ships of the Fishery Protection Squadron.
It was my very great honour to be on the vessel commanded by the Commodore of the Fishery Protection Squadron and to see what work was being done by the Royal Navy in this serious problem of the Icelandic fishery dispute. Every trawler which came into the haven had to report to the naval vessel which was the centre of the seaborne community. Trawlers are not able to go into Icelandic ports or shelter, even in emergency, for fear of being captured and suffering crippling fines and imprisonment.
It is a seaborne community entirely, and the naval vessel is the centre of it. Every night the commodore had fireside chats, so to speak, with the trawler skippers to keep them in the picture and produce team work; and it was a remarkable experience to listen to them. I have more than a shrewd suspicion that it is due to the amazing combination of maritime bluntness and diplomatic tact shown by that man and She men he commanded that we have managed to avoid this Iceland dispute turning into a hot war, with shooting and all the rest of it. I am glad to have had the opportunity to pay tribute to him here, because I know how much hon. Members like to hear from first-hand experience of other hon. Members, about the jobs that these men, whom we have sent out. do in distant parts.
I should like to return to a point raised by the hon. Member for Rye about the knowledge which we can have in approaching a debate of this sort. It seems to me that back bench Members are quite incapable of making genuinely useful contributions to the serious problems which often arise in this sort of 106 debate. They can make detailed suggestions and criticisms about points in the Estimates, but on the really serious matters we have not the sources of information which are needed to enable us to stand up to the Government.
For instance, we have nothing like the Library of Congress, where there are trained and qualified librarians to collect material for Congressmen. This material goes through civil servants of administrative rank, who predigest it and present a brief to the Congressmen. This enables Congressmen to put forward a case and to stand up to the Government. The St. Lawrence Seaway would never have been constructed if it 'had not been for the fact that the Library of Congress supplied briefs to Members of Congress showing that the Government were wrong in their facts and figures. We have nothing like that, and there is, therefore, little that we can do. It is very much with a feeling of our own limitations that I shall make the comments that I am about to make.
Apart from Polaris, which does not seem to me, strictly speaking, to be a naval matter, it seems to me that the Navy of today should have two main functions. The first, the fire brigade function, is to go to any part of the world where trouble arises and try to put the fire out. The Admiralty has dealt with that matter by the Commando carrier task force method.
The other main function is to keep our lines of communication open in a non-nuclear war. I am not dealing with a nuclear war, because in such an event, —search me!—I do not know the function of the Navy. It may be that some people in the Admiralty think that they know; but I doubt whether they in fact know. In any case, we do not know what they know and have not the means of finding out. I therefore leave that matter out altogether.
To return to the fire brigade function, I think that the Admiralty is on the right lines with the idea of the Commando carrier, with its attendant escorts of antisubmarine vessels and supply ships. How many there should be, I am not certain. It may be four anti-submarine frigates and two guided missile destroyers, although these latter are not in existence yet. What will happen if such a force meets serious air resistance? 107 H.M.S. "Bulwark" and the other Commando carriers which are yet to come will be completely defenceless. They have to have other vessels and aircraft to defend them. If they are to be able to stand up and not go straight out of the fight if they meet serious air resistance, they will have to have a carrier in attendance with fighter aircraft; and this means more escort vessels for the carrier. Even in this case, where I feel that the Admiralty is on the right lines, there is a serious gap which has yet to be filled.
I now come to the other aim which the Navy should have, that of keeping open the sea lanes in case of non-nuclear war. What have we in the way of frigates? I need not go through the figures in detail, because they are probably well known. We have 23 operational anti-submarine frigates and 37 in reserve. We have seven operational anti-air frigates and 12 in reserve. Also, we have destroyers. Even including the vessels in reserve, we have still far less in the way of anti-submarine defence than we had at the height of the Hitler menace, which was not anything like as great as the Russian one apparently is.
I am not forgetting that we are members of N.A.T.O. and that N.A.T.O. countries contribute to our defence in the same way as we contribute to their defence, but we in this House are not able to estimate the extent to which the interplay of other N.A.T.O. countries including the United States Navy on our defence has any real effect. I believe that we have just nothing effective, even with the help of our N.A.T.O. friends, to cope with this known menace.
Are the Admiralty and the Government satisfied with the present situation? Do they think that in the foreseeable future we shall ever have a defence that will be able to stand up to the menace of the submarine fleet of the U.S.S.R.? It seems to me extremely improbable, whether there are nuclear submarines in the Russian fleet or not, and it would be very unwise obviously to assume that there are not.
Secondly, even if there are not nuclear-propelled submarines in the Russian fleet, if we are to be defended against the threat of that fleet, is it not essential that we should have nuclear submarines our- 108 selves? I know that one is coming along and that another is planned. Is it not essential that we should have a nuclear-propelled submarine defence against the submarine menace of the Russian fleet? We do not even know how much it. would cost us to have such a defence, either in conventional surface craft or in the nuclear-propelled submarines. We should know the relative costs and effectiveness of the two ways of defending ourselves against that menace if we are to make sensible decisions. We do not know these things at present.
I know that it is far more easy for the Admiralty to jog along in its own sweet way, not taking this House into its confidence and not telling us the facts which we must know if we are to be useful in making our criticisms: but we must have the necessary information. It is well over a year since I, and no doubt many other hon. Members, said that we should be given the opportunity of knowing the basic facts of naval life and the strategies called for at present. This can be done by lectures, perhaps, to all hon. Members interested in these matters who are prepared to follow them through. It is not good enough for us to have to fish about in the Library to find the facts amongst bits of paper.
At present, we cannot do our duty. The Admiralty will not do its duty by this House unless it takes steps to take into its confidence hon. Members who are willing to devote time to the matter so that they may adequately keep the Admiralty on its toes. If the Admiralty does not do this, it will not be doing its duty to the House, and hon. Members will be unable to do their duty by the country and by the electors who have sent them here.
We all want to do that duty. Will the Admiralty help us to do it? I hope that we shall have an effective answer to our request which will put us in the position in which we all want to be put —to fulfil our duty to the country which has put us here.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)
The hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) will forgive me if I do not follow him into his extremely useful arguments, except to endorse every word he said about what the Service has done during the very difficult time 109 in Icelandic waters. As one who commanded a ship in those waters during the war, I know how extremely unpleasant conditions are, not only in the gales in winter but in the summer as well. It is a good thing that the House of Commons should pay tribute, especially at this time just before the forthcoming Law of the Sea Conference in Geneva, to the work of the Service.
I would also like briefly to refer to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) about the First Lord of the Admiralty. I am not making any reflection against the present incumbent of that office when I say that many of us would wish to see the First Lord in the House of Commons. If that is not to be, however, we have in the First Lord a man who has given much devoted service to the country in responsible and important offices.
It was not quite fair that we should have what I call a newspaper stunt which was put out by a certain newspaper which does everything it possibly can to "poke Charlie" at the Navy and be derogatory about the Service. Unfortunately, the other newspapers picked up the story. It was a rather stupid and unimportant thing of the kind which one comes to expect from the newspaper in question. We should not treat it except with the contempt that it deserves. To make the kind of remarks that that newspaper made about the First Lord of the Admiralty was just about as absurd as many of its usual comments.
Page 9 of the Explanatory Statement refers to "complexity, complements, and costs". These three things are extraordinarily important. First, complexity. During today's debate, we have heard many remarks about the future young men who will come into the Navy. In the future, we are likely to face an extremely difficult situation in view of the complexity of the armament, machinery, radar and the rest that goes into our ships. The time will come when the kind of men who will get into the responsible positions of leadership will have had more time dealing with complex equipment than dealing with men.
This is a problem which must be looked into and thought out now, because the old days of what used to be known as the "salt horse", or the 110 "executive" officer with no specialisation, are bound to disappear and we shall get the difficult job of marrying up the claims of the man who is an expert leader of men, who has been brought up for the task by his training, experience and everything else, vis-à-vis the highly-skilled technical man who, by the very nature of his work, does not have the ability, the time or the chance of the leadership that the other man would have had in the past.
We have heard a good deal today on the subject of complexity of design. We must strike a balance between what I call the old Heath Robinson arrangement and the other extreme. Many of us who have been involved in refit of ships will know the story. One man puts a pipe from one place to another. A second man comes along and says, "That is awkward. That is just where I wanted to put mine." So he puts a bend underneath the original pipe. A third man then comes along and says, "That is just where I wanted to put mine." And so there is another bend. Amongst the sailors, the story goes that the men fitting the pipe get £5 for every bend and that that is why there are so many! That may be so or not—I do not know.
Against that, I believe that in the American Navy all design is broken down by draughtsmen so accurately and to such a small scale that a lot of this kind of thing is obviated. I am told, however, that if we were to do the same, the enormous cost of doing it would make it quite prohibitive, if not impossible. Somewhere between these two extremes, however, there must be an answer. There must be an answer also to leaving all the pipes, leads and everything else exposed. I know that in new ships, they are being covered. There was every kind of excuse for it not to be done in the past, but I believe that we are overcoming that.
In the case of refits or new construction, I wonder whether the Director of Naval Equipment is sufficiently senior and has enough power. If something is badly designed, is he sufficiently senior to be able to thump the table and to ensure that it is put right or is stopped before it is too late? In one carrier which I have visited recently, the officers' galley was sited three decks above the wardroom. That is disgraceful. Things like this simply should not happen today.
111 We have not built a new carrier from scratch for twenty years. We have refitted old ones and not-so-old ones, but we have not actually built a new one. In the present state of affairs, all our carriers will be running out at about the same time. What will happen then? What is the thinking on this? I shall have something to say presently about work study, but are we putting out what I would call a really high-powered study design team to consider a new carrier if we are to have one?
Consider, for example, the viewpoint of the young man who goes into the Navy today. He wants to know whether we will have carriers in 1970. If we will —and I think we will—are we getting down to the matter of design? I am not talking of the D.N.C.'s department or similar people, but of high-powered men who have operated aircraft carriers at sea, be they seamen, specialists or supply people, the men who have to keep the ships operating for long periods under all sorts of conditions, who have had to deal with the kind of awkwardnesses that we get in ships. Are we really getting out a first-class design team to look into all this sort of thing?
What consideration has been given to the question of stabilisers? I know that in carriers as a whole they might not be necessary, but I foresee the day when, with larger and larger aircraft, even a slight roll when an aircraft is being handled might cause damage. This is merely one of the many things which should be considered.
Complement is extremely important. I was delighted to hear the tributes that were paid during the defence debate. It is quite right that something like 49 per cent. of the money spent on the Services should be devoted to personnel. I had the great honour and privilege of spending a few days in a carrier on a recent visit to Hamburg and I saw for myself what the new sailor is like. He is very different from the man we used to know and respect so much in the war. He has grown with the country and with the better state of affairs of the majority of people. His home, his outlook and his training, and everything about him are different. I am not running down the men who made the Navy great through the centuries.
112 I am merely saying that these young men in the Navy today are a very different type of young man. I am immensely struck with their politeness. I am struck with the easy though very respectful friendship between officers and men. I think one sees that particularly in a carrier, going fore and aft along one of the long alleyways, stepping over those sills we heard so much about last year, and coming in contact with very many men; one learns how polite and friendly they are.
I cannot tell hon. Members how impressed I was during that visit to Hamburg. There is no doubt that such visits as that are most valuable and informative. I am told that there were more people at the Press conference in Hamburg than there had been at the one in America. Certainly a huge crowd tried to get on board to see the ship, and there was almost a riot, such was the demand to get aboard. There were literally thousands of people, and there was a traffic jam ten miles long so many followed the ship up river.
I do not think it is any exaggeration to say that one of the greatest assets we have on that sort of trip is the sailor and the way he behaves. We officers going out in the evenings often met the sailors and had a cheerful word with our ship's company. They were behaving as one proudly expects them to behave in public in a foreign land. I think that is the sort of thing of which the public at home ought to be told a great deal more. We often hear in this Committee about our men being ambassadors and so on, but I am talking in down-to-earth terms. The news about our sailors was in every newspaper in Germany and on the radio and television, and they all had a good word to say about them, and the good our men did was enormous.
In this country we do not do enough to publicise them and to put their story over. A lot could be done by publicity, by films—films, for instance, to show the kind of conditions in which the men live ashore today, conditions which are vastly improved.
I must say something about food, which comes under the general heading of complement, because food is so vitally important. I have in my hand the most amazing photographs of the kind of food 113 which I saw being eaten by the men in the forward dining hall of that carrier. I personally thought they were jolly lucky. To be quite frank, I think their food was better than that in the wardroom. One could not have seen better food, and the men themselves told me that it was quite delicious. They told me that when they were at Gibraltar—I think it was—some time ago they had a lot of chaps coming from other ships to eat with them. The "buzz" about their food had got round, and the men from other ships were joining the queue hoping to get "big eats".
I think it is an excellent thing that they should have such good food. It is essential that we should give the very best to men in carriers like that, who work so hard and who have such a tremendous time at sea. From that point of view, I think their conditions are a great deal better than they were.
I should like to say something about officers for a change. In a place like Hamburg officers are always delighted to play their part in entertainment, for which the Navy is justify famed and of which it is justly proud. They receive large numbers of people coming on board whom they do not know but whom they are delighted to entertain. I wonder just what is the situation about entertainment and Income Tax.
This has been a sore point with me for years. I remember when I was commanding a ship in the war and had large numbers of people coming on board and my wine bill was extremely large. I put in for an allowance. I was told that because I was a lieutenant-commander I could not have one, that only commanders got it, but I had to do just the same entertaining as a commander. It seemed very unfair, and I think this is something that ought to be looked into, and something ought to be done about it with a view to reasonable expenses for entertainment being set off against tax.
Now I come to a subject I have raised before, the R.N.R. It does seem unfair for R.N.R. officers going on weekend training alongside R.N. ships that in R.N. ships drinks are duty-free but the R.N.R. drinks are not. I have raised this privately with the Admiralty, and I have been told, "Do not do anything about it. because if you do the Navy may 114 suffer loss of its privileges." I think that most unfair, if I may say so. It is not a very strong argument. I think we should make it not two negatives but one positive, and say that if ships are for the training of reserves who are giving up their weekends there should jolly well be tax-free drinks in the wardrooms in those ships, too, with no question of the Navy suffering.
As to costs, some people say sailors are expensive people. It was said by my hon. Friend the Civil Lord just now. Of course they are. They have to be properly trained, they have to be properly fed. But there is a point I would stress. I think that, especially in a shore establishment, if a man goes, for instance, to H.M.S. "Vernon" for training in antisubmarine work, or in some other form of specialisation, it rather goes against the grain if he has to spend much of his time on his hands and knees scrubbing out a bathroom. I know sailors have to do it at sea. That is one of the unpleasant necessities they come to in due course, but is it necessary in shore establishments where specialised training is going on?
I was happy to see one establishment recently where they were employing civilians—women—to do this job in the petty officers' quarters, their cabins, and so on. As was pointed out to me by the president of the mess, these good ladies who do the cleaning are trained to do it and, therefore, they do it better, and fewer of them are required than would be the number of sailors to do the same job." After all, the sailors' job is to be learning the specialisation for which they go to such an establishment. Surely, then, if there are ladies who can come in to clean, they should be allowed to, and this also gives employment to civilians. That is a matter which ought to be looked at.
Now I come back to the question of works study in the attractively got up papers we have quite rightly been given. Works study is something which the Navy does very well. I am told that I.C.I, say there is no better works study team anywhere. However, I just wonder what works study is done on the Civil Service side of the Admiralty. I see that it is stated that there is a works study team, but I am not quite sure what they do, and I should like to know exactly what happens, because I have 115 heard it said that there is no works study. It is rather a taboo subject. I should like to know what goes on about that.
Again as to cost, I believe it right to say that approximately £14 million are being spent on surface equipment and £1.6 million on underwater weapons. We have heard a good deal on the subject of submarines and so on, but it is not only submarines which this expenditure covers. We have to think of mining and counter-mining measures.
Take, for instance, the question of mining. Suppose some man lobs a mine over the side of a felucca in the Gulf of Akaba. The very thought of its being done will at any rate for a while bring all shipping to a standstill In that connection, I am glad to see that in this year's Explanatory Statement a minesweeper squadron now released from Cyprus will go East of Suez. Are we happy that we have enough of these excellent coastal minesweepers, which are first-class training vessels not only for R.N.R.s but for giving naval officers a bit of sea time, which many of them, alas, lack owing to shortage of ships?
Now, we come to the question, which loomed so largely in the defence debate, of the Blue Streak. I am not going into the matter in detail now, but I wish to say that if we have to make up our minds on the matter I personally am 100 per cent. behind the mobile deterrent. It seems to me that it is only common sense. If we have a ship or an aircraft, we know that it is far harder to locate than anything at a fixed site in East Anglia. Therefore, I am not going to advocate Polaris, but whether this is to be done from an aircraft, or submarine, if Blue Streak is allowed to run down, let us make up our minds on the one thing we can afford to do. If it is not to be Polaris, I suggest that we should try to make some lease-lend arrangement with the Americans by which they would undertake the Polaris project and allow us to get the benefit of it. I think that is a most important matter.
I apologise for speaking at much greater length than usual, but, unfortunately, I was unable to take part in the defence debate. There is one other point I wish to mention concerning our world-wide commitments. We have 116 heard about Agadir and Mauritius, but it is stretching the Services quite a lot in expecting them to go to all sorts of places in addition to those to which, traditionally, the Navy has been expected to go. There is also the question of whether the service can get there.
We have heard about fisheries protection and the fire brigade rôle of the Navy. On the question of the fire brigade rôle, we must not be too glib in our ideas that these Commando carriers, which I welcome very much, could be instantly interchangeable with carriers of A.S. capability. The A.S. helicopter has to have a different team, with different maintenance and probably different operating conditions, and I do not know how long it would take to effect the change from one rôle to another.
I was interested to hear what the Civil Lord had to say about those Russian bases. I mentioned just now the instance of the mines and the felucca. We must be prepared, not so much for the Russians starting something with submarines, but for something started by Russian submarines lent to somebody else. That is what we ought to watch— some Egyptian or some creature of that sort.
