HC Deb 14 February 1961 vol 634 cc1249-326

3.40 p.m.

Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: this House takes note of the First Report from the Select Committee on Estimates in the last Session of Parliament relating to the Admiralty Headquarters Organisation, and of the Third Special Report of the Estimates Committee. When the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates was published some months ago, it received a certain amount of publicity—I almost said notoriety—in the Press. Among the headlines about it which appeared such incongruous phrases as "broadsides" and "bath-chairs" were prominent. I hope to make it clear in my speech that some of the publicity which the Report received put our recommendations somewhat out of context.

Before coming to the substance of the Report, I am sure that the House would wish me to take the opportunity of putting on record our thanks to the witnesses, both civilian and naval, who gave evidence to the Committee with such patience and thoroughness. I should also like, without any patronising air, to pay tribute on behalf of the Committee to the quality of the men serving the Royal Navy, both on the Service side and on the civilian side, and to make clear that any criticisms we made were directed against the system and not in the slightest degree against the individuals operating it.

Another thing that I should like to do by way of introduction is to express our thanks and congratulations to the Departments concerned on the speed with which the Committee's recommendations were considered and the reply to them presented to the Committee and thence to the House. This reply was published within eight weeks of the Report. I believe that this is easily a record and we should like to render our thanks and pay tribute to the work which went into the consideration and preparation of the reply so quickly.

Finally, by way of introduction, I am sure that the Estimates Committee and all hon. Members would wish me to refer to the news, which is now public, of the imminent retirement of Sir John Lang, the Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty, who was the principal witness before our Committee. I feel that the House would like to wish him well in his retirement and to pay tribute to the exceptional, indeed unique, service which he has given to the Navy for such a long time—I believe something in excess of fifty years.

Our Report was a critical one and I should like to deploy some of our criticisms to the House. First, I think that I should make clear that the Committee was concerned with two separate questions—first, the size, cost and composition of Admiralty headquarters, and, secondly, the effectiveness of headquarters' control over all naval expenditure for which it is responsible. In judging the second purpose, it is important to remember that, whereas the cost of the headquarters at the moment is about £11 million a year, to total naval expenditure for which it is responsible is about £400 million a year. Therefore, we should not be too pernickety about the headquarters if we can be satisfied that the control which it is exercising over this vast sum of £400 million is adequate. I should like that point to be borne in mind.

I wish to deal in rather broad outline with some of the points, both in the Committee's Report and in the Department's reply, which seem to be of major importance. I hope that other hon. Gentlemen, both those who were members of the Estimates Committee and those who were not, will have the chance to go into some of these points in more detail and to raise different ones which I fail to mention.

The first point with which I want to deal is the over-all size and cost of Admiralty headquarters. In 1952–53, the cost was a little over £7¼ million. By 1960–61, it had risen to nearly £11 million. I submit that this is an alarming increase which should cause serious concern. That concern is not made any less when one considers the changes which have occurred in the same period in the size of the fleet and in the numbers employed in headquarters.

In round figures, the size of headquarters during this period has fallen from 11,500 to 10,200. The number of ships in the operational fleet has fallen from 376 to 235. The Vote A complement of the Navy has fallen in this period from 153,000 to 102,000 men. In other words, there has been a reduction in the size of the operational fleet of approximately 37 per cent. and a reduction in the Vote A complement of over 30 per cent. but a reduction in the headquarters complement of only approximately 12 per cent.

This comparison is even more disturbing when one looks below the surface. While the size of headquarters has gone down to some extent, the cost of it has risen by about 50 per cent. This cannot but give rise to the suspicion that the reduction in numbers which has been achieved has been too much confined to the lowest grades. This suspicion was confirmed by much of the evidence received by the Committee—for example, the evidence relating to Naval Store Department and the Secretariat referred to in paragraph 13 of the Report.

The second reason why these figures are even more disturbing when one looks below the surface is that the trend in falling numbers has been reversed in the current year. The total headquarters staff for 1960–61 is about 30 more than it was in 1959–60. Of that increase, about 25 represents an increase in the number of naval officers.

The Committee was told that it was the complexity of design of modern ships and weapons and the speed of technical change which were the main causes for the size of headquarters. We willingly accepted that there was considerable substance in that argument. We also accepted, and were careful to show in our Report, that the comparison between the size of headquarters and the number of ships in the fleet should not be pushed too far. Furthermore, we recognised and gave the Admiralty credit for the reforms which have been effected in recent years. As paragraph 42 of the Report states: … there has been a serious and sustained endeavour to improve the central organisation. Nevertheless, having tried to make every possible allowance for all these factors, the Committee still came to the conclusion that the headquarters numbers could, and should, have been reduced more than they have in recent years. We were assured that the slight increase this year was not the beginning of a new trend and that we could expect the reduction in numbers to be resumed in the future. We certainly believe that should be the case. We also believe that this continuing reduction should be a substantial one.

I would like to ask my hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, when he replies to the debate, to give the House, if he can, a positive assurance that such reductions will be made. I should also like to ask him whether it is possible to fix a target now for these reductions which we can look forward to for. say, the next three or five years. Whatever allowances are made we could not avoid coming to the conclusion that the present size of headquarters was too large.

The second point I want to draw to the attention of the House is the proportion of naval officers within the headquarters total.

Sir John Maitland (Horncastle)

To make the matter clearer, would my hon. Friend tell the House how much the increase in cost is due to the increased salaries which are now paid to headquarters staff?

Mr. Carr

I cannot say, "off the cuff", the exact amount, but it is a substantial matter. As I said, it is amplified by the fact that the reductions, where they have occurred, have occurred to a considerable extent at the lower end of the scale. We feel that there is rather too high a proportion of higher-paid people in headquarters.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

The hon. Member has said that he is in favour of a reduction of expenditure on headquarters staff. Is he also in favour of a reduction in the total expenditure of the Admiralty?

Mr. Carr

That is a very interesting subject, but if I started to debate it I should go well outside the terms of reference of the Report which is before the House today.

Returning to the proportion of naval officers in the headquarters total, I point out to the House that in 1952–53 there were 755 naval officers at headquarters out of a total strength of 11,502. By 1960–61, there were 779 naval officers at headquarters out of a total strength of 10,179. In other words, while the total at headquarters was being reduced the number of naval officers was actually going up, both absolutely and proportionately. This led the Committee to recommend that there should be a definite policy of civilianisation laid down by the Admiralty and that the Permanent Secretary should be given stronger control over headquarters numbers.

On the question of civilianisation, the Admiralty's reply is a somewhat qualified acceptance of our recommendation, implying that that is what they have been doing for a long time. They quote as an example, to support that contention, that in the last year a decision has been taken to convert a number of posts to civilian appointments. I cannot help pointing out to the House that, in spite of the contention that it has been Admiralty policy for a long time, the fact remains that the number of naval officers at headquarters has increased

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

To what extent has the number of officers and other ratings at headquarters been inflated by the undertaking, which the Admiralty accepted some years ago, to make itself responsible for shipbuilding activities? I now understand that shipbuilding activities have been transferred to the Ministry of Transport. Is that likely to affect the situation?

Mr. Carr

It is difficult to put figures on the reason for these changes. No doubt the House will wish to hear more on these points from the Civil Lord. These changes of policy must have affected the number of officers. Also, the running down in the size of the Navy must have affected the number of officers.

The House will wish to support the Admiralty in anything that is required to give proper security of career structure to those who have volunteered to give their lives to service in the Navy. Much of the shipbuilding activity should have resulted in an increase more on the civilian side if any increase was necessary than on the naval side. I may have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman's point, because I see he is shaking his head. Whatever may be the reason for what has happened in the past it has not altered our view as to the recommendations of what should happen in the future.

When it comes to the recommendation we made about the Permanent Secretary's control of naval officers at headquarters, there is a definite conflict between the Admiralty's reply and the evidence which was given to the Committee. The reply states: The Permanent Secretary's authority applies without distinction to consideration of naval and civilian posts at headquarters". That contradicts the evidence in which the Permanent Secretary admitted that his establishment officers did not have— … quite as large a control over Service numbers as over civilian numbers", and that … over civilian numbers his fiat stands … with the naval officer it is a little bit the other way. We have to make sure we can carry the particular member of the Board with us every time. I have said enough to show the Admiralty's reply does contradict the evidence I have quoted. I would ask my hon. Friend the Civil Lord to clear up this contradiction for us and to give us an assurance that the responsibility for the control of numbers at headquarters will be clear and undivided and without distinction as between naval and civilian staff.

Turning to the third point, which is closely related to the last one, namely, the proportion of headquarters staff at higher salary levels. The Committee found it very noticeable that there was a considerable number particularly of naval personnel in Departments costing in salaries and allowances between £2,000 and £3,000 a year each. We do not, of course, question for one moment the Tightness of the salaries and allowances paid to officers of any given rank. What we do question is the necessity of having so many high-ranking officers in headquarters departments.

I have also already pointed to the fact that a large proportion of the reduction which has been made in recent years have been at the lower levels and for these reasons the Committee recommended that the Admiralty should undertake a detailed and critical review of the chain of command and the definition of all posts, both civilian and naval, where the salaries, including allowances, exceed £1,500 per year.

I am glad to note that in its reply the Board of Admiralty accepts the importance of the principle underlying this recommendation. I am also glad to note that it quotes examples of action which has already been taken and that it will consult with the Treasury about what further might be done.

I cannot help noting, however, that the Board states in its reply that any inquiry would almost certainly have to concentrate initially on posts from £2,500 a year and upwards. I think that this may be reasonable as a first step, but I should like an assurance from the Civil Lord that this inquiry will be pressed seriously and that it will eventually be taken down to the lower salary level recommended by the Committee.

It seemed to us that what is needed is the sort of management audit commonly undertaken by industrial consultants when conducting an inquiry into the administration of an industrial company. They come in and they expect every executive, from the managing director down to a quite low level, to commit himself on paper to his own ideas of his responsibilities and duties. Those records of people's views of their responsibilities are carefully compared, analysed and pruned. It is a matter of experience that when such a process is followed considerable savings in a number of higher posts can usually be made. It is that sort of process which the Committee is pressing upon the Admiralty.

The fourth point to which I should like to draw attention is the use made by the Admiralty of organisation and methods techniques. The Select Committee felt that this was one of the most important ways open to the Admiralty of controlling the efficiency and size of headquarters. We felt that the present size of the O. & M. Department, consisting of only 21 people, was inadequate for the tasks involved in such a huge organisation.

We also believed that the experience of the staff, their length of service in this work and the terms of reference given to the Department, all needed strengthening. We are glad to note that this recommendation has been accepted, but I should like my hon. Friend the Civil Lord to tell us in somewhat more specific terms today what action is being taken to implement this recommendation.

In doing that, I should like to stress once again the importance not only of increasing the size of the O. & M. Department, but also of strengthening in the minds of what I might call the top management throughout the Admiralty the rô le which the O. & M. Department should play in the streamlining of operations and, therefore, reducing the numbers of headquarters staff. Experience in industry has shown clearly that vigorous use of work measurement and method study can produce dramatic economies, not only in production processes on the factory floor, but also in administration. We believe that the full use of these techniques should have such an effect in the Admiralty as well as in other headquarters.

I turn now to the second question which concerned the Committee's inquiry, namely, the effectiveness of Admiralty headquarters in controlling the whole £400 million of naval expenditure. The Public Accounts Committee has often drawn attention to the way in which the final cost of projects tends to exceed by large amounts the estimated cost on which the original decision to proceed was taken. I am sorry to say that in making this inquiry the Estimates Committee was also considerably perturbed by figures which we were given, but which could not be published for security reasons, regarding the estimated and final costs of certain new and current projects. We could not help concluding that control over expenditure of this kind was not as effective as the taxpayer has the right to demand.

I should like to mention three factors which the Committee considered particularly important in that connection. The first is the use of cost accounting techniques. We recommended in the Report that the Admiralty should undertake a further review of the central costing machinery and should consider the establishment of a separate costings branch in the Secretariat. We are glad that that recommendation has been accepted and that the central costing unit will be increased to whatever extent may be necessary to meet the demands for its services". The words which I have just quoted could mean a lot, or they could mean very little. I should like to press my hon. Friend the Civil Lord to make that reply somewhat more specific, because the demand for the services of cost accounting should, in the opinion of the Committee, be imposed from the top and not simply left to grow by chance. The evidence that we were given showed that although the small costings section in General Finance Branch I of the Secretariat had been doubled—the fact that something has been doubled sounds impressive—even after it is doubled, it still numbers only four or five people. This seems to us to be inadequate.

The other two factors affecting overall control to which I should like to refer are the tour off duty of senior naval officers at headquarters coupled with the effect produced by the division of headquarters between London and Bath. The Committee expressed the opinion that the essential weaknesses of the present Admiralty headquarters organisation had escaped the many inquiries which have been made into it in recent years. It seemed to us that the most conspicuous weaknesses were, first, the practice of naval officers serving only a two-year term at headquarters and, secondly, the division between London and Bath.

The present position is that the Navy's requirements in terms of ships, weapons, and so on, are defined by the staff divisions in London. These staff divisions are, naturally and properly, headed by naval officers, but these naval officers usually spend no more than two years in their posts. That is the specification of requirements side.

Those requirements as laid down by the naval staff divisions are converted into ships and weapons by the departments, as they are called, some of which may be headed by civilians who spend considerable periods in their posts but others of whom may be, and are, headed by naval officers who, like their counterparts in the staff divisions, stay in their posts for an average of only two years.

How can one possibly achieve continuity of control and speed and efficiency of execution when the senior people, both on the staff side and on the production side, are being changed with this rapidity?

This situation, moreover, is greatly aggravated by the division between London and Bath. Evidence was given to the Sub-Committee that senior officers in charge of departments in Bath were often having to visit London two or three times a week. How can Departments have the strength of direction and control which is required when their most senior staff change every two years and when, during that short period of two years, they are often away from their Departments in London as often and for as long a time as this?

Therefore, while the Committee recognised the need for the experience of serving naval officers within these production departments, it felt that as far as possible this naval officer experience ought not to be injected in the top management positions in each department—those should, as far as possible, be in the hands of civilians—and that where it is essential that the most senior executives in a department should be serving officers, they should be in their posts for considerably longer than the present period.

We could not help noticing that the Select Committee on Estimates made this very same recommendation in 1929 and that no action was taken upon it by the Admiralty. It is true that the Committee was informed that the matter was once again under review. I can only say that we would wish to stress strongly that the Committee regarded this matter as one of outstanding importance which required immediate consideration and action.

A great deal was made in the Press of the Committee's recommendation on the subject of the Admiralty establishment at Bath. We were not primarily concerned about the day-to-day costs of this separation, although, of course, that is serious and we quoted the figures of travelling expenses and the like as an illustration of what was involved. What principally concerned us, as we stated in paragraph 17 of the Report, is the "waste of time, energy and efficiency" which this involves and to which I have just referred in detail. This point was conceded by the Admiralty in evidence and also in its reply.