On the subject of afloat support, I think this is vital. When one looks at the quotations about afloat support and also looks up the references in these Estimates one sees a very interesting situation. In the Explanatory Memorandum, we find:Last year approximately one-third of all the fuel used by H.M. Ships was supplied in this way, as compared with a mere 10,000 tons in 1949 and none at all in 1939.One therefore realises the importance of the matter. It has been found to be far more practicable, because it is now realised that oilers can carry on oiling a carrier while that carrier is turning into wind in order to fly an aircraft, and that is an astonishing thought. They do not just steer on one course, but can actually turn while refuelling. Surely, anything that was possible during the last war should be more easily achieved now. Replenishment today is mostly carried out at sea. It is easier and quicker as men are available who would otherwise be on leave.
We must also consider the question of the lost bases, including Cyprus. We 117 must remember the bases which have been lost to us in the last 20 years, and should also remember the airfields we have lost, and yet I do not think that we have had a carrier sunk since 1943. I think we must go 100 per cent. for afloat support and for a completely mobile force, which I think is essential. I have already referred to the mobile deterrent and do not wish to press that matter any further, but I should like my hon. Friend the Civil Lord to make a note of the point I have made about Polaris and to ask the Minister if we could have some lease-lend arrangement with the Americans.
On the subject of nuclear submarines, I think everyone should read a book on the subject by Commander Anderson of the United States Navy, which gives us a picture of the incredible future of the nuclear submarine. We talk about the A.S. menace and the A.S. rôle and what can be done with conventional submarines, but, as somebody said to me the other day, "When it comes to the nuclear submarine, I might as well throw my binoculars at it." I am quite sure that the Service is working on this problem, looking ahead and thinking of something that will be effective against the nuclear submarine, possibly using the nuclear submarine. I know that these things are very much in the future, but I am sure that the Departments concerned are thinking about them now.
The last point I wish to make on the subject of afloat support concerns the reference that my hon. Friend made in his speech to balanced forces. We have been talking about the fire brigade rôle. The Navy is mostly ready at 48 hours notice. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War has gone, but the view has been expressed to me that the Army takes three months. Therefore, it is quite obvious which is the better fire engine to send to the fire, and I wonder whether it is possible for us to be told by my hon. Friend what is being done about a balanced force— some kind of force which could be instantly available to be sent to trouble spots throughout the world. Is it to be done by means of Commando carrier with a brigade group?—I am talking about soldiers as well—and can my hon. Friend tell us anything about that? It seems to me that with the loss of our bases and so on, this is something that we ought to be thinking about.
118 To sum up, I think the Royal Navy is worth a packet of cigarettes a week to everybody in this country. That was the figure of the cost given by the Minister of Defence, and it reminds me of the story of two sailors whose ships came alongside each other. One said to the other, "What's it like to be in the second largest Navy in the world?" to which the other replied—and one can guess Who he was—"What's it like to be in the second best?" I think that we have the best Navy in the world, with the highest technical developments.
We cannot have the largest Navy, but we must keep up with the highest technical developments. We also have an excellent nucleus of material and men, of whom we are proud, as we have always been in the past. I am happy to see that 49 per cent. of our expenditure is now going on personnel, and I repeat that the Royal Navy is well worth the cost of a packet of cigarettes a week to everyone in this country.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
I always feel on the annual occasions of debates on the Navy Estimates that I ought to apologise as a landsman for intervening in what comes almost to be a kind of conversation between seamen. Indeed, the atmosphere is so nautical that one would not be surprised if someone passed round the port, except that on my side it would no doubt be the rum ration.
My constituency is more intimately connected with the Merchant Navy, the sister Service, and the Navy knows that I am a fierce critic of certain aspects of naval recruiting on which I propose to speak again tonight. Yet whenever I have gone to see the Navy I have been received with the courtesy of which the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) spoke. That kindness and friendship officers of the Navy have extended to a critic in their midst.
Another reason for my not making any apology for intervening is that I propose to speak about youngsters entering the Navy, and my own work has always been on behalf of the young people of England. The hon. Member for St. Ives said that we were getting a navy for the price of a packet of cigarettes per person per week. That is no doubt literally true. We are 119 spending 2 per cent. of the national income on the Navy, out of the 8 per cent. of the national income that we are spending on defence.
I hope that hon. Members opposite who will vote quite happily for the 2 per cent. and the whole 8 per cent. will, when we come to discuss the Crowther Report on the education of the young, against the background fact that we are spending only 3½ per cent. of the national income on education, equally eagerly vote in favour of our providing the advance in education that the Crowther Report demands, at a cost which will still be well below the 8 per cent. of national income spent on defence.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
And less than the price of a packet of cigarettes.
§ Dr. King
I want to return briefly to a topic which I raised recently in a debate on the Adjournment and which I have raised again and again ever since I became a Member of the House ten years ago. I do not want to repeat this evening what I said in that Adjournment debate, although I am tempted to do so because if I remember rightly the only persons present on that occasion were Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary concerned, and myself.
It is common ground between the Civil Lord and myself, and between hon. Members opposite and myself, and between the best men in the Navy and myself, that the Navy ought to be officered by men of ability, intelligence, character, initiative and personality. Especially in these days when the Navy is advancing and we are living in a scientific and technical age and the demands of the Navy are for high skills, trained intelligence becomes far more important among the officers than it ever was before.
I think that it is common ground again among all the people that I have mentioned and myself that all the boys who have these qualities are not born in one social group—the group that go to the independent schools or the public schools. But it is still true that the bulk of the boys selected for cadetships in the Royal Navy this year and last year came from public schools. Hon. Members will 120 have seen in the Explanatory Statement a list which has been printed for the first time of the schools from which our cadets are drawn. The healthy thing about that list is that it is the longest in the history of the Royal Navy. The Navy is recruiting officers this year from more schools than ever in the past 200 or 300 years. But while every public school is in the list, the number of State grammar schools in it is smaller. Many of the big public schools send many pupils, not one, but a grammar school gets into the list even if it sends only one, and obviously there are at least ten times as many State grammar schools in the country as there are public schools. The existence of one or two State grammar schools in the list therefore does not invalidate the case I have made year after year. One swallow does not make a summer.
I do not propose tonight to go into what I have said in previous debates about selection. I want to put the matter in another way. The Government have devised an instrument which, if properly used, can give us a wide field of youthful ability to draw on. The scholarship system for the selection of boys who will ultimately go to Dartmouth, as to the Royal Air Force colleges, Sandhurst and the Army colleges, provides that if a boy is selected for a cadetship his parents need have no financial fear about his future. He can get the full cost of his education, board, uniform and, in the words of the Estimates, "sundry expenses" all met by the Royal Navy.
If he is selected not by direct entry but two years earlier, that is while he is still at secondary or grammar school, he can receive a grant towards the cost of his education in the last two years at school which is far more generous than anything provided by any local authority in maintenance grants. I want to emphasise that somehow we must get over to every parent of every able young lad in the country that if a boy is selected for a cadetship in the Royal Navy, no matter how poor the parent is, that parent need have no anxiety.
It is even true, paradoxically enough, that there are parents whose boys are selected for a cadetship who are better off than the parents of those who are selected for entry into a university. There is no means test and no supplementing of the State award by private 121 means which to the lower and middle-income groups is such a real burden. It has been suggested to me that one of the reasons why middle-class parents are so eager for their boys to have a cadetship in one of the three Services is that it will mean a university education free of a means test for the parents; and the cadetships that we are talking about I regard quite seriously as the equivalent of a university education.
It also needs emphasising that once a boy gets inside Dartmouth or any of the cadet colleges of the three arms of the Services, poverty or wealth and social origin are things which go by the board. There are no social classes in Dartmouth. Indeed, there is none inside any worthwhile college. Once one is inside them, the public schools of England are a perfect democracy. Last year a boy from a secondary modern school won a place at Dartmouth. I am sure that this boy, and all other boys from State grammar schools who are now in Dartmouth or who have passed through it, would be happy to assure every hon. Member and the general public that everybody there is treated in exactly the same way and that the only thing that matters inside a cadet college is the ability of the cadet and not his social origin.
Once a boy gets inside the college all the social problems and cleavages disappear. Therefore, the problems that confront the Navy in trying to obtain the best boys in the country and especially the boys from whom it will draw its officers in the future are, firstly, recruiting candidates from the widest field and, secondly, selecting the best possible candidates for cadetship. The disquieting fact is that this year, as last year, as indeed all through the post-war years, practically every officer cadet selected for the Navy has come from an independent school.
There is little sign of progress in this respect. Very few come from State grammar schools. Indeed, the boy who came from a State grammar school who, I seem to remember, was first or second on the list when I was at the selection board, was unable through physical disability to take a cadetship.
Despite all that some hon. Members have been urging for a number of years, we have not broken down a barrier that exists. I believe that the class structure of British society is changing only slowly 122 and that our educational system still perpetuates that class system. The rate at which it is melting away is far too slow in my opinion. Every grammar school in the country has a careers master. Every sixth form in the country is a recruiting ground for every worth-while career. The Navy, rightly, has a Public Relations Department doing the work for which the hon. Member for St. Ives has asked. It has liaison officers whose special job it is to lay before the youth of Britain the worth-while careers inside the Royal Navy, and the advantages and opportunities offered by those different careers which the Civil Lord set out clearly and eloquently in his speech this afternoon. Yet I understand that nearly half the local education authorities have refused permission to the Navy to give, talks on naval careers in their schools.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
I am sorry if I gave that impression. I was talking in terms of constituencies. About fifty Members of Parliament represent places where the local education authorities do not co-operate, and out of a total of about 600 Members of Parliament that would be about one-twelfth, not one-half.
§ Dr. King
I am grateful for the correction. I was taking the figure which the Civil Lord gave me in our previous debate. I can understand the correction. If, say, three constituencies are served by one local education authority, the picture is not so black as I had imagined.
At any rate, there are some local education authorities which refuse to allow the liaison officers to visit their schools. I understand that the number is shrinking and that some authorities which previously refused permission now give it. I know from a quarter of a century's experience just how crowded is a school timetable and how impossible it would be if the fifth and sixth forms had to make room in lesson time for dozens and dozens of high-powered salesmen on behalf of all the worthwhile careers which we are seeking to present to the young and able lads in our grammar schools.
Moreover, I would not ask for military and navy recruiters anything that was not available for any other branch of British life which has a special career to offer to able youths. Just as it is 123 right that able youngsters should compete for worth-while jobs, so it is right that the Navy should enter into competition with other worth-while jobs to win the cream of our youth. However, outside of formal lesson time, in the last year of a secondary modern school it is the job of the employment officer, in consultation with the headmaster and the parents, to lay before all the youngsters in the fourth or fifth forms of that school what careers are available. We must make sure that before them is a picture of the career available in the artificer class and for the young boy entrant into the Navy.
Similarly, in the fifth and sixth forms of the grammar and comprehensive schools, probably out of school time, one would hope that all local education authorities will ensure that the able young lads in every corner of our country have the fullest knowledge of what openings there are for cadetships in the Royal Navy. The liaison officer should be enabled to enter the school; or at least we should ensure that the careers master is fully equipped with the literature which the Navy can provide. We should also make sure that the school film society can show the excellent films which exist on the careers offered by the Royal Navy. Above all, let us get over to the poorest people in the country the knowledge that we are seeking merit and ability, and that these qualities have nothing to do with social conditions or the wealth of parents.
Somehow we must break a vicious circle. It is partly because in the past so few grammar school boys have been selected that so few of the abler boys in the grammar schools care to face the challenge and adventure of facing a selection board. On the other hand, I have been told by at least two directors of education that it is because the grammar schools are not sending their ablest lads to compete before the selection boards that so few are selected. Certainly on the occasions when I watched the candidates that was my own impression also.
For a variety of reasons, there is a tradition of officer service in the public schools, which have provided the bulk of our officers for generation after generation. Somehow we must establish a similar tradition in the State grammar 124 schools. This will take time, and I am glad that the Admiralty is reaching out in the directions that I have so long urged. For example, last year it called together a group of grammar school headmasters and told them roughly what the Civil Lord said today and what I am saying now about careers in the Navy.
Again I say that every successful candidate, every boy who for the first time wins a place from a State grammar school to Dartmouth, is the best publicity the Royal Navy can have. It has been the experience of selectors that when one boy has broken through, and later goes back to his old school as an old boy wearing with pride his cadet uniform, this encourages other youngsters to enter the contest for selection.
It is also for the heads of the grammar and comprehensive schools, as well as for the local authorities, to do some reaching out. In my opinion, Britain must become in reality a country in which a boy in a village primary school, or a young boy entrant into the Navy on the lower deck—I hope my single technical term in this speech is correct —may know that, if he deserves it, he can become an admiral. In many respects I am dissatisfied by the slow rate of progress we are making along the road of equality of opportunity, but I welcome every step which the Admiralty and educationists can take towards achieving this goal because it is good for the Navy that it should recruit the best.
Like most hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, I am a pacifist. I want to see the end of all the navies in the world and the end of all armed forces, ours and everybody elses. I believe that the only hope of the world is in controlled disarmament, in multilateral disarmament, in the gradual whittling away of the armed forces of the world—our few submarines and Russia's many submarines, our armed forces and those of every other country in the world. That is the goal at which we are aiming, but we must live in the world as it is. We must be prepared in the meanwhile to defend ourselves, and in that defence the Navy has an important part to play.
I was glad to note in the tone of the speech made by the Civil Lord, and in the tone of the speeches made from both sides of the Committee, an end of the 125 inferiority complex which seemed to have got into the Navy in past years as compared with the other two Services. I know that the officers and men of the Navy were conscious of the fact that somehow they did not have the confidence and the affection and that pride of place in the hearts and minds of the House of Commons which they used to have. I am glad to see that change. In the Navy, as in the Army and the R.A.F., we want to widen the field for recruitment of officers. Of the three Services the Royal Air Force has been far more successful than the other two. If the Navy is bottom of any list, it is the one which shows the social range of its selection of young entrants for cadetship. This can be proved by comparison with the R.A.F. and Army schemes I hope that some day the Royal Navy will catch up.
Tonight my special appeal is to headmasters of State grammar schools, to local authorities and to parents in this country to allow keen young lads of whatever social class to have a go at the selection boards, knowing that they will get a fair deal. Then they will have a most exhilarating experience and if they prove worthy and are successful they may ultimately secure an admiral's flag.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Commander Anthony Courtney (Harrow, East)
On this, the first occasion on which I have spoken on the Navy Estimates, it is a great pleasure to be able to follow the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) because, despite his confession of pacifism, we have many views in common. I believe our views regarding the officer entry into the Royal Navy, in so far as they concern the provision of the best type and proper quantity of young officers, are common to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. Perhaps we differ slightly on the means by which we would attain that desirable objective.
I wish to enlarge on the remarks of the hon. Member for Itchen and to bring to the attention of my hon. Friend the Civil Lord the fact that this first shortfall in the officer entry into the Royal Navy—I believe the first in the whole of our naval history—coincides with a most remarkable increase of enthusiasm for sailing by young people in this country, both men and women. It is a remark- 126 able coincidence that at a time when small boat sailing is more popular than ever before, when I and other hon. Members are being bombarded by constituents who wish to sail small boats on newly opened reservoirs, etc., we should be unable to get the right quantity or quality of entry into the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth.
I believe that that has a specific relationship to the age entry at 18. While I was still serving in the Royal Navy the age was altered—for political reasons, if I may say so—from the earlier age of 13 which had served this country so well, as was evidenced by the results achieved in two world wars. I suggest that an immediate return to an earlier age is indicated, but I do not wish to enlarge on that subject because to do so would take a longer time than would be acceptable to the patience of hon. Members. I advocate a return to an earlier age for many reasons—of most of which hon. Members will be aware— as the best possible solution for this problem.
For many generations it has been suggested that a naval flavour, whether merchant or Royal Navy is immaterial in this context, to a young man's education is wholly beneficial. I am aware, as all hon. Members will be, that the reputation enjoyed by the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, the Nautical Colleges at Pangbourne, Worcester and Conway, in my day and in the time of others, stands very high indeed in the general level of education of young men. I believe it not beyond the wit of man— my hon. Friend may be forced to study this question by the figures of entries into the Navy as they progress next year and the year after—to devise some coordination of those scholastic establishments of a naval flavour with an age drop, perhaps to 11, in order to fulfil the purpose which we all have in mind. I throw out that idea for further development as the opportunity may offer.
I cannot consider these Navy Estimates in isolation. Although my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) felt that he could not discuss the question of broader strategy for lack of information, I feel that I must rush in where more senior officers have feared to tread. I wish to make a few points 127 on the Navy's part in fulfilling the objects of this vital service, the prevention of war and the successful survival of this country in the event of a limited war. I say "limited" advisedly because, as has been stressed by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, the prospects of the Navy's rôle in a total nuclear war are indeed dim and need not be seriously considered by the Committee.
In a general defence policy, in which the Navy's contribution is very important, there are two main criteria, what we can afford and the strength and reliability of the alliances with which alone we can at present guarantee our security. As a student of history, it seems strange to me that N.A.T.O., S.E.A.T.O., CENTO and other organisations are discussed quite often by hon. Members as though they were something peculiar to this day and age. Surely they are simply part of the alliances, formerly called coalitions and having other names, which enabled us to fight wars successfully for many hundreds of years of our history. I feel that N.A.T.O., which I shall mention particularly later in my speech, must be considered in that way. as one of our traditional alliances and not as something peculiar to this day and age.
I believe that in our defence policy we must be flexible. We must be prepared to shift the emphasis not only between deterrent and conventional weapons but within each Department as political conditions change and as weapons develop. In the context of knowledge given to hon. Members, I believe one can agree that a reasonable balance has been struck by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence between our deterrent and our conventional forces. I welcome the shift of emphasis to the latter which is revealed in this year's Defence White Paper. I welcome the increased emphasis on the Navy as a participant in the deterrent. The success of our defence is, in the first place, in the provision of nuclear fire-power to our carriers. Although that has not been explicitly stated, from the facts given to us I believe that no other conclusion can be reached.
It is known that certain carrier-borne aircraft are capable of carrying nuclear weapons and, with the mention of this fact in the White Paper, one can only 128 reach the conclusion that that nuclear fire-power has now been provided. The second—this is not altogether clear—is the probable arrival among our defence forces of the sea-borne deterrent in the form of the Polaris submarine. I am sorry if my pronunciation of "Polaris" differs slightly from that of many hon. Gentlemen, but I was always taught at Dartmouth that Polaris was the North Star. The third emphasis which has been shifted in this year's White Paper is very welcome to a naval officer, a return to the historic rôle of the Navy in transporting fighting ability as quickly and as efficiently as possible to all parts of the world as part of the deterrent known colloquially as its fire-brigade duties. I believe, nevertheless, that in all these welcome shifts of emphasis my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has rather lost the sense of proportion within the allocation of money for conventional weapons.
I was particularly struck by a speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) when he said what a danger there was in trying to be effective everywhere and therefore successful nowhere. It is my opinion, such as it is worth, that the Government over many years have yielded to the blandishments of some of our powerful allies in departing from one of the ancient principles of British strategy by trying to be a continental power and remaining at the same time a maritime power. The ground given away in 1954 has not yet been regained.
I as a sailor welcome the doubts expressed in the Defence White Paper about the possibility of yet another shift of land and sea forces from the Continent of Europe. Surely interdependence between allies in N.A.T.O. must not mean ditching the experience of centuries and incurring grave national risk to ourselves. Surely, in concluding treaties of alliance and adjusting them to changed diplomatic and weapon conditions, we should take this factor into consideration.
Before I proceed to the main section of my argument in this respect, I wish to mention three domestic matters in connection with the Navy Estimates. In the first place, I think it disquieting—I believe this figure to be correct—that 38 per cent. only of the Vote A strength of 129 the Royal Navy is at present holding appointments on board seagoing ships or craft. There is little doubt that that figure was considerably higher before the war. I have had personal experience of this before the war. It reflects dissociation of many officers and men from the element on which they have made their lives. It is wholly wrong to my mind that that figure of 38 per cent. should be so low.
In this context, the question of the Royal Naval Barracks at Chatham has been mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East. I support him wholly in this. In my view, it is a thoroughly retrograde step. I would not suggest that the naval barracks should be blown up, for I know it too well, but it should be converted for another use. Another naval barracks left means more men on shore. The time will surely come when some latter-day Jackie Fisher will have to see, that the Navy goes to sea and stays at sea performing its proper rôle. It is no accident that the reputation of the Royal Navy depends on seamanship and finding at sea its proper element. I deprecate the increasing tendency which has been mentioned by many hon. Members for naval officers and men to go ashore and stay ashore.
I have dealt with the short-fall of young officers, and I believe this is all part of the same picture, but I add another thought here. Will my hon. Friend pay a little consideration to the shabby way—and I use the word advisedly—in which certain senior officers of all services, particularly in this case the Navy, have been treated? That has reacted on young men endeavouring to enter the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. Headmasters and parents have an undoubted influence in this respect. Many of them have experienced this. They see the parsimony of the authorities in allocating upto-date pensions to those senior officers, many of whom are in rather distressing circumstances.
Finally in my domestic points, I wish to put one which is small, but which irritates me more than anything. I ask my hon. Friend why it should be that in Vote 5 the sum of some £50,000 is allocated in respect of three shore naval training establishments for overtime. 130 That this word should occur rings false to me. It seems completely against the spirit of the Navy service as such. I could understand it in an establishment such as the Admiralty, which after all is a civil establishment subject to civil rules and regulations. It is right and proper there, but not in a naval establishment. I have never known a naval officer or rating who knew the meaning of the word "overtime". I mention this only as a small matter of personal irritation. Perhaps my hon. Friend may give me a reply on it.
The major question I wish to raise on this occasion is one which was put well by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) in the defence debate. How can one seek to organise defence and ignore weapons which exist? The White Paper on Defence virtually ignores the existence of the 500 Russian submarines which have been mentioned by at least three hon. Members in this debate. I believe that single menace to our security is deserving very much greater attention than it is getting. It is an astonishing thing to me that the White Paper did not include a single reference to anti-submarine warfare as such. In the speech of the Minister of Defence one reference was made to the possibility of the use of our submarines in an antisubmarine rôle.
In the present state of development of nuclear submarines, I believe them to be the noisiest things, either on or under the water. In that capacity I hardly think they would be very effective for that particular rôle. In any case, we shall not have them for years to come.
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), in his speech in the defence debate, mentioned the existence of 500 Soviet submarines. He did not ask himself what they were intended for. He simply posed the question: what are we going to do about them? My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) mentioned them as well. He was bold enough to express the opinion that he did not think they were aimed at our Atlantic communications.
As a student of Russian naval history, it has been my interest for many years to follow the development of the Soviet naval forces from the Revolution onwards, among them more particularly 131 submarines. From the somewhat meagre sources available, I have followed the development of the earlier submarines inherited from Czarist times, through the Maliutki small coastal submarine, through the Shchuka and Lin, to the K-class ocean submarines which formed the base of the Soviet Navy during the Second World War. I know a little of the Type 21 U-boat which was taken over by the Soviet Union in quantity at the end of the war. It was the last word in U-boat development at that time, and no doubt it was the model and prototype of the Type W and Type Z ocean-going submarines which form the basis of the Soviet submarine effort today.
Only one hon. Member, my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard), mentioned mining. It is inconceivable that in discussing Navy Estimates—indeed, in mentioning the main threat which faces us, as I believe it, in these 500 submarines—that no mention has been made of the traditional use which Russians and Soviets have made of their warships for laying mines in other people's waters. I wonder whether sufficient attention has been paid by my hon. Friend to that side of the matter, and how he considers the mining of our coasts could be opposed in case of need.
That apart, from my study of these ships I am confident that the main object of this great force can be nothing less than the cutting of the Atlantic communications which join the New World with the Old. There was a time when Soviet submarines could rightly be described as defensive because of their radius of action, their armaments and their use. That changed many years ago, and we now hear stories of oceangoing submarines of unknown nationality, suspected to be Russian, off many of the coasts of the world. Unknown submarines have been reported off the American coast, the South American coast, and further out in the Pacific.
Two hon. Members mentioned the North Atlantic Treaty forces which we have to oppose this submarine effort in time of limited war. I suggest that here we must take into consideration certain political factors which could influence the course of such a war, and in particular affect—and this has been touched on by one or two hon. Members—the 132 strength and reliability of the naval forces on which we depend to defend those Atlantic communications. I suggest that the nuclear stalemate, if it has arrived, has heralded an era of nuclear blackmail. The time has come—and we have seen one example of this already —when "rocketry", to use a modern expression, is used as an instrument of the cold war. We all know what happened in that respect in Mr. Bulganin's letter at the time of Suez.
It is possible to envisage a situation of mounting political tension. It is conceivable that at some stage of that development the Soviet Union might find it politically necessary to declare a blockade of the British Isles. Blockade is an old-fashioned word, but it is a real thing. It was the instrument of British sea power over many centuries, and I suggest to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen that the day might come when that weapon could be used against us, for surely, as we all know, we are by far the most vulnerable of all the N.A.T.O. Powers to the cutting of our sea communications with the rest of the world.
We have been given the figure of about 450 anti-submarine escorts to deal with a situation such as that. This point has not yet been made in the debate. I wonder whether hon. Members realise that only one in six of those antisubmarine escorts are supplied by the Royal Navy? The others are supplied by the French, 200 by the Americans, by the Canadians, the Portuguese, the Danes and the Norwegians, and the last two named countries have authority, in certain conditions of which I am not aware although I know they exist, to detach those anti-submarine vessels for service elsewhere.
Let us assume in this context that the development of a Russian type of Polaris submarine has been successful— and there are American sources which state that that is so, but whether it is I have no knowledge. I suggest that such a political situation could be attended by the appearance off the east coast of North America of submarines which might or might not carry this weapon. In those circumstances, is it conceivable that those 200 American, and 75 or 80, or whatever the number is, Canadian anti-submarine craft would not be forced, by the pressure of American and Canadian public opinion, to chase those assumed Russian nuclear submarines?
133 I suggest that the figure of one in six escorts in the North Atlantic, which were admitted three years ago by the two commanders-in-chief concerned to be totally inadequate for the purposes for which they were allotted, is a risk which this country should not run any longer.
The morale of the Merchant Navy is a very peculiar thing. The hon. Member for Itchen, with his experience of the Merchant Navy, will appreciate what a close thing the morale of the Merchant Navy was at certain times during the last war, after P.Q. 17 in North Russia, and those 1,500 men at the Russian hospital. Only the magnificent reputation of the Royal Navy kept morale in the Merchant Navy going.
It is a kind of credit structure with a basis of faith in a Service, and the credit piles up. Thank goodness the structure has not yet crumpled in any war in which we have been engaged. I believe that at this moment in the North Atlantic some sort of credit structure of that kind has been built up, by a nucleus of Royal Naval units under the Commander-in-Chief, East Atlantic, supporting this credit edifice of antisubmarine craft belonging to six or seven nations which depends ultimately on the nucleus provided by the Royal Navy of one in six. It is not fair to the N.A.T.O. alliance to allow such a situation to continue. I do not believe that 2 per cent. of the gross national product is sufficient to guarantee the safety of those sea communications without which we cannot survive for more than three months without starving.
I ask my hon. Friend to tell his noble Friend and his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence that the Royal Navy, in receiving 2 per cent. of the gross national product or one-quarter of the total allocation for defence, is in the circumstances of today taking a calculated risk which has become mathematical lunacy. This very serious problem should be considered by my hon. Friend.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I am very glad indeed to have been called after the hon. and gallant Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney), because I know how greatly interested he has been in Russian affairs. I be- 134 lieve that he had the unique distinction of being our Naval Attaché in Moscow during various critical times in the last war. I am sure that we are all interested in what he has to say with his professional knowledge about the problem of Russian submarines.
This is the most important question in the debate. The very large sum of over £397 million is largely based on the assumption that we have to go to war with the Soviet Union. We are being told that the real problem is that we have to defend ourselves against the Russian submarines.
The Civil Lord spoke about the Soviet submarines in the Mediterranean as if they had no right to be there. The time has come when we can no longer assume that the Mediterranean just belows to us. We know about the American Sixth Fleet and we know about our fleet.
If the Mediterranean is the scene of great naval activity on the part of N.A.T.O. forces, if we have in the Mediterranean aircraft carriers with aircraft which can deliver on Russian cities what is politely called the nuclear deterrent— in other words, the atomic or the H-bomb-—and if those aircraft carriers are to be sailing within distance of the Russian coast, it is quite natural if the Russians think in terms of defence and say that they should have the submarines to sink them.
The Russians are like the hon. Gentleman, they are not pacifists. I am a pacifist. I object to this very large expenditure of money, both by Russians and by the Western Powers. I am more of an extremist than Mr. Khrushchev.
I want to examine the question of Russian submarines in the light of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said. He has said that the objective of the 500 Russian submarines is to blockade this island by cutting our communications in the North Atlantic. He mentioned the word "blockade". He seemed to think that it was a very wicked thing for the Russians to blockade this country. He knows from his knowledge of Russian naval history that, although the Russians have never blockaded this country, we have blockaded Russia.
§ Commander Courtney
I have not suggested that the Russians have 135 blockaded this country. The one precedent is the Russian blockade of Finland in December. 1939.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am dealing with this country. I will come round to Finland later, if necessary. I want to come to our blockade of Russia. I remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that after the Russian Revolution this party—Mr. Ernest Bevin, myself and others—was protesting very vigorously because we blockaded Russia and even refused to let in any kind of medicines at all.
§ Commander Courtney
I believe it to be correct that we never declared a blockade of Russia after the "intervention" to which I know the hon. Gentleman is referring. "Blockade" is a legal term. It was not invoked on that occasion.
§ Mr. Hughes
It was none the less a blockade for our not declaring it to be a "blockade". We worked it. It was not de jure, to come to lawyer's terms, it was de facto. We know that British, French and American forces blockaded the Soviet Union. If we are talking in terms of original sin between nations, then the pot has no need to call the kettle black.
I have not the intimate knowledge of naval warfare of the hon. and gallant Member, but I had an interesting experience this time last year of visiting the Russian naval college at Leningrad—the Frunze Naval College—on the banks of the Neva, in the task that I had of following the Prime Minister around the Soviet Union. I stood for half-an-hour in the cold waiting for the Prime Minister to arrive and watching the Russian sailors, lined up as an armed guard, waiting to receive the Prime Minister. They sang the Russian national anthem and played "God Save the Queen" and then did the usual formalities. As I looked at these Russian sailors and this guard, they looked to me exactly like a similar guard at Dartmouth, Chatham or Plymouth. They were sailors lined up in order to present a naval occasion for the Prime Minister.
When the Prime Minister arrived, we went round the naval school with Admiral Bogdenko, and the Prime Minister delivered a very interesting speech. This is what he said: 136For us Islanders the Royal Navy is a sacred and cherished tradition."—Every one of those Russian sailors would have said the same—The friendship between the British and Russian fleets is of long-standing. The long record of co-operation between the British and Russian Navies was cemented during the last war. I bring greetings to you from the British people and from one Service to another.That was the Prime Minister to Admiral Bogdenko, and now we know that those greetings are being followed up today by another greeting—the fact that we are increasing our Defence Estimates by over £160 million and that our own Navy Estimates are, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) said, the largest in peace time in history.
I wonder why it is necessary. If the relationships are so cordial between the Prime Minister and Admiral Bogdenko, why are we proceeding as if the Prime Minister had never been to Russia? According to one hon. Member, we have to go on till 1970 presenting bigger and bigger Navy Estimates.
I followed the Prime Minister and Admiral Bogdenko through the corridors and rooms of the naval college. I was not near enough to hear the conversation, but I made it up myself. I thought that it would be something like this:
THE PRIME MINISTER: "YOU know our Admiralty is awfully worried about your new submarines!ADMIRAL BOGDENKO: "There is no need to worry. They are purely for defensive purposes.THE PRIME MINISTER: "Defence against who and what?THE ADMIRAL: "You know what you've said several times in the House of Commons, 'We cannot risk lowering our guard'.THE PRIME MINISTER: "But we have no aggressive intentions. We have no intention of attacking the U.S.S.R.THE ADMIRAL: "We have no aggressive intentions, either, Mr. Prime Minister. We have no intention of attacking Britain.THE PRIME MINISTER: "But aren't submarines designed purely for offensive purposes?THE ADMIRAL: "You have some, Sir.THE PRIME MINISTER: "Wouldn't it be a good thing to ease international tension if you scrapped some of your submarines? You've read my speeches on Russia.THE ADMIRAL: "Wouldn't it be a good thing to ease world tension if you scrapped some of your aircraft carriers, Sir? You've read Comrade Khrushchev's speeches.137THE PRIME MINISTER: "Of course I have, but aircraft carriers are not meant for aggression.THE ADMIRAL: "When we suspended our nuclear tests, Sir, did you stop yours?THE PRIME MINISTER: "I think that we'd better not go into that now, Admiral. We don't believe in unilateral action. Perhaps we're getting into too deep waters, Admiral.THE ADMIRAL: "Yes, Sir, let's talk about how we: were comrades together in the last war.So the process will go on. The Russian admirals will present bigger estimates to their Government, while heavier Navy Estimates are presented to this Committee. The arms race will continue unless the Prime Minister and Mr. Khrushchev and the Western Powers get down to the serious business of total disarmament in four years. I should be delighted to have total disarmament in four years, because I have sat through innumerable Navy Estimate debates, and it would mean that I should not have to sit through another ten years of them.
The Admiralty asks for £397 million. I am surprised that it does not ask for more, because there is no opposition here. It is an agreed thing that we give the Admiralty exactly what it asks for. We shall do so this time. There will be no Division at the end of this debate. If I were to force a Division—which I cannot, because I am only one, and cannot find another teller—it might be said, "You will be expelled from the Labour Party". The fact is that the Labour Party is as enthusiastic about the Navy Estimates—at least for practical purposes—as is the Conservative Party. If I were at the Admiralty I would say, "Boys, there is no need to worry—put in for another £10 million or £15 million next year; there will be no real political opposition to it in the House of Commons."
I therefore think that we are reducing control of Service expenditure to very much of a farce, and destroying Parliamentary government. If the Opposition do not oppose, and oppose as strongly as the procedure allows, they are not doing their job. Instead of our being here this evening I think that it would be better to have a Standing Committee to study all the different Service Estimates put before it. Let hon. and hon. and gallant Members of naval experience sit on a permanent committee to study Navy Estimates in detail before 138 we ourselves consider them. I would advocate such a committee for each of the Services. We would then have some scrutiny and control of public expenditure.
What has happened today? The most damaging criticisms have come, not from me but from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Croydon, North - East (Vice - Admiral Hughes Hallett), who has been a distinguished admiral. He told us about the waste in the "Eagle", which, he said, was being refitted at enormous cost. That vessel cost £18 million originally, and there is another aircraft carrier costing £20 million. If we had the kind of committee I advocate we would have all the hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite using their experience to reduce public expenditure.
An aircraft carrier costs between £18 million and £20 million, which is an enormous sum. [Interruption.] I think I hear an hon. Member say that it costs more than that. In my constituency recently I went down a coal mine with the Minister of Power. It is one of the most modern coal mines not only in this country but in Europe. We asked what the cost was, and we were told apologetically that it was £10 million. I said, "You need not apologise. Your coal mine will be here for twenty or thirty years. But soon I shall be asked to approve estimates for an aircraft carrier costing between £18 million and £20 million which is likely to be obsolete in two or three years' time." We are spending an enormous amount of money and we are putting into obsolete Services a large amount of the national activity and energy which should be devoted to industrial and social reconstruction.
All these aircraft carriers and large battleships need to have an industrial potential behind them. A large section of the engineering population on Clyde-bank and in Glasgow, as well as on the Tyne and in Belfast, is engaged on the construction of aircraft carriers and other naval craft. From the point of view of the national economy and of building up industry to compete with potential competitors for survival, this is economic waste.
During the recent General Election hon. Members on both sides of the Committee received circulars from the Navy 139 League. The League was very optimistic; it sent me a circular. I wrote a very polite letter back to the secretary of the Navy League saying, "Dear Sir, The Navy League is as obsolete as the Jacobites. I would spend the money that is now being spent on the Navy on modernising the Mercantile Marine, on building new harbours along the coast and generally on ships which will not be obsolete in ten years' time." I heard no more from the Navy League after that.