The argument about the cost of bringing the Bath establishment back to London is irrelevant. If one reads the Committee's Report, it will be seen that we never made this suggestion. Indeed, we recognise that there are undeniable advantages in having part of the organisation outside London, but what concerned us was that this separation between London and Bath took place in an emergency as a temporary measure, just over twenty years ago. We felt that the time had come when this had to be seriously re-examined and that if it is decided that it is no longer an emergency and a temporary measure but, taking all in all, it is right and necessary to make this location permanent, then the organisation must be adapted to take this into account. This is as much in the interests of the individual officers concerned as it is in the interest of the overall efficiency of the organisation.

I hope that the House will feel that in this inquiry the Select Committee on Estimates did its job responsibly. We realise that we made strong criticisms of a system worked by men for whom we could not have but the highest possible regard, but we believe that these criticisms are fair and substantial. We also gave praise. We are sorry, but perhaps it is in the nature of things that it is always the criticism rather than the praise that receives publicity. But I assure the House and all outside it who are concerned with the Navy that the only purpose that motivated us was the well-being of the Navy.

Noble traditions must be jealously preserved and, certainly, the Navy is rich in them, but tradition, and still more habit, must not be allowed to become the enemy of change. That was our concern and, as we said in our Report: A headquarters which is closely integrated—which exercises strong control over expenditure and which is capable of a rapid transaction of business is as much in the interest of the Royal Navy as that of the public revenue.

4.12 p.m.

Commander Harry Pursey (Kingston upon Hull, East)

The Select Committee on Estimates deserves the commendation of the House for this first Report and also the Admiralty for providing the information, even though it was like getting butter out of a dog's mouth to try to obtain it. That is as far as my commendation goes today for the Admiralty, but I join the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) in saying that we all appreciate the work of the officers at the Admiralty, both naval and civilian, as well as those of the Navy.

Hon. Members who were members of the Select Committee will obviously deal with the most important points, as the hon. Member for Mitcham has already done. Therefore it behoves me to get further into the Report by virtue of my thirty years' experience in the Service. This debate, and this inquiry into the Admiralty, must be considered in the light of two important factors. One, as the hon. Member has said, is the current Estimate of about £400 million. The second is the number of ships in the Navy today, which is only about half what it was in its heyday in 1914 and in 1939. In the case of some ships the number is much less than half and, of course, there are no battleships at all.

The trouble with the Admiralty is that it has grown up on the basis of "Parkinson's Law"—that every new department must be equal to every old department and every head of a department must have a deputy and an assistant and every head must be an admiral or as near to that rank as possible so that the deputy and assistant, in turn, shall be as senior as possible. The result is that when we had a big navy, heads of branches were only captains or in some cases commanders, but today they are all largely admirals. I hope to give some examples of this later.

The first Lord of the Admiralty should be known as "Lord Parkinson", but to have any success in cutting down the Estimates by millions of pounds he ought to be the present Minister of Health. There are two ways of cutting down the vast personnel and the cost in the Navy and at the Admiralty. The first is vertically, by a reduction of numbers. The second is horizontally, by the abolition or combination of jobs. This will not be done until the Government decide to cut the Navy by a fixed percentage.

say 10 per cent., which would save £40 million.

The present Government, however, would never do that, because they have their priorities all wrong. Tory policy is to save shillings on prescriptions for poor people's medicines while hundreds of millions of pounds are being spent unnecessarily on armaments. Practically all the naval money is spent at the Admiralty. The Prime Minister should appoint the present Minister of Health as First Lord with as free a hand to make cuts as he now has with the National Health Service.

Commander J. S. Kerens (The Hartlepools)


Commander Pursey

We have not been going very long. You will get your opportunity, no doubt, very shortly and I hope that your contribution

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must require the hon. and gallant Member to address his remarks to the Chair.

Commander Pursey

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker, but I am certain that the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) will sound better in his own speech than in mine.

Reductions in the Navy could be considerable. We have had a reduotion in the number of Civil Lords from three to two, but we have had no corresponding reduction in the naval lords. If the Prime Minister wishes to reduce the cost of the Admiralty, the first thing he should do is to reduce the number of admirals from six to five. This will show that he means business, as was the case with the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), when he became First Lord in a Liberal Government in 1911 and sacked the First Sea Lord.

At one time there was a chief of naval staff, the vice-chief and a deputy chief. The Fifth Sea Lord's job has been combined with that of Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff. Why should not the Second Sea Lord's job be combined with that of the Vice-Chief. The next cut should be on the civilian side, where we have a permanent secretary, a senior civil servant and a member of the Board, and two deputy-secretaries. Why not dispense with one of these deputies? Thus, having started at the top by dispensing with an admiral and a deputy-secretary, it would be quite easy to go down right through to the bottom. It is no good trying to do it the other way round by dispensing with one matelot, because he has no assistant or deputy or secretary.

Let us consider the number of admirals who are at the Admiralty. The Board consists of two Civil Lords, six admirals and the secretary, a total of nine. Let us consider the ranks of the admirals whom we now have with our present much reduced fleet. The First Sea Lord is an admiral. The Second Sea Lord is a vice-admiral. The Third Sea Lord is an admiral, which is most unusual. The Fourth Sea Lord is a vice-admiral and the Vice-chief is an admiral. The Deputy Chief, who is also the Fifth Sea Lord. is also a vice-admiral.

That makes three admirals and three vice-admirals. In 1914. the heyday of large fleets, the Board only had five flag officers—one admiral, two vice-admirals and two rear-admirals. At the moment, we have a board of nine members, with 31 other officers and civilians attached to it, making a total of 40.

There are four more rear-admirals as deputy chiefs and assistant chiefs, eight captains as secretaries or assistants, and two commanders and two lieutenant-commanders as secretaries. At the end of the list is a lieutenant-commander who is flag lieutenant—which means that he is simply a messenger, or a P.P.S. In addition, there is a civilian staff—a secretary, two deputy secretaries, and seven under-secretaries. All of them are fairly senior. I am dealing with senior grades. The total number of flag officers directly connected with the Admiralty is 10, yet we have only five aircraft carriers and five cruisers. This allows the Navy one admiral for each of these 10 ships from among the flag officers serving at the Board of Admiralty.

That is not the end of the story, however. There are even more admirals at the Admiralty. The Director of Naval Intelligence is a rear-admiral, as are the Hydrographer and the Director of Personal Services. The Director-General of Manpower must be mighty important, because he is a vice-admiral. Then we have the Director of Naval Training—another rear-admiral. That gives us five more admirals, making a total of 15 executive admirals.

There are still more to come, however, in the technical branches—engineering, electrical, secretariat, medical and education. They give us another five. Thus, we have at the Admiralty 20 officers of the rank of rear-admiral or above. That means that we have two each for our aircraft carriers and cruisers in addition to the admirals actually in charge of the squadrons.

I now take two divisions of the Admiralty at random. The first is the Naval Intelligence Division. It has a rear-admiral as director, and two captains and a colonel, Royal Marines, as deputy directors, as well as two captains and a commander as assistant directors. There are also 18 more commanders and three civilians. What is the amount of naval intelligence done today compared with 1914? Today, except for one Navy, all the other navies are our allies and we are sharing information with them, or at least most of it.

Let us take a minor example at the lower end of the scale. In pre-war days the Press department was run very well by a retired commander with the rank of captain and a couple of civilians. Later, a full admiral was given the job—four ranks higher than the previous holder of the office. I suggest that even with today's demand for Press information—I was doing Press correspondence work myself before the war, so I have some idea of it—that job could well be done still by a retired commander with the rank of captain.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)

That is exactly what the job is being done by.

Commander Pursey

I have the support of the Admiralty in the argument. The Civil Lord's interjection does not rule out the fact that at one time an admiral was doing the job, which confirms my argument about Parkinson's Law.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

indicated dissent.

Commander Pursey

The Civil Lord shakes his head, but it was Admiral Sir William James who held the job. He was at one time a Member of this House, but failed to fight for his constituency at Portsmouth.

I now turn to the Personal Services Department. In 1914, with the great armada we had then, the senior staff consisted of a captain and commander for the executive branch, and other branches did the appointments. We know the number of pre-war appointments, because they were published in the Press. We do not know them today, but the number of appointments, with the smaller number of officers and ships, must be considerably reduced and there is no justification for the vast increase that has taken place in the appointments department.

Today, with fewer officers to appoint, we have a director-general, who is a rear-admiral, with a captain as his assistant, a naval secretary and a civilian assistant. In addition, there are four other offices, one for each branch of officers—seamen, engineering, secretariat, and electrical.

The seamen's branch office has a captain and three commanders; the engineering branch has a captain and four commanders; in addition, there is a captain and three commanders in the planning, mobilisation, interview, and employment liaison sections. Even that, however, is not the whole story of this Department, for there are two more captains and eight commanders in the Service Conditions and Fleet Supply Divisions.

Without debate, I at once admit the importance of personnel, but I suggest that so many appointments to run this department is crazy. What is needed is a check to see what all these people are doing, what is in their in-trays and what is in their out-trays, and whether today they are simply passing valentines to one another.

The Second Sea Lord's Department is responsible for ratings. In my time at Devonport there was only one small office with a couple of chief writers and three or four writers with a "crusher"—that is, a ship's corporal—who had charge of a draft when it assembled. I know that, for I was the messenger. It worked well and there was little or no complaint. The depot card number gave the clue as to when it became one's turn to go to sea, either at home or abroad

What has happened? We see a typical example of mechanisation. The Second Sea Lord's Department now has a common pool for all depots and all ratings, complete with mechanisation. It must be rather like Littlewood's pools. The reason is supposed to be to ensure fair play for the ratings. That may be all right up to a point, but it gets difficult when ships are transferred from one station to another, or when the Tory Government have a Suez war and ships have to be transferred from one station to another and people taken from shore service in barracks. This mechanisation requires serious inquiry to see whether it is justified either from the point of view of a common pool or equipment, or whether it would not be better to have smaller numbers and more branches and revert to the old scheme of drafting from local depots.

What we did not want in my time was the Admiralty planning, because the Admiralty always upset things. In 1908, the battleship "Implacable" was in the Mediterranean with a Devonport crew. It was obvious that she should be replaced by a ship with a Devonport crew, and it may be thought that that would have been easy. In fact, the "Implacable" was brought home to Devonport and a nucleus crew from the "Hannibal", of which I was one, was transferred to the "Implacable" to take her to Chatham and to commission the "Ocean". We had West Country people in a "foreign" land just before they went on foreign service and the punishment book showed the results. Many men started with a blot on their copybook which they would not have had if the ship had gone straight out from Devonport.

One of the problems in this administration is that the unnecessarily high figures of staff and cost will never be reduced until the vast tidal wave of forms, reports and correspondence from ships is reduced by half. There are far too many forms and many could be scrubbed out. After all the years we have had a Navy, it would still go on ticking over without half of the forms. Everybody wants to write something and nobody wants to stop it.

Moreover, such reports, like Members' speeches, are too long, but our speeches are only an occasional indulgence whereas the tidal waves of correspondence received at the Admiralty are unending. I revised the organisation of three ships—a battleship, a battle cruiser and an aircraft carrier—and I have some idea of naval officers' writings.

Let us take the evolution, "Out collision mat". All that is required is four pieces of string and a mat. The way to do it is in the seamanship book, but instead of that the commander wants to write it out fully in his general drill book. All that is required is, "Forecastle men: foremost fore and after" in one line—forecastle having the initials F.X. Then the after fore and after, the bottom line and the lowering line where all that is required is the Marines, the Navy's bullocks, for the mat. It can be done in four lines and it does not require four pages. That is typical of the correspondence which goes on.

One of the failings of the Admiralty is that it does not trust its own establishments and its own documents. I was educated at Greenwich school, the Navy's orphanage. When I was due to join the Navy there arose the question of taking the advanced class examination—the classes being conducted at Devonport. Although the school was under the control of the Civil Lord, those of us who were to take the examination were not allowed to take it at Greenwich. We had to be sent to Shotley, in Suffolk, to take the examination and to spend a week there and then be transferred to the wooden walled "Impregnable" at Devonport.

I will give an example of a form. When I joined the Navy, in 1907, a return of "seamen unable to read and write" was still being sent in from ships and the Admiralty was quite happy to receive it. The press gangs had failed for the Crimean and Baltic wars of 1854 and the chances are that that form had been established along with continuous service in 1856 and had gone on for more than fifty years, in the same way that pay had remained stagnant.

Yet for several years it had been part of the entry conditions for ratings to be tested on reading and writing. However, the Navy did not trust the entry staff and wanted to continue the form as a check. Presumably, whoever was receiving those forms was hoping that one day there would be found a man who could not read or write and who would then be presented with a medal.

On one ship in which I served there was an officer who, when he received a difficult letter, put it in the "wait" basket and left it there. His argument was that it might be forgotten and that is no one asked for it, it would not matter. Fortunately, when a ship pays off there is a chance to burn all the ship records, except those special records which have to be sent in, and I have helped to burn a great deal. Unfortunately, the tide continues at the Admiralty and more and more storage space and accommodation are required.

It is argued that today ships are more complicated and it is more difficult to deal with their equipment and with experiments and trials, and so on, as if that were not so previously. That argument does not give the full picture. When I joined the Navy, there was no radio and we were experimenting with wireless telegraphy, fire control, gyro-compasses, electric turrets, the first aircraft, coal and oil fuels, and so on, and I remember the difficulty with battle cruisers' electric turrets.

What is the good of saying that all this extra difficulty is due to new development, trial and experiment. Admittedly, the work is now much greater and there are more detailed technicalities, but the ability of officers and men has increased to deal with it and the increase must also be offset by the fact that we now have only half the number of ships. In those days we had only voice pipes for communications and when the officer said to the rating down below, "Who is the blank fool down there?" the rating still had the right to say, "Not on this end, Sir".

Now let us take a specific form, that applying for a sailor's good conduct medal. What happens when an able seaman becomes entitled to a good conduct medal? Where does the application go? Does it go from the ship to the depot and from the depot to the Admiralty, and, if so, where and how?

Every man has a parchment service certificate on which is his record. All that is required is fifteen years of good conduct and his parchment certificate shows that. He put in a request to see the captain; why cannot the Admiralty document be accepted and the medal issued instead of there being this circumlocution? It ought to be easy to issue a medal and the only thing which is required is to have the man's number and name stamped on it. I am all for good conduct medals and it is to be hoped that not too many officers will be flippant when presenting a medal and, instead of saying that it is for fifteen years of good conduct, saying that it is for fifteen years of undiscovered crime.

There is a short point which I hope other hon. Members will take up. With the upgrading of officers, much work has been taken from chief and petty officers. The chief petty officer is the flag officer of the lower deck. He is at the end of twenty years' service. He is the sergeant-major carrying the officers along. Whereas, in my day, it was a petty officers' Navy, it is now an officers' Navy, with officers largely doing the work formerly done by petty officers.