The Navy as hon. Members have known it in their experience is obsolete, and we have to turn our ideas to new forms of strategy. A large amount of this £397 million is completely unjustifiable when we consider whether the nation is getting its money's worth. It may be said that we need nuclear submarines which will fire the new kinds of atomic weapons. I wonder whether those hon. Members who have made these suggestions realise what the cost will be. My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney), who is a technician and an engineer, has estimated that one of these new nuclear-propelled submarines is likely to cost as much as £30 million. I wonder how many of those we can afford. I suppose if we are to have nuclear submarines we shall need a good many of them.
Presumably the idea is to have nuclear-powered submarines which will lie at the bottom of the sea, somewhere around the coast of Russia, and at the appropriate moment send H-bombs over the industrial cities of the Soviet Union. Russia is a vast territory. How many of these submarines will we have to have at the bottom of the sea with Polaris equipment and how many will be necessary to counteract the Russian submarines which, presumably, will be off the north coast of Scotland, or anywhere in the Atlantic?
We have reached the stage at which the whole of the naval part of nuclear strategy has to be studied to see whether it is realistic. I submit that it is not. It is all very well for hon. Members to argue, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), that the Thor bases are practically useless because they are not mobile. I do not know how far we can 140 alter that by making them mobile and putting them on ships. The country will still be the base from which the submarine will be sent and, presumably, if we and the Russians exchange rockets, just as we will attempt to destroy Leningrad and the Neva dockyards with our rockets, so the Russians will be doing the same to Plymouth, Glasgow and the other bases.
I do not see any way out of the nuclear dilemma by abandoning bases on land and having them on aircraft carriers or naval ships of any kind. We will not escape the consequences of atomic war that way. The only rational argument is the pacifist argument. I do not command much support in the House of Commons, but I believe that a great deal of public opinion is appreciating the complete futility of all the various strategies being elaborated for the fighting of another war. The only hope for the country is in accepting the arguments of the four-year plan on disarmament put to the United Nations by Mr. Khrushchev. If we move in that direction, as the hon. and gallant Member for Harrow, East suggested, we will be going the right way to end the terror, which hangs over all intelligent men and women, of the menace to humanity of the possibilities of the total destruction of civilisation.
I do not wish to embarrass him in any way, but I approve of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East. He quoted the results of a Gallup poll quoted in today's Scotsman. That poll shows that, regardless of the political party which they support, most British people approve increased expenditure on things like roads and education, but disapprove of increased expenditure on defence. People were asked whether they approved or disapproved of the Government's attitude to increased expenditure.
Most people said the common-sense thing, and approved these priorities: first, roads—I am not sure that I agree with that—secondly, education; thirdly, health; fourthly, National Insurance; lastly, defence. I am not attempting to score a party point, because the analysis shows that in each of the spheres of expenditure the majority of Conservatives agree with the majority of Socialists. There is a body of public 141 opinion in this country which challenges the idea that to get security one must have the H-bomb, politely called the nuclear deterrent, and that we must spend £1,600 million every year in order to have this strategy.
I do not think that we should look for security in this way at all. Security can come only by total disarmament and by realising that the whole of the strategical theories are "phoney" and that the time has come when total disarmament is the road to security and the preservation of our civilisation.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Commander J. S. Kerans (The Hartlepools)
I will try not to be controversial about the vast sum of money which is to be spent, but it seems to me that the size of our future fleet is very small. It is not clear to me what one should say to a parent who asks, "What is the future of my son in the Navy 25 years hence?". That will not be an easy question to answer, but I would say— this is purely my own viewpoint—that the Navy provides a very good and first-class training. It teaches leadership, tact and responsibility at a very early age. Under the present structure, there is a very good chance of a person finishing up with a degree or a trade on which he can fall back in civilian life. That is something which I missed.
There is no doubt that pay and pensions are now in line with those of industry, and I think that one can say that they are very good indeed. I think that the career structure is sound in the long term. No doubt there is a certain amount of ironing out in certain classes which are not quite in line with the other two Services, but the Navy provides youngsters with the opportunity to see the world and teaches them to mix. Nowadays, with N.A.T.O., S.E.A.T.O., and CENTO exercises, they meet a vast number of people It broadens a man's mind and educates him, and this stands him in good stead when he returns to this country.
I think I can safely say that the Navy is the best club in the world, because there is a future in it.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
Look what it costs.
§ Commander Kerans
That leads me to a small point on which I feel very 142 strongly. The Navy could do with a good deal more publicity. Publicity has been very much improved lately, but there is still much leeway to be made up. The advertisements in the newspapers are very much better than they used to be. Those in certain weekend newspapers really raise one's eyebrows, but the Navy is still inclined to be the Silent Service when it comes to what the public knows of what the Navy is doing. In certain instances, families are taken to sea on exercises for the day. That is a beginning, and it shows families what the husbands are doing and the conditions in which they live. That is one way of advertising the Navy. I should like to see more of this and more visits to ports, not only in this country but abroad. I was glad to see in the Appendix of the Cmd. Paper the vast number of places to which the Navy gets in the course of the year. A film which is now showing is first class in that respect and gives a fillip to the Navy.
I should like the Admiralty to produce some sort of pamphlet showing in clear and concise terms, as far as possible, the future rôle of the Navy, with the career structures for officers and ratings clearly set out in one volume. At the moment, it is difficult to obtain the different career structures for the various branches of the Navy. It is not easy to obtain them all correlated in one handy volume.
In addition, I have found it very difficult to know the dispositions of the Navy at any one particular moment. One can discover a good deal through, for example, the local Portsmouth naval papers and, perhaps, through the Navy League Magazine, but such information is generally out of date. Why cannot we have a clear-cut idea about where ships are stationed? This information might be given in an Appendix to the Command Paper. Is it necessary that we should have all this secrecy about where our ships are serving? For instance, only when we had the Mauritius cyclone did we discover that the "Gambia" was in that area.
I now come to the matter of liaison with the schools, which hon. Members opposite have clearly brought out. It is a great pity that there are so many areas of the country, of which my constituency is one, which do not allow the naval liaison officer entry into the local schools.
143 I now make one further plea, and that is for the Sea Cadet Corps, a thriving organisation throughout the country. I am president of the unit at Welwyn Garden City. I suggest that the Admiralty could give more help to these youngsters in the way of equipment and facilities generally. I know that some of them get to sea with the fleet, but, generally, that is by private arrangement. Not all of them go into the Navy. A good many go into the Merchant Navy. At a very young age, they get a fair degree of discipline, they are kept off the streets and at least they are occupied in the evenings. They get a tremendous amount of civilian support financially, but this varies, of course, from area to area. In many areas, the Admiralty might be able to help in this respect.
In passing, I should like to mention the Royal Naval associations which exist up and down the country. They nearly all comprise old-timers, but in many areas they have no club facilities or place in which to congregate other than the back room of a "pub" or something of that nature. Perhaps more help could be given publicly to accommodate these people, who are a very useful adjunct, certainly in bringing forward the Navy to the eyes of youth and in acting as a guide to the future.
One branch of the Navy which so far has not been mentioned is the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors. I wonder whether the entry of the Corps should not be brought in line with the engineering and electrical branches. In the past, it has always been rather a Corps apart. The fleet sees little of its members, although a number are appointed to Commanders-in-Chief at home and abroad. It might merit consideration that these people, who play a great part in the design of our ships in the Royal Navy, should work step by step in line with the engineering and electrical branches.
I notice from the Explanatory Statement that the numbers of the W.R.N.S. are much the same, but I am wondering whether their service cannot be extended East of Suez to other parts of the world. They perform a fine job but have a high degree of wastage through marriage. I married one myself.
144 The Royal Marines have a tremendous future in their dual rôle in the Navy to come. In the Commando carrier, they are a highly trained force and worth their weight in gold. They carry out a diversity of tasks which very few other forces have to do. Gone is the day when the Royal Marines were the next messdeck for the wardroom. They are now a force on their own and complementary to the Navy.
I think the Navy has a great future. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney) that we need more anti-submarine vessels and more submarines, but what is hard to explain to the public is the tremendous run-down there has been in the Navy, not only in the active fleet but in the reserve fleet. We are continually picking up our papers and reading of a cruiser going to a foreign country or setting forth on her last voyage to Malta to the scrapheap. It brings tears to my eyes, but I suppose it is inevitable in the transition period through which the Navy is now going. However, I say the Navy will weather that storm and that the Navy has a rôle to play in the future. Whether in the nuclear age or in the ordinary cold war, it will have its task to do.
I would quote from a letter from a friend of mine in the paper recently. He has retired now. He was talking about the Agadir disaster, and he said:Assistance to stricken areas was regarded as part of the Royal Navy's normal duties in the days when it was fully represented throughout the world.I say we can still carry out these tasks. We are, after all, under the N.A.T.O. umbrella.
Finally, I would say that morale in the Navy is higher than it has ever been, and I think the men and women of this country contribute adequately to the very high standard which the Navy requires and maintains.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I would refer to one or two of the comments which the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) has just made. First, he said that there was a career for boys in the Navy. I am bound to say that my experience with the Admiralty, about boys in the Navy, is not 145 a very happy one. Although I should very much like to encourage boys to enter the Navy, because it is a very fine profession, and it is very good for boys who want it, the boys are admitted at such a young age, before they reach years of discretion, and they join without realising just what they are letting themselves in for.
They are thinking of and believing all the glamorous stories that have been told of the past. They enter full of vigour and hope. They do not at that age realise that much of their work will be humdrum, that they will be under very firm discipline in an age when teenagers are notoriously finding discipline difficult —and, indeed, all of us, of all ages in society; and all to the good, but I am quite sure that self-discipline is far better than imposed discipline. Boys find themselves in the Navy at 16 and 17, and engaged for several years, and then when they want to get out of it while they still have a chance to prepare for another avocation, the First Lord of the Admiralty says, "Oh, no, you signed on at 15 and here you stay for the period for which you signed"—5 or 6 or 7 years, whatever it may be. I think that that is altogether wrong, and I appeal to the Civil Lord to give further thought to that.
I do not object to the increased pensions which have been announced for all the forces, but I think they are very generous, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools, and his hon. Friends will be equally generous to the railwaymen who have now been proved independently to be worth far better financial regards than they are getting.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman also referred to the Royal Marines. I am second to none in my admiration for the marines, but mention of them brought to my mind the fact that they are now training in the Dartmoor National Park. I am not always happy that the Armed Forces, including the Royal Marines, which use Dartmoor confine themselves to the areas to which they are really restricted, and I give notice to the Minister that if I hear of any trespassing outside that part of the Dartmoor National Park which has been allocated to them, I shall have something to say about it.
146 As I have listened to the debate, my mind has gone back to the period of the First World War, and I have been wondering which nations will be our Allies and which our enemies if ever another war should come. This is a point which we must all bear in mind. It is now late in the debate, and I need not particularise, but those of us who lived through 1915 will remember who were our Allies and who our enemies at Gallipoli. Turkey was our enemy in the First World War and our ally in the Second World War. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] She was, in fact, our ally, but remained neutral. Where will she be in another world war, although now a member of N.A.T.O.?
I mention these things only because I feel that none of us can be sure what will happen in another year or two. Many of us were shocked this afternoon by the light way in which the Foreign Secretary treated the question of Spain.
§ The Chairman
Order. I am afraid that the hon. Member is going rather far from the subject of the debate.
§ Mr. Hayman
I am sorry, Sir Gordon, but it seems to me that these Navy Estimates involve the question who may be our enemies and who our Allies in a new war, which I hope will never come. Indeed, all of us must prepare for total disarmament, and I think that, on reflection, the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools will not be quite so sure that the Navy is likely to be a secure career for young men for ever and ever. We all pray Chat total disarmament will come within a measurable time, because otherwise the world is doomed to destruction.
There is one other point which I should like to raise, and I hope that here I shall be in order. In the Plymouth newspaper the Western Morning News, this morning, there appeared a photograph of a United States Air Force aeroplane on the Royal Navy air base at Culdrose in Cornwall. I should like to know whether United States planes are based at Culdrose, or, if not, whether they are based at some other aerodrome in Cornwall, such as St. Mawgam. The photograph also shows an air compressor and some pneumatic drills which were the gifts of Messrs. Holman Bros. Ltd., mining engineers, of Camborne, for the relief work in Agadir, but, apparently, in spite of all the money which we 147 voted in the Defence Estimates this year, there does not appear to be an aeroplane in any of Her Majesty's forces which is capable of taking these gifts and medical supplies to Agadir. That seems to me to be a most extraordinary situation, and I hope that we shall have some comment on it from the Minister at the close of the debate.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley McMaster (Belfast, East)
I should like to speak in support of the Vote. The sums involved are very large and perhaps it is difficult for hon. Members to comprehend their full meaning. The issues involved in the spending of the money are also fundamental and of vital importance to the well-being of the country.
We have heard tonight a plea for more small ships, among others from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett). He stressed the vulnerability of capital ships to air attack, but I should like to point out that armed as our ships are with sea-to-air missiles, like the Sea Cats and Sea Slugs, and planes carrying air-to-air missiles, it is exceedingly difficult for enemy planes to bomb our fleet. The fleet itself is a far better means of mounting the nuclear deterrent than having the land-based inter-continental or intermediate ballistic missiles which we are at present developing, such as Blue Streak.
This is also a far better way of defending the country. Our Navy, consisting of ships both small and large and able to sail over all the seas, can carry the deterrent and can keep it protected from enemy attack. It can provide the means of avoiding the destruction of our weapons by enemy action and in addition provide a means of housing the deterrent which would be more in the interest of people living in the country than having that deterrent on a fixed site on land.
We need to plan very much further ahead than appears from the Navy Estimates and the Memorandum. Here I differ from the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). We shall always need a strong and effective Navy as long as the bulk of our supplies are brought by sea and as long as we have Commonwealth commitments and interests all over the world. We shall 148 always need our dockyards, and I am thinking particularly, of course, of Harland and Wolff, Limited, which is in my constituency and which plays a large part in Navy Estimates.
The Harland and Wolff yard is mentioned on pages 220 and 223 of the Estimates. It is the largest single shipbuilding yard in the country and at the moment it is building a guided missile destroyer—one of the four for which orders have been placed—and two frigates. It is also fitting out the frigate "Berwick" which was launched last year and, in addition, building the aircraft carrier "Hercules" for the Indian Navy. This yard at one time built as many as three large aircraft carriers at the same time. It has 18 building berths and it has an excellent tradition of building fine ships, both naval and merchant.
I urge on my hon. Friend the Civil Lord the great importance of keeping together the highly skilled craftsmen who work in the yards not only in Belfast but on the Clyde and Tyne and elsewhere. There are many skilled craftsmen there, such as platers, riveters, boilermakers, shipwrights, joiners, carpenters, painters, fitters of many specialist trades, draughtsmen, and last but by no means least, the electricians and electronic technicians.
The Memorandum, which I read with interest, lays great stress on the increasing complexity and cost of modern battleships. Much of that cost is made up of the large variety of electronic devices which those ships have to carry. The skilled electricians and technicians in electronics, during a period of recession in the shipbuilding industry such as we are now facing, can easily pass from the dockyards into other industries. In that event, not only would our naval shipbuilding capacity be prejudiced, but also our merchant shipbuilding capacity, because merchant ships today carry much of the electronic equipment which has been developed for the Navy. If these men leave the dockyards they cannot be replaced.
It is also important, when we consider the expenditure of the money which we are asked to vote tonight, to remember that the money voted by this House has gone a long way towards developing the electronic and other devices from which 149 we are benefiting, not only in protecting ourselves, but in their use by transport and in other ways.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
§ Mr. McMaster
The hon. Gentleman asks me, how? For instance, radar is a great assistance in fog. Again, we are developing for naval purposes atomic engines for ships which I hope will also be used for civil purposes in the long run and which will perhaps reduce freight and other charges. If I may diverge for a moment, Sir Gordon, the supersonic planes we are developing would never have been developed in the time they have been—
§ Mr. Fernyhough
But we cannot defend ourselves by these things. The Foreign Secretary has made it clear and the Minister of Defence has made it clear that we cannot defend ourselves with them; we can only destroy other people should they attempt to destroy us.
§ Mr. McMaster
The hon. Gentleman appears to have missed the point. All I am saying to the Committee tonight is that expenditure on defence is not entirely wasted, as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire seemed to indicate, because technical progress results from it which has put us in the forefront as an exporting nation.
I was particularly pleased to hear the Civil Lord refer to the new policy for giving contracts. My hon. Friend said that the Admiralty was reverting to the pre-war policy of inviting tenders for building ships. He qualified this by saying that other considerations would weigh with the Government, considerations not only of price but of local employment and also, I hope, the level of activity in the shipbuilding industry. I want to make a special plea tonight that when the Civil Lord is considering his shipbuilding plans he will look carefully at the level of activity in our shipyards, remembering the importance of keeping together the teams of skilled craftsmen to whom I have referred.
I know that we are asked to vote large sums of money, not only tonight when we shall vote £397 million, but also last Thursday, when we voted £529 million for the Air Estimates, and later this week when we shall be asked to vote £487 million for the Army Estimates. The 150 grand total, including the other Votes, is over £1,600 million, which is a very large sum of money.
Against that we must weigh the position and influence in world affairs of this country and the Commonwealth. We occupy a leading position and our power and influence rests on our ability to defend ourselves and our interests. Our responsibility is not the less important because of the spread of Communism in Europe and the Far East which has divided the world. Mention has been made tonight of Russia's submarine power and that may be a threat to this country.
In the world today there are two major Powers with different political philosophies competing against each other. This creates a dangerous situation which we must face. Until a state of complete disarmament can be achieved, I believe that Britain must maintain her defence expenditure on all three Services. That is the only way to protect our far-flung interests and to deter any would-be agressor in Europe or the Far East from attempting to achieve his ends by threats of force. [Interruption.] I hear murmurs of dissent from hon. Members opposite, but I remind them that attempts to use force in this way led to many wars in the past.
When one nation, or group of nations, becomes weak or unprotected, advantage is taken of them, and that is something which must never be allowed to happen again. I am sure that only the awful threat and the terrible effect of the nuclear deterrent, with all its horrible and suicidal implications, will make a potential aggressor think twice before making use of any local superiority of arms which he may possess in order to achieve his ends. Until we can have a complete and comprehensive world disarmament under proper control and with effective supervision, we must continue to spend these vast sums of money in order to maintain the peace of the world.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I am sure that all hon. Members on this side of the Committee agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) that expenditure on defence is not entirely wasted. Tonight we are dealing with the Navy and the hon. 151 Member and I represent shipbuilding areas. We look for ships to build and unfortunately, in the pressure of world events, we are not particularly mindful whether we build frigates or merchant ships. I should prefer to see merchant ships built at Govan. But just as the firm of Harland and Wolff at Belfast is willing to accept any "grist" coming to its shipbuilding "mills"—if I may mix my metaphors—the same is true of Harland and Wolff at Govan.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East visualised a Navy sailing all over the world armed with nuclear deterrents but in that respect he was expanding his theme beyond the limit with which I would agree with him. Nevertheless, he was not far removed from the point of view of many hon. Members who have taken part in this debate. Tonight I have listened to a variety of reasons why we should have a Navy. One hon. Member wanted a Navy because it was nice to see British Navy ships sailing over the seas of the world when we were moving around it.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
"Sailing down the Clyde"?
§ Mr. Rankin
The hon. Member for Belfast, East wanted to see a strong and efficient Navy so long as food supplies came by sea. That, of course, anchors us from now on for ever more to a Navy, because I cannot see the time coming when food supplies for the most part will be brought here in any other way than by sea. If the hon. Member assumes that the fact of having a Navy will ensure our food supplies, I am sorry but I must part company from him. Even though we have a Navy I find it difficult to account for it sometimes because, just a few years ago, I flew from Hong Kong across the Pacific to Ceylon, and then into the Middle East.
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horncastle)
Across the Pacific?
§ Mr. Rankin
Across the Indian Ocean to Ceylon. I am sorry if I missed out one little step. It was a big jump, but when one is in the air, one is accustomed to taking big jumps. Never once was I lucky enough to see one of these ships which ought to be sailing all over those parts of the world when we are spending this enormous amount on our Navy.
152 I heard as another reason for the Navy that it was a place where one could get a good career. I am not against those things. I want to see joiners employed and I want to see good careers provided for our boys. If the Navy is a place for doing these things of course, to some extent, that is a justification for a Navy, but I had a perhaps mistaken idea that the real and abiding purpose of the Navy was for defence, and because somehow or other we had seemingly contracted a great many enemies against us. There were enemies who were going to put false doctrines down our throats. There were enemies who were prepared to attack us. There were enemies who had interests in competition with ours: which challenged our interests.
It never seems to come into the minds of a great many people that interests can not only come into conflict but can also come into harmony. If we can bring interests out of conflict into harmony, as we have done on innumerable occasions, we might diminish the need for navies, armies and air forces. Unless this House of Commons, this Parliament, is to devote more time and attention to trying to solve problems and not seeking solely to defend interests, of course we shall get what deterrents have always brought us—war.
The hon. Member for Belfast. East preached the need for the deterrent as if the deterrent were something that was new in human society and human civilisation. I am certain it escaped his mind only momentarily that within our lifetime we have already believed in a deterrent which we thought could not be overcome—the "Dreadnought". That mighty battleship, the "Dreadnought", was supposed to safeguard this country from all offensives and invasions. Praise to the ironclads of the British Navy that would keep our foes at bay were sung all over the country. The British Navy that would keep our foes at bay became a music-hall story.
§ Mr. McMaster
May I remind the hon. Gentleman that between 1918 and 1939 we disarmed and it had the result, as I tried to point out in my speech, of bringing on the Second World War.
§ Mr. Rankin
That is a page from a sort of blotted copybook, because not 153 until now have I realised that this country disarmed after 1918. I will not carry that too far.
We had the deterrent and it failed us.
§ Mr. Richard Collard (Norfolk. Central)
The hon. Gentleman referred to the deterrent. Surely he would agree that the Royal Navy very largely kept the peace of the world for a hundred years. That is not a bad record.
§ Mr. Rankin
I agree, but the Royal Navy, and all armies, keep the peace only when there is no war. It is difficult to imagine the Royal Navy, or any other armed force, keeping the peace when there is war.
I have mentioned only one deterrent in which we trusted completely, and which failed us. We believed in it so much that we used to say, "'We want eight, and we will not wait", but it failed us. We then pinned our faith in our other great deterrent, the bomber, and in the Second World war that also failed us because, despite that deterrent, war came.
We are once again pinning our faith to a deterrent. We all agree that if this deterrent fails us, assuming it is used, if it fails to keep the peace, few of us will live to tell the story that preceded its use. Deterrents are not things on which we can rely.
The two centre pages of the Command Paper interest me most because to some extent they cover the aspect with which I have been trying to deal. They are pictorial. They give us arresting figures. They are graphic. They tell us about aircraft carriers, cruisers, submarines, and all our methods of defence. They tell us that in 1939 the "Illustrious" weighed 22,000 tons. In 1959 the "Hermes" weighed 23,000 tons. There is only a slight difference in weight, but while the "Illustrious" cost £3,800,000, the "Hermes" cost £18 million. She has only 500 additional officers and men on board, but that tremendous sum represents the increase in costs during the years between the construction of these two great deterrents to war.
The cost of the electronic equipment for the "Illustrious" was £13,500. The cost of the electronic equipment for the "Hermes" was over £1 million. The cost of naval aircraft embarked in 1939 154 was £600,000. In 1959 for the "Hermes" it was £10 million. The same tale is told with regard to cruisers.
Within twenty years we are singing the deterrent—not the deterrent of 1939 which failed but the deterrent of 1959 on which we pin our hopes; the nuclear weapon, carried in the De Havilland Sea Vixen and other craft. It costs fabulous sums, but yet it is true to say that, despite the enormous increase in the money spent in seeking defence, tonight this nation of ours has less defence than it had in 1939. We are more vulnerable, because in 1939 when we ventured war—forced to do so, as we say and as most people believe—we knew that some would survive. Not an individual in the Chamber tonight would guarantee that if we have to enter into war with our present equipment—on which we pin our faith in 1959—a single human being would see the end of the war. We now have a weapon which will not just defeat, not just kill; but will annihilate.
The nation is faced with two alternatives if it now wants to go to war. We do not want of course to go to war. Despite all our desires not to go to war, somehow or other we always manage to get into war. Why? Sometimes I read the pages of history. I remember a history book which was used very extensively in our schools in Scotland. It described the reign of one of our great Queens as "eminently peaceful". That reign lasted for sixty years, during which we fought forty wars, but still our history books say that it was an "eminently peaceful" reign. It might have been a warlike reign only if we had fought a war in every year!
However, for one reason or another we go to war. If we do so now we are faced with the alternative that, if we go to war without the nuclear weapon, we shall be defeated; we cannot win; but if we go to war with the nuclear weapon we shall be annihilated. There is the choice.
What decision are we to make about it? I suggest that there is only one answer—that we dare not and must not go to war. If we are not going to war, we must stop thinking about bombs and their use as a means of solving problems. We have to turn to events like the forthcoming meeting at the Summit, a meeting among men who we hope will 155 seek to obtain a peaceful result by peaceful means. It is only along those lines that the world can survive.
§ 9.44 p.m.
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horncastle)
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) finished with a burst of oratory. I hope the Committee will forgive me if I bring the debate back from oratory to our more normal and pedestrian method of discussing the Navy Estimates. I must honestly say that if the hon. Gentleman, who I do not think likes the Navy very much, had served in it—
§ Mr. Rankin
Would the hon. and gallant Member let me hear what he said?
§ Commander Maitland
I said that I suspected that the hon. Gentleman did not like the Navy very much.
§ Mr. Rankin
I love it.
§ Commander Maitland
I was going to say that if he had served in the Royal Navy he would at least have learned a little geography. He would have learned that one does not fly from Hong Kong to Ceylon across the Pacific. That is what he said. I feel that if the rest of his speech, to which I listened with great interest, was not more accurate—
§ Mr. Rankin
I said that as a slip. We flew across from Hong Kong down the Pacific and across the Indian Ocean.
§ Commander Maitland
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman.
I want to say something to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I hope that he will accept my sincerity in my desire for peace. He may think that I am wrong-thinking in my methods of approach. I assure him that, just as I accept his sincerity, I hope that he will accept mine. The trouble is that it is our approach and method which is so completely different.
I am most anxious not to enter into a conventional war by mistake. In fact, I would much rather be frightened by a nuclear war which did not come than have to face a conventional war that did. I think that we make a great mistake by being rather hypnotised by the horrors 156 of nuclear war when today a conventional war would be pretty well as bad in almost every respect. So, for heaven's sake, let us keep these two things reasonably balanced. He said that the Navy is obsolete. I do not think that is correct. The way in which I think we should reach out for peace is, as I said in the defence debate—and I do not want to repeat what I said then—that when we can get nuclear equality or stalemate and when it can be seen by both sides that that is exactly what we have, then there will be an opportunity for the Summit, to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, really to get on.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
That will be stalemate.
§ Commander Maitland
There are moments in this terrible competition that is going on when there is a balance, and when those moments arrive progress can be made. I think that such a moment occurred earlier last year when the Prime Minister and Mr. Khrushchev and the President of the United States of America managed to go quite a long way in stopping the nuclear tests. I am not at all sure that they were not very considerably helped by the fact that at that moment I do not think the nations wanted nuclear tests very much. That is what I mean when I say that if we can create, and let it be seen to be created, a state in which there is nuclear parity, there may be a really great chance of stepping forward towards peace.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
When we arrive at that state of parity, when the two nations think that they are equal, there is a race for one of them to get ahead and we do not prevent war at all. We deter war for the time being, but what we want today is not a deterrent but the prevention of war.
§ Commander Maitland
We both want the prevention of war, and the hon. Gentleman and I differ only as to the best way in which we can get it. I do not think we can argue about that. It is my firm conviction that we are going the right way about that in a very difficult world. It is easy to make mistakes.
§ Mr. Manuel
That is a most dangerous philosophy. The hon. and gallant Member says that the nuclear deterrent is the real deterrent and that it will not be used. If it can never be used, the nation that has the lead in conventional forces can upset us as much as it likes and get away with it.
§ Commander Maitland:
I do not think the hon. Gentleman has quite followed what is happening in international affairs—
§ Mr. Manuel
Very much so. It is the party opposite that is the hidebound element.
§ Commander Maitland
We say that we cannot have nuclear disarmament unless we have conventional disarmament as well; that that is absolutely essential. If that happens, I think that the hon. Gentleman's fears may, to some extent, be set at rest.
I should like now to refer to the speech made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney). I must frankly say that on some points I disagree with him. As far as I could understand, he said that he believed in the nuclear deterrent, and even went so far as to say that he hoped —and I agree with him here—that its mobility might be extended in the form of Polaris, or in some other way. He then added that we cannot be strong at the same time in two places. My hon. and gallant Friend developed the argument that we should have a great many more conventional escort vessels to deal with the 500—or whatever the number may be—Russian submarines. First, I cannot conceive of circumstances in which we could have an all-out submarine war waged against us that would not develop into a nuclear war. Secondly, we really cannot afford both a sufficiency of anti-submarine craft and the deterrent. We have to cut our suit according to our cloth. I believe that the present Defence Estimates are very well up to what we can afford if we are to fight our economic battles as well. That, too, is of very great importance—
§ Commander Courtney
I think that my hon. and gallant Friend got me slightly wrong. I did stress my belief that the total Defence Estimates were what the country could reasonably afford—that the expenditure on 158 the deterrent as 10 per cent. of that on the conventional forces was more or less accurate,—but that what we required was a change of emphasis within the conventional forces.
§ Mr. Manuel
This is civil war.
§ Commander Maitland
It is difficult to see how we could change the balance without incurring very great expense. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that, like everyone else, I want to see us strong in every position, but I know that we cannot achieve that.
It is most important that we should not fall into the trap into which fall many people outside who have not our small advantages of seeing White Papers and so on; the trap of confusing the size of the Navy with its strength. I wonder what would happen if the "Bismarck" came out today? I am sure that quite a lot of hon. Gentlemen have seen the film, "Sink the Bismarck", and appreciate what an extremely difficult task it was, even though, in many respects, we had a Navy larger in numbers than that of today. Yet, on analysis, I believe that what we have today would have done the job much more quickly.
Arising out of that, I would like to support those hon. Members who have asked for more general information. More information could not hurt those of us who seek to study general problems of defence. We often look at the American scientific magazines and, from the experts, we know that the data in those magazines is almost exactly accurate. I do not know where it comes from, but it does not do any harm.
I remember that when the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) produced the W.E.U. Report to which reference has been made, he listed the various aeroplanes and nuclear weapons and so on possessed by the Western nations and by Russia. The detail was surprising. Some of the things in that analysis went very close to the bone, and were accurate. But all we were told about the V-bombers was that they fly very high and very fast. That was all we had. There were no details of their performances in the same way as was given so accurately about the Russian and American aircraft. That is an example of the way in which we are working at the moment. It seems to me 159 that if we depend on a deterrent, and if we say, "We are so strong that it is dangerous to go to war with us", it is unfortunate that we do not tell the world a little more about our strength. Today the Navy is strong. The Navy is probably stronger today than it has ever been in our history, and that is a fact which should be made clear. I should like it to be stronger, of course, but I do not believe that is possible at the moment.
I should like to ask some questions which are rather unrelated but to which not much reference has been made. I wish to refer first to landing craft. We have heard a lot in this House recently about the provision of landing craft, and it is time that we took this matter to heart. In the Explanatory Memorandum reference is made to tank landing craft and landing ships. What about all the other types of landing craft that we need? I can see no reference to them. I should like to be assured that even the small ones are being brought up to date and that we have an efficient fleet of these useful little craft at our disposal.
Reference has been made to the 21 Russian type submarines which are in the Mediterranean and which might be used in the sort of small war which we shall probably always have with us. Are we able to cope with them? I believe that the forces we have are able to cope with them, but I should like an assurance on that point.
In the Western European Union Report one finds anxiety expressed about the methods which are being used to protect merchant ships against fallout, and this is a problem to which the Admiralty should address itself. I understand that this is not a very expensive matter and that a sum of about £5,000 will make a merchant ship reasonably safe against fall-out. It is easier to get protection against fall-out if one has the sea all around, than if one is in the middle of a great town. It is almost as important to deal with this question as it is to attempt to defend our ships against attack from submarines.
The next question I should like to ask is this. If our ports were destroyed, have we any means of feeding and supplying this country from the beaches? Have we got this one "taped", and if so, where does it appear in the Vote? I have looked through the Estimates to 160 see whether any money is devoted to this purpose, but I can find no reference to this question, and I should like to know whether anything is being done. One would have thought that there would have been some alternative method of bringing in vital stores to this country if our ports were destroyed.
The theme in the defence debate, and to some extent in this, has been the importance of mobility. The great advantage of the Navy is in its mobility. Moreover, it is the job of the Navy to help the other Services to be mobile.
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.
That this day the Business of Supply may be taken after Ten o'clock and shall be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for Two hours after Ten o'clock.—[Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing.]
§ Supply again considered in Committee.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
On a point of order. So that I may be fully cognisant of what happened, will you tell me whether I am correct, Mr. Diamond, in thinking that, as the Whip moved to report Progress, that being a debatable Motion, it should have been passed before we proceeded?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. J. Diamond)
I did not hear exactly what the hon. Member said.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
The Government spokesman moved to report Progress. I should have thought that that was a debatable Motion and, in any case, was liable to be put to the Committee for approval.
§ The Temporary Chairman
What happened was that the Chairman left the Chair at 10 o'clock. Progress was reported and leave to sit again was asked. On behalf of the Prime Minister, it was sought to suspend the Rule, and that was carried without a dissenting voice. I now call Commander Maitland to resume his speech.
§ Commander Maitland
Before we were interrupted, I was saying that mobility was of vital importance to the Navy and that it was very important that the Navy should give mobility to the other Services. I think that one of the 161 Navy's main duties is to enable the other Services to be mobile and I should like to be assured that there is no prejudice in the Navy against its having fast transports under its own control so that it can move troops or stores at very short notice.
I know that the Navy relies, and has in the past successfully relied, on the Merchant Marine, but there is always the trouble, which we had before Suez, of the rush round to commandeer ships and so on at the last moment, which is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. I should like the Navy to be in a state of readiness at a far higher level and to have its own ships ready at a moment's notice and under its control. That is all I have to say and I hope that we shall have some answers to my questions.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
While listening to the debate, I have thought that if there are people on Mars and if it is possible for them to see us discussing questions of defence, they must think that this is one large mental home. That must be their opinion in view of the amount of money which we are spending on preventing war which we know will come unless we adopt methods which are now being suggested.
Before the First World War, we spent £110 million a year for all the Services. The expenditure has jumped to £1,650 million in 1960. It is called a deterrent, but a deterrent prevents war so long as one's potential enemy—
§ The Temporary Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I must prevent him from pursuing this matter too widely. We must get back to the Navy.
§ Mr. Awbery
Expenditure on the Navy is bound to come into the question of expenditure on war. I am trying to point out that the amount of money which we are spending is being spent on a deterrent. The word "deterrent" has been used at least a dozen times since I have been in the Committee this evening.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I must make it clear to the hon. Gentleman that we are discussing the Navy. I have not yet heard him mention anything which shows that he is concerned with the Motion before us.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
On a point of order. We need some clarification in this matter. This expenditure is necessary in order that the deterrent can be effective. The deterrent is purposeless unless the money is granted. If the money is not granted, we shall not have the means of delivering it is it is desired. I should have thought, therefore, that it was difficult to separate the deterrent from the Estimates.
§ The Temporary Chairman
It is not so difficult, and the Chair is here to help in that difficulty.
§ Mr. Awbery
Let me use another word instead of "deterrent". Let me refer to the prevention of war. It is proposed that we should spend £400 million on the prevention of war, or, if war comes, to fight that war. I am trying to prove that the spending of £400 million on a deterrent will not prevent war because a potential enemy, if he is weak, will be deterred from attacking us because we are stronger. That is where the deterrent comes in. A deterrent deters or prevents war only until a weaker potential enemy becomes as strong as oneself, in which case one begins to expend more and to increase one's armaments. There is then an armament race. It is a matter of a race in arms so that the stronger can prevent the weaker from attacking.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
I think that the hon. Member has the argument about the deterrent completely upside down. As I see it, the whole object is that a not so strong nation, such as Britain is these days, can deter her much more powerful neighbours from doing damage to her and to her allies.