There will be no serious reductions by millions of pounds in the Navy Estimates and the Admiralty Vote until the House accepts an Amendment to reduce the Vote by a definite proportion. The whole structure of the Navy and the Admiralty should be investigated by an outside "Geddes Axe" committee. Until this is done we will continue unnecessarily throwing away millions of pounds which ought instead to be spent on housing, old age pensions and health and education services to improve the standard of life for children, poor people and the aged who are still very much in need.

4.40 p.m.

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

I thought that a good deal of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) was directed to criticisms of what happened about fifty years ago, but he did make one reference, an inaccurate reference, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) having "fired" the First Sea Lord when he first went as First Lord of the Admiralty, in 1911 I think it was.

What actually happened is very much more relevant to the subject matter of this debate. Mr. Asquith decided that there should be a naval staff built into the Admiralty structure on lines similar to the General Staff, and Mr. McKenna, and Admiral Wilson, the First Sea Lord, rather than accept this, resigned. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford went to the Admiralty charged, among other things, with the, task of building up a naval staff, in which task he was assisted by Prince Louis of Battenburg.

It is interesting to speculate whether we should have been having this debate, and whether my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) would have had to produce a Report on the enormous size of the Admiralty headquarters had that staff never been established. However, it is also fair to add that it is interesting to speculate whether in that case we should have won two wars.

Not for the first time, I think, the House is indebted to my hon. Friend for having produced an extremely valuable and constructive report. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The rising cost of the Admiralty office has been a matter of concern to a number of us for many years. I myself have referred to it for three successive years in the course of the debate on the Navy Estimates, and in three successive years my hon. Friend the Civil Lord has replied with those soothing and tolerant replies which grown-ups reserve for troublesome children.

It is only fair to say at this stage, as the Select Committee's Report suspects and implies, that the War Office and the Air Ministry are every bit as bad, although a good deal more cunning in concealing the magnitude of their establishments. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Mahon (Mr. Turton) will be able to take action on the first recommendation of the Select Committee, namely, that a similar probe should be held into those two Departments.

The present Report on the Admiralty is an example of a reasoned approach to the problem of reducing the size of a Government Department. I am not so sure that the unreasoned approach is not very often far more effective. I admit that there were occasions on which I succeeded in achieving economies in the establishments which I commanded. It was always done by being arbitrary, unfair, and, indeed, highly unreasonable. One makes the cut, and then sees what happens.

Be that as it may, of the detailed recommendations made, I agree with Recommendation 4, which refers to the power of the Secretary of the Admiralty in connection with the staffing of the naval departments. I am surprised at the Admiralty's reply, because, whatever the position may be in theory, I am sure that the Permanent Secretary is not able to exercise in practice the same control over the staffing of the naval and technical departments as he is over the Secretariat.

Again, I strongly endorse Recommendations 13 and 14, which refer to the size, and to some extent the constitution, of the naval staff division. As on previous occasions we have been given in the Admiralty reply the old refrain about the increasing complexity of the equipment. That may be a justification, and I think it is, for the growth in size of the departments, but I cannot see that it can be applied to any great extent to the naval staff division.

Staff divisions are supposed to advise on policy. If their numbers are inflated because equipment is becoming more complicated, in my judgment it can only be because staff officers are going beyond their proper task and interfering with technical matters. If we applied the argument about growing complexity to the political field I calculate that we should need more Parliamentary Secretaries than there are hon. Members in the Tory Party. We should have to persuade the Opposition to take some of the jobs as well. That might be agreeable to some hon. Members. It would certainly simplify these debates, but so far we have avoided it, and I cannot see why we should have this tremendous growth in the staff divisions.

My chief reason for intervening is to say a word or two about Recommendations 5 and 6, which refer to the Admiralty establishments at Bath. Here, I agree with Recommendation 6, but I do not agree with Recommendation 5. In my opinion, the ideal at which we should aim should be to reconcentrate the Admiralty in London, having first effected sufficient reductions to make that possible.

The policy of dividing and dispersing Government Departments between London and the provinces is, in my judgment, most inappropriate when applied to Defence Ministries or Defence Departments. It cannot even be justified nowadays by the advantage of dispersal in case of air raids. The invention of the hydrogen bomb has made Chat argument wholly untenable. Any fighting Service today has to be so organised that it can conduct operations and be administered in time of war without the assistance and guidance of any ministerial headquarters. Nevertheless, we have to take things as they are, and one recognises that the present numbers employed at Bath could not readily be reduced overnight to whatever it would be possible to accommodate in London.

The question really comes down to whether Bath is the best place for them to be, or whether it would pay to move them, as the Select Committee suggests, closer to London. I am certain that any such move would be a mistake, and that it would lead to a greater expenditure of money and to decreased efficiency.

I speak with some experience because I held office for two years as Vice-Controller of the Navy, in which capacity I lived and worked in Bath. Although the Vice-Controller was the senior officer at Bath, of course he was not in charge there. Although the citizens of Bath were rather inclined to regard the Vice-Controller in the same way as they regard the commandant of an establishment, that was not so at all. I remind the House that the Admiralty is a civil establishment, and, like other Government Departments, no one is in charge. After all, those who are the backbone of of the staffing of the Civil Service are the products of public schools and universities, and any such reactionary idea as having some one in definite charge would, I am sure, be viewed with revulsion.

The Vice-Controller merely represented the Controller, who was in London—a point to which I shall return—whereas the bulk of his departments were at Bath, so the task of the Vice-Controller was really to oversee what was going on in these Departments. When I first took up the appointment I went to Bath determined, somehow, to prune the numbers and try to get the departments there exchanged with other departments in London, so that we could all come back to London. I very soon changed my mind, and I believe that the reasons which led me to do so about ten years ago are equally valid today, although there has been some reorganisation of the departments between that day and this. I want to tell the House some of the reasons that led me to think that matters were best left as they were.

First, the City of Bath has come to depend upon the Admiralty to a considerable extent for its prosperity. This is a human problem, which cannot lightly be disregarded by any good employer, least of all a Government Department. Furthermore, a bond of affection and understanding has gradually grown up between the City of Bath and the Admiralty. This did not exist to such an extent in the early years, but the bond has grown up over the years and is another factor which cannot lightly be disregarded. When I first went there I was surprised to discover the esprit de corps that existed even among quite junior employees—clerical officers, draughtsmen and the like—and the pride they felt in their own departments. This is something which I do not believe is found in a place as large as London, with all respect to the London departments.

I am not sure of the reason. Perhaps it is because competitive sports and games are organised between the various departments in Bath, or because the senior people in Bath tend to be in the local news, which means that the Admiralty is repeatedly referred to in the Press. The Lord Mayor of London occasionally goes to a function unaccompanied by either the First Lord of the Admiralty or the First Sea Lord but. in my time, at any rate, the Mayor of Bath would never have dreamed of attending a civic function without inviting the Vice-Controller to accompany him, and expecting that invitation to be accepted. That has some effect on the general tone of the establishment.

For those reasons I am sure that the removal of the Admiralty departments from Bath would involve a much bigger emotional upset than might at first sight be supposed. It would also cost a great deal of money, not only because of the new buildings required but also because the payment of a disturbance allowance would be involved. When civil servants are moved from one place to another they receive a disturbance allowance. I left Bath thirteen years after the establishment had moved there, and at that time some people were still drawing additional pay because of the disturbance caused to them through having been moved thirteen years before.

A great deal has been made, both in the Report and in discussions in the Press, of the amount of time consumed in travelling to and fro to meetings. The railway service from Bath to London is excellent; it takes one hour and fifty minutes. Even though it may take an hour longer than might be possible if a place nearer London were chosen it would be a mistake to suppose that such a move would involve any saving of Government time. If Bath were nearer to London, or the trains' speed was suddenly doubled, all that would happen would be that the officials would start later and get home sooner. Worse might follow; they would probably think up more meetings to attend.

I have no doubt that too many of these meetings are held. There is a great tendency, particularly on the part of the staff at Bath, to think of a reason for spending a day in London. I can suggest two remedies to the Civil Lord. First—and on this he would have to have the co-operation of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor—he could stop the racket whereby very highly paid officials are able to draw a subsistence allowance to pay for their lunches because they happen to have gone up to London to attend a meeting. I have always felt that that was undesirable and objectionable.

Secondly, he could have properly designed conference equipment, of a telephonic nature. In 1951, when the Korean War was at its height and rearmament began in a big way, the pressure for meetings increased considerably and, with the co-operation of my superiors in London, telephone conference rooms were set up both in Bath and London. The equipment was of a fairly elementary nature and it was tremendously unpopular, but it was used quite a lot. A hundred and one excuses were always found for having a meeting instead, but with modern conditions and modern efficiency long-range conference equipment could be installed and, given an efficient chairman, there is no reason why meetings should not be held between those in Bath and those in London as easily as if the participants were sitting round the same table. For those reasons I would not recommend a move from Bath unless it were back to London.

At the same time, I strongly endorse the Committee's next recommendation, namely, that any given department should be wholly located either in London or in Bath. In practice, that would mean that the Controller's departments would have to be located at Bath in their entirety, and a most important corollary to that is that the Directors—or Directors-General as they now are—should also be at Bath. That is not always so at present. It makes all the difference in the world if the boss is on the spot and is able to oversee the work of his own department. All these remarks apply with even greater force to the Controller of the Navy himself. I consider it quite unjustifiable that, just because the Controller is one of the Sea Lords and has dealings with other Sea Lords, he should be able to make this an excuse for living in London, notwithstanding the fact that the departments for which he is responsible are located in Bath.

There is a simple solution. He can have a home and an office in Bath with a pied-à -terre and a smaller office in the Admiralty building in London, and establish a routine whereby, say, on Tuesday mornings, he leaves Bath and comes to London, returning there after lunch on Thursday. That is not a new idea. I will not disguise the fact that I suggested this when I was at Bath, but I was told that it would involve great hardship. My reply to that argument is, "Rubbish". Nearly all hon. Members spend their lives with a pied-à -terre in London when the House is sitting, from which they can travel each weekend to their constituencies. There is not the slightest reason why these senior and well-paid officials should not have a similar routine.

I now want to consider the underlying causes of this unending tendency of the Admiralty and other Government Departments to continue to grow. The hon. and gallant Member referred to Parkinson's Law. No one will deny the facts cited in the amusing book by Professor Parkinson. No one can doubt the enormous increase that has taken place, and which goes on the whole time, in the growth of headquarters establishments. Yet I question Professor Parkinson's theory as to the primary cause of this expansion. As I understand his book, he puts it down entirely to the desire and the urge to maintain an adequate promotion structure.

To concede that that is the general cause is tantamount to saying that the whole of our public service is rotten with corruption, and I do not accept that for a moment. I think that the cause is at once more honourable and very much harder to eradicate. I think that it comes from the fact that in the public service in this country increased productivity—if I may use the modern jargon—is always reflected in increased output, in taking on more services, rather than in reducing the establishment.

This, I think, is the basic cause of the trouble. After all, if one considers the simplest case where the productivity of a section or a department goes up on account of the personal efficiency of some man of exceptional ability, zeal and energy, what happens? Mr. Exceptional replaces Mr. Average. A fortnight later he becomes bored, because he can get through his work in an hour a day. Because he is zealous and energetic he does not sit twiddling his thumbs. He thinks of some useful additional service that his section could undertake. He proposes to his director that this could be done without any increase in staff, without any cost, and the director—probably after putting up a certain amount of routine obstruction—agrees to it going forward.

In two years' time it is an established service. The director gets a C.B. instead of the C.B.E. and Mr. Exceptional is moved on to another post and a second Mr. Average replaces him. Within a fortnight he is nearly "round the bend" and he "cannot think how the work was ever got through"—and so forth. The Civil Service knows what to do. The Organisation and Methods Branch is called in and produces a report to the effect that there is work for two men. It is never suggested that the new service should be closed down again. Probably it is not even remembered that there was a new service. Not only is an additional man appointed, but the chances are that it is also pointed out that there is a connection between the two services so that the second Mr. Average can be promoted and have two people to look after the two sides of the work being done.

The ironical part of all this is that it is not the brilliant man who thought up the idea who gets promoted. It is the average man who succeeded him.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman describing Parkinson's second law, which is that work will always expand to fill the time available for it?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

The hon. and learned Gentleman may well be right. I must confess that I have not read Parkinson's second law, but, anyhow, I have held this theory myself for a long time. Indeed, I bored the Standing Committee which discussed the Electricity Bill with the same thesis.

I would put it to the Financial Secretary, who has just entered the Chamber, that the remedy for all this is that the Treasury should insist that sanction should be required for any new service, whether it involves expenditure or not. Until that rule is adopted and enforced the Treasury will never succeed in curbing the steady and remorseless growth of Government Departments of which the Admiralty is only one example.

5.5 p.m.

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

I was very interested in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) and I found myself in agreement with much of what he said. The hon. and gallant Gentleman with other hon. Members has spent a considerable time dealing with the Admiralty Office on various occasions and I think that we have filled quite a number of columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT with our discussions on the subject.

The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), who opened the debate, seemed rather apologetic about having to attack the Admiralty. He has no reason to feel apologetic on that score. In my view, we do not examine and attack the Admiralty sufficiently. The result is as we see in this Report, and as hon. Members have pointed out during debates on the Estimates on a number of occasions, that the numbers at the Admiralty never seem to dwindle no matter how small the Navy gets.

The Committee rightly draws attention to the fact that the numbers in the Navy have declined by about 50,000 and the number of ships has declined, but the numbers at the Admiralty have declined by only 1,400 as between 1952–53 and 1959–60. That is not the whole picture. At the same time, a large number of naval establishments all over the country have been closed down. I do not know the total, but it is considerable. We now have the closing down of Chatham Barracks, as well. In fact, the more one examines the Navy the more one becomes bewildered by this inability of the Admiralty to reduce to any substantial extent the numbers engaged in its offices.

I am one of those who finds it difficult to find his way round the labyrinthine organisation of the Admiralty. When one does succeed in doing that, the organisation is changed. It seems to me there is a sort of constant war going on between the various committees of this House and the Admiralty. The Select Committee on Estimates examines one section of the Admiralty's work and the Public Accounts Committee examines something else. Hon. Members may make various criticisms which sometimes are pertinent and much to the point. But the Admiralty has built itself a kind of shield of committees which are continually engaged in examining its work so that it is rather difficult to follow what is going on in the Admiralty.

As the Civil Lord knows, I have had some experience of trying to track down one department which I saw was increasing considerably in size. Before I knew where I was, the work of that department—or at least what I was told was the work of it—had been changed, and in the end I was, at it were, "fluffed-off". This seems to be what happens. Admiralty Departments have a defence to meet attacks made by hon. Members and by Committees acting on behalf of this House in trying to safeguard the taxpayer's money.

I remember that during one debate on the Estimates we were told by the Financial Secretary—I do not think it was the present Financial Secretary—that the Admiralty had told the commanding officer of an aircraft carrier, "You must do with so many men less". The Admiralty did not ask whether he could, it simply told him that. I suggest during the debate that somebody should say the same to the Admiralty, that we should not bother to ask the Admiralty whether it could do with so many men less but just say, "Your staff will be cut down to this figure".

If that treatment was good enough for the commanding officer of an aircraft carrier, I do not see why it should not be good enough for the Admiralty. As was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey), this seems to be the only way we shall get anything done, because the techniques of defence which have been developed are such that they are very difficult to penetrate.

I read the recommendations in the Report and the reply of the Admiralty. I have had some experience on the Estimates Committee and of the replies from Departments to its Reports. The tendency is for the reply to be, "Yes, we will do anything which does not require very much effort. We will put a few more figures at the bottom of Vote A, or some other Vote, to tell you what is happening". But whenever we come to recommendations which seem to get to grips with the matter and suggest something be done to reduce numbers, we are faced with pages of explanations why such a course of action would be difficult and the statement that a committee is at present looking into it, or that the matter is being examined. In other words, we are put off. This is the technique. Anyone with any experience of the Estimates Committee knows that this has been developed to a high level.

In connection with the Report on the Admiralty headquarter staff, Recommendations which do not involve the Admiralty in anything at all are accepted and the Admiralty is pleased to accept them. Recommendation I did not affect the Admiralty. Recommendation 2, about footnotes, was accepted and also Recommendation 3, referring to the numbers and cost of staff borne on other Votes, was accepted by their Lordships. On the other recommendations we become involved in an argument in which most of us get lost. 'Ihis seems to indicate that there is something at fault in our own organisation in this House and in the methods we adopt in trying to control Government Departments. T do not know the answer to that.

Various suggestions have been made in recent years about the composition of various committees and whether there should be committees permanently engaged in examining certain matters. It seems that if that took place the committees would become more familiar with the work of a Department and its structure. We should not beat about the bush—it is difficult to follow the structure in Government Departments. When we add the fact that the structure is constantly changing and the names are constantly changing, someone who, before, was a director, becomes a director-general and a department changes its name, it all becomes very difficult. My experience on the Select Committee on Estimates was that it was extremely difficult in the very short time at the disposal of the Committee to give sufficient time and attention to a department which it merited.

I remember on one notable occasion when examining the Treasury we did not make any recommendations, but suggested that someone else should examine the matter thoroughly because we felt that in spite of all our examination we could not make recommendations about the control of expenditure, which is the reason why the Plowden Committee exists. The Admiralty seems to need more control than it has at present. We ought to look at the machinery by which we control it to see if we can evolve a machine which would enable hon. Members to understand and to follow what is going on and to criticise the structure in a much more effective manner than at present.

When we examine the figures in the Report we find them very interesting. The Admiralty Office figures for staff and the size of the Estimate are rather difficult to follow because, again owing to changes, we find sudden increases and sudden drops. I do not know what the Expense Accounts Department does as distinct from the Director of Navy Accounts Department, but I noted that in the period under review, 1959–60 the Expense Accounts Department has decreased its staff by only six. It has decreased from 71 to 65, and that seems a small decrease. When we look at the Navy staffs division, the people who are supposed to think out and work out policies, we find a tremendous increase in spite of the fact that we have a very much smaller number of ships at sea. I could understand some increase being necessary because of commitments to N.A.T.O., but an increase from 296 to 336 seems formidable.

The staff of the Naval Assistant to the Second Sea Lord and Director of Officer Establishment has gone up by 25. This has all taken place at a time when the Navy has been getting very much smaller. The Chaplain of the Fleet's Department has increased from two to five, yet the numbers in the Navy are only two-thirds what they were.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

They are more religious and it is more necessary.

Mr. Willis

That may be so, or it may be an effort to get people of different denominations interested, but I do not see why that should be reflected in the Admiralty headquarters.

Then there is a question I have raised several times, that of the Senior Psychologist Department. There, in 1949, we had 19 and now, with a fleet which is very much smaller, we have 17, a reduction of two, yet there are 50,000 fewer men in the Navy. Surely they are not all becoming psychiatric cases. This seems very difficult to understand.

Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)

My hon. Friend will appreciate the simple fact that with this Government the strain on these men might be greater.

Mr. Willis

Probably there is something in that. In the dockyards department and the home and marine services department we find an increase of 176, yet we are closing down a barracks. It is true that dockyards are undertaking certain work which probably they did not do before, but that seems a very big increase when we have so many fewer ships and men and one barracks is being closed.

The amount of work which is being done, I should think, is not of a character to warrant such a large increase. I can understand some increases being made in connection with weapons, naval equipment, construction, and so on, but even then, I think that some of these figures might be pruned. We should do with the Admiralty as the Admiralty did with the aircraft carrier I mentioned and say, "Do with 20 fewer men this year. Let us know how you get on."

In looking at the Admiralty Office staff, I have been wondering about the organisation itself. Something has been said about the control of the staff exercised by the Permanent Secretary. It was not adequate and one recommendation was that he should be given adequate power. I join in tributes paid to Sir John Lang by the hon. Member for Mitcham for the work that he has done for the Navy. I wonder, however, if it is the good thing for the Admiralty to have a man as Permanent Secretary to a Government Department who has never been in any other Government Department. Does he not get built in to the organisation and become so familiar with the Department that he knows all the answers? He knows all the stock arguments that can be trotted out when anyone suggests making a reduction here or doing something else somewhere else.

I mention this because I notice that Sir Clifford George Jarrett—Sir John Lang's successor—appears to be another Secretary with no experience outside the Admiralty—although I speak of him with al respect. I think that he entered the Admiralty at the age of 25. Would it not be a good thing to have someone with a knowledge of other Departments and how they are run? Some of them are run very differently from the Admiralty. There might be a cross-fertilisation of ideas. According to the Admiralty that is good for scientific services, and it is used in the argument about Weymouth, but the Admiralty does not favour it for itself.

Then there is the Board of Admiralty. We must all appreciate that it takes a very powerful First Lord to do very much with the Board. He sits at a table, as chairman, with men whose lives have been spent in the Service, and very often he himself has not been in the Service at all. Those men have great traditions behind them, a great desire to serve—and a great desire, also, to fight for and protect their Service, and get for it what they think it ought to have. I admire them for that, but is that the best set-up?

Starting from the top, as I have done, it would appear that certain things should be looked at, and this House of Commons should recognise this process of attack and defence going on between different Departments and this House. We, as hon. Members, should ask ourselves whether the present control machinery is adequate. The Report emphasises, not once but two or three times, that, in the opinion of a Committee which has spent a considerable time studying this, there should be a reduction, and that the present machinery is not adequate and should be strengthened.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

Before the hon. Gentleman concludes his remarks, I should like to answer what he said about the Board Secretary. As the hon. Gentleman knows, in the Civil Service, if a permanent secretary or secretary is to be succeeded, one looks through the Government Service to get the best person for the job, and he may be in one's own Department or in another. In this case, it was felt that the best person for the job was in the Department.

The hon. Gentleman argued that these people should be appointed from outside, but there is the fact that the First Lord comes fresh from the outside and the Civil Lord as well. That means that one gets some ideas from other Departments and also from civil life. To sit at the table at the Board of Admiralty, is not necessarily to sit with people unwilling to hear arguments from outside. I have also found, as, I am sure, has my noble Friend, that the Service members are no less willing than others to have new ideas injected, and look at them with a fresh and tolerant attitude.

Mr. Willis

I have no doubt at all that the Lords of the Admiralty act with the greatest courtesy and listen to new ideas. As to the secretary, it is not a question of appointing the best man—I do not doubt that the best man is appointed—but I do think that when new appointments are made we should look at people with experience of some other Department. If, occasionally, the best man for the job could be found from outside the Admiralty he would probably bring into it a new outlook.

5.25 p.m.

Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)

We are all very grateful to the Committee for this wonderful Report. If members of the public would spend more time reading the fascinating question-and-answer technique with which our Select Committees conduct their inquiries they would have a very healthy respect for this House and for the Civil Service for the way in which they handle these very important investigations.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) quoted the establishment figures for chaplains and psychiatrists, and also for the dockyard, and in doing so emphasised one of the very great difficulties in which the Committee, this House and the Admiralty find themselves. During the period under review, the establishment of chaplains increased by only three, and that of psychiatrists had actually gone down, but the real question is why there has been such an increase in the dockyards.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) selected as his ground for the fight the Naval Intelligence and went back to his early days in 1908. May we not the better to understand my point go back to the days of gunpowder? What was there in the way of Naval Intelligence when gunpowder had been invented for, say, 200 years, and the latest discovery was also many years old that lemons were extremely good for preventing scurvy? There was then no intelligence to handle. But in these days, in radio alone, the amount of fresh information coming forward in a couple of months is enough to keep a really large staff of intelligent people doing a very worth-while job, and that is inevitably reflected also in the dockyard establishments, about which the hon. Gentleman complained.

I should like to deal first with the recommendations in regard to organisation and methods. I am in a difficult position here, because I have been and still am what I might call an executive of the Financial Secretary in that I am still connected with organisation and methods in the Treasury. In this very ambivalent position I have to be very careful not to wear two hats—not to wear a political hat, if possible—but I think that I may be in order to call attention to three points in the Report at paragraph 25.

It says, first of all, that the O. and M. service "is available for assistance and advice", and I hope that that aspect of "assistance and advice" will be kept in mind. O. and M. is effective only if it is accepted willingly. It is quite wrong to think that it can be imposed. For that reason I would draw attention to the passage lower on that page XV. Referring to the Branch, the Report says that it is … uncommon for it to be directed to a particular department by higher authority… I have great sympathy with that, because O. and M. is really effective only if the highest authority and the head of the Department takes so much interest in it that he does not have to direct anything because his interest is known, and the people who are anxious to have an effective Department are constantly wanting the assistance of the O. and M. men and listening to their advice. But it remains assistance and advice. Since those in the Department have the responsibility of that executive function, they are entitled to be treated with the honour and respect due to executive people and, in the end, are allowed to be responsible in the use of the best methods.

Further, it is interesting to note in that paragraph that the Report mentions that "in the case of the War Office and the Air Ministry there were Service officers in the O. and M. branch", and that the term of duty was long. In regard to uniformed staff working side by side with civilian staff, I think myself that that is the right basis and that the Army and Air Force O. and M. teams are in that respect better placed to give assistance and to gain acceptance for their advice than are the Admiralty teams. I think that this dichotomy between the two uniformed and civilian is harmful. The case brought up by the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East about the award of the good conduct medal will I believe draw attention to this very point. I think that when the Civil Lord looks into this he will find that it is very doubtful whether such a worthwhile investigation would be handled by the Work Study Group, which is uniformed and not civilian, or by the Organisation and Methods Branch, which is civilian and not uniformed. I think there is here an important issue which the Civil Lord should examine in order to find out whether or not the pursuit of efficiency should be by a single team, not by two teams, and whether that single team ought not to be composed of both civilian and uniformed members.

Turning to recomendations 5 and 6, I very much liked the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), particularly about three things. One, when he said that he believed that the ideal but impracticable solution was for the Admiralty to be in a single building and not dispersed at all, and, secondly, if it were to be dispersed, then Bath is a better place for doing it than, shall we say, Maidenhead. Then he particularly drew attention to the real esprit-de-corps which has evolved in the city of Bath. He was very gracious in the way in which he referred to the Mayor of Bath welcoming the Vice-Controller to parties to Bath. We have a long tradition in Bath. Kings and Governments used to come to Bath, and we are only too ready and willing if there is any Department of Her Majesty's Government coming there to accord it the dignity which is appropriate to it. Speaking on behalf of all Bath citizens, I know that we have greatly welcomed these people, to whom we accord this cordial welcome.

In terms of the first point, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East is perfectly right. The only way in which the organisation can carry on ideally is that in which one can go down a corridor and talk to the man concerned, and in which one does not even have to put on a hat. I know that in the Air Ministry division between Whitehall and Adastral House was big enough to make difficult what might have been organisational more nearly perfection.

The issue of organisation is thus seen to be one of perfection of communications, and I think that, since it is impossible to have the whole of the Admiralty in a single building in London, there is everything to be said for a final and complete decision, whioh has really been taken already, that Bath is better than Maidenhead and is jolly good in itself and that it should accommodate the whole of an organisation within which communications may be developed as perfectly as possible.

May I draw attention to the astonishingly good external communications emanating from Bath, if such communications are also at issue. Already, my hon. and gallant Friend has mentioned the communications between London and Bath, but if we have Naval Construction in Bath, then we find that the train services and the geographical position are ideal for such communications. I do not mind whether it is the communications with the ports or with the great manufacturing centres of Britain. There is a through train service. People are apt to forget that the old Midland line which used to run "The Pines Express" from Bournemouth to Newcastle upon Tyne, runs through Bath and through the whole of the middle of industrial England, with through carriages. Bath also has through services via another route with through connections Swindon and Didcot to Birmingham and so up the west coast route to Liverpool and Glasgow. We also have fine train services down to Plymouth, where the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) knows quite well the services may be still more ideally developed.

I have looked at Bradshaw and have noted the space allotted to Bath, both Spa Station and Green Park Station, and at the wealth of time tables in which Bath features. There is W.72—Portsmouth, Southsea and Southampton down through Salisbury.

There is L.210—Plymouth, Cardiff, Newport, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool to Newcastle upon Tyne; W.61 W.62 and W.81—Plymouth, Newport and Bristol; London, Cardiff and Weston-super-Mare; and Avonmouth. There is also S.36. Weymouth, Swanage and Poole, and N.34, West Hartlepool, Sunderland, Newcastle upon Tyne, and so to Edinburgh, Leith and Glasgow.

The rail communications are wonderful. May I now deal with the point which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East made about telephonic communications? One of the worst menaces in the world has been the development of the Creed Teleprinter, instead of the facsimile reproducer. If we have the plans of a fitment in a ship, we cannot send it by Creed. One has to put the plans in one's pocket and take a first class carriage to London. No telephone conference is any good unless it can have a facsimile transmission which can show plans or unless there is a closed circuit television, to show them.

I hope that the Admiralty will set about improving the communications, including the railway communications, which can be a lot better on these lines. My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) will agree with me there. Secondly, I think that this new Pullman car is a menace which is stopping people working on the trains. I am at no disadvantage if I have to go to my constituency in Bath, as compared with my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) having to go to Maidenhead, I get through a tremendous amount of work in the train and so do the Admiralty civil servants. I see them at work.

What is the menace these days is the Pullman car with teacups and messes on the table, with the table at the wrong height preventing one doing the full amount of work because there is not sufficient room in which to do an honest hour or two's work. Moreover the table laid for a meal creates that claim for subsistence allowance for a cup of tea which is really not wanted and stops the work being done. I think the job for the Civil Lord is not only to do everything he can to improve the train services in all these directions but also to improve the telegraphic communications and above all the facsimile transmission arrangements, because the real job which he has to do now that the Admiralty is even more securely and permanently anchored at Bath is to improve communications between all the Departments, docks and industrial centres with which it is necessary to have liaison.