§ Mr. Awbery
I think that the argument of the hon. and gallant Gentleman is correct. The people of this country believe that the deterrent is a preventive when in fact it is not. It merely postpones war for a short period.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I hope that the hon. Member realises that I have invited him three times to address his mind to the Motion before the Committee, which does not relate to general principles but to the Navy, which has a bearing on these matters. I have tried to be as helpful as I could to the hon. Gentleman, but it is difficult when it is necessary to address him three times.
§ Mr. Awbery
Expenditure on the Navy must come into all questions of our defence. That is why I have tried to develop the argument. If, however, you say, Mr. Diamond, that I am out of order in discussing money being spent upon what we consider to be the deterrent, I bow to your Ruling.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) to Mars or the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) to the Scottish coalfields. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire was interesting when he said that all aircraft carriers which cost £10 million became obsolete almost before they are launched and that it would be much better to spend the money on the Scottish coalmines. That was the gist of what the hon. Member wanted to say. I would point out to him that Her Majesty's ships stopped using his coal years ago and that his coal has been obsolete for so long that it would be much better if he were to shut down the mines. I will not, however, pursue that argument much longer, or I might be as out of date as the hon. Member.
I want in particular to refer to pay and conditions in Her Majesty's dockyards and especially in Portsmouth dockyard, of which I have special knowledge. These dockyards are sparsely represented by members of the trade unions. I have done my best to try to persuade people to join their unions, but they have been reluctant to do so. I understand some of their reluctance when I try to get the Admiralty to do certain things but am told that there are agreements with the unions which do not allow the Admiralty, for example, to employ dilutee fitters. I am told that the A.E.U. and the Admiralty have an agreement, and that certain dilutee fitters who have been working in the dockyards for as long as nine or ten years have to go if there is one craftsman unemployed or available elsewhere.
I have always felt that the trade unions were there to help the working man. When fifty men who have been working in a dockyard for a long time are thrown out because of some obsolete arrangement between the Admiralty and the A.E.U., it is time that the Admiralty 164 brought such an agreement to an end. It may have worked well in the past— the Admiralty may have had the best of it—but at the moment the Admiralty is losing good men. I have a letter from the First Lord saying that he would very much like to employ these men but is not able to do so because of the A.E.U.
I suggest that that arrangement, whereby dilutees who belong to that union cannot be employed, should be brought to an end at the earliest possible time. These men are very well trained. Often they have to train the very men who come in from outside to take their place and who are supposed to be craftsmen. That seems to me wrong and I am sure that if my hon. Friend the Civil Lord goes into the matter, he can get a better agreement with the A.E.U. than he has managed to get up to now.
Whenever I have spoken about dockyard wages, I have always been told that this is a matter for agreement with the unions, both by the union members and by the Admiralty. In fact, however, the Admiralty does not allow the overtime that these ordinary craftsmen would get if they were working on the Clyde or elsewhere. I would say that they do not get the overtime chiefly because naval officers are not particularly keen on working overtime. The naval officers get the same pay whether there is overtime or not, and the sooner the dockyard closes, the quicker the uniformed officials can go home.
That is the sort of thing that makes the Service cities extremely poor. The average wage in Portsmouth is £3-£4 a week less than the national average. I should like to quote what appeared in the Portsmouth Evening News the other day after a rise had been granted in Service pay. It states:It is in Service towns such as Portsmouth that the new rates will cause some resentment.That is, the new Service rates, against which I have no grouse. The sailor, soldier and airmen deserve a good wage. The quotation continues:A Luton car-assembly worker may notice without a blink that a married chief electrical artificer will get a rise of over £2 a week to £22 15s., but pay for workers in Government establishments has a sparse look by comparison. If well over £1,000 a year is required in relation to 'average earnings in manufacturing and other industries.' it must be expected that men 165 in the Royal Dockyards may also regard themselves as deserving of consideration. If well over £1,000 a year is required in relation to average workers in manufacturing and other industries it must be expected that the men in the Royal Dockyards may also regard this as deserving of consideration.There are many men working in Portsmouth dockyard shown as unskilled but doing semi-skilled jobs, and there are semi-skilled people doing skilled jobs. The Admiralty, in my opinion, is employing people under false pretences and getting labour very cheap. I should like to see a strong union there to see that these men get properly paid, and I should like taken into consideration the fact that they do not get a bonus or war bonus as other people do in other engineering industries.
Then there is another class of people I would draw the Civil Lord's attention to, the storehouse men. The storehouse men are absolutely like the storehouse men in the other two Services, the Army and the Air Force, and, for that matter, in certain civilian establishments. These men in naval establishments however have to pass an examination every two years. When they do pass the examination nothing happens except that they are put on the list of those who have passed within the last two years. If they are not established they have to take the examination again in two years. Men of 48 and 50 are still being called upon to do quite complicated mathematical examinations as storehouse men, and they never get any farther, and if eventually a man fails at 50, then he is put on the failed list, although he has passed for forty years.
§ Mr. Awbery
If there is a trade union in the yard, and if there is an agreement made between the trade union and the Admiralty governing the conditions which the hon. and gallant Member is talking about, then it is the union which should be dealing with the matter.
§ Brigadier Clarke
Yes, there is a trade union, and I have written about this not only to the Admiralty but to a Member of the House who is head of that union, the A.E.U., and he says that there is nothing which the union or the Admiralty can do about it. Between them, nothing gets done. If the hon. Member for Bristol, Central can do something, I shall be very grateful to him.
§ Mr. Awbery
Surely, this is a trade union matter which should be discussed in the trade union branch and in the trade union organisation, not raised by a Member of Parliament tonight.
§ Brigadier Clarke
The hon. Gentleman, having been out of order for so long, is trying to pretend that I am out of order.
I do not belong to any union. I have no intention of joining one, but if I want to say a word about it in this Committee I have a perfect right to do so. I am going to recommend the people in Portsmouth not to join a union in the future unless the union can pull its thumb out and do something for these men.
However, I should like to press on. I have got as far as the storehouse keepers. They have had a very poor deal for a very long time. I would point out to the Civil Lord that they are all anxious to be considered, and quite rightly so, as non-industrials, but the Admiralty insists on treating them as industrials and they get all the disadvantages which goes with being industrials. In every other branch of the Services these men are not industrials, and the Admiralty is the last to give way on this point, and I am sure that if the Civil Lord will consult the Association of Supervisors and Radio Officers, to which most of these men belong, he will learn that the Admiralty is a long way out of date in regarding these men as industrials.
As for the lower deck officers, the S.D. officers, really they have a rather raw deal. There is no one ever to speak for these men. There are many upper deck officers in this Committee to look after the man who comes in the ordinary scheduled way, the normal entry, but the man who rises from the lower deck has got where he eventually is by the hard way, and in my opinion deserves a very reasonable pension. A lieutenant who retires or is thrown out, having come up from the lower deck, gets £504, whereas the man who has been to Dartmouth gets £625.
It seems to me quite wrong that a man who has spent thirty-three years in the Service, and has got as far in peace time as any lower deck rating is likely to get, should find himself with a very much smaller pension than a man who has been to Dartmouth, who, if he is 167 thrown out as a lieutenant-commander, has not done as well, but who gets a much bigger pension than the man who has done very well and has come up from the lower deck. Perhaps the Civil Lord will see what he can do to improve the lot of these officers.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I always thought that the hon. and gallant Member was a Communist.
§ Brigadier Clarke
If I were to tell you, Mr. Diamond, what I think the hon. Member for South Ayrshire is, I should be out of order; but I know that he is such a pacifist that he will fight everyone to the last pacifist, and I am not going to fight him.
I should like finally to mention the case of the pre-1950 widows of ratings, who received no pension at all and who still receive nothing. This matter was raised before in a letter to the Admiralty, and it was agreed that it should be looked at again, although nothing could be done for the moment. Although nearly every other sort of Service widow and Service pensioner has had some kind of increase since 1950, the pre-1950 widows of petty officers still get nothing except the 10s. widow's pension. That seems quite wrong, and I think that the Admiralty should be a little more generous and look after the ex-officers and their widows if they want the new entries to come into the Royal Navy in the same numbers and of the same quality as in the past.
I would make one further plea that the Admiralty should build one of these nuclear submarines in one of our own dockyards. I said this before we put down the last one. The Admiralty met me half-way by putting down the "Dreadnought" in Portsmouth dockyard, and I understand it is now nearly complete. I feel quite certain that these dockyard personnel, who are amongst the most skilled in this country, are quite capable of building any nuclear submarines and nuclear ships required in the future. I therefore hope that my hon. Friend the Civil Lord will be able to give us a real surprise this evening by telling us that he intends to do something which we really need to have done, and that is to have nuclear ships built in Portsmouth.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) has not spoken tonight with the clarity that we usually expect him to show. He said at one time that he would do his best to get everyone in Portsmouth to join a union, and later on said that he would go back to Portsmouth and seek to get everybody out of the unions. He started his speech by saying that he approved of the Estimates, though by the time his speech had ended, and if he could have his own way, millions more would have been added to them.
In that respect, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has been completely in step with almost everyone else who has spoken from the benches opposite during this debate. Without exception, almost everyone whom I have heard has been arguing for some further expenditure, has been putting forward his own pet idea on which there should be additional expenditure, and I have no doubt that if the Admiralty take notice of what they have said and decide to meet their wishes, the bill next year will be considerably higher than it is this year.
The hon. and gallant Member for Horn-castle (Commander Maitland) was no exception. He had a quarrel with the hon. and gallant Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney). He wanted more landing craft and installations, presumably on the beaches, to bring in food supplies after the ports had been destroyed. I ask what kind of world we are living in when there can be in it intelligent people who believe that after the ports of Britain have been destroyed in a nuclear war there will be any need to bring food into Britain. Yet this was the purport of his speech. We were still going to carry on after there had been wholesale obliteration and the ports had been wiped out. Somehow the waters round the island would not be radioactive and ships would be able to sail through them quite safely.
Yet when we carried out tests in the Pacific eighteen months ago the shipping of the world was warned that it would be dangerous for six months for any ships to sail through the waters in which the experimental bomb had been dropped. I assume that if the catastrophe ever came and nuclear bombs 169 were dropped the Navy would have finished its sailing, because it would be as impossible for it to sail in the Irish Sea, in the Channel or in the North Sea as it was for those ships which we warned not to sail in the Pacific.
One of the things that always causes me some measure of amusement on occasions of this kind is to realise how quickly hon. Members opposite forget what they say in public. We are only a few months removed from the General Election. The commonest question I was asked by supporters of hon. Members opposite during that election was, "Where is the money to come from?" Nobody is asking that question on these Estimates. Nobody is asking where we are to find the extra £27 million which they involve.
There is not the probing inquiry which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said there should be in 1948 when we, now on this side of the Committee, occupied the benches opposite. Then the right hon. Gentleman was demanding that the big staffs in the Admiralty should be cut down and that some of the swivel chairs should be taken from under them. But we do not hear speeches of that kind now. It is amazing, because the staffs are still there and they are costing more today than they did then.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
The hon. Member was talking about being interrupted during his election speeches. I have no doubt that he was saying how his party would spend the money if it was re-elected, but of course the big difference is that it was not re-elected and, therefore, the money is available.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I am quite sure that, whatever other stories the hon. and gallant Member told his constituents during the election, one story which he would not tell them was that the Government would increase expenditure if they were returned. There was no Conservative on any platform in the last election who said that the purpose of his being returned was to increase government expenditure. Every one of them said that his party would economise, run the country more efficiently and thereby reduce expenditure.
170 I do not believe that we are being fair to the British people, that we are being frank and open with them. We are trying to convince them that this expenditure on the Navy, plus the expenditure on the other Services, will somehow guarantee peace, or make it possible for them to survive in the event of another war. But this expenditure is not for defence, as was made clear by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and others. There is no defence. The instruments on which it is proposed to spend this money, if they are ever used, will be used to commit suicide. We should tell our people, Mr. Khrushchev should tell the Russians and President Eisenhower should tell the Americans that if ever we use the weapons for which we are voting this money, it will be an end to our civilisation.
The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West pleaded for the unemployed ship workers in Portsmouth. There are many more unemployed in Jarrow than Portsmouth. I should like some of this money to be devoted to improving our merchant navy. That would be worthwhile expenditure and it would increase our competitive power. The Government are anxious that work should be provided in those areas where there is high unemployment. Perhaps my constituency is "top of the league" in that respect. When the Admiralty places contracts I ask that it takes into consideration what I would term social factors, and pays some regard to the unemployed and the needs of areas which have rendered good service in the past to the Admiralty and the nation. I ask for no special favours, but if these contracts are to be issued, I hope that my constituency will not be forgotten.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)
The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) said that all the money we spend on the Navy and the other Services could not bring us peace. I believe that our defence expenditure has done a great deal to cause the leaders of the world to prefer to sit round a table and talk rather than to show their muscles. That is a sufficient justification for spending the money.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I said it could not defend us in the event of the disaster coming.
§ Mr. Mawby
That is the whole point. That is the 64 dollar question. I believe the very existence of the nuclear weapon, the fact that so many nations have it, makes more certain that no nation will declare war. Therefore, I believe that the very existence of this weapon in the hands of a number of nations means that nations are more prepared to talk together than they were before.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
§ Mr. Mawby
Suez, of course, was a small police force operation with which our Navy is at the moment quite capable of dealing. That is the important thing. If we all think that in these days of nuclear war there is no need for us to keep our police forces, as we call them, to maintain all our shipping routes, all our different communications throughout the world, of course we would be completely wrong, but I do not want to be diverted, because I want to say only a few words.
172 Dartmouth being within my constituency, I want to ask my hon. Friend the Civil Lord a question about the position of the Director of Studies. Because of ill-health, a Director of Studies retired some considerable time ago. As far as I know, there has been no replacement and no real attempt to find a new Director of Studies. I want an assurance from my hon. Friend that it is not the intention that the present arrangement of the balance between the naval staff and the Director of Studies and the civilian staff should be altered—that there is no intention of bringing in a captain instructor in the place of the Director of Studies and so changing the whole concept of Dartmouth.
As the Member for the constituency, I am very much the man who is looking in on this matter. I do not know all the ins and outs, but I believe it would be against the interests of Dartmouth and all it stands for if the civilian side, headed by the Director of Studies, were changed and there were a captain instructor. I ask for an assurance that no change such as I fear is envisaged.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
I begin tonight by paying a tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). I am glad he had the opportunity of speaking for our party today. I know how right the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) was when he paid tribute to him. I know my hon. Friend is a thorn in the flesh of the Secretary of State for Scotland and to many of his Under-Secretaries, but I think all of us who take part in Navy debates know that he cannot hide his affection for the Navy.
He does not, however, allow his love and affection for the Navy to lull his keen desire to probe the Estimates and to do all he can to improve the conditions of those who serve in it. Today his contribution has been probing and certainly it has been constructive. I was not surprised that he had something to say about the artificers. Nor was I surprised at his critical remarks on the Admiralty Office. I should have been very disappointed had he not run true to form on the latter because I know the Admiralty Office has a special place in the hearts of my hon. Friend and the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East.
This is the fifth time that I have spoken from the Opposition Front Bench on the Navy Estimates. Last week I took the opportunity of rereading some of the previous debates. I also read the speeches on the defence debates. As I read through them, the thought struck me, what is the reaction of the people outside who read these debates?
As in the past, our debate today has ranged from high strategy to tax-free payments to the Royal Naval Reserve for weekend duties, and issues of that kind. Our debates are rather untidy, and sometimes a bit unreal. I have an uneasy feeling—and this feeling grows stronger with each debate in which I take part—that somehow we are not doing our job properly. Speeches that have not been made in the defence debate are made during the debates on the Estimates, as the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) admitted, but other speeches are made 174 which are much more relevant to the Committee stage, and this adds to our confusion.
The position this year is slightly worse, because first we had a foreign affairs debate which turned into a defence debate, and not a very good one at that.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I beg my hon. Friend's pardon.
§ Mr. Steele
Apart from the speech of my right hon. Friend. We then had a two-day defence debate, which again, apart from the speech of my right hon. Friend, was concerned mainly with restating arguments which have been hashed and re-hashed over the past few years.
I would have thought that during the defence debate the Minister of Defence had a responsibility to outline the general policy of the Government and to indicate what part each service had to play. Also, with our responsibility to N.A.T.O., to show how and in what way we were getting efficiency allied with economy. Had we had that statement, our main task in today's debate would have been to examine closely how the Board of Admiralty was facing its task.
What did the Minister of Defence say about the Navy in the last defence debate? I am not sure that he sank it, but he did not say very much about it. He said three things. First, that a rating on board H.M.S. "Victorious" had told him that he was better fed than he had ever been before. Secondly, that we must get into this nuclear submarine business. Thirdly, that the Commando carrier "Bulwark" was so good that we ought to have another, rather like the lad who enjoyed his ice-cream and went to his mother and said, "I ought to have another one".
That is all that was mentioned in the debate. That does not constitute a policy, and it does not show us where the Navy fits into the general rôle of the defence policy of this country. One of the interesting things that has been said during the course of the debate—and I dealt with this at some length last year—is that we lack information. This was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East, by the hon. and gallant 175 Member for Croydon, North-East, and by many other hon. Members. Hon. Gentlemen do not have the opportunity to become fully informed, with the result that defence matters do not receive the attention they should.
Some interesting suggestions have been made today. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) made one. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) made another. Having discussed this subject with Members of Parliament in other countries, I feel that we should examine the situation to see whether something more should be done. Some day we may get round to having a defence committee of the House of Commons in which hon. Members could have the opportunity to examine defence chiefs as well as Ministers. In the meantime, I think that the present position is unsatisfactory.
I turn to one or two points which emerged during the debate. I was interested in the announcement by the Civil Lord of the new procedure which was being considered regarding the placing of orders for ships. He said that competitive tendering would be the practice. As an old member of the Public Accounts Committee, I welcome the announcement. I am very glad about it, because I have a feeling—I have some information about the matter—that much overtime and weekend working, particularly Sunday duty, was spent on naval ships and not on the other jobs which many yards were doing.
The hon. Gentleman started to say something about N.A.T.O. I was disappointed, because I was listening with care and I had hoped that he would say more. I shall say something about N.A.T.O. later. Instead of continuing with what I thought should be an important part of his speech, he went on to tell us a very interesting and amusing story about the experiences of naval gun crews in the United States.