We in this House should congratulate the Committee on the work it has done as well as the Admiralty on the way in which it has faced the problems which have thus been raised for it.

5.39 p.m.

Mr. Will Owen (Morpeth)

May I, as a member of the Committee, initially associate myself with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), and also pay my tribute to the services rendered by Sir John Lang and wish him well in his retirement? At the same time, I wish also to recognise the invaluable services Tendered by the clerical staff of the Committee, which very much facilitated our work.

We have listened for some time to comments upon the Report, which indicate a growing interest and purpose in the endeavours of the Select Committee. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) was not wholly entertaining in calling our attention to the inherent danger of Parkinson's Law as it emerged not only at Admiralty headquarters but in many other phrases of administration and institutions throughout the land.

The hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) commented upon what is, after all, one of the major challenges in the Report which I hope that the Civil Lord will not only note but will regard as a mandate for action. That is the present division of the administrative set-up between London and Bath. No one argues about why the division emerged. It now belongs to the history of the past twenty years. What seemed to emerge from the Select Committee's investigation was the unjustifiable waste of time and expense in bringing together executive heads of departments for consecutive conferences in London on matters which might have been resolved on many occasions by telephone conversations.

A comment by the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East might be noted at Admiralty headquarters. He said that in this age of electronics and automation it should be possible to establish a phrase of integration of top level consultation between London and Bath which could spare the taxpayer the expenses of the innumerable journeys, together with the expense allowances involved, which I do not think have produced material reward in terms of basic service.

I am sure that the residents of Bath are conscious of the economic advantage of having Admiralty headquarters in their city. The presence of the unit there is not only economically important. It has emerged as a social acquisition to the whole community. It would be difficult to attempt at this late stage to sever that section of headquarters administration without correspondingly causing infinite harm to the economy and social amenities of Bath.

I do not think that the Select Committee was striving to concern itself so much with the geographic division between London and Bath as to call attention to the vitally important need for a new assessment of administrative integration for head office efficiency in this important Service. So far in the debate we have not spoken of that section of the Report concerned with the control of expenditure. That is the essential cry of every hon. Member, especially hon. Members on this side of the House, when facing the burden which may emerge later this year when the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes his decisions. There is a section in the Report which I humbly commend to the attention of hon. Members. It deals with the control of expenditure.

I hope the House will realise the difficulty of the Committee in this respect. It was mentioned in the introductory remarks of the hon. Member for Mitcham. Information is placed at the disposal of the investigating Committee which, for security reasons, cannot be published. The information must tend to reflect itself in the nature of the recommendation made by the Committee and, to the ordinary member of the public, it would not seem that the recommendation is substantiated. When the Report appeared this section of it received very little attention from the general Press. I believe that was due too the inability of the Committee to publish all the information at its disposal. Thus the basic substance of the recommendations contained in the Report was not a publicity item for the Press.

Nevertheless, those hon. Members who are familiar with our procedure in the mother of Parliaments are aware that the Committee on Public Accounts has time and time again called attention to this fact. In our debates on the public accounts hon. Members have repeatedly spoken of items having increased in cost two or three times over between their initial statement and the finalising of their payment. That applies also to the expenditure which has emerged within the field of Admiralty headquarters over recent years.

However, the Select Committee on Estimates is not concerned with the machinery of control but rather with an understanding as to by what means it is possible and desirable to establish a basic medium of control over Admiralty House expenditure. It is not a question of a public accounts post-mortem. The Committee on Public Accounts and the Select Committee on Estimates move closely together in matters of this character and the uniformity of their work might reasonably commend itself to hon. Members. Paragraph 29 of the Report calls attention to the long and complicated process involved in the produotion of a new ship or weapon … The hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East might have enlightened us from his experience at Bath about the drill involved in this process—from the instructions initially issued by the Board to the Naval Staff, consultation with the Military Branch, with other Branches of the Secretariat, with the Materials Branch, with the Finance Branch—the whole chain of command and consultation between Bath and London before any basic action is taken.

Paragraph 30 of the Report gives general practical illustrations of this tortuous procedure. The Admiralty's reply—I commend this to the Minister for bis attention—misses entirely the point. We are not concerned wholly with the geographical division between Bath and London or between Portland and Glasgow. We are concerned with a division of responsibility and the connection between research and production. We are told by the Admiralty that there is and has been a constant service of liaison between the respective Departments. This seems to us to fall very much short of what is required and it reveals very definite administrative splits, a waste of time and money and a general development of individual and collective frustration.

It came as a considerable surprise to the Committee to learn that, in undertaking the modernisation of ships, the decision to undertake the work is made before the ship itself has been examined. This is found in the answers to Questions Nos. 1087–93. This must surely arouse in the mind of the inquiring Member the challenge that an organisation will undertake the modernisation of a ship before it has actually been examined.

The Admiralty's reply, as indicated in the Report, is really no answer to the evidence and the charge made by the Committee. Is it really surprising that we find from our experience that costs ultimately are totally different from the original Estimates? The experience of this examination leads one to the view that there is an urgent need for the establishment of a thorough costings section for the Admiralty as a Department. This is no new idea. It has been submitted by previous investigating Committees and has made a little impact upon the Admiralty over the years. I welcome the initial agreement that the matter will again be reviewed. I welcome the commendation of the idea that there should emerge a cost-consciousness in order that a more effective assessment of expenditure may be pursued. I hope that the "Way Ahead" Committee, when it examines the central costing unit at headquarters, will be willing to expedite its establishment and effective application in the interests of the whole Department. Its present size is six persons. This is no indication to encourage greatly the view that the Admiralty has recognised the need for this vital co-ordinating and supervising machinery in control of basic expenditure. If this can be undertaken with a great deal more speed and effectiveness than has so far been shown, I feel sure that the time and effort spent by the Committee and the House will be reasonably fruitful and successful.

5.55 p.m.

Captain John Litchfield (Chelsea)

Not much more than twelve hours ago, when we were engaged on another marine topic, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) confessed that his thought processes were rather slow at that stage of our business. I have a nasty feeling that my own thought processes, after a middle watch on these benches, have not yet gained adequate speed to do justice to this very valuable Report. It is an exceptionally interesting document. I confess that, although I have spent about seven years in the Admiralty and have served in the plans, intelligence, operations and administrative planning divisions of the Naval Staff, and have been a director of one of them, I have learned a great deal from the Report. I add my congratulations to the Select Committee for what I regard as a very valuable document.

I was very glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) say that the first consideration which the Select Committee had in mind was the interests and efficiency of the Royal Navy. I think that that would be our general approach to this Report. With many of the recommendations of the Select Committee I fully agree, and I shall not take up time in discussing those. There are, however, one or two points on which I myself do not agree, and I shall in a few moments discuss certain of the recommendations.

I wish, first, to make one general observation which will be seen, I think, to relate to the remarks on some of the recommendations which I shall offer in a moment or two. A Service Ministry differs from all other Departments of State in that it is partly staffed by civil servants and partly staffed by professional Service officers, partly by the suppliers and partly by the users. This is a very valuable principle to maintain. It has, of course, certain disadvantages. On the Service side, an officer comes into a Ministry rather raw in the ways of Whitehall and suffering from a certain lack of continuity. But such disadvantages are more than compensated by the civil servants who work alongside the Service officer and, above all, the system has the overriding advantage that it brings a constant stream of refreshment and user's experience into the Ministry. We must not weaken this principle in any way, and I am sure that it would not be the wish of the Select Committee to do so. This coming in of men with fresh ideas and recent practical experience in the case of the Admiralty is a great strength and asset to the business of the Ministry—in this case the Royal Navy.

It is also important that the Service officers in these kinds of appointment at headquarters should not stay chairborne too long in Whitehall. The influence of Whitehall has an insidious effect on most sailors coming into the Admiralty and it takes a Jackie Fisher to remain for very long impervious to what one might call the tranquilliser effects of Whitehall. That is not in any way a criticism of Whitehall. Far less is it a criticism of the Civil Service. But I think that we must not weaken this principle of retaining the freshness, the drive and the decision which is brought into the Admiralty by officers from the sea.

I have the utmost admiration for the Civil Service, particularly the Admiralty Civil Service, alongside which I have worked for many years and which gives the greatest assistance, support and strength to the naval officer taking up a responsible appointment in the Admiralty. But I think that the ideal in a Service Department is this combination of the professional coming in for not too long a period and the civil servant who maintains the continuity and keeps the professional on the right lines. It would be a great pity and a great mistake to try to turn a naval officer into a kind of apprentice civil servant or alternatively to permit the Civil Service side, I do not mean the political side, of the Admiralty to have too great a control over the naval side.

That is why I am decidedly apprehensive about recommendations 4 and 7. Recommendation 4 advocates a definite policy of civilianisation at headquarters. As the Admiralty has shown in its reply and as I know full well, the process over the past decade or more has been carried a very long way. Certainly since the 'thirties it has been carried a great deal further. I wish to limit myself to about 10 minutes as this is a short debate and I do not wish to develop these points in detail, but. I assure the House that the process has been carried a very long way since before the war.

I well understand the Select Committee's reasons for advocating a policy of civilianisation. My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham explained how expensive a factor—I will not say a luxury—the professional naval officer was in relation to his opposite number in the Civil Service. But I go back to what my hon. Friend said. Our first consideration while making sure that there is no waste, inefficiency or confusion and that the organisation is as good as it can be, should be the efficient running of the Admiralty machine.

I wish to pass to the seventh recommendation, which is that the tours of duty of senior naval officers at Headquarters should be extended. I do not disagree with that recommendation where it applies to some of the material and technical appointments. I think that they could be held longer with advantage, but I should be against extending the period for other officers, particularly in the staff divisions. I should like to quote the Admiralty comment on that, which is a short statement of fact: A Post List Captain serves only nine years on the Active List; 5 years in a single Admiralty appointment would therefore limit to 4 years the time during which he could gain wider experience in other appointments…. Finally, it is worth remembering that some broad continuity of experience within the Headquarters, coupled with work outside, is achieved by officers who return to Headquarters to work at different levels but in Divisions and Departments with whose problems they have previously been in contact. Recommendation 13 is that there should be a fundamental re-examination of the size and composition of the naval staff division. In my seven years of various periods at the Admiralty on the naval staff side I cannot remember any time when the size and composition of the naval staff division was not being fundamentally re-examined. A large number of most able Civil Servants and equally able flag officers in the Admiralty have from time to time occupied either their spare time, which is not very much, or their time after filling certain appointments with these little investigations into how to do things better, cheaper, quicker or whatever it might be. In some cases they have passed quietly away. In others they have produced interesting reports which few people could understand. In very few cases has it been possible to produce a really fundamental and workable reorganisation. I am all for the recommendation, but I am not sure that it is quite so easy to carry it out.

Under the same recommendation I should like briefly to refer to the remarks of the Select Committee in paragraph 34 of its covering memorandum which advocates that the Administrative Planning Division should be abolished. In my opinion, nothing is more dangerous than for retired naval officers, such as myself, who are out of date and probably out of touch, trying to do the Admiralty's job in replanning their internal organisation or in saying what should be scrapped and what should be retained. But as an uninformed outsider I may say that it would be a pity, to put it mildly, to abolish that division.

I do not think that a convincing case can be made out for its retention as at this moment, during peacetime, with nothing very exciting going on, but I assure the House that that naval staff division was created because there was no other Q element in the naval staff of the Admiralty. If ever we become involved in fire brigade duties at the bottom end of the scale in which the Navy is closely involved or in combined operations, or in something much bigger, I think that a lack of that Q element in the naval staff as a separate entity would be very much regretted. I hope that that point will be carefully considered. In no fit of enthusiasm for economies should we abolish something which has been created and which would be much more difficult to recreate than to scrap.

Finally, I should like to refer briefly to the first recommendation which I endorse. It is unfair and unrealistic to try to relate corresponding departments and divisions in one Service Ministry with those in another, which has a different task to perform and is possibly run on a different system. I hope that the Committee, when they get round to the War Office and the Air Ministry, will, on the basis of the very detailed knowledge they now have of the Admiralty, take a very good look at corresponding departments in those Ministries, particularly at the relative ranks and numbers of officers employed there. I will not try to forecast what they will discover, but I think they will be surprised. They will find that many corresponding appointments are held by more relatively senior officers. I forecast that what they discover will not reflect at all adversely upon their Lordships or the Admiralty.

When they have completed their examination, their friendly grilling, perhaps, of the three Service Ministries and produced two more reports like this, I hope the Minister of Defence will take a good, hard look at the three reports to see what one Ministry can learn from another and whether there are any savings or improvements to be made.

I feel that some of the Admiralty's ways, which have been criticised a little, when compared with some of the goings on, if I may put it that way, in other places, will be found to be not quite so bad as might at first seem.

With those remarks I should like once again to congratulate the Select Committee on this excellent report.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present.

House counted, and, 40 Members being present

6.12 p.m.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

Mr. Paget.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I should like your advice, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as to the course of the debate. Do I understand that the debate on this very large sum of expenditure, involving over £400 million, is now to be terminated, or will we be able to continue the debate? We consider that this expenditure is excessive, and we wish to say a few words in support of the Report of the Select Committee.

Mr. Paget

Further to that point of order. It may be convenient if I make it quite clear that I am not in any sense seeking to wind up the debate. This is not Opposition time. This is the time of the Select Committee, and a member of the Select Committee, as I understand it, if he has the good fortune to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, will wind up the debate. I am intervening at this stage with what I hope will be a short speech.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Members have every right to catch the eye of the Chair and the hon. Member nearly caught it. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) failed to catch the eye of the Chair. We are debating the Motion on the Order Paper, and the debate will come to an end at 7.30 p.m.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

This is a new procedure. I think it is the first occasion on which Service Estimates have been debated upon a Motion that the House should take note of a Report of a Select Committee. I feel that it is a procedure which has very well justified itself today.

This is an attack on the Admiralty, a criticism of the Admiralty, without party bias. The Report has been prepared with a great deal of expert knowledge. What we are studying, and what the Select Committee has brought to our attention, is a very remarkable instance of Parkinson's Law. That law, as I understand it, falls within two propositions. First within any large organisation there is a tendency to growth which is quite independent of the work done by the organisation. It grows by the division of cells, as microbes grow, and it is quite an automatic function. The second element of Parkinson's Law is that work will always multiply itself in order to fill the time available for it. That is a law of principle which seems very well illustrated by what has happened in the Admiralty and by what the Select Committee has brought before us.

I will mention one or two figures from an answer which the Civil Lord of the Admiralty gave me a few days ago. In 1938 we had a fleet of 434 ships of war, manned by 68,000 men. We then had some 4,400 people at the Admiralty, both civilians and sailors. We now have more than double the number of people at headquarters—just on 10,000 as against 4,400; we have less than half the ships—211 as against 434; and we have more than half the men at sea—43,000 as against 68,000. That illustrates the point which is made here that these ships are more complicated and have more equipment, so that the number of men has not been reduced in quite the same proportion as the number of ships. However, it is not so very far off.

For the information of hon. Gentlemen, there was a Fleet Air Arm before and after the war. The most interesting figures of all are those at the height of the war. At the Admiralty there were about 18,500 people, but just consider what they were handling. They were not merely handling a fleet of some 1,200 ships in actual war service, with 170,000 men aboard. They were, in effect, handling all the convoys, all the merchant ships, the vast intelligence service that was necessary in war time and all the great liaison services with our allies and with the combination of services operating in the war. For that, we had less than twice as many people as we have now.

I served at the Admiralty for part of the war and it seemed perfectly clear to me, even then, that very large economies in manpower were available. To give a personal instance, I worked in the war room. The function of the war room was to keep the charts marked up. They were not the key charts. We got the information down, but we kept the charts and the signals marked up for my Lords of the Admiralty and the Chief of Staff to come in and see how the war at sea was looking at any particular time.

That was during the war. There were four captains, four commanders, eight lieutenants, R.N.V.R. and, I think, four girls. I am confident that that job, which was extremely simple, could have been done by four R.N.V.R. lieutenants acting as in charge of the watch and four girls. If that was the situation then, it must be multiplied now.

Having looked at those general figures, which show, obviously, a disproportionate increase of staff, what is the basic trouble? Apart from the natural growth idea, I believe that the basic trouble is absence of a naval policy. Since the war, we have never been able to make up our minds what we wanted a Navy for and what its functions were. This is a non-party debate. When we were the Government back in 1945, I was directing exactly this same criticism, and I have been doing it ever since, that nobody had his mind really applied to what we want a Navy for and what its functions are. A great many hon. and gallant Members opposite and behind me will know very well the classic statement of the old days that the function of the Navy was to keep the sea open for our shipping and to deny it to the enemy. Since the war, however, and in the postwar circumstances, that has not been reechoed.

In so far as that function happens at all, it is today a function primarily of the air. It is not a function of the sea. In reconnaissance, in covering and in attaok, the sea today is held primarily from the air. That is quite apart from the difficulty of conceding in this atomic age a general sea war, as apart from localised land wars, which is not conducted in atomic terms.

Since we have had no clear idea of what we wanted a Navy for, we have sought to have a little of everything, to pursue every new idea a little, to have some surface and some submarine craft without any clear idea of what they were to do and in what sort of war. We have had as a major activity the anti-submarine rô le, although, again, I find it extraordinarily difficult to visualise a general sea war in which anti-submarine work could be of any service, since the ports would have disappeared and there would not be much point in stopping the ships. Again, we have in small measure even considered combined operations.

With the absence of clarity as to the function of the fleet, there has been an enormous extravagance at headquarters. As we have a little of everything, as we have one ship of each class, we find that the headquarters staff necessary to design one ship is almost as much as would be necessary to design and supervise a whole class. That is brought out on the first page of the Admiralty's reply, when it states: The argument that greater complexity directly causes increases in H.Q. numbers may be illustrated by some figures: about half the H.Q. numbers are employed dealing with the material of the Fleet; the design of a modern type of ship now demands between a five- and eight-fold increase of man hours compared with a comparable pre-war type, and while there are somewhat fewer ships nowadays, there are more types of ships, and of weapons and of equipment generally. Because we have not made up our minds what we are going to do, there is this idea of a little of everything, with the vast complexity and variation leading to the multiplication of non-combatants at the centre.

The most worrying thing of all—and I who loved, and love, the Navy do not find this easy to say—is that this is evidence of the decadence of a Service. Decadence is the loss of faith in a purpose. As one loses faith in a purpose, the organisation ceases to be for a purpose. It becomes an organisation for itself. The ships disappear, but the admirals go on until the stage is reached when we do with admirals instead of ships. It has happened in many navies. A South American instance comes to mind. We are not there yet, but we are moving that way. At the moment, it depends a little what one calls a major ship, but certainly, on the old definition of major units, we have today considerably more admirals than ships. That is an alarming picture.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

I am afraid that those figures are not correct. The admirals have been pruned and will be pruned further. The ships have come down in number and, as my hon. Friend will show in his explanatory statement, we have had a very good record in the last ten years of bringing new ships into commission. I would not wish it to go out that the admirals were matching the ships. The ratio is quite different.

Mr. Paget

Doubtless, the hon. Gentleman will tell us the ratio. If, however, we take aircraft carriers, which today are the major units, and cruisers, we certainly have far more admirals than we have carriers and cruisers. In the old days, those were the captains' commands. Ships smaller than that were not the commands of post-captains. We have considerably more admirals than we have cruisers and aircraft carriers.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

So has every operational navy in the world.

Mr. Paget

The proportion of admirals to tonnage, if one may put it that way, has shifted in a very alarming degree. That shift is a classic symptom of the decadence of a Service. It is for that reason that I feel that this is a very serious matter. This ratio of brass to tonnage, of admirals to tons, is a ratio which wants very careful watching.

I conclude with a suggestion about how this kind of problem should be dealt with. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) is absolutely right when he says that what has been happening here is that we have the acceptance of all the recommendations that do not make any difference and the side-stepping of all the ones that do. I suggest that the way to prune the Department is first to prune the top chap and then to take the second chap without promotion and tell him the cuts that he has to make. If he finds that he cannot do all the things required of him he should be asked to bring forward his suggestion about what should be cut down and pruned. If we went through the Service on that system, it would be possible to secure some fairly dramatic reductions.

6.32 p.m.

Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)

After what has been a very pleasant afternoon I should hate to introduce a discordant note into the debate. I therefore, first concentrate on the area of agreement that I could accept in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). He has talked about the ratio between admirals and ships. A good many of us are anxious about the ratio of the people in Admiralty headquarters to the number of ships that we have afloat.

The most surprising part of the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates to me was Question No. 483, where the Chairman asked: … if there are 40 Headquarters staff to every ship in the Navy now and there were 28 in 1952–53.. do you take the view that the number of ships in the Navy really has little relevance to the number of people in the Admiralty administering them? The answer was: That would be my view; or, rather, that the trend of numbers which you have indicated is not significant of an imbalance in the administration. Therefore, if the hon. and learned Member for Northampton is complaining about the number of admirals in relation to ships, may I ask why we now have forty people at headquarters for each ship whereas in 1952–53 there were only twenty-eight?

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

That was a Treasury witness being examined. That has no relevance at all.

Mr. Godman Irvine

That may well be. But perhaps my hon. Friend will explain the position when he replies to the debate. These are the sort of figures which are bandied about in the House, in the country and among my constituents. I have the impression that there are more people ashore taking care of our ships than are absolutely essential. This is an opportunity for my hon. Friend to explain the true position.

I know that in the observations set out by the Admiralty there are a series of explanations why that position has arisen. The first is that the fleet is today more complex than it was in the past. I was very struck when last year in the Explanatory Note to the Navy Estimates there were set out examples of the complications that had been introduced into the fleet in recent years. Two were of electronic equipment. For example, this equipment in "Illustrious" in 1939 cost £13,500 whereas in "Hermes" in 1959 it cost over £1 million. The armaments for a cruiser in 1939 cost £500,000, whereas in 1959 it cost £3.7 million. This is a valid point and it must of course require more manpower to deal with such equipment.

Other points are set out in the Admiralty's observations about the various organisations, such as N.A.T.O., CENTO, and S.E.A.T.O., which, of course, demand manpower as well, and there is the increased number of Commonwealth navies. There is also the final point about standardisation which clearly would create a great deal of work while we got it. I should have thought, however, that in the end it would have produced some benefit in the number of people required to administer it once it was working. I suggest, therefore, that if my hon. Friend has anything to say which would help us understand these figures he would be doing a valuable task.

In opening the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) paid a tribute to the speed with which the Admiralty had produced its observations. I should like to add a further word of congratulation. If my arithmetic is correct, eighteen recommendations were set out in the Report and of these five applied to the Treasury, leaving thirteen which were matters to be dealt with by the Admiralty. Not only were these observations made very speedily but the Admiralty accepted in eight weeks ten out of the thirteen. Therefore, there is an additional word of commendation which should be said on this occasion.

Another matter in the Report which surprised me is that on page 261 there is a long list of modern office machinery which is being used in the Admiralty. In my not so frequent visits to the Admiralty I have never regarded it as a respository of a large amount of modern office machinery. I was delighted to find that this is the case.

The list is headed in the report as: List of types of office equipment and machinery currently in use in the Admiralty Office. I should be obliged if my hon. Friend would help us a little not only about how "currently" but also how widely this equipment is used. I find it difficult to reconcile my ideas of the Admiralty with large numbers of dictating machines and similar equipment.

One thing missing in the list is any reference to telephones. Have they been missed out deliberately or are internal telephones and equipment of that sort not so widely provided in the Admiralty? I should be glad to have a few words from my hon. Friend on that point.

I notice in its observations on Recommendation 5, the Admiralty said that it was not at present practicable to find accommodation for the whole of the Admiralty headquarters in London. We know that there is a divergence of view on whether it is desirable to have the whole headquarters in London. Be that as it may, I wonder whether anybody has had a look at the actual physical structure of the Admiralty building. There may be some of us who regard it as an architectural gem and there may be others of us who could perhaps reconcile ourselves to the site being used in another way.

Which of these two schools of thought is right, would not be for me to say, but there is a precedent on the other side of Horse Guards Parade for the outer shell of a building being retained as the interior is rebuilt in a more economic and better way. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Civil Lord might look at these possibilities to see whether more people might not be housed within the present building.

On the other side of Whitehall there is a modern building used by the Board of Trade. What is the physical density of the people working there compared with that in the Admiralty? It appears that if the problem of density was studied it might be possible to put the Admiralty site to better use.

6.40 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

This has been a very interesting, if not well attended, debate. I agree with hon. and gallant Members and other hon. Members in paying tribute to the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) who presided over the Select Committee which has given us such a comprehensive and detailed Report.

My only complaint is that, unlike the Defence White Paper, it is not illustrated. I hope that hon. Members might take it as a constructive suggestion that this rather formidable document of nearly 300 pages would be very much improved, and much more readable, if there were certain pictures and diagrams of some of these rather expensive vessels, with a statement of their cost, so that the ordinary taxpayer might be enticed to spend 16s. on this Report.

I agree with the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman), who spoke in appreciation of the conclusions of this formidable document. I am sorry that he is not present, because I wondered if he had quite proved his case for having so much of the Admiralty headquarters in Bath. If this document were illustrated, we could have very beautiful pictures of Bath and it would serve as a kind of publicity brochure for that lovely town.

As far as I could gather, however, he was speaking only from a constituency interest, and did not want the Admiralty baby thrown out of the bath. He argued that these gentlemen at the Admiralty were able to have much more leisure to do high-powered thinking, because they had so long to spend in the train. That seemed to me to be a rather conclusive argument.

After he had surveyed various towns for suitability for Admiralty headquarters, had stated the case for Bath as a beautiful base for getting here, there and everywhere, and had told us of the beautiful railway connections from Bath, I felt that he had made a case not for keeping naval headquarters at Bath but for removing it either to Crewe or to Carlisle.

If we proceed on the assumption that the more they travel in the train, the more efficient the Lords of the Admiralty become, then there is an excellent case for putting headquarters in Aberdeen, Inverness, Wick or Thurso. But in whatever part of the country we put headquarters—which is so very expensive—there is a case for the House to give careful attention to the proposals put by the hon. Member for Bath.

By some strange coincidence, this Report comes up for discussion on the day of the publication of the Defence White Paper, and we are naturally concerned with any proposal that would lead to greater economy in a Service whose Estimates, in spite of this Report, seem to go up regularly year by year. This year they have increased again, and that is an additional reason why we should consider whether the sum is not an extravagant one from the point of view of the taxpayer.

In putting the searchlight on this expenditure, the Select Committee has done a very useful service. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey). I am glad to see him coming back to these debates. He and I have taken part in them for a good many years. His suggestions were good ones. Pruning is needed. The Government should find a man to do the pruning, and I can think of no greater wielder of the economy axe than the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) who is at the moment wielding it on the National Health Service. If he turned to the Select Committee's Report he would have no difficulty in introducing exceedingly drastic economies which would save a great deal of money.

I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—I hope I am not embarrassing him in saying so—that the reason for this discussion about naval headquarters lies in the absence of naval policy. The members of the Admiralty have to justify their existence, and they do not know quite how to do it in the circumstances of the day.

They do it by a certain amount of juggling, which has been remarked upon by other hon. Members. Every year I look in the Memorandum which accompanies the Naval Estimates, hoping to see the master plan. But in vain. In these days when we are talking, for example, about new ideas in naval warfare—the Polaris submarine, for example—it is alarming to hear my hon. and learned Friend say that nobody has an idea of what the Navy is for. I have recently heard him try to fill the vacuum.

What would he do if he were First Lord of the Admiralty and had to give instructions to headquarters? I understand him to say that what the Navy needs is a strategy based on the Polaris submarine. I confess that if naval headquarters in Bath or anywhere else is to consider that proposition, I hope that it will carefully consider also the recommendation in the Select Committee Report, especially No. 18, which says: The Treasury should give continuous consideration to the machinery in the Admiralty for controlling costs and numbers. Various hon. Members have, during the last month or so, suggested that the Admiralty should go in for atomic submarines and for Polaris submarines. If the Treasury is to give "continuous consideration" to this machinery for controlling costs and numbers, it must go into the whole question of what the Polaris submarines are to cost.

The Admiralty should not switch to a strategy based on Polaris submarines without taking the Treasury completely into its confidence. The Prime Minister has told us that a Polaris submarine costs about £50 million, and that the missiles likely to be fired from the vessels will cost about £500,000 each. I hope that the suggestion that the Treasury should give continuous consideration to the machinery in the Admiralty will be put into operation quickly and that the Treasury will begin its deliberations before we decide to go in for Polaris submarines at £50 million a time.

In Recommendation 10, we are told: The Admiralty should undertake a further review of the central costing machinery, and should consider the establishment of a separate costing branch in the Secretariat". I am all in favour of that, because the new strategy advocated by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton must be judged not only on its naval but on its financial implications. How many Polaris submarines are we to have? If they are to cost £50 million, will we have six? Will the Admiralty deliver them in London or in Bath?

That is £300 million added to the Navy Estimates. I do not understand how those of us who are calling for a reduction in Government expenditure can be thought likely readily to agree to that. We cannot go in for £300 million on Polaris submarines unless we economise as the Minister of Health is doing.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that the limit has been reached about Polaris submarines. Controlling the cost is another matter, but that object of the cost which is to be controlled is beyond the scope of the Reports being considered.

Mr. Hughes

I was only envisaging the possibility of these recommendations being carried into effect. It is suggested that the Treasury should give continuous consideration to the machinery in the Admiralty and, while that may mean a reduction of the number of people in the Admiralty, it will mean an increase in the number in the Treasury. We will have more Treasury officials than we now have Admiralty officials and I do not see that we could get fewer admirals if we followed the policy of my hon. and learned Friend. The expenditure and the admirals would be transferred from aircraft carriers to submarines. That is what has happened year after year.