Some very pertinent questions have been asked during the course of the debate. My hon. Friend mentioned some matters of interest about the Western European Union Reports, to which the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East also referred. I shall refer to the subject later. The 176 hon. and gallant Gentleman raised other very pertinent questions. I hope that the Civil Lord took note of them, particularly that concerning the target figure for men. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also took up the question about service afloat raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East. In the course of my career I have been involved in compiling many statistics, and I know what can be done with them. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman receives an answer to his pertinent question.
The naval barracks at Chatham were mentioned. I should have liked to deal with this subject, but I have not time to deal with every point. In view of what was said in the debate last year, we shall have to await an answer to this.
Major refits were mentioned. I was interested, too, in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's remarks about aircraft carriers. It is very welcome to hear a speech about their vulnerability and use from the opposite side of the House. The point has been mentioned by my hon. Friends on a number of occasions. Indeed, my hon. Friend mentioned it in opening the debate today.
Then we heard about Blue Streak and Polaris. It may be logical ultimately to put the deterrent in a submarine. But I do not think this is just a matter for a debate on the Navy Estimates. It is of much greater importance. A submarine which carries this weapon will not add anything to the Navy. It is different from any kind of ship that we have ever had before. One important feature of the Navy is its mobility and the way in which the ships can be used for so many different purposes. If a submarine is to carry the deterrent, the only question that arises is that of providing the appropriate launching platform. Therefore, this would be a question of overall strategy and would have to be decided as such. However, I am not prepared to enter into an inter-Service battle on this question, because I do not think it should be considered in that way. If, in fact, it did happen, then I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East that that would mean the end of the Royal Air Force. There would be no point in having it at all.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I should not like to be misrepresented. I did not say that. What I said was that if these matters were going to be decided on the ground of inter-Service rivalry, then the two Services should be merged.
§ Mr. G. Brown
If we had won the election we would have done it.
§ Mr. Steele
We on these benches have put forward this point of view for a number of years.
The hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) suggested that there should be a simple booklet setting out the rôle of the Navy. We have been trying to get the Government to set out the rôle of the Navy for a number of years. I do not think any simple booklet would serve that purpose, although I agree that it would be useful to have a booklet setting out the career structure and the opportunities that exist for those who join the Navy. I find it difficult to understand all the methods by which promotion can be gained, and such information would be of use not only in recruiting but to Members of Parliament as well.
I will not attempt to deal with all the points that were raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), who is not at present with us. He said that we ought not to confuse the size and strength of our naval forces and gave us a picture of what would happen to the "Bismarck" if it came out today. But the "Bismarck" would not come out today. We should have to contend with some other kind of ship, probably a nuclear submarine.
I was interested in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke), who also is not with us at the moment. I was going to welcome him into the ranks of trade union organisers and wish him well in his work.
Last year, the White Paper was headed "The Navy Today". I drew attention to the error in that title and indicated that it should be "The Navy Tomorrow," because that is what that document really dealt with. This has been happening for a number of years. What we have been told is not what we have got but what we are going to have. For instance, credit is taken 178 every year for the angled deck, the mirror landing device, the steam catapult and so forth. This has been going on year after year, and, having taken credit for these things, it is time that we left it at that.
This year, the Admiralty has been much wiser and merely called the White Paper "Report on the Navy." I would compliment the Civil Lord on the quality of the production. It has a nice cover, is well produced and has some good pictures. At the same time, there is a tendency to follow the tabloid newspapers of today in its style and also, perhaps, in its contents. My criticism of it, as of those newspapers to which I have just referred, is not of what it contains but of what has been left out.
Let us look at page 3. There we find reference to the first Commando carrier having been commissioned. I recall that I welcomed this decision in 1958, and today I interrupted the Civil Lord when he said something about it because I indicated two years ago that many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee welcomed this decision. Yet I was quietly reprimanded by the Civil Lord at that time when I ventured to suggest that it would be quite impossible to have "Bulwark" in operation as a commando carrier by the date which had been suggested.
If the Civil Lord would look at Hansard for that time, he will see it stated that "Bulwark"… should be in service in her new guise in the summer of next year".—[Official Report, 4th March, 1958; Vol. 583, col. 985.]The summer of next year, to my reckoning, was the summer of 1959; but perhaps it cannot be helped. We are just a little late.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
The explanation is that "Bulwark" was detained in the Persian Gulf for much longer than was anticipated because of events in the Middle East. We were not slow in converting her. The reason is that she went in for conversion much later than was hoped.
§ Mr. Steele
I accept that, but a difficulty of the Government is that there is some continuity on this side of the Committee and we remember the promises which the Government have made.
179 I notice that this column is headed, "The power and mobility of the Fleet increased", but no claim is made for "Tiger" having joined the fleet. Is this an error or an omission, or merely a recognition of what my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East said today, namely, that one cannot make a new house out of an old one? Perhaps a mistake has been made. Then, nothing is said about aircraft at all, so there appears to be no highlights, although this section is headed: "The highlights of the report". There is nothing about the Wessex helicopter, although the Civil Lord did say something of that in his speech.
I come now to the first main question of those which I want to ask. Has the rô1e of the Royal Navy changed since it was defined in the Defence White Paper of 1958? A great deal was said in the Explanatory Statement for 1958–59, and the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary spoke at length about it in the debate in March, 1958. It is not mentioned this year, nor was it mentioned last year, but some doubt was thrown on it by a statement of the then Minister of Supply. What he said was:Let us look at the Navy.The main rô1e of the Navy at present, whatever the future may hold, is the limited war rôle".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1320.]That is rather different from what was set out in the 1958 White Paper on Defence and hardly squares with the statement about the anti-submarine rôle which, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) pointed out very forcefully last year, accounted for three-quarters of the Estimates, because it is very difficult to believe that the anti-submarine rôle is a limited war rôle and yet it is that upon which we spend most of the money.
The second question is whether the Admiralty has departed from paragraph 46 of the Defence White Paper of 1958 —if the Admiralty ever believed in it, although I thought that it was an admirable statement—which said:Since, apart from fulfilling certain colonial responsibilities, the Royal Navy will be operating in conjunction with other allied navies, the aim will be to make the most effective contribution to the combined forces of the Alliance, and not necessarily to provide a fully balanced all-purpose British fleet".180 I supported that statement. That is what interdependence means. It was a frank statement backing up what the Minister of Defence had said, that we could no longer go it alone, that we could not be defended in isolation. Here was a desire to get an effective contribution to our defence, along with our Allies, with the greatest possible economies.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) and I were so impressed with that paragraph that we thought that we should help the Minister. Both of us are members of the Defence and Armaments Committee of Western European Union and, in a Report on Naval Forces, this matter was specially considered. In my hon. Friend's Report, Document 128, this view was clearly set out, and it was discussed and accepted by the Assembly meeting in Paris in July, 1959. It was clear that here we had not only the economic advantages, but the value of greater efficiency, which was desired by those who took part in the discussion.
Therefore, in Recommendation 35 to the Council of Ministers, there was embodied the following resolution:That, with a view to establishing overall balanced naval forces for N.A.T.O. responsibilities in Western Europe, specific tasks be allocated, by means of periodical reviews, to member countries, thus encouraging more specialisation and avoiding duplication and overlapping of forces to the detriment of other requirements.This was not put forward as something out of the blue or because we believed in Government policy as set out in paragraph 46 of the 1958 Defence White Paper. This was put forward after the Defence and Armaments Committee had had the opportunity of visiting many naval commands and discussing this with navy people.
The Recommendation was passed by the Assembly and thus went to the Council of Ministers, which has an obligation to reply, which said:Under the title ' balanced collective forces ' the concept of ' overall balanced forces' has been the subject of continuous discussion and negotiation within N.A.T.O. since 1950. At the present time, the military authorities of N.A.T.O. are considering what active steps can be taken to realise this concept of mutual support, which could provide substantial economic and military advantages".That is the view of the Council of Ministers, which went on to say:When nations are obliged to commit their naval forces for national responsibilities in 181 peace the problem of a national balance of forces arises. The adjustment between a national balance of naval forces and of balance of collective forces in the N.A.T.O. sense becomes … a predominantly political matter.I could deal at great length with what is meant by that reply, but I do not intend to do so. The Committee will be seized of its meaning.
What is clear is that discussions on the matter have been going on for the past ten years and nothing has been done. Nothing has been done in a direction which offers great economic advantages as well as adding to efficiency, and this despite the declared policy of the British Government, which could play an important part in having this done.
Therefore, my question to the Civil Lord is to ask how far the attitude of the Admiralty and its influence prevents the necessary action being taken because the political decision has already been taken. I ask this because it seems to me that this White Paper from the Admiralty is full of complacency, smugness and self-satisfaction. It gives me the impression of a sense of glee and satisfaction that the Admiralty has escaped the shackles which the present Minister of Aviation had tried to put around it.
When we read this document, one feels that N.A.T.O. hardly exists, except in the Appendix, which, in the view of the Admiralty, is probably the place to put it. One gets the impression that what the Admiralty has in mind is a self-contained Navy isolated, proud and independent, except, of course, for the map at the back, which shows where all the Navy's ships have been going during the past year. It rather makes me feel that the Admiralty is a better tourist agency than Thos. Cook & Son, Ltd.
Under the heading "Twenty years of change", the Explanatory Statement tells us, on page 9, thatThe Navy must always keep abreast of technical advances affecting sea welfare".That is the kind of statement of the obvious which is characteristic of the Explanatory Statements. This one continues:the quality of its ships, aircraft, and weapons must match that of the other principal navies 182 of the world. That is the basis of Admiralty policy, and the test in peacetime of its success is a comparison with what other navies have.Clearly, the interpretation and inference is that the Admiralty must have the lot. Here is the real basis of Admiralty thinking. There is no question here of overall balanced forces with our allies or of thought being given to what our contribution might be towards achieving that and what would be our best contribution. The evidence here is that the Admiralty is determined to stick to its own conception and wants no interference. Its objective is to get as many ships as it can without regard to how they will be used or what purpose they serve.
This year's White Paper on Defence states quite clearly that in this third year of the five-year plan, the Government's broad defence policy has undergone no major change. What assurance can we have that the policy outlined in paragraph 46 of the 1958 Statement is being pursued vigorously in the Navy? Is there anything the Civil Lord can tell us about it? Have the political decisions been taken, and what, if anything, has been achieved? I take the view that the decisions are still being taken to suit our own national aims, whatever they may be, and that we only advise N.A.T.O. and do not consult it.
Unless this Committee has some knowledge of these matters and of what N.A.T.O. requirements are and of what is being done about them, we cannot feel qualified to pass a proper judgment. That is one of the things which have come out of this debate. Members have been asking for proper information, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East said, unless we can have a proper picture of what our commitments to N.A.T.O. are and of how our plans fit into them, we cannot say whether we are spending money on the right things, nor whether the sum we are being asked to vote is adequate, or whether it is too much. I dealt with this last year. I hope that someone some time will be able to give us some information on this matter.
On the question of cost, I hope some of my hon. Friends who have studied economics will help me with a paragraph headed, "The cost of increased capability in terms of cost" on page 9 of the Statement. I do not understand 183 what it means. I suppose there is some answer to it. It says:These are the main factors—complexity, complements, and costs—which, applied to limited resources of manpower and money, condition the task of the Admiralty in maintaining the strength of the operational fleet.I accept that. I am glad the Admiralty know about it, but somebody ought to tell them how to spell "resources." If they are thinking as accurately as that, I think we really are in difficulties.
One of the advantages of being a member of the Defence Committee of W.E.U.—I am sorry that my term of office is coming to a close—is that one finds out things and gets around. We have no machinery in this Parliament of that kind, and I should like to have a defence committee which could do some of the things which were done there. I hope that Members interested in naval matters will take a look at the Mulley Report of June, 1959. I am not referring to my hon. Friend's Report, the last one submitted, which caused some widespread comment. I am talking about the previous one, the one about the Navy, which did not cause so much stir. The Civil Lord, I understand, has not seen it.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
Yes, I have.
§ Mr. Steele
Today? It is a great pity, because it is remarkable, and I really cannot understand why a document of this kind is not given to the political members of the Board of Admiralty. Members who are interested in naval matters ought to read it. It was adopted by the Assembly of Western European Union, in the Fifth Ordinary Session, June, 1959.
I should like to say something about the command structure of SACEUR. There are many other things in the Report and the recommendations which have been mentioned today, particularly by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle. I think the command structure of SACEUR is understood, although it may not be generally appreciated that he has some naval responsibilities as well. But I do not think that the naval command structure is understood or appreciated. I have no intention of outlining what it is. Those hon. Members who were able to understand 184 the Town and Country Planning Act might apply their minds to it and in the end understand how it works, but the task would be very difficult.
The Western European Union Defence Committee looked at the structure. What was clear to our Committee, and what we say in our Report, is that it is not designed to suit or serve either military or naval needs, nor does it ensure the most economical or effective methods of operation. Its basic weakness, as pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East, is that it had been designed to suit political feelings and national prestige. Furthermore, everyone we talked to agreed that it was wrong and felt that something should be done about it, but nothing has been done.
Here again, my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park and I thought we might be helpful at W.E.U. Embodied in the document which I have already mentioned was another Resolution, which said:That the Command structure with respect to the Atlantic area, the Channel, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean be re-examined urgently with a view to its revision and the removal of the weaknesses disclosed by the Committee's inspection and set out in its report.This Recommendation was made to the Council of Ministers.
The Committee will be interested to learn that the reply received from the Council was thatThe military authorities of N.A.T.O. have had under review for several years the N.A.T.O. naval command structure, with a view to enhancing its effectiveness. The principal difficulties lie in adjusting the national interests in the areas concerned with the requirements of the Alliance.That was the wisdom we got from the Council of Ministers.
I am sure the Committee will agree that this problem, along with many others, will not be settled in the period of four minutes' warning which we shall receive of the arrival of guided missiles. It may be that if the missiles come the problems will not require to be solved. There will be no problems if the commands have gone out of existence. But if we are finding money for all this structure to exist, we have the right to ask that it is used not only economically but efficiently.
185 If we are one of the principal countries where national prestige is affecting the issue, is nothing being done, or can nothing be done about it? This is not something for which more money is required. It is an area in which economy can be obtained. More important, while the economy itself might not be substantial, efficiency would certainly be improved.
If some of the Tory back benchers had to apply their minds to this problem, rather than to the reorganisation of our railways, which are being and have been reorganised during the long period in which I have been associated with them, they would be much more profitably engaged for the country, though perhaps not more profitably engaged for some of the things which they want to do.
My interest in the Navy over the past few years has deepened my respect for its traditions and increased my admiration for those who serve in it. Many tributes have been and will be paid to their devotion to duty and the manner in which they carry out the tasks which they have to perform. But we should be failing in our duty to them and to the taxpayers, who, after all, have to foot the bill, unless we can get not only assurances but evidence from the Government that the money we are voting is being used wisely in order to get full efficiency.
§ 11.20 p.m.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
We have had our usual good natured debate which has ranged over a fairly wide field. What is typical about debates on the Navy is the wide measure of support even from those hon. Members who tendered some criticisms of the Navy as a whole. In winding up the debate it is my task to try to pick out some of the themes of speeches by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and to deal with other important points. If I cannot deal with all the matters which have been raised, and obviously, I cannot, I, or my noble Friend will write to those hon. Members concerned.
The first point was raised by two hon. Members opposite who have been junior Ministers at the Admiralty, the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) and the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale). I observe 186 that the hon. Member for Stepney is at present renewing acquaintanceship with several old friends. They asked whether the combined job of Civil Lord ond Parliamentary and Financial Secretary was too big a load and what were the responsibilities. My noble Friend has asked me to retain the chairmanship of the Finance Committee and undertake the task of answering in the House, the chairmanship of the Admiralty Industrial Council and in fact all political work, particularly the answering of letters from hon. Members on constituency points.
I do not think it is too much of a hardship to have both to open and to wind up the debate. A number of hon. Gentlemen opposite have done the same. I remember that when the noble Lord Lord De L'Isle and Dudley was Secretary of State and in another place, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air, who was then the Under Secretary, had to introduce the Air Estimates, and as at that time we had the archaic form of an intervening Motion, to speak to that, and afterwards to wind up the debate on the Air Estimates. So I have 50 per cent. less load than he had. The hon. Member for Stepney asked about the Civil Engineering—
§ Mr. Dugdale
The hon. Gentleman said that he would answer some of the letters from hon. Members. Surely he will answer them all?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I shall answer the great majority of the letters, but on policy points hon. Members may sometimes like to write to my noble Friend, who is listening to this debate.
The hon. Member for Stepney asked about the Civil Engineer in Chief. He is now called the Director General, Navy Works, and has a slightly bigger job than he had when the hon. Gentleman was in office. As will be seen from the Estimates, he has all of Vote 10 and also mechanical and electrical engineering work outside the dockyards. It is interesting to note that we have reverted to a title which used to exist, as he used to be called the Director of Navy Works.
The hon. Gentleman was worried about the balance of the Board of Admiralty. It is true that there is one less politician, although I do not think that significant, and there is also one less Sea Lord. We have dispensed with 187 the Fifth Sea Lord, or rather we have amalgamated that office with the D.C.N.S.
§ Mr. W. Edwards
I was comparing the Estimates last year with those of this year. It may be the case that the hon. Gentleman does not care that there is one politician less on the Board but the fact remains that there is still the same number of naval members.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I was comparing it, as I thought the hon. Member was, with when he was at the Board of Admiralty—
§ Mr. Edwards
No, with last year.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
It must be remembered that the First Lord is also a politician on the Board of Admiralty and also there is the Secretary, who is the doyen of secretaries in Whitehall and has helped seven First Lords and ten different junior Ministers. A load of wisdom comes from that source which my noble Friend and myself deeply appreciate.
§ Mr. Edwards
Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am perfectly satisfied that it is not necessary to have three politicians at the head of the Navy when both the other Services, with a much larger Vote A, have managed with two politicians. As every other politician has no doubt said, and as hon. Members will confirm, we are well served by a very efficient and helpful staff. The only plea I have to make—perhaps it is not appropriate to this debate and may be more appropriate when we debate the question of the accommodation of the House—is that someone should do something about air conditioning in this Chamber when one has both to open and close a debate. The hon. Member, I believe, is worried about the lighting. Perhaps both those matters could be considered together.