I do not know whether hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have studied naval activities in recent manoeuvres when the Fleet Air Arm justified its existence by saying that it had successfully invented a technique for spotting submarines. There will be a juggling around of personnel from one body to another when what we want are reductions in expenditure and in manpower. Reporting on the last naval manoeuvres, The Times naval correspondent quoted the rear-admiral in charge of the Fleet Air Arm as saying that there was now a technique for catching and attacking submarines which was so advanced that, from an aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm, it was possible to "smell", "see" and fight the submarines.

If that is to be the line of strategy proposed as an alternative to the Government's strategy, I can see that next year or the year afterwards the same Select Committee will be meeting and conscientiously producing its reports which the Admiralty will again succeed in out-manoeuvring.

I would prefer a Geddes Axe, with people outside the Treasury or the Admiralty forming a special inquiry into the whole of this matter of the expenditure of money and the use of personnel in order to see whether drastic reductions can be made. This is not a new argument to come from this side of the House. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) and I have taken part in these debates for many years. We can remember how the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) used to come to the House and curse the Admiralty. Anything I have said in naval debates has been mild and moderate compared with the attacks which the right hon. Gentleman made on the Admiralty in the time of the Labour Government when the expenditure was one-fifth or one-quarter of what it now is.

I remember the right hon. Gentleman making a speech—which I remember especially well because I gave the talk on "The Week in Westminster" on that occasion—when he talked about people in the Admiralty making jobs for themselves and their descendants. He said that what we wanted was a House of Commons which would fulfil its national duty and probe and cleanse and cut down expenditure.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

Is my hon. Friend suggesting the resuscitation of the Cohen Committee on wages, profits and prices?

Mr. Hughes

I judge these committees not by their names but by what they do, and they do not do very much. Since the right hon. Gentleman made that severe, scathing and savage attack on the Admiralty—and nobody knew more about the Admiralty than he did at that time—nothing has been done except to increase the number of Blue Books which are always presented to the House in these debates which are attended by few hon. Members and soon forgotten.

We will never solve the problem of scrutinising public expenditure until we take the line advocated by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East and make a drastic cut in expenditure. I want the cut to be a good deal more than £40 million, but I should be content with that to begin with. I do not yet see any positive sign that these useful suggestions to reduce Government expenditure will be accepted by Her Majesty's Government.

7.0 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)

I am sure that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will not expect me to chase the many hares he has started this evening. I want to concentrate my remarks on Recommendations 5 and 6. Recommendation 5 relates to the possibility of alternative sites for the headquarters organisation, and Recommendation 6 relates to the concentrating of certain subdivisions of some Departments which have become dispersed.

I am afraid that I am going to join issue with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) in his remarks about Bath. I agree that, as regards esprit de corps in that part of the Admiralty which is now in Bath, and as regards the human ties between the people of Bath and the personnel of the Admiralty, things are in a very good state. Nevertheless, a large preponderance of the evidence which came before the sub-committee, both direct evidence and evidence by implication, was undoubtedly in favour of a far greater degree of concentration than is at present possible of the Admiralty headquarters in one place.

I fully agree with what my hon. and gallant Friend said about communications and the ways in which they could be improved; by telephone conferences and by the use of closed circuit television. I think that quite a lot can still be done in that direction, and all the time he must remember that these electronic devices are improving and developing and that there are probably far greater possibilities in the future than there are now.

Let us look first, however, at this curious division; the way in which the Admiralty by force of circumstances has been split very nearly in half. The evidence which we took showed that the journey to and fro involved, or will involve, an expenditure in this and following years of about £46,000. If one translates this into railway fares making due allowance for the element of subsistence which is included in the figure, and then translates the return journey railway fares into hours spent in travelling, my rough estimate is that about 60,000 man-hours are lost per year, and I should think that it is considerably more than that.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

To whom are they a loss—to the Crown or to individuals?

Lieut.-Commander Maydon

Undoubtedly to the Crown.

If one translates the same sum of money into a capital sum, it is roughly equivalent to £1 million. That would go quite a little way towards building a new headquarters building in some more convenient position.

Next let us consider the evidence that we heard about miscellaneous bags and packages. It is estimated that 26,000 travel up and down per year, a rough average of 72 per day, and one must remember that a great many of them have to be accompanied by a naval courier because security requires it. This is an enormous waste of time, of energy, and, as we heard from many who gave evidence, a loss of efficiency.

We also heard evidence briefly from senior officers and senior civil servants from the other Defence Service Ministries of what it would mean to them if they were so widely geographically separated one Department from another. They were unanimous that efficiency would be lost.

If one turns next to one half of this organisation—the organisation in Bath but very much the same applies to London—one finds that there are six separate sites, five major ones and one very small one. We heard that there is perhaps an intention that the Ministry of Works might centralise the five or six establishments at Foxhill on the hills above Bath. Before we consider spending that amount of money on local concentration, which is undoubtedly desirable in the interests of efficiency, will it not be better to have a really good look at the possibilities and the desirability of concentrating in or near greater London?

There are those who might try to make an example of the Hydrographers' Department, but ever since I was in the Navy I seem to remember that this was out on a limb by itself and suffered no lack of efficiency by being so. The hydrographer's work is such that it can probably be better carried out in a relative vacuum, free from influences from other Departments.

It has been said by the Admiralty in its reply that this concentration which we recommend is contrary to Government policy since the war. Would not it be a very good thing to look most closely at that Government policy to see if the reasons for it are still as valid as when that policy was first formulated?

I agree that in the search for perfection the best is very often the enemy of the good, but I contend that the eventual aim of the Admiralty should be to concentrate its headquarters in two places only. First, in Whitehall—for traditional reasons, I think that it would be a great pity to give up that site alongside Admiralty Arch and facing Trafalgar Square—and, secondly, the other half of the headquarters in some site in the Greater London area.

We know that very shortly the lease of Queen Anne's Mansions will fall in and that the Admiralty will have to find accommodation elsewhere to house the departments now there—not a very large section of the Admiralty, but still considerable. While thought is being given to that, thought should also be given to the much wider issue of even greater concentration.

It will entail acquiring and building on a suitable site somewhere in the Greater London Area. That will undoubtedly be a very expensive project, but when one looks at it in the light of the money that will be saved, directly and indirectly, and the far greater efficiency that will result, I am sure that that is a desirable policy which must be followed.

In the meantime, for the short-term, I hope that consideration will be given to concentrating on one or two sites in the Bath area without spending too much money on developing and increasing accommodation on those sites, if such a thing is possible. I hope that the Civil Lord will give great thought to this problem of concentration and to the underlying policy directives which have apparently conflicted with it in the past. I do not think they are valid any longer and I am sure that they should be looked at.

7.10 p.m.

Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

I think it will be agreed that the experiment of debating Select Committee Reports in the House is proving to be a success. Today we have had an interesting, informative and at times humorous debate. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) said that he would have liked an illustrated Report. I am not sure whether he wanted to have pictures of the surplus admirals or the surplus ships of the Fleet. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) said, with regard to Admiralty expenditure, that the Government had their priorities all wrong, especially in respect of cuts in the social services. I agree with his remarks about the Geddes Axe, but that aspect of policy is outside the terms of reference of the Select Committee, and I cannot pursue it further now.

I join with other hon. Members in paying tribute to the long and efficient service of Sir John Lang, and I sincerely hope that he will be granted health to enjoy a long and happy retirement. It is appropriate for me to acknowledge the courteous and efficient manner in which the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) piloted the Sub-Committee through its deliberations, and I would also like to pay tribute to the Clerk of the Sub-Committee, who did a power of work behind the scenes and has given the Sub-Committee yeoman service.

When the Report was published last September there were screaming headlines in the evening newspapers to the effect that the Admiralty had received a broadside, but having read the observations of the Admiralty upon the recommendations of the Select Committee I am not certain that the broadside has been as effective as some of those delivered by the Navy in the past. Six recommendations have been accepted without question but ten important ones have received only qualified acceptance, couched in almost meaningless language.

Although, since 1953, there has been a reduction in total numbers at Headquarters of about 12 per cent., the number of Naval personnel has risen from 702 in 1953 to 717 in 1960–61. The effect of this upon the Estimates has been considerable, since the cost of the naval staff is more than one-sixth of the salary bill for the Admiralty complement of 9,510 persons borne on Vote 12.

In replying to Recommendation No. 4 the Admiralty states that it is always considering the extent to which civilians can be employed in posts hitherto manned by naval officers". and refers to recent studies it has made of the subject. That is encouraging, so far as it goes, but the Sub-Committee was concerned to see that the number of naval personnel at headquarters had actually increased by 25 between 1959–60 and 1960–61. In fact, we discovered that the ship department, in accordance with instructions from the Admiralty, had been engaged since 1949 in a policy of navalisation. Thus, two-thirds of the civilian professional officers of the electrical branch were to be replaced over a period of two years with naval personnel of lieutenant and commander rank. It was admitted in evidence that this policy would undoubtedly increase the cost of the department, without necessarily increasing its efficiency.

As the hon. Member for Mitcham said, there is an apparent discrepancy between the evidence given to the sub-committee on the subject of the control exercised over naval numbers at headquarters and the reply of the Admiralty. The point was conceded by the Permanent Secretary that he had not got "an absolute control" over naval numbers, and he said, We have to make sure we can carry the particular Member of the Board with us every time. Sir John Lang added that he was sure that exactly the same situation existed at the Air Ministry and the War Office, but this did not quite agree with the evidence which we took from those Departments.

How can we expect the numbers of naval staff at headquarters to decline if no single person is responsible for keeping them down? Even if the same situation exists at the other Ministries—about which there is some doubt—that does not answer the question.

The Select Committee was confronted with a situation in which there were 700 naval officers at headquarters, costing £1,800,000 per annum, whose term of duty there was only about two years. It is depressing to remark that when the Estimates Committee last examined the Admiralty, in 1929, it recommended that these tours of duty should be extended, but nothing was done. We were informed that the Admiralty had now come to the conclusion, reached by our predecessors over thirty years ago, that two years was totally inadequate for someone to learn a new job and to be of any real use. We made it quite clear in our Report that we recognised that the Admiralty has to take into account factors other than the efficiency and economy of the headquarters when determining the tours of duty of naval officers, but that the trend must be in the direction of longer periods for the most senior officers, especially those in charge of material departments. I hope that the careful consideration which the Admiralty promises to give to this aspect of the matter will not occupy another thirty years, but will be at a speed more in keeping with the jet age in which we now live.

We were also concerned with the fact that some directors-general of departments were naval officers. The weapons department and the dockyard and maintenance department, for example, each has a naval officer as its director-general. As we said in our Report, it seemed to us that what was frequently called "consumer experience"—which is obviously extremely important—could be injected at rather lower levels, so that there could be greater continuity in the top management. I cannot believe that a man who for only two or three years holds the senior position in an important material department, responsible for the expenditure of many millions of pounds every year, can be expected to exercise a strong personal control over the work of that Department.

It is regrettable that the Admiralty has made no direct reference to this important matter in its reply. Even if the tours of duty are increased the principal argument is not affected. The Director-General of Ships Department, Sir John Sims—of whose recent knighthood we were delighted to hear—has been in that department for virtually the whole of his career, and it is notable that there has been a most praiseworthy and successful endeavour to keep down numbers there. Furthermore, the machinery which Sir John has evolved to keep a strict check upon expenditure appears to be working very well. As we stated in paragraph 23 of our Report: a lack of continuity and experience at the top and senior levels of a Department is not conducive to efficiency and control, and requires immediate consideration. I hope that the Civil Lord will state that this point has been taken by the Admiralty. It is one of the Committee's most important recommendations.

I conclude with some observations on the Naval Staff divisions, to which we made reference in paragraphs 33 and 34 of our Report. The reply of the Admiralty is reasonably satisfactory, and we can see that the changes may be "evolutionary rather than revolutionary". The Naval Staff was conceived as a result of the violent and well-merited criticisms of the Admiralty machine at the beginning of the 1914–18 war. The system which was evolved is clearly a great improvement upon the pre-1914 arrangement, but I wonder whether the time has not now come for a fundamental reappraisal of the position. We recommend a reduction in numbers not only for economy's sake but for the sake of efficiency, and I am sure that at least some of the detailed work being undertaken by the divisions at the moment might be taken over by other sections of the Admiralty. I hope that this suggestion will at least be considered by the Civil Lord.

7.20 p.m.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)

I think I should start by thanking the Select Committee for the constructive and important proposals which it put forward and upon the painstaking way in which it collected evidence. My noble Friend and I are grateful for the nice remarks made about the speed of the Admiralty's reaction. I hope that we have set an an example by producing a reply in eight weeks to so long a report. I think that shows that our organisation can move swiftly and efficiently to produce what Parliament needs in order to have a debate of this sort.

Before turning to the general review of the task and the size of Admiralty headquarters I wish to add my congratulations to the many received by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) both on the way he conducted the Select Committee and also on the speech with which he opened this debate. His own congratulations and those of many others will be appreciated by Sir John Lang. I shall have another opportunity in the Navy Estimates debate so I shall not add my congratulations to the many Sir John has received this evening.

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) rather pinned the size of Admiralty headquarters on to the lack of a definite policy. I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to wait until the publication of the Explanatory Statement by my noble Friend. It will come out with the Navy Estimates in a very few days' time, and there he will see what he wishes to see set out in clear and distinct terms.

Having spent many of my years in industry, some in State corporations and a number in uniform, I have the impression that they all have one common factor. Wherever one works there is abuse of head office or headquarters. There may be "No love for Johnny", but there also seems to be no love for headquarters by those outside. I remember that twenty years ago Hitler and his associates were said to be extremely ingenious in making sure that their bombs never hit the head offices in Whitehall. As I was there at the time I received that remark with mixed feelings.

The task of Admiralty headquarters is much wider than that of a normal headquarters. Unlike other headquarters staffs Admiralty staffs have to design, develop, supervise and produce new ships and many new weapons. This task is superimposed on the normal task of the Air Ministry and, also, until the Ministry of Supply was split up, the task undertaken by the War Office. Bearing this in mind it is worth while looking at the proportion of people in our headquarters. In round figures there are 10,000 controlling 140,000 civilians and about 100,000 uniformed personnel. This is to say nothing of the much greater number producing material on our behalf in private industry. It means that we have about 4 per cent. at our headquarters and 96 per cent. in the field or in the fleet. I am not saying that there is not room for improvement and I am not being complacent about this or about the need to cut down the size of headquarters still further, but I think that these figures put the facts in perspective.