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele), who normally opens our debate, has taken the reverse position on this occasion. I was surprised to hear him criticise the report we present. The general opinion was that my noble Friend's Memorandum this year was very much brighter, better set out and more striking. What we are doing is to try to show that there is a 188 need for the Navy and to undo the work of those few people who say there is no need for a Navy.
§ Mr. Steele
I am glad the hon. Gentleman has allowed me to interrupt to put this in its correct perspective. I was not complaining about the report in that sense; in fact, I complimented him on various aspects of it. What I was complaining about, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), and I think some hon. Members opposite complained, was not what was in the Report, but what was not in it.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
One cannot include everything. It was pointed out that some items were not in the headlines, but we cannot make every item a headline or the report would become unreadable.
The whole theme of my opening speech was Commonwealth co-operation and N.A.T.O. co-operation. I tried to underline that we were geared to it and my noble Friend had listed the value to the alliance of the present-day Navy. I am sorry I cannot follow the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West into the N.A.T.O. organisational side and the command structure. That is not my responsibility, but the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence. In many ways I think that would be more appropriate to a defence debate because SACEUR covers a wider field than the Admiralty and the responsibility does not rest entirely with me.
§ Mr. Willis
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, could he let us know that he will put these criticisms before the Minister of Defence, because there have been requests from both sides of the Committee for this information?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Of course, I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the points which have been made by several hon. Members.
The right hon. Member for West Bromwich said that the Estimates showed that a pitifully small staff was concentrating on undersea warfare. The figures he was looking at were those of the Naval Staff. There it is true there are only fourteen, but, under the Director-General of Weapons, there is a staff of between 80 and 100. 189 There is also, of course, H.M.S. "Vernon" and the Underwater Establishment at Portsmouth dealing with these problems. There has been a great deal of criticism about personnel, but my noble Friend and I are not complacent about this matter. There has been an overall reduction of 12 per cent. since 1952–3. That is no mean achievement.
There are various factors which offset our efforts to economise. I mentioned one, which was the staff of "Dreadnought". The fact is that we have on our design staff—and I cover design staff in its broadest terms—3,000 people shown on the strength of the Admiralty. They include designers, draughtsmen, and other people concerned with the design, production and supervision of shipbuilding. Considerable economies have been effected to allow for the rise in this sort of staff, and we still show a reduction of 1,250 since 1952.
One of the aspects where an increase has been shown is for the work study department. Another is the lower deck widows' pensions department which did not exist a few years ago. We have twenty people there. The married quarters' department, which did not exist at the Admiralty many years ago, employs twenty people. These are a reflection of the new shape of the Navy.
We have recently set up a new committee to look at both naval and civilian numbers in the Admiralty, and we now have the searchlight of the Select Committee on Estimates also examining the Admiralty. I have no doubt that self-examination, and examination from outside, will contribute to our desire to see that the Admiralty staff is used as economically and efficiently as possible.
Another theme that ran through the debate was the request for more information. This was raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) and by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans).
The value of a debate like this rests on well-informed Parliamentary opinion about naval matters. It is clear that after the war many of us came into the House 190 with first-hand knowledge of the Services but that that capital which we brought in has been slowly declining and we have been getting more and more out of date. I am sure that back benchers must feel this, and the result of the recent election was encouraging in that it brought in many new hon. Members with fresh information about the Services. I support what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said. We believe that it is essential to keep Parliament as well informed as we can. If we can further and help that tendency by way of visits, we are determined to do so.
I thought that my noble Friend's Explanatory Statement was a full one. I am able to announce one further improvement in this direction. Until recently it has not been our practice to make a public announcement when the keel of a new ship is laid, although there have been a few exceptions to the rule. We feel that this is carrying security to unnecessary limits, and from now on we will announce the laying down of a keel, giving the type, class and name of the ship, the name of the builders, and the name of the machinery contractors. We shall continue to give publicity to the launching of new ships, and this will be another occasion when I have no doubt that further information will be given about when the ship can be expected to be in commission. When the ship is launched there will be a third opportunity for making public the manner in which we are replacing ships. I hope that this will be accepted as another sign of our anxiety to meet the criticisms which have been made.
We are examining other methods of improving publicity. My noble Friend and I would be glad to receive suggestions from hon. Members. We will examine those suggestions which have been made during the debate. I know something of the United States Congress procedure in this matter and the very extensive library service it provides. I do not think that it would be easy to provide a comparable service, but other suggestions will be considered.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools asked whether we could publish the position of ships at sea. I think that would be unwise. After all, we must make the enemy's intelligence work for its living. It would 191 not be wise to publish this list at given intervals throughout the year, but we will examine the suggestion to see whether it could be done once a year in the Explanatory Statement which would tell Parliament and the country what was happening.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport asked about the load in the dockyards. I assure her that the main task of our dockyards—this also concerns my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke)—is the repairing and modification of our ships. This is the main task, but we realise that in a dockyard, if the personnel are to be kept fully conversant with the latest techniques and the apprentices are to be given something worth while to bite on, they cannot be given only old ships to modify. They must be given an element of new ships. Without being precise, about 10 per cent. of new construction will continue to be fed to the dockyards in order to help them with the newer and latest techniques. We at present have about that percentage.
I do not visualise a large reduction in our dockyards. It is impossible to say, looking many years ahead when one cannot forecast the size of the fleet exactly, how many people will be wanted. I do not expect there to be redundancy. If there is a rundown, it will normally be done by age retirement and normal wastage. Perhaps I can summarise that by saying that there is a tremendous job for our dockyards to do. We think that they will match up to the task, and we will certainly consider the other points which both my hon. Friends mentioned.
We came under some criticism from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East about our reversal concerning Chatham Barracks. I agree that it is a reversal, but if one is to be responsible one must have the courage to come to the House of Commons and say, "Circumstances have changed. We have to refit some live ships at Chatham. We find that this is absolutely essential and, therefore, it is sensible and economical not to give those naval barracks to the Army and to move our Supply School to Devon-port, but to stay where we are and occupy the greater part of those barracks."
§ Mr. Willis
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I must continue, because it is very late.
§ Mr. Willis
This is a very important matter. What has happened about the accommodation at H.M.S. "Colling-wood" which was being kept for the Admiralty?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
We are taking that matter into consideration, but the Supply School comprises 500 people. We visualise that the absolute peak load might reach 1,000, or perhaps even 1,300, outside that from ships, fleet maintenance parties and other organisations. The hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Critchley) gave me a message from the Mayor of Chatham saying how absolutely delighted they were that we were keeping this organisation.
I can re-assure the Committee that my noble Friend and I are determined that this is not going to become a snowball or a rest-house for manpower. We shall not restore—there is no question about it—the post of Commander-in-Chief, the Nore, and we shall do everything we reasonably can to keep these numbers down to the absolute minimum. As I underlined in my opening speech, sailors are expensive people and if they are not doing very useful work they should not be sitting in barracks in their off hours. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East made the explosive suggestion that we should blow the barracks up. I would not go all the way with him on that.
I should like to make one announcement. The peace-time responsibility for the existing area of the Command will be divided between the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth and the Flag Officer, Scotland. The dividing line will be the Wash. The Admiral Superintendent at Chatham Dockyard will assume the additional rôle of Local Flag Officer, and we shall call him Flag Officer, Medway, in order to maintain the naval tradition of the Medway which has always existed. That is no extra person. It is just an additional title which will be carried.
I am sorry that I cannot yet announce the future of Stonehouse Barracks about which my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport asked me.
193 The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East asked me about the Crust Report. I concede that it has taken a long time on the lower deck structure, but the Committee has reported. We have considered the matter at Board level. We have made our decision. Now the exact manner in which the decision should be applied is being worked out. It will not be long now before announcements are made.
We came under some criticism also from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East about the sea-shore ratio. Again, my noble Friend and I do not wish to appear to be complacent about this, but I think that one must face the fact that, with a highly complex and technical fleet, there simply must be a number of technical establishments and the manpower must be returned to those establishments for refresher training to bring them up to date with the latest equipment before a new ship is commissioned or before they change to different types of ships. Although we will strain to see that the ratio is improved, I do not expect to see very startling results in that direction.
Various figures were mentioned. I think the truest yardstick is given by considering the General Service naval personnel only, and the proportion at sea over the next few years is likely to be 45 per cent. This is much the same as in recent years. On the whole, the General Service personnel may expect to spend half their life at sea. The Royal Naval Marines are outside the field; only 8 per cent. are afloat. The Fleet Air Arm are also outside the field, and only 21 per cent. are afloat. The term "afloat" includes the list in Category "B" and also Category "C." I would mention that H.M.S. "Tyne ", which is now in Agadir, is in Category "C," and it would be unfair if it were not included. However, it is not intended to include the Reserve Fleet.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) stressed that if Polaris was adopted we ought to try to get it under lend-lease. This is a most interesting view, slightly hypothetical at this moment, but we will certainly note the view which he expressed.
194 My hon. Friend also asked whether we ought not to undertake more rigorous work study in the Admiralty. Work study at the Admiralty is done by O and M, as in other Government Departments. It does not mean that it is less effective. Many people are helping us in our work to cut down the Admiralty staff.
Our cruisers came under criticism, and I was asked if they had been purposely left out from the headlines in my noble Friend's Explanatory Statement. They were not purposely left out. We feel that they have a very useful part to play. It is not only that they are long-legged; they have got considerable endurance. Also they have extra command facilities as well as extra signal facilities which go with those command facilities. We were criticised for going ahead with them. We should not overlook the fact that a few years ago the Sverdlov cruisers were regarded as a considerable menace should they come out from Russian waters and start to prey on our shipping lines in a conventional or a limited war, without consideration of nuclear matters. We arc fortunate in having three modern cruisers, and I know they are going to carry their weight in the fleet.
On the question of N.A.T.O., I ought to make it clear that in the event of war something like 85 per cent. of the strength of the Royal Navy would be available to the supreme commanders. That is a very considerable total. In order to achieve the highest degree of co-ordination between the various N.A.T.O. Powers, exercises are held, and in the coming year thirty exercises will be held with our N.A.T.O. allies.
§ Mr. Steele
Could we have some information about what happens at these exercises and how satisfied the Command is with them?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
My noble Friend and I will certainly consider whether special arrangements could be made for one or two selected Members who are interested to attend the "wash up" after these exercises. There are the immediate and later "wash-ups", both of which I have attended and they are of considerable interest. Perhaps we could approach that matter along the lines which I have earlier suggested.
195 My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence during the defence debate referred to the pamphlet of the Institute of Strategic Studies and the balance in forces likely to be deployed by N.A.T.O. He was talking of ground forces. He admitted that the pamphlet was reasonably accurate, and I would say that the pamphlet so far as it concerns naval forces is reasonably accurate. This pamphlet shows that SACLANT is likely to have 450 surface ships and 150 submarines available in war time for antisubmarine purposes. That represents a considerable force. I shall draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the other criticisms which were made.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) and the hon. and gallant Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney) referred to officer recruitment, and I am grateful for the statesmanlike and helpful remarks by both of them. I cannot, however, go all the way in the remarks about the need for us to introduce an "eleven-plus" or an entry at thirteen. We have introduced the Dartmouth scheme, and raised the standards to two "A" levels; and it is interesting to note that the Royal Air Force has raised its standards for Cranwell to the same level. I have to admit that the arguments tended to be very persuasive, but I suggest to the Committee that one should not start looking over one's shoulder with, perhaps, the idea of introducing another system of "eleven-plus." One could ask, "Why should the Royal Navy go in for this while the other Services have an entry at 18 and scholarships at 16?". We shall not shut our minds to these suggestions, but I must tell hon. Members that we are determined to go flat out to attract the right boys from the right type of schools to fill Dartmouth as it should be filled.
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) asked why there were fewer Commonwealth students going to Dartmouth. I agree that there is a small decrease in the numbers, but this should not be taken as indicating a trend. We are most anxious to have these students. It is a unifying quality of the Commonwealth navies that so many of the officers were Dartmouth educated and brought up, and we welcome Commonwealth officers there.
196 The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) welcomed the introduction of competitive tendering, and I am glad to have his assurance; I am sure that the shipping firms will match up to what is expected of them.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) dealt with two points to which I shall have to draw the attention of the Minister of Transport; that is, fall-out and emergency ports. The Royal Navy has a responsibility for fall-out and how it should be dealt with, but the application of our advice to merchant ships is a Ministry of Transport responsibility; and the same applies to what my hon. and gallant Friend said about emergency ports. I assure him that these matters will be brought to the attention of the Minister of Transport.
I was asked about LTAs and similar craft. We are fitting out the first two, LSTs and LCTs, and have built a score of new LCAs in the last few years, so I hope that that will assure hon. Members that we are tackling this problem of landing craft.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West raised the question of dilutees; and especially, I think, dilutee-fitters. Any hon. Member who has served in the Service departments—and I know this from my own previous experience—will know that there is a solemn agreement, made in war-time, with the A.E.U. and that no formula has so far been found for making a change. I cannot give much hope that we shall be able to make a change in this procedure, and I am afraid that I cannot go further than that tonight.
Next, I was asked about storehouse men, and perhaps I could write to my hon. and gallant Friend on that point. I would point out that in the stores field the Admiralty procedure is not identical with the procedure elsewhere and, therefore, one cannot draw an exact parallel by reference to the non-industrial officer grades in other Departments. I will, however, write to him to try to explain the exact position.
I was also asked about the widows of 1950, and the Committee will be aware that this matter has been raised on a number of occasions. It is a 197 general issue, and one cannot select just one Service. We cannot say that these Service widows will be given special priority.
The Act dated from 1950. We all know the hardship of those who fall on the wrong side of the dateline, but a new piece of legislation has to be started somewhere and, fortunately the country and the Government have now seen fit to look after the widows of lower deck seamen, airmen and soldiers.
That brings me to the last point, which is worth considering because a number of hon. Members from both sides of the Committee have asked about it—the rôle of the Navy. My noble Friend considered most carefully whether to republish a statement this year. There are some disadvantages in going on sowing doubt on this matter and I do not think that I can do better than restate the 1958 Defence White Paper which we sometimes forget and which clearly set out the rôle of the Navy as:In peacetime, to help to carry out Britain's responsibilities in colonies and protected territories, to defend British shipping, and generally to contribute by H.M. Ships' presence to the maintenance of peace and stability;in limited war, to protect sea communications, to escort troops and supplies to the theatre of operations and give them support in action;in global war, to make an effective contribution to the combined naval forces of the Western Alliance.I associate myself with the many hon. Members who have said that we sincerely hope that an effective controlled disarmament agreement will be reached, but, in the meantime, we must carry on and, by the tasks of the Royal Navy in peace, contribute to the stability of the free world. We shall continue to do that. I hope that hon. Members will agree that we have tried to set out clearly and objectively what fleet we have today. I am convinced that the men and women who serve the Navy, whether civilian or uniformed, will carry on with the great tradition which the Navy has built up over many centuries.
§ 11.52 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I have listened to much of the debate and to the Civil Lord twice. There is one thing about it which strikes me and which I 198 mention in the hope that it will strike a chord with the hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite. That was the Civil Lord's attempt at the end of the day to state the rôle of the Royal Navy, a question which is not faced in the Explanatory Statement and which was not faced in the Defence White Paper. It was a gallant, but pathetic attempt. Let us put it on the record that it is time that somebody, genuinely and not in cliches and bromides such as the hon. Gentleman used, set out to tell us what he thinks the rôle of the Navy should be.
Had there been a change of Government at the last election, rightly or wrongly, that question would have been answered. The pathetic thing is—
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
§ Mr. Brown
No, I have only just begun and I heard the hon. Gentleman without interruption
We would have answered the question —[HON. MEMBERS: "How?"]—I will tell hon. Gentlemen how—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which train do you catch?"]— Is it not peculiar that hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite will not listen? They are not interested when their own Government fail to deal with the one issue which matters. [Interruption] They are very good at pointing their fingers, but at the end of the day nobody knows what rôle is envisaged for the Navy. It has the rôle of delivering the deterrent, but the Government will not commit themselves to that. It has the rôle of delivering men and their equipment, but the Government will not commit themselves to that. Hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite have acquiesced in permitting the most pathetic answers to detailed questions which have had nothing to do with Navy policy. We have had the First Lord of the Admiralty in the Gallery—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]— and when he goes to a ship he is not even recognised. His private secretary is piped aboard in his place.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard
§ Mr. Brown
This is a Government whose First Lord is not recognized. The sailors do not know their own political chief. Their own political chief has no policy. The Government are unable to imprint their policy upon their colleagues. 199 There has been no attempt to establish the rôle of the Navy and no attempt to answer what the aircraft requirements of the Navy are. The failure to get the NA39, the failure to get it into performance, the failure to get it in service, the failure to persuade the Air Force—[HON. MEMBERS: "Vote"]—there will be no vote. The Labour Party does not vote against the Estimates. [Interruption.]
The giggling performance of hon. and gallant Members opposite does them no credit. They did this to the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) before the war. That was how they saw him off. They giggled at him. I merely got up, since the Civil Lord allowed me ten minutes, to put this on the record, and giggles do not go on the record.
There is 110 policy. There is no r61e established. There are no political Ministers whom sailors would recognise. There are no ships that would fit any policy. Tory Members may have all the fun they like late at night. Let me say, and say it sincerely, as one who believes—[Interruption.] That is easy to laugh at. As one who would have seen to the defences of the country had he the power, let me put it on record that were I sitting on the Government benches now, had I listened to today's debate I should now be hiding my head in shame.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
I suggest to the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) that he keeps his political speeches for the week-ends and makes them on the future of the Labour Party. I am glad that he was able to listen to the opening and closing of the debate, but he certainly did not sit throughout the debate. I was fortunate enough to hear every speech, with the exception of forty minutes I took off, during the eight and a half hours.
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that had I been asked those points earlier, I would have tried to deal with them. One cannot answer succinctly eight and a half hours' debate in half an hour without leaving some points out. In general, however, I dealt with the points which my hon. Friends and many hon. Members opposite raised, but at the moment I see only one back bencher sitting on the Opposition side of the Committee.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That 102,000 Officers, Seamen and Juniors and Royal Marines, who are borne on the books of Her Majesty's Ships and at the Royal Marine establishments, and members of the Women's Royal Naval Service and Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, be employed for the Sea Service, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1961.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received Tomorrow; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.