Looking at it from the monetary aspect, 2¾ per cent. of the total budget is spent on headquarters. I have not been able to get comparable figures of great industrial firms but I should not think that our percentage is grossly out of proportion, bearing in mind the factors which I outlined earlier. I wish to underline to those outside—every hon. Member in the House will know it very well—that about 30 per cent. of the staff at Admiralty headquarters are in the professional or technical departments and the majority of them are engaged in developing and designing new ships and equipment. This means that 3,000 people out of the total, mainly at Bath—and this covers the Director-General of Dockyards and Maintenance—are concerned with design, development and ship repairs and refitting, or the control of those last two functions. I think that the Select Committee recognised the tremendous part which scientific progress has played and the repercussions which it has had on our naval "hardware". I do not think it is so generally recognised that in the last ten years we have equipped 316 new ships for the fleet and, what is perhaps even more important, these new ships cover about twenty new designs. That, of course, absorbed the greater part of the effort of our design staff. To answer the criticism of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, in the same time we have made a cut in the number of flag officers at headquarters of 25 per cent. during the last five years.

It would seem that part of the "occupational therapy" stimulated in the first instance by Professor Parkinson is to compare strength at Admiralty headquarters and strength ashore with the strength of the fleet. But in so many cases this exercise does not result in comparing like with like. I have seen little criticism of industry, because it has more salaried workers and fewer semi-skilled workers on the factory floor. This results from the tremendous capital investment which modernised industry puts behind each employee in terms of horsepower. In the Navy we have done much the same in terms of the hitting power which is put behind each rating.

When we are comparing present figures with pre-war figures I do not think it should be forgotten that we have done the following three things. First, we have expanded our research and development from a mere £750,000 before the war to over £19 million, and all this has to be supervised and controlled. Secondly, we have entirely taken over the Fleet Air Arm from the Air Ministry, and, thirdly, we have greatly developed the rô le and the versatility of the Royal Marines. There was no Commando Force at all before the war. All this has to be controlled and the men have to be equipped.

None of these things shows up if one studies a table or if one quotes the figures of the ships in the fleet. Nor do all the seventy ships in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary which play an increasingly vital part in enabling our fleet to carry out substantial operations over great distances. There is a further aspect of the work which is increasing enormously—the help given to the fifteen new Commonwealth Navies and foreign navies. In Appropriations-in-aid there is a total of £60 million which is largely in payment for the services we have rendered on behalf of others. That may help to strengthen the Commonwealth Navies, but it also adds to the strength of headquarters.

Having said that, I do not want the House to think that my noble Friend and I are for a moment being complacent about the numbers at headquarters. With the support of our civilian and Service advisers, we are determined to continue our efforts to reduce these numbers along the lines indicated in the Committee's Report and in our reply. This debate gives me an opportunity to give further information, a further progress report, on what has happened since we printed our reply.

The first recommendation, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham, by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) and by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Gourlay), was regarding the power of the Permanent Secretary. Perhaps I can clear up any misunderstanding which may have arisen from the evidence. There seems to be an impression that the power of the Secretary of Admiralty over naval numbers is weaker than that of his opposite numbers at the War Office and the Air Ministry. I can assure the House that that is not the case. He has the sole power over the secretariat branches. Over the departments controlled by another superintending Lord, he or his establishment officer must be consulted in every case where civilian or naval officers are involved. Naturally, he tries to work to an agreed solution with the superintending Lord but just as in other Service Departments he has the right to take to my right hon. and noble Friend, any problem about which he and the superintending Lord disagree. This is what happens in practice and I hope that this statement will do something to clear up any uncertainty which exists as a result of the Committee's examination.

I now turn to the general questions concerning manpower. There were a number of them. The first was on civilianisation, which was mentioned by a number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy. I repeat that it is our policy to employ naval officers only where their experience and qualifications make that essential. A Committee is in being to study the balance of naval and civilian officers in the naval service as a whole, and that study will continue. They have prepared a new scheme to stimulate the employment of retired naval officers as civilians in posts requiring naval experience. This scheme is at present being considered by the Board of Admiralty.

I should like to emphasise what we are already achieving. The number of naval officers in headquarters will be reduced by 28 in the current financial year and by a further 45 in the next financial year. Roughly, half the reduction is as a result of civilianisation. This is not a pious hope, but a policy, and I think I have shown that it is a policy which is bearing fruit.

Recommendation 8 was dealt with by my hon. Friend in his opening speech. We were asked to carry out a detailed review of the chain of command and the definition of senior posts in the Admiralty. We have now discussed this with the Treasury, and have agreed that such a review should have an agreed programme covering in the first instance six large units in the first year. This will be concerned with the three Directorates General serving the Second Sea Lord, the Ship Department, the Dockyards and Maintenance Department, and lastly, the Hydrographic Department. We are discussing with the Treasury an examination of the naval staff which the Treasury would like to undertake as part of a wider programme covering staffs of all three Service Departments.

I hope the House will see that not only did we state that we were going to consult the Treasury, but that we have started on a programme. These reforms will be initially at Assistant Director level with salaries of about £2,500 a year, but we hope to extend this later.

I turn to Recommendation 7, dealing with the tour of duty of serving officers, which was (mentioned by several hon. Members. The Select Committee recommended that the two-year tour of duty by senior officers should be lengthened. Of course, there are a number of very important officers who already serve much longer than two years in the Department—for instance, the First Sea Lord and the Controller and in the naval staff, a sphere which particularly concerned the Select Committee, the Director of Naval Intelligence. We have already said that the tour of duty of naval officers in the material departments will be extended. We have explained to the Committee some of the real difficulties in the way of further extension, and I shall not enumerate them again. We are doing as much as we can to extend the length of appointments, particularly at the more senior levels, in departments other than the material departments. Our aim is that naval officers should normally serve about three years, although, and I think the Committee recognised this, for officers in the post list this will not always be possible. It is essential for them to have the widest possible experience.

Recommendation 9 was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham, my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) and the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) and deals with our organisation and methods. The hon. and gallant Member, in a short but amusing speech, referred to what used to happen. I can assure him that I shall deal with the points he made about medals. Perhaps I can drop him a line on that in view of the pressure of time. I entirely agree with the importance stressed in the Report of the Committee and in the speeches this evening of the need to improve and strengthen our organisation and methods branch.

We said that we were reviewing this matter. We have now completed the review and have agreed to expand the staff from 21 to 27. This will include two new officers working in the punched card and automatic data processing section. My hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Godman Irvine) said that our methods were outdated, but we pride ourselves that in the 1920s we introduced our first punched-card system. At that time I was working in industry and we found this a very novel process in the 'thirties. The number of systems have been more than doubled in the last five years. We started early and have been progressing. The other four increased staff will be used to strengthen the O. & M. investigating teams investigating various facets of our work.

The Committee were a little critical of the experience in the O. & M. department. It was suggested that we ought to consider sending staff into industry so that people serving us should get industrial experience. Perhaps I should point out that the excellent courses run by the Treasury include lectures from a number of industrial firms in the lead in this work, so people going through those courses do not lack industrial advice at first hand. The hon. Member for Bath has been associated with this work since 1943. He will recognise that we have always had a very lively section in the Treasury to which we always look for a high standard of instruction and we certainly benefit enormously from their courses.

We were criticised a little for putting into our O. & M. section too much concentration on achieving efficiency of procedures and perhaps too little on staff saving. I still think that we have the right emphasis. The emphasis on efficiency in our organisation and methods should lead to staff saving, and if we keep our eye on this ball I think we are more likely in the long run to get results.

On the question of length of service, we endeavour to keep people for a reasonable number of years in this branch. The average of two or three years mentioned in the Report might well increase. I take the point that the branch needs the active and vital support of the top men, and I can assure hon. Members that it shall have that. It has had it in the past and it shall have it in the future. On the question of working by invitation, which was criticised by some hon. Members, I think it is best to go to a department by agreement, and for the department to explain its task and to have suggested to it methods for improving its way of carrying it out. It is much better to get an invitation than to impose a solution.

I should point out that although organisation and methods deals with office working, this does not mean that we neglect work study in the fleet and in the civilian industrial side of our department. Nor do we close our minds to the use of naval officers on O. and M. when working in offices where naval work is important. That point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bath.

I now turn to the costing section. This section does not work by invitation but is directed from above. On this I speak with some first-hand knowledge, because, as chairman of the Finance Committee, it has been my task from time to time to direct the work in different ways. A tremendous amount of work is done by this section, although I concede that it is a small section. In the first three years of its life, it concentrated on the Home Air Command. It is generally thought that the tremendous savings made in that command were made in large part as a result of the costing section. It was also closely associated with the Way Ahead Committee.

At the same time it began a systematic investigation of costs of shore establishments. The most fruitful field was the training establishments. We are looking at the training establishments in the Finance Committee. The section is within sight of putting costings on a routine basis so that annual reviews can be carried out largely, not by outside staff, but by the staff of the training establishments itself. We believe that people on the job should know about the different elements of costing and that that is the best way to achieve savings.

The costing section is intended to supplement the existing costing organisation in the Admiralty. If it were the sole costing organisation, its staff would be inadequate, but that is far from the case. There is a large department under the Secretary—the Director of Expense Accounts—which covers all the fields of Vote 8 expenditure and particularly concentrates on the dockyard programme. The Principal Accountant also comes into costs of work done under contract for the Admiralty.

Despite its large fixed programme, the costing section has found time for an impressive series of ad hoc studies required by the Board and policy-making staff. Thirty major studies have been completed in the past year, which is quite an achievement.

A number of hon. Members have mentioned the size of the naval staff. In our reply we have stated that the complexities of modern equipment and world politics make it difficult to forecast any large cut in naval staff, but we are tending towards establishing a smaller number of larger divisions. Hon Members will be interested to hear that since we published our reply we have started one such move by a decision to transfer work that is at present done by the Director of Naval Air Warfare to the Director-General of Aircraft. The work to be transferred is the progressing of staff requirements in relation to air material, largely liaison with the Ministry of Aviation. It has also been approved in principle that when this transfer of work has been completed there should be an amalgamation of D.A.W. with the Director of Naval Air Organisation and Training. We have other amalgamations in view. Naval staff will come under the scope of critical reviews of senior posts, that we are instituting under Recommendation 8, and that perhaps answers the hon. Member for Croydon, North-East and others.

I turn now to what is, perhaps, one of the most burning questions—that of headquarters. Of course, if we were starting afresh we would infinitely prefer one modem headquarters in London, but we have to recognise that not only have we a staff of about 4,700 at Bath but that if we add their dependents we get a total of about 10,000 people. It would, therefore, be a gargantuan task to move such a population to an entirely new consolidated headquarters in London. Moreover, one has to remember that such a move is against declared Government policy. That seems so impossible that we have concentrated on trying to make the best of the separation, and I want to tell the House what we have done in that direction.

We have tried to explore both orthodox and unorthodox methods. Two hon. Members have mentioned conference T.V. When the Report came out—I think that it was on the very day of its publication—I initiated a study of conference T.V. It has two disadvantages. The first is cost. The Post Office tells us that to hire a cable would cost £40,000 a year. The second disadvantage is security. We can scramble the speech—that can remain moderately cheap and secure—but there is no cheap way of scrambling the picture, and if we are to have security that must be done.

We have also looked—and this shows much more promise—at the sound-only conference, and we think that this may well be brought into being. We have to examine the quotations we have received, and have also to decide how we could best lay out the system so that the various headquarters in Bath and London could use it to the best advantage. We shall certainly look further at the plan, but I am advised that, again, security is a tricky point. As one wants to transmit information on drawings and other sensitive matters we have to watch the security side rather closely.

Physical communications must surely be the answer for the immediate future. We have even looked at the possibility of a helicopter service, but as helicopters cost more than £100 an hour to hire I think that the Public Accounts Committee, and even the Select Committee, would be rather critical if we were to use them in that way at present.

We have seen British Railways, who, with our active encouragement, have arranged that the early morning train, the 7.57, which did not stop at Bath, now does stop there. That means that our Bath staff can leave just before 8 o'clock and be at the Admiralty by 10 o'clock. I would mention that this is the staff's time, not the Government's. They eat their breakfast on the train and read their papers on the train when, normally, they could be doing both at home. I do not, however, mention wear and tear. There are some good return trains, although we should like some to run a little later.

We have also taken up the possibility of reducing the time in the reverse direction as, after all, many people have to visit Bath. At the moment, the best trains take 95 minutes for the 107 mile journey, and we would wish that there were rather more trains of that calibre and rather less of those taking so much longer. I hope that I have shown that we have thoroughly examined the different forms of communication.

We next come to consolidation. We should very much like to be able to achieve greater concentration of divisions at Bath. The majority there are on three sites separated by a few miles from each other. They work in one-storey war-time buildings, and these are quite good and have a number of years of useful life. For the last twelve years it has been the Admiralty's long-term aim to concentrate its divisions at Bath in one building. This remains our aim and would certainly he our intention when the present buildings approach the end of their life. I should like to mention that the one building would cost about £2¾ million, and that is a factor that cannot be ignored when the scheme comes to be considered.

At the same time, we can consolidate in London. We are working out a new development of our office accommodation in London, which arises primarily from the need to move out of Queen Anne's Mansions. This building does not lend itself to efficient office administration. It was constructed as a block of flats in 1888. We are, therefore, moving from Queen Anne's Mansions a number of our departments. These and others comprising some 1,800 staff are to be housed in the new Empress State Building at Earls Court. They will include some 200 staff from Pinner. This will be accomplished by 1962. The Empress State Building is designed specifically as a modern office block and should increase the efficiency of our office procedure.

The last criticism comes under the heading "Departments should be together". We were told, "If you have to be in two places, it would be logical to bring the two halves of one Department together". We have the importance of this recommendation very much in mind. The Select Committee particularly drew attention to the fact that the Radio Division of the Weapons Department was in London while the other main divisions were in Bath. As we promised, we have looked at this again and have decided that the balance of advantage lay in moving the Radio Division—some sixty strong—from London to Bath, and this is planned to be done next year. With this change the departments of the four Directors'-General will be compactly sited; the Aircraft Department in London, the Ship Department at Foxhill, Bath, and the Weapon and Dockyard Departments at Ensleigh, Bath. This was the object of the Recommendation.

Perhaps I may be permitted to summarise our actions and intentions. Altogether, we have accepted ten of the thirteen Recommendations and in our Reply we have shown that further action was to be taken on a number of points. I have tried to give the House a frank report on the progress made to date. We are just as keen as the House to reduce staff wherever possible, as our record shows over the last eight years, when Vote 12 numbers have come down from 10,744 to 9,510.

In the last three years the rate of reduction has, I concede, been much lower because of new design and production commitments. We have reduced our numbers by only 230, but we do not intend to slacken our efforts to do our level best to make reductions in Vote 12 posts. Whether we succeed will depend on the new tasks we have to undertake, but we shall certainly try to reduce staff by 500 persons—over 1 per cent. per year—over the next five years. This will not be easy. Our nuclear submarine programme is only just beginning, and extra design staff will be essential. Only this afternoon I have been urged to increase—and have shown how we are increasing—the numbers in Organisation and Methods. There is equal pressure elsewhere. Extra demands will have to be offset by bigger cuts but it is the measure of our resolve that we publicly announce our intention to go on cutting, and we will do our damnedest to hit the target.

Mr. R. Carr

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